Thursday, 27 October 2016

Closure of Lancaster's White Cross Adult College confirmed

Not for much longer
Virtual Lancaster can now confirm that from December 2016 courses will no longer be delivered at White Cross Education Centre.

We reported last Sunday (via our facebook page) that tutors at the Adult College on White Cross had been told that the building would close in nine days time.

Adult learning courses in Lancaster are delivered by Lancaster Adult Learning Ltd (LAL), which is an offshoot of Nelson & Colne 6th Form College. When VL called LAL on Tuesday at their Chorley office, they were unaware of any forthcoming change and reassured us that classes would be continuing in the new year as normal.

We called Nelson & Colne College and asked them for clarification, and they have issued the statement below, on behalf of LAL confirming the closure.

We asked them about the future of the assets at White Cross, which is equipped with a pottery studio and kiln, for example. We were interested to know how such facilities could be provided elsewhere.

They explained that the building remains the property of Lancashire County Council and it would be up to LCC to determine how these assets could be deployed. So we called County on Tuesday and asked them about its plans for these assets. They said they would get back to us and we are still looking forward to hearing from them.

White Cross isn't the only facility to be hit. The number of Adult Education venues across Lancashire has been significantly reduced as dedicated venues, such as White Cross, Alston Hall in Longridge, and Lancashire College in Chorley are phased out, with the loss of expensive built-in educational resources that cannot easily be replaced.

Some of the courses offered can be moved into ad-hoc rented premises, such as the Storey, but others, which depend on specialist facilities, such as IT, sciences, arts and crafts, will not be easily replaced and we have not yet seen plans to do so.

There are plans to close other local specialist services, such as Children's Centres across the area and some community mental health services in favour of more centralised, less accessible services at White Cross.

The reason for these cutbacks is that the County Council has sustained a massive cut to its budget (over 60% and rising) from this Conservative government. Government cuts have disproportionately targeted poorer authorities that deal with greater levels of disadvantage and low income.

This being the case, it does seems fairly impressive that Lancashire County Council is managing to deliver the services that it still does. We understand that there have been some agonising choices to be made, in terms of services to invalid, disabled and elderly people and children. Day care and home-care services have been cut back or priced out of the range of many. Libraries and museums have closed. Infrastructure repairs have been delayed. Council offices have been cleared and sold or rented. Adult education cannot be exempt. Services for these sectors don't benefit the government's corporate political donors and their overseas shareholders.

A little learning is a dangerous thing
A new / old education policy is being developed in which grammar schools will harvest a small percentage of children, those who can perform best on a single day at age 11, for more advanced education and direct the rest into more menial channels, anchored to the social station to which they were born.

Statement from Lancashire Adult Learning:

Lancashire Adult Learning (LAL) offers a wide range of learning opportunities to adults across Lancashire, to include over 50 courses in Lancaster.

From December 2016, courses will no longer be delivered at White Cross Education Centre, part of Lancashire County Council, due to building refurbishment and development plans. Any courses that have already started and are running this term will complete as planned.

Any equipment and resources belonging to LAL at White Cross Education Centre will be transferred to new venues or donated to local community partners, where appropriate.

Lancashire Adult Learning has exciting plans to expand its provision in Lancaster and is working with a number of partners and venues across the region to develop this.

Lancashire Adult Learning’s new course list will be available in December for courses running from January 2017. Courses planned throughout Lancaster range from art and crafts, to employability skills, health and wellbeing, and much more.

Courses will be delivered in a range of Lancaster venues to include University of Cumbria, The Storey Institute, Halton Mill, Lancaster Library and The Cornerstone.

Lancashire Adult Learning currently delivers over 300 courses in more than 40 venues across Lancashire. To find out more about LAL visit or contact 0333 003 1717.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 26th October to 3rd November 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.

With halloween soon upon us, there is a excellent selection of horror movies being screened. Modern horror comes with Blair Witch (15); Don't Breathe (15); Ouija: Origin of Evil (15) and the Iranian thriller Under the Shadow. Classical examples of the genre come with the spectacular Pan's Labyrinth and the scary The Shining; Finally the Dukes is offering a more vintage double bill with Dracula and The Mummy.

Fantasy this period comes with the family movies Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (12A) and The Witches. Also Marvel comics heroes continue to make it to the screen with Doctor Strange (12A).

Drama as always is well represented with The Accountant; The Girl on the Train (15) and Tomboy. Also there is the docudrama Deepwater Horizon and comedy drama with Swiss Army Man and The Greasy Strangler. Also on offer are the action and adventure movies Inferno (12A) and jack Reacher: Never Go Back (12A).

Romance comes with The Light between Oceans and comedy romance in Bridget Jones's Baby.

Family films and animation this period are Ice Age: Collision Course (U); Storks (U); Trolls (U); The BFG (PG) and The Secret Life of Pets (U).

Finally high culture comes with Anastasia - Royal Opera; Branagh Theatre Live: The Entertainer and York Theatre Royal: The Railway Children.


Blair Witch
Director: Adam Wingard
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: James Alen McCure, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott
This is a sequel to the 1999 'Blair Witch' movie. James Donahue (McCure) thinks his sister Heather, who disappeared twenty years ago, may still be alive in the Black Hills Forest of Maryland. He, along with a group of friends and a couple of guides, enter the forest to explore the facts surrounding the Blair Witch and Heather's disappearance. As the night comes, all hell starts to breaks loose. The movie is in the 'found footage' genre and it comes with plenty of frights and some original twists, despite remaining faithful to the original film. A very competent horror movie though it doesn't quite capture the novelty of the original.

Bridget Jones's Baby
Director: Sharon Maguire
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Renee Zellweger, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey
After a break of twelve years, this is the third instalment of the romantic comedy franchise and author Helen Fielding co-wrote the script. Bridge Jones is now aged forty-three and still single, having broken up with Mark Darcy (Firth). She decided to concentrate on her career as a news producer. However she meets a handsome American Jack (Dempsey) and has consecutive one night stands with both Jack and Mark. She finds herself pregnant, but does not know which one is the father. This movie captures the spirit of the original and is an improvement on the previous 'Edge of Reason'. It is set in London with Jones in her old flat and the movie features strong acting both from Zellweger and from Thompson. There are some very funny moments and excellent one liners.

Doctor Strange
Director: Scott Derrickson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Kikkelsen
Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) was a surgeon whose career was ruined by a car accident which crushed his hands. He learned of an Ancient One (Swinton) with healing powers and so travels to Nepal to seek out the mystic. Here Strange learns of the different dimensions, magic and becomes a warrior on the astral plane. Meanwhile a former disciple of the Ancient One Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) has turned to the dark side and is intent on invoking the malevolent Dormammu from his alien abode. Strange much choose between a life of fortune or to defend the earth from magical attack. Doctor Strange has made a very successful transition from comic to the screen and the movie provides a good plot with excellent acting and dialogue. Special effects are very convincing and the film is one of the better Marvel super-hero movies.

Ice Age: Collision Course
Director: Mike Thurmeier and Galen T Chu
Cast includes: Simon Pegg, Roy Romano, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Hohn Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Chris Wedge
A computer animation family adventure film. This is the fifth instalment in the Ice Age series and the sequel to Continental Drift. Scratt (Wedge), the sabre toothed squirrel, activates an alien UFO in his continued pursuit of the acorn. The craft propels Scratt into outer space and thence causes a planetary collision resulting in the creation of meteors that threaten to engulf the earth. Manny (Romero) the Wooly Mammoth, Sid (Leguizamo) the sloth and Diego (Leary) the sabre toothed tiger hatch a plan with the weasel Buck (Pegg) to save the earth. The plot is quite unbelievable, but the resulting mayhem is as entertaining as ever. New characters are introduced as the movie unfolds and the film a worthy addition to the franchise. Whats not to like?

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Director: Tim Burton
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Samuel L Jackson, Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench
A rather dark fantasy drama based on the 2011 best selling novel by Ransom Riggs. Jake (Butterfield), following the death of his grandfather, finds Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. This is a refuge for people with extraordinary gifts and it is fixed in one day in 1940, which they continually re-live. The inhabitants of the home can access different time zones. However they have powerful enemies, led by Mr Barron (Jackson), who also has peculiar powers. Jake finds himself being called upon to help his new friends. This is a very busy film with plenty of characters, lots of action and CGI special effects. However, in this variety, there seems limited time for the characters to fully develop. The movie has received mixed reviews but this reviewer found it great fun.

Director: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Anton Starkman
Conerstone used to be in the business of delivering babies and most of its employees are stalks. However CEO stalk Hunter (Grammer) discontinued the service for the more lucrative business of delivering parcels. The business receives a letter from Nate (Starkman) a neglected boy who wants a baby brother and Tulip (Crown), a woman working for Cornerstone, causes the baby machine to create a girl in response to the letter. Now Tulip and her stork friend Junior (Samberg) must deliver the baby before Hunter finds out. This involves their facing a pack of wolves, militant penguins and an avalanche. This is a bizarre, non stop and fun packed movie that will appeal to all ages. It has been well received by the critics and is sure to please.

The Girl on the Train
Director: Tate Taylor
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Justin Theroux
A movie based on Paula Hawkins best selling 2015 novel of the same name. Rachel (Blunt) is an alcoholic who recently divorced her husband Tom (Theroux). She commutes every day by train and on her journey she fantasises about the seemingly perfect couple Scott (Evans) and Megan (Bennett) Hipwell who live in a house that she passes. Rachel witnesses something shocking on her journey and then hears Megan Hipwell is missing. She tells the police and starts her own investigation. Yet she cannot remember where where she was on the night of Megan's disappearance, and Megan and Scott are neighbours of her ex husband. Hence Rachel find the police start to suspect she is involved in the mystery. This is a well acted first rate mystery with a plot that provides a good number of unexpected turns. A must-see movie.

The Secret Life of Pets
Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Louis C.K., Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart
A family animation film that follows the lives of pets living in a Manhattan apartment building during the time their owners leave them alone. Max (Louis) is a rather spoilt terrier who starts to find himself neglected when his owner Katie (Kemper) brings home Duke (Stonestreet), a mongrel, from a dog pound. However the two dogs must put their rivalry behind them when they are captured by Snowball (Hart) a rabbit and an army of abandoned pets who are trying to get back at all happily owned pets and their owners. This is a delightful and energetic animation movie that is inoffensive and fun for all, young and old.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Motorcyclist, 53, hurt in Lancaster collision

 A 53-year-old man has suffered a serious foot injury following a collision in Lancaster.

Police were called by the Ambulance Service around 5.30pm yesterday (24th October) following reports of an accident on Little Fell Lane.

A Volkswagen Polo travelling towards Lancaster was involved in a collision with a Honda motorbike.

The motorcyclist, a 53-year-old man from Lancaster, suffered significant injuries to his right foot and was taken by paramedics to Royal Preston Hospital for treatment.

The driver of the Volkswagen, a 55-year-old woman, also from Lancaster, was uninjured. The road was closed for three hours while accident investigators attended the scene.

Police are appealing for information following the incident.

Sgt Tracey Ward, of Lancashire Roads Policing Unit, said: “We are continuing to investigate the circumstances around a road traffic collision in Lancaster.
“If you saw either the Volkswagen or Honda before the collision, or witnessed the incident, please contact us.”

• Anyone with information can call police on 101 quoting log reference 1014 of 24th October 2016

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Protests over Barclay's ownership of fracking company

Lancaster anti-fracking campaigners are so angry that Barclay's Bank is financing fracking in Yorkshire through its subsidiary company Third Energy that they joined with visiting activist group Reclaim the Power on Friday lunchtime to protest peacefully (if somewhat noisily) outside Barclay's Lancaster branch with banners, leaflets and a mobile sound system to draw attention to the bank's climate-destructive activities.

Barclay's-owned Third Energy has recently obtained permission to carry out extreme shale gas fracking in the agricultural heart of the Vale of Pickering in Ryedale, North Yorkshire. Both Third Energy and Lancashire would-be-fracking company Cuadrilla are majority owned through paperwork based in the Cayman Islands offshore tax haven.

The protest was the precursor to a national week of protest to run from 24 - 29 October, against Barclay's investment in extreme fossil fuel extraction. The protest week is planned by Friends of the Earth, People & Planet, Frack Free Ryedale, SumOfUs and You can find out more about it at

Voted worst current account provider
They want customers of Barclay's to switch banks to a different company. And not just because last year Barclays was ranked as the UK’s worst current account provider for the third time in a row.

Barclays was one of the three major banks named in a 2016 banktracking analysis report as the world's leading financiers for extreme oil and gas projects described as economically disastrous and having inflicted severe damage on communities, ecosystems, and the climate.

It's not the first time the bank has faced trouble for its antisocial activities. In 2012 it was sentenced to fines totalling $450 million for fraudulently colluding in rigging the Libor rates over 9 years. The banks involved earned hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, in wrongful profits as a result of artificially inflating Libor rates on the first day of each month during the complaint period.

It was estimated in the US that at least 100,000 people lost thousands of dollars due to the banks' unlawful activity, with many people holding sub-prime mortgages losing their homes. Losses to municipalities through this manipulation of the rates were estimated at $4billion.

Crying on the way to the bank?
While members of the Lancaster public were broadly supportive of the protest group's aims, in particular County Councillor for Morecambe South Darren Clifford, who was passing and stopped to offer encouragement, bank staff appeared to be less so, with one customer reporting that the leaflet handed to her on the way in had been snatched out of her hand by a member of staff once inside.

Another customer said 'At the end of the day, they're just too big and we're too small'. But not everyone is crying on the way to the bank.

National Gathering in Lancaster
Reclaim the Power are holding their National Gathering in Lancaster  tomorrow (Saturday) at the Marsh Community Centre. High on their agenda will be planning, training and development of co-ordinated campaign infrastructure to make it impossible for companies such as Third Energy and Cuadrilla to carry out their work.

They are looking at developing resistance across the board; not only at preventing work from being carried out at the sites but also by targeting suppliers and contractors involved with the fracking companies and their associates.

Other wings of the campaign will be supporting electoral candidates who are realistic about climate change and committed to developing sustainable energy resources,  raising awareness of the processes and consequences involved in extreme shale gas extraction, promoting artistic and creative events and activities and more.

United Against Fracking National Rally on 12 November in Manchester

Supported by the TUC, the United Against Fracking national rally will consist of a march, guest speakers, music and much more.  Coaches are being arranged from a variety of destinations and more details on speakers, sponsors and organisations taking part will emerge daily, To find out more, visit the event facebook page or

People interested in learning more about the campaign can contact Frack Free Lancashire and Frack Free Ryedale online through facebook or via their websites.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

13-yearold boy assaulted on Lancaster bridge

Police are appealing for information after a teenager was attacked by a man in Lancaster.

Sometime between 1.30pm and 1.40pm on Sunday (16th October 2016), the victim, a 13-year-old boy, was cycling on Lune Street towards the Millennium Bridge.

As he continued across the bridge he fell from his bike and shouted an expletive. While stood by his bike, a man walking with a young girl approached the teenager and grabbed him by the throat, telling him not to swear.

The suspect then walked off towards the St George's Quay area. He is described as in his early 40s with short dark hair and was wearing a navy blue jacket.

The young girl appeared to be under 10-years-old.

A member of the public witnessed the incident and helped the victim before calling police.

Police are appealing for witnesses and are asking anyone who can assist with their enquiries to come forward.

PC Adam Jussub, of Lancashire Police, said: “This assault was an unprovoked attack on a 13-year-old boy.

“The suspect was with a young girl and the fact she was a witness to this violent attack is quite worrying.

“From CCTV enquiries there appear to be several people walking around on the bridge at the time of the incident and we believe would have seen the offender.

“If you recognise the man described or saw the assault, please get in touch with police.”

  • Anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting crime reference WB1608422
  • Alternatively, the independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111