Monday, 2 May 2016

Lancaster Comics Day Back in June

Poster art and design by Nick Miller
Lancaster Comics Day is back next month, taking place in Lancaster Library on Sunday 5th June.

Plenty of local comic creators will be on hand to talk about their work, including Marvel Comics writer Andy Diggle, author and playwright Eddie Robson - along with locally-based games publisher Ken Walton and SF and fantasy authors AS Chambers and JS Collyer.

Organised by the Friends of Lancaster Library with local comics writer and editor John Freeman (who also writes for virtual-lancaster), the event has a varied line up of guests, many of them creators known for their Doctor Who comics work such as writer and publisher Tim Quinn (whose anarchic biography is published soon by MIWK Publishing, Blackpool-based artist Adrian Salmon, writers Andy Diggle (better known for his work for Marvel and DC Comics, including Green Arrow) and Eddie Robson - and, from Birmingham, comics artist and British comics archivist Lew Stringer.

In addition to his Doctor Who humour strip for Doctor Who Magazine, Lew's credits also currently include "Pup Parade" in The Beano.

Joining them will be local comics writer Alex Paknadel, who has earned huge acclaim for his work for US publisher Boom! Studios on Arcadia; local SF and fantasy authors AS Chambers and JS Collyer; games publisher Ken Walton; and joining them on the guest list, independent comic publishers Tom Ward (co-creator of Merrick The Sensational Elephantman) and Joe Matthews (creator of Funny Monsters comic).

But that's not all, because a number of great comic talents also have tables at this small and imperfectly formed event, including Nowhere Man artist Dave Taylor. He's no doubt been tempted by the thought of Katie White's comic cake.

Also there will be Jack Knight, the owner and lead designer at Knight Time Creations and the cartoonist for the Lancaster Guardian newspaper. Along with his cartooning work, he has been recognised for his community work, which includes setting up the Independent Lancaster loyalty card scheme to support local businesses last year, inspired by a similar scheme in Liverpool. It's work that's earned him an invite to one of the Queen's birthday parties next month.

Sam Phillips is again organising a dedicated games room and Graham Pearce will be on hand to entertain kids with his popular comic workshops.

Supported by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and sponsored by Lancaster's First Age Comics, Lancaster Comics Day is ready for its second annual event... But are you ready for Lancaster Comics Day?

• More info at

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Green Ayre Rises Exhibition Celebrates Lancaster's Railway History

Today and tomorrow (1st-2nd May 2016), Lancaster Library will host "Green Ayre Rises"; an event to mark 50 years since the closure of Lancaster Green Ayre station and the Green Ayre railway line.

Organised by the Friends of Lancaster Library and local business man David Chandler, the centre-piece is the exhibition of a 40'x20' model railway of the long-since demolished Green Ayre station, which, as we've previously reported, model-maker Jamie Guest and members of the Wakefield Railway Modellers' Society have been building for the last six years.

There will be displays of archive material relating to railways in the local area, a reunion of those who worked on the line, guided walks of the railway route and activities for children.

As well as the events in Lancaster Library, there will also be heritage tours of Lancaster station, courtesy of Virgin Trains.

All proceeds from the event will be donated to St.John's Hospice in Lancaster.

It promises to be a memorable occasion, as for one weekend, Lancaster's lost station of Green Ayre rises once again!

• Further details can be found at:

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 27th April to 5th May 2016

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

New films to our region include superhero action with Captain America: Civil War (12A); comedy drama with Florence Foster Jenkins (PG) and family animation with Robinson Crusoe (PG) & Norm of the North. In addition there is chance to see a couple of strong drama movies that were released last year but did not make it to any of the local cinemas. These are Couple in a Hole (12A) and Victoria (15).

Movies that have disappeared from the local screens include 10 Cloverfield Lane; Kung Fu Panda 3 and Midnight Special. Films that are coming to an end of their screening include Eye in the Sky and The Boy. However we do have the return of the family comedy Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.

The Jungle Book is still the must see movie of the moment. For alternatives there is drama with Bastille Day, Eddie the Eagle and Eye in the Sky. For horror try Friend Request whilst for fantasy there is The Huntsman: Winter's War.

Educational movies on offer include speed cycling with Battle Mountain and a warning of mans adverse effect on the planet in Racing Extinction.

Finally the Vue is having a Captain America marathon on the 28th April, showing First Avenger; Winter Soldier and the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War.


Bastille Day
Director: James Watkins
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Richard Madden, Idris Elba, Charlotte Le Bon
Michael Mason (Madden) is a pickpocket working in Paris. He steals a bag but finds it contains a bomb and this brings him to the notice of Sean Briar (Elba) who is a CIA agent. Briar recruits Mason and uses his skills to help him combat a terrorist threat and corruption within the French police. Some aspects of the plot are not quite believable, but the film is an excellent thriller with a number of very impressive set pieces. An enjoyable movie.

Eye in the Sky
Director: Gavin Hood
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman
Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) is tasked with capturing a terrorist who is attending a meeting in Kenya. The meeting room is bugged and a drone used to provide surveillance. Powell discovers the terrorists are actually planning suicide bombing attacks and so she seeks authority to call in a missile attack on the building. However there is a chance any attack will result in civilian casualties. The movie is a gripping and well received drama that explores some of the moral issues of drone warfare.

Friend Request
Director: Simon Verhoeven
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Liesl Ahlers
Laura (Debnam-Carey) is a popular college student and an avid user of social media. She received a friend request from an unknown girl Marina (Ahlers) but finds her new friend is stalking her. Subsequently Marina commits suicide but her spirit continues to stalk Laura. Despite some occasional rough lines, this is an effective horror story that delivers enough twists to keep the plot interesting and provides some real scares.

The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Certificate: PG Cast includes: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba
Based on Rudyard Kipling's works, this is a reworking of a the well known classic using live action and CGI. Mowgli (Sethi) is an orphaned boy raised by a wolf and thence by Bagheera (Kingsley) a black panther. Mowgli alienates the Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Elba) and so must make his way to humankind for safety, meeting the well known characters Baloo and Kaa on the way. Subsequently he returns to the jungle to face Shere Khan. The movie is a good example a remake that improves on the original. An excellent movie that will entertain all ages.

Zootropolis (Zootopia)
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman
This is a comedy animation set in the city of Zootropolis which is populated by animals. Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is a rabbit rookie police officer. She parters with a con-artist fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) to solve the mystery of a missing husband. An excellently made fun movie that will appeal to a wide range of ages.

Beyond The Castle Dig on Vicarage Fields Announced

Work investigating Quay Meadow in 2015 by the Beyond the Castle team unearthed some surprises. Photo: Beyond the Castle
A fortnight long archaeological excavation on Lancaster’s Castle Hill will seek to uncover more about the city’s Roman past - and Beyond The Castle are hoping some locals will be keen to take part as volunteer diggers, alongside the professional archaeologists.

Taking place from 23rd May to 3rd June 2016, the new excavation will partly re-open earlier trenches dug in the late 1920s and early 1970s, but also investigate undisturbed ground to test emerging theories relating to Lancaster’s Late Roman Shore Fort.

The Shore Fort was one of a succession of Roman Forts, dating from the first to fourth centuries, which occupied Lancaster’s Castle Hill.

Only limited excavations have taken place and very little is known about the nature of the Roman and later remains. Vicarage Fields to the west of Vicarage Lane displays a well-preserved but confusing set of earthworks. Some are very likely to be Roman; others appear to be later.

The dig will partly re-excavate the 1929 and 1971 trenches to aid understanding of earlier research, and then extend these to the west and north.

Roman Northern England and southern Scotland
Jason Wood, Excavation Director and Heritage Consultant to the Beyond the Castle project said: “The dig represents an important opportunity to test our theories relating to the location of Lancaster’s Late Roman Shore Fort. Hopefully it will enable us to consolidate our understanding of the site and what this might tell us about the nature and character of Lancaster in Roman times.”

The dig is part of the Beyond the Castle project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council.

Lancaster is one of Visit England’s newly designated Heritage Cities, which rather makes it all the more incredible that the County Council plan to close the Judges Lodgings, but we're told telling the story of the Roman archaeology, will be an essential ingredient in the city’s tourism strategy and in making Lancaster a key heritage destination.

(If only they had a Museum where they could create a dedicated space for the finds, rather than shoe horn them into the City Museum, eh?)

“The history of Lancaster dates back many thousands of years and while we know a lot about much of it, there are still many gaps to our knowledge," says Councillor Janice Hanson, Cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration. 'This exciting project delving into our ‘hidden depths’ could potentially have a huge influence on the way we see our city and the way it has developed over the millennia.”

One of the first 3D models of the area that is prompting the new dig. Image: Beyond The Castle
All trenches will be hand-excavated by a combination of volunteers and experienced archaeologists under the direction of a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. The public will be encouraged to visit and watch the excavation, engage with archaeologists and the team of volunteers, and assist with finds processing.

The Beyond the Castle project has already greatly contributed to the advancement of understanding of the site through topographical and geophysical surveys and two excavations in 2015. The first dig on Quay Meadow, undertaken in conjunction with the Lancaster and District Heritage Group, came together as a result of the project’s community engagement work; the second a re-excavation of one of Sir Ian Richmond’s 1965 trenches in Vicarage Fields East (the Bathhouse Field), was initiated to mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Ian’s untimely death.

Significant discoveries were revealed in both of these excavations and the results will help inform future management and interpretation of the Beyond the Castle site as a whole. In due course this will lead to the development of a research framework and agenda to secure funding and guide an extensive programme of further excavation, interpretation and display of Lancaster’s remarkable Roman heritage.

• Beyond The Castle are seeking volunteers for the duration of the excavation to join the team. If you are interested, get in touch. To find out more about the dig and how to get involved visit or email

Archaeology UK page on Vicarage Fields

Details of what we know about the Roman fort and its vicus and remains of a pre-Conquest monastery and a Benedictine priory on Castle Hill

Historic Land Survey Report (2011) on Lancaster's Roman Bath House and Wery Wall (PDF)

Iron Press Printmaking Exhibition at The Dukes

Work by artists from Lancaster’s new Iron Press Printmaking Studio will be on exhibition in The Dukes gallery from next week.

The exhibition, which runs until 5th June 2016, is the first by IPP, a fine art printmaking facility which opened at The Storey in September.

IPP has open access to anyone interested in print and printmaking techniques including etching, drypoint, collagraph, carborundum, mono-printing, linocutting, woodcutting and wood engraving.

IPP Director, Iain Sloan said: “I set this up because Lancaster, as far as I am aware, has never had a printmaking facility like this that provides open access to the public.”

Anyone interested in printmaking can take inspiration from the exhibition which will feature the work of around 35 people from experienced printmakers and professional artists to complete beginners.

A wide selection of prints in a range of techniques, which have all been produced since the autumn, will be on display.

• The Iron Press Printmaking exhibition can be viewed in the gallery during normal Dukes opening hours. If you are making a special trip to see it, call the Box Office as sometimes the gallery is used for other activities. Please note that The Dukes is closed on Bank Holiday Monday 2nd May. For more information, ring the Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit