Friday, 17 October 2014

TalkTalk tells Council: "Our landlines don't support Lifeline services"

TalkTalk: "TalkTalk landlines
don't support these devices."
Update 20 October 2014: Virtual-Lancaster has been contacted by TalkTalk who have sent us the following statement:
"We take issues like this very seriously and are conducting an urgent investigation into this."

Temporary changes made by TalkTalk to their landline service over the weekend meant that Lancaster City Council has had to warn vulnerable Lifeline users that they can't count on Talktalk telephone lines working with their Lifeline button alarm pendants in an emergency.

Over a thousand vulnerable local people use the Lifeline alarm service, wearing an emergency button on a pendant or a bracelet (see image) that they can press if they have a fall or other emergency and need help. Most of these users are elderly and frail, many are disabled, but keen to keep their independence. Knowing that help can be summoned at the push of a button brings peace of mind, to them and to the friends and relatives who worry about them .

When pressed, the button connects wirelessly to a device that plugs into an ordinary telephone socket, which phones through to the call centre. The device has a speaker and the trained call centre operator can talk to the service user and assess their need. The call centre also keeps a list of emergency telephone numbers of relatives or neighbours who have keys and can come immediately to give assistance.

This week it was discovered that Lifelines were not working for service users whose landlines were supplied by TalkTalk. There are several dozen such service users in the area and obviously, this is a potentially very risky situation. Fortunately, the glitch appeared to be only temporary. Whatever TalkTalk had reconfigured over the weekend, they restored again. But there doesn't seem to be any way of making sure it won't happen again, or finding out when it might happen.

Trying to talk to TalkTalk isn't easy. When a member of the Lifeline staff tried to explain to TalkTalk's customer services what had happened, and the problems it raised, they simply said that TalkTalk could not support Lifeline service equipment.

This statement from TalkTalk means that Lancaster City Council has had to warn Lifeline users that TalkTalk is not a sufficiently reliable service for a Lifeline that they might need to rely on in emergencies. Their letter to their Lifeline customers who use TalkTalk reads:

"Should you wish to remain a lifeline customer, you will need to arrange to change providers as a matter of urgency.

"When you are considering another provider you will need to check that the service they provide is able to support the use of community alarm systems on their line.

"Should you wish to remain a TalkTalk customer you will need to end your contract with us."

However it can take months to change service providers. Also, changing your phone line provider is a massive hassle for people who are young and strong, never mind those who are elderly or ill.

Virtual-Lancaster called TalkTalk to find out if they even knew what was going on. Their customer services supervisor first explained to us that the problem was caused by Redcare, who, he said, had installed the devices. In fact Redcare install integrated fire alarms, and have nothing to do with Lifelines. We explained this and then had to explain again in greater detail what a Lifeline was, to a person on the other side of the world who didn't (in my opinion) speak very good English and who had clearly never heard of such a thing.

That wasn't a problem for him though, because as soon as he understood that it was a device plugged into the phone line he was back on script. "TalkTalk do not support devices made by other manufacturers. You have to go and talk to the manufacturer." We explained that the device had worked on every phone line except TalkTalk's, and that we would appreciate if they could try to find out what had temporarily stopped the TalkTalk lines from working, but he just kept repeating the same line. And that was that.

The Lifeline service told us that they had a similar problem with a different service provider about a year ago. That went differently. They were able to speak to an advisor who understood the problem and had the capability to think and make enquiries. This provider was able to ensure that the service was restored.

However TalkTalk isn't interested in finding out why their service suddenly let dozens of their most vulnerable customers down, out of the blue, potentially putting their lives at risk. And they aren't interested in trying to avoid it in future. They made that very clear, to Lancaster City Council and to Virtual Lancaster.

We're lucky in Lancaster & Morecambe, because we know this now, and we can take steps to help vulnerable people change to a better phoneline provider that won't take their money and then let them down without a moment's concern.

But there are thousands of Lifeline users nationwide who may not know yet that TalkTalk doesn't support their service and that TalkTalk reserves the right to make changes, temporary or permanent, to their landline service in the course of other operations that could cut off their Lifelines without warning at any time, leaving them isolated and at risk.

The only advice that the Council can give Lifeline users still on TalkTalk is to change providers as soon as they can and, in the meantime, to keep checking the line.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

LGBT readers invited to online survey - 21st Century LGB&T Life in Lancashire

The Lancashire Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender (LGB&T) organisation would like to research some aspects of what  life is like for LGB and / or T people in Lancashire at the moment, and so have put a survey together.

The survey is for people who identify themselves as LGB and / or T only. Lancashire LGBT would like to encourage as many people as possible across Lancashire to complete the survey as it will help to give a far more accurate picture of LGB&T need in the county.

You don't have to give any personal details - it is anonymous - and it will only take around 10 minutes to complete.  Lancashire LGBT tell us that it is really important as not only will it help the organisation understand what more work needs to be done, it will inform the decision makers in the county – for example health services, support services, police etc. about what the needs of LGB&T people are and what needs to be improved or changed.

To take the survey and also to find out more about Lancashire LGBT go to:

Light Up The Streets calls for volunteers to help the show

Volunteers are being sought to help out with one of Lancaster’s most spectacular events – Light Up The Streets.

Organised by Lancaster Arts Partners, the much-praised event will take place on 7th November, a family friendly event where Lancaster’s buildings and squares are animated with music, dance, theatre and film for the evening.

To ensure the event runs smoothly, volunteers with a friendly, calm and sensible attitude are required. Complimentary food and drinks will be provided at The Dukes on the evening.

Anyone interested in volunteering will need to attend one brief training session on 23rd October at 5.30pm or 25th October at 4.30pm.

• To express interest, please email Jane Twyman at or pick up an application form at The Dukes Box Office in Moor Lane

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Light Up Lancaster Festival - Magical Street Installations and a Fireworks Spectacular!

The spectacular Light Up Lancaster festival (  is on its way in less than a month now - a thrilling, magical two day festival on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 November for all the family which will culminate in the city's popular annual Fireworks Spectacular.

Friday 7 November sees Light Up The Streets happening in the heart of the Lancaster city centre.  On Saturday 8 November, a day of family-friendly activities  will lead up to Light up the Skies - when thousands flock into the district to enjoy the city’s annual firework spectacular launched from the roof of Lancaster Castle at 8pm.

Friday - Light Up The Streets

Light Up The Streets is a family friendly trail of discovery in a series of interlinked light and sound installations located in key areas of the city centre. From 6.30pm to 9.00pm, Lancaster city centre will be illuminated as never before.  Experience historic Lancaster – a route running between the Castle and Market Square – in an exhilarating new way. The trail of magical light shows, installations, music and performance reveals the heritage, stories and hidden treasures of the city for the public to enjoy in new and surprising ways. This year’s theme is ‘Lost & Found’ and local, regional and national artists are currently developing some wonderful ideas to show Lancaster in a completely new light.

Ockham's Razor - Light Up Lancaster Castle
The Castle have surely scored a tremendous coup by presenting the awesome aerial dance company Ockham's Razor to perform their latest oeuvre 'Not until we are lost' in a free public show. Not Until We Are Lost uses aerial movement to create atmospheric, exciting physical theatre in a series of short stories which explore what it is to be lost.  The performance is viewed in new, innovative ways from within a unique set, featuring originally designed aerial structures.  The aerial sculptures transform around the audience creating physically and emotionally affecting environments. How solid, how fixed, is the world around us?  Watch the trailer.
Original score from composer Graham Fitkin (twice winner British Composer awards), featuring a choir from the local community put together especially for the show.

MC Soweto Kinch - Sun Square
On the agenda is a fascinating collaboration between MOBO award winning alto-saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch and the innovative projection specialists, Illuminos. Working with local company More Music, this exciting and versatile young musician in both the British jazz and hip hop scenes and Illuminos will create a stunning piece in Sun Square.

Market Square
• The Nightmarket  - twinkling with distinctive illumination, will have craft and food stalls
• Splodge-A-Matic - The Spin Doctor extends the spectrum to his famous Cyclo-Graphic-Splodge-A-Matic spin painting machine with Neon colours, UV lights and Disco beats. Join him and make your own dazzling Spin painting.
• The Realms of Greater Measure - In 1389, Richard 11 decreed that: "There shall be but one Weight and one Measure throughout the Realm, saving in the County of Lancaster." Illuminos will present a unique, stunning new video mapping projection that will transform Lancaster City Museum into a living, responsive weighing scale. A playful and interactive digital delight.
• FlashBack  - allows you to connect directly with Light Up The Streets and share your views in a fun, interactive way. Like a friendly and engaging pop-up photo booth, it’s immediate, live and in an instant captures personal, individual reflections about the night.

The Storey
The Dukes will also be turning two spaces in The Storey into a labyrinthine promenade adventure… illuminating the stories lost, found and conjured. Step through the ‘rabbit hole’ into the enchanting darkness and be part of an imaginative 20 minute standing and walking family friendly event told by a daring company of young performers.

Storey Gardens - How Did Your Garden Grow?
An intimate environmental lighting experience showcasing the heritage of the Storey Gardens. A magical evening meander through this lovely green space in the heart of the city.  Bring your torch and be prepared for an adventure!  Note: On grassed, uneven surfaces, which may at times be slippery. Please ensure you have appropriate outdoor footwear. Apologies - not suitable for pushchairs or for people with limited mobility.

Judges Lodgings - Lighten Up
More Music is masterminding an enchanting performance at The Judges Lodgings. This short piece magnifies key episodes from the historical past and links them to the world today.  Most images have been gathered from the people, objects and themes suggested by the contents of the museum.  Performance times: 6.45pm, 7.15pm, 7.45pm, 8.15pm, 8.45pm

A light hearted yet physically and emotionally challenging series of small performance vignettes, "Nooks” will draw you into the nooks and crannies of Lancaster’s rich heritage, space and lost tradition. Running at various locations throughout the event including the Castle, Castle Walk, Priory Steps, New Street and Church Street

There will be street theatre and puppetry too and in shop windows, to celebrate 50 Years of the University of Cumbria’s Lancaster campus, Shane Johnstone has created 50 original pieces of 3 dimensional artwork using stained glass and light.

Saturday - Light Up The Skies Fireworks Spectacular

On Saturday November 8, Light Up The Skies will offer a host of family-friendly activities during the day around the city ahead of the finale of the Light up Lancaster Festival - the dazzling Lancaster Fireworks Spectacular starting at 8pm.

As in previous years, the main viewing areas for the display at Giant Axe and Quay Meadow (sold out) will be accessible via free wristbands which are now available to order online.   Other official viewing areas which do not require wristbands will be the Millennium Bridge, Salt Ayre Sports Centre and Williamson Park.

BBC Radio Lancashire presenters will be back again this year to broadcast live from Quay Meadow from 6pm - 8pm on all frequencies. At 8pm spectators tuning into Radio Lancashire on 104.5FM will be able to listen to the specially coordinated firework music and enjoy the full light and sound experience as they watch the drama unfold from other vantage points around the city.

More information on Light Up Lancaster is available at   Here you can also sign up to receive more information on this and other events taking place in the Lancaster district as soon as it becomes available.

Light Up Lancaster is being funded by Lancaster City Council, Arts Council of England, Lancaster Arts Partners, Lancashire County Council, Lancaster Unlimited and Heritage Lottery Fund.
Light up the Skies will this year be delivered on behalf of Lancaster City Council by Storm Consultancy.

Eric "Back by End of Year"?

Although still reeling from a bizarre attempt to steal Eric Morecambe's statue from the Morecambe's sea front in broad daylight last weekend, Lancaster City Council hope to have the much-loved tourist attraction back in its rightful place before the end of the year.

Sculptor Graham Ibbeson, who spent six years creating the iconic statue which has delighted local and visitors alike for just over 15 years, was set to visit Morecambe on 22nd October and assess the damage.

In a statement, Councillor Ron Sands, Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism, said: “I was shocked and appalled when I heard the awful news of the attack on the Eric Morecambe statue.

“The police are dealing with the criminal investigation and we have offered them our full support, but our focus now must, and will be, arranging for the necessary repairs to be made to get Eric back in his rightful place.

“Removal of the statue was necessary for public safety reasons and also so we could secure Eric to prevent any further damage. People can be assured that he is being well looked after and is at a safe location.

“We have already spoken to the sculptor, Graham Ibbeson, and arranged for him to come and view the statue and the damage so he can advise on the next steps.  In the meantime he has asked for some detailed photographs of the damage both to the statue and the supporting structure.

“It is difficult to put an exact timescale on the repairs because it will very much depend on Mr Ibbeson’s expert opinion. We don’t therefore know how much the repairs will cost either, but we are speaking to our insurers and pulling out all the stops and our intention is for Eric to be back on the seafront before the end of the year.”

Speaking to the Morecambe Visitor, Eric Morecambe's former chauffeur and local resident Mike Fountain, who worked for Eric from 1968 until his death in 1984, said his first reaction when he heard about the attack on the statue was one of outrage. But he said “attitudes have softened” since he realised the culprit had mental health issues.

“Let’s now just get it back as soon as possible," said Mike. "People miss it.”