A Cockermouth charity has won funding to support local creative talent and offer online entertainment and cultural activities while community venues remain closed.

Kirkgate Arts runs the Kirkgate Centre and Arts Out West, the scheme which brings entertainment and family events to community venues across West Cumbria.

The company is calling out to musicians, poets, creative writers, artists, craftspeople and storytellers of all ages to contribute to an Arts Council-funded project that will be a digital showcase of local talent.

"We’ll be delighted to hear from Cumbrian performers who feel they could put on a good show through an online video – for which they’ll get a fee," said artistic director Chris Bridgman.

"We also want to give everybody the chance to explore their own artistic side through arts and creative writing in what is still a difficult time, and we’re looking to employ a professional writer and a professional visual artist to provide guidance and mentoring for these creative challenges."

The project also involves digitising part of an exhibition on William Wordsworth’s childhood in the 250th anniversary year of his birth in Cockermouth.

The exhibition, curated by the Kirkgate’s Cockermouth Heritage Group, was to have run in April but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The public will be able to see elements of the exhibition on the charity’s website.

"We’ll also be using the local history collection, and the idea of Living History and memories, as inspiration for several of the project’s creative challenges," said Chris. Participants will be awarded vouchers to be used towards future Kirkgate Arts activities, as and when live events become possible.

The website and social media will be used to present selected entries, along with original dramas devised by Kirkgate Youth Theatre.

"We can’t set a date for re-opening until we get the all-clear from government and can assess how we’ll be able to operate physically," said Chris. "So creating this online space for cultural activity is really important."

The grant for the project has come from the Arts Council England Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund.

Chair of trustees Marion Bowman said: "This grant is making all the difference to staying afloat and being able to fulfil our charitable objects by doing something for the community."

"The grant will cover some lost income as well as provide some paid work to local arts professionals and hopefully give a chance to a lot of people to show their artistic flair."

Kirkgate Arts has been helped by the government’s furlough scheme and a small business coronavirus grant.

"In the short term, things have stabilised," said Marion. "But the longer term question is how we can safely bring people together under one roof, and how Kirkgate Arts can keep going.

"We can’t say at the moment when we might be able to re-open. There will certainly be tough times ahead later in the year."