Kym Armstrong, Founder of MAKE! The Lakes

Helping people to relax in the Cumbrian countryside, learn new skills and meet new friends

I grew up in a Cumbrian village so small it didn’t have a shop! With dreams of starring in a West End show, I went to London to study musical theatre. It’s a cruel industry, but I learned life skills which continue to serve me to this day.

After starring as principal singer on a cruise ship, I fell in love with costumes and went to work in the wardrobe department of a London theatre; then I side-stepped into retail. The actor cliché of ‘I’ll be whoever you want me to be’ is true… Within six months, I’d been promoted to assistant manager at Pineapple Dance Shop in Covent Garden.

In my free time, I started sewing and dressmaking again – stocking up on supplies at the tiny Village Haberdashery. When a sales assistant job came up there, I took a risk and went for it. I soon became assistant manager and helped them to move into triple-sized premises. I started teaching sewing workshops – beginning with cross-stitch. (I learned from my mam as soon as I was old enough to hold a needle!)

At the start of 2018, an opportunity came up to go home to Cumbria. My boyfriend and I snatched it! I started over – finding work as a housekeeper at a hotel, where I was quickly promoted to duty manager.

I’d always wanted to set up my own business, so I took up a free coaching offer from the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, which was unbelievable! The idea for a sewing and craft events business was just beginning to take shape when I got an amazing offer…

Connected to the hotel was Muncaster Castle. I’d become friendly with the Pennington family, who have owned it for 800 years. They invited me to become custodian of the castle and move in with my boyfriend and cat!

Having worked so hard to get the business in place, I thought: ‘Why not do both?’ I work a nine-to-five day at the castle; deliver dressmaking retreats there in the old dairy; and take my sewing workshops out into the community.

I’m 29 and living in a castle – having worked hard to be the best person I can be.

Make! The Lakes