Friday, 15 January 2010

In Review: Experimentality - Photography Competition and Exhibition

Peter Scott Gallery
13 January to 6 February 2010

Review by Helen, Events Editor

I was excited by the prospect of a photography exhibition entitled ‘Experimentality’. This showing of “photographic responses by local residents to the title ‘The Experiment’” promises a “variety of ideas and approaches to the subject” with “work that ranges from photography as we might traditionally understand it, through work that examines process, to the depiction of the un-photographable”. I was not disappointed.

This latest showing at the Peter Scott Gallery is a collaboration with Lancaster University’s Institute for Advanced Studies and their year-long research programme on ‘Experimentality’. A predominantly workshop-based programme, the exhibition captures some of the spirit of the events in a visual format.

The pieces on display certainly do incorporate a huge variety of ideas and approaches. From experiments with the photographic method, through investigations of the scientific process, to depictions of experimental art forms and explorations of photography as a social experiment.

At first glance, I couldn’t help feeling that many of the pieces had a rather tenuous link with the ‘Experimentality’ theme. Indeed, my companion expressed disappointment there weren’t more works that had tried a more direct response to ‘The Experiment’: Either experimental photography; or attempts to interpret the common scientific understanding of ‘experiment’, merging the diametrically opposed fields of science and art. Full marks go to Margaret Alvarex with DNA Project, Jane Rushton’s Arctic Dialogue and George Pickett’s Nuclei Moving in a Superficial Near Absolute Zero who, amongst others, endeavoured to achieve the latter feat.

Our favourites that rose to the experimental photography challenge were Robert Kirsopp’s Looking Backwards – using a simple object to create interesting shapes and perspectives (all the more impressive when we learnt Robert is 11 years old), and Gerry Davies’ Potsdamer 1 – an experiment with the use of our most commonly-used 21st century piece of photographic equipment: the phone camera. As I stared at it, I could feel the movement, the fun, the energy behind the piece. Bernard Alvarez neatly encapsulated both experimental photography and the concept of chemical experimentation in his Alchemy.

A unique approach was presented in 27 Exp by Tommie Introna – at first glance it’s an unappealing snapshot of a disposable camera, a letter and some packaging - but it’s the start of an exploration into other people’s world views, attempting to capture their perspectives through pictures. I hope Tommie’s project yields exciting results and Peter Scott Gallery are able to follow up and present the results to the public.

Other highlights for me included: Biennale Gardens, Venice from Wendy Brown, an appealing piece investigating visual disturbances from reflective surfaces; and Jonathan Bean’s Small World #5, a photograph-of-a-photograph that plays with your perception and sense of scale.

After exploring all the entries, and reading the exhibitors’ statements, I decided my initial judgement had, perhaps, been hasty. At the end of the day, isn’t all art a form of experimentation? In fact, don’t we experiment every day of our lives, in everything we do? Admittedly, this tangential thinking may have been fuelled by the free glass of champagne we were given to celebrate the exhibition launch! But the one thing this collection of pictures has in common is the capacity to make you think.

Take an hour out of your day – or squeeze half an hour – but I don’t think you’ll regret spending it at this exhibition. Take a friend, have a coffee afterwards… and ponder “Experimentality”.

Related Links:
Peter Scott Gallery - www.lancs.ac.uk/depts/peterscott/scott.htm
Experimentality Programme - www.lancs.ac.uk/experimentality

Choral concert helps to celebrate town hall centenary

Lancaster City Council will celebrate the 100th birthday of Lancaster Town Hall on Friday 29th January with a very special concert.

The very first public concert to be performed in the town hall to celebrate its opening in 1909 was by the Lancaster and District Male Voice Choir.

A century later and they have been invited back to perform.

Joining them for the occasion will be the Rainbow Singers, Regent Singers, Ripley School jazz band, the choir and jazz band from St Wilfrid’s junior school and the Ashton Hall Organ Restoration Group.

Tickets are priced at £5 for adults and £2.50 concessions and are available from the visitor information centres in Lancaster and Morecambe, the mayor’s office at Lancaster Town Hall (telephone 01524 582070) or participating groups.

The concert will take place between 7.30pm and 10pm.

Binmen: 'We're coming as soon as we can'

Lancaster City Council’s refuse workers are doing their utmost to empty bins and recycling boxes which were missed in the recent spell of severe weather (see news story).

Anyone with extra recycling due to the missed collections should:

• Place all glass inside the green recycling boxes (no broken glass)
• Cut or fold cardboard down to the size of the recycling box
• Place cans, paper and plastic bottles in carrier bags at the side of the recycling boxes.

Please ensure items are kept separate e.g. one carrier bag for paper, one for cans, one for plastic bottles. Any additional non-recyclable waste should be put into refuse sacks and placed at the side of your grey wheeled bin for collection.

In an effort to catch up, collections of green waste have again been suspended for the week beginning 18th January.

Collection crews have also been given mountaineering style crampons to ensure they do not slip on the ice so they can negotiate the treacherous conditions that still exist in many parts of the district.

Coun Jon Barry, Cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, said: “In common with many other councils up and down the country our refuse collection service has been severely disrupted by the recent bad weather and I’d ask people to bear with us.

“We are doing our very best to try and catch up and resolve the situation. Where it is possible and safe to do so all missed bins and boxes will be collected as soon as possible.

"As the collection vehicles weigh more than 20 tonnes they could not be used during the ice-in as they could cause considerable damage if they were to slide and collide with a house, car or pedestrian.

• For further information on refuse and recycling collections please visit our website www.lancaster.gov.uk or phone customer services on 01524 582491.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Masked Murder at the Midland!

Morecambe's classy Midland Hotel - used in the past for location work for ITV's Poirot - plays host to a Murder Mystery on Friday 22nd January, performed by the After Dark Theatre Company while you enjoy a candlelit 3 course meal.

The mystery theme continues on Saturday night with a Masked Dinner Dance and entertainment for the Midland’s resident High Society Jazz Band.

Guests will have their first opportunity to identify any suspicious looking characters during a cocktail reception. They will then move on to the famous Eric Gill Suite and help find the murderer during a candlelit three-course dinner, during which they will be able to question the likely suspects.

The following evening, the mystery theme will continue with a 3-course dinner and a masked ball, with entertainment provided by the High Society Jazz Band.

“We’re all really looking forward to the Murder Mystery Weekend," commented Matt Stanaway, the Manager of the Midland Hotel, "and we really hope that as many aspiring detectives as possible come along to join in the fun.”

• Tickets for the Midland’s Murder Mystery Weekend start from only £162 per person for a classic twin/double room, based on 2 people sharing. Tickets for the event without the accommodation are only £49 per person for Friday 22nd and £39 per person for Saturday 23rd.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Take tea with the mayor

Mayor of Lancaster, Councillor Roger SherlockThe Mayor of Lancaster, Councillor Roger Sherlock, would like to invite people to join him for afternoon tea next week.

The mayor will be holding ‘at home’ events at The Platform in Morecambe on Wednesday 20th January from 3.00pm to 6.00pm, and Lancaster Town Hall on Saturday 23rd January from 10.00am to 1.00pm.

The Lancaster event will help to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lancaster Town Hall and will include a ‘reincarnation’ of Lord Ashton.

The events are a chance for the mayor to meet members of the community, and especially representatives of organisations he has visited during the year and members of the public that he has chatted to at the various events he has attended.

Coun Sherlock said: "I have been privileged to meet a great number of people in my mayoral year and I have been very impressed with the work they do in our community.

"I hope that as many as possible will be able to join me at one of these events."

Young and old alike are welcome to meet the mayor and enjoy afternoon tea.

Local Wildlife face winter nightmare

Robin in the Snow by Ian Britton - via http://www.freefoto.com

Picture by Ian Britton via FreeFoto


Whilst we are held to ransom by a serious cold snap, wildlife may also be struggling to cope with the snow and ice, warns the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, and the organisation is urging us all to take some steps to help out.

Our wildlife is amazingly hardy and adaptable and can put up with a pounding from the weather. But prolonged periods of cold, continuing for weeks or months at a time, or severe and sudden changes in the weather, can cause it major problems.

Grazing animals, whether domestic sheep or wild hares, may not be able to get to the plants to feed because of snow and ice. And the frozen ground prevents rabbits and hares from nibbling grass, making these plant-lovers stay at home, so predators like stoats and owls find it harder to spot and catch them.

There is also less food around in hedgerows and woodlands for foragers - leaves have gone, plants withered or covered with snow, hedges stripped of berries, and insects dead from the cold or stuck in frozen soil or ponds.

Not many of our mammals actually hibernate for long periods during winter, they simply prefer to sleep when it gets cold, occasionally emerging to see what food might be available. But when severe weather hits, it's much harder for mammals like badgers, hares, stoats and foxes to graze, forage or hunt for food: already we're seeing foxes being more bold and more active in broad daylight. It can cause problems for some insects too.

Those which are active in the winter, such as winter-gnats and minotaur beetles, can cope with periods of cold weather, but deep snow may prevent them feeding for weeks at a time.

Perhaps surprisingly, insects and other animals which hibernate usually do better in cold winters: they use less energy while hibernating, and are less likely to be disturbed and come out to look for food which isn't there. So, butterflies like the brimstone, peacock and comma, which hibernate as adults, and indeed, the other resident butterflies which spend the winter as eggs, caterpillars or crysalids, could benefit from this cold winter.

Likewise the mammals which do go into real hibernation, the dormouse and the bats, may appreciate the cold. Perhaps the most difficult circumstance for most wildlife is bouts of severe cold and snow, interspersed with warmer-than-normal conditions, which wake them up, only for the next cold spell to drive them back (or, in the case of plants, harsh frost might even damage the premature tender shoots).

If you'd like to help our wildlife cope this winter and in future winters, try the following steps:

• Put out nuts, seeds, fat and water for garden birds.
• Grow patches of tall grass in your garden to shelter butterflies.
• Don't cut back your herbabeous plants till the spring, so their hollow stems can provide snug hibernation sites for ladybirds and other beneficial insects.
• Provide insect homes for over-wintering lacewings and other invertebrates.
• Buy or make a hedgehog home for hibernating hogs.
• Grow climbers like ivy to provide shelter for birds and insects.

• For more information visit: www.lancswt.org.uk

Cruel tomb raiders sought

Police are appealing for information after a thief stole a stone memorial from a grave in Morecambe’s Torrisholme cemetery.

The two-foot high bible, carved from granite, was taken from the cemetery in the Westgate area of the town between 1st - 6th January.

The £1,000 bible has a gold inscription from the gospel of John on one side and a personal tribute on the other.

“It's possible that the memorial has been taken because of its high value," said PC Sean Brady, Morecambe Police, said: "This is a heartless crime and it has obviously been very upsetting for the family involved. I would urge anyone with any information to come forward.”

• Contact police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Occasional Drama Set for Lancaster's St. Johns

St_Johns_Church_Lancaster.jpgThe Committee of The Friend's of St John's - the closed church near Lancaster's bus station - have formed their own drama group named the St John's Occasionals.

St John's has long been established as a concert venue and since April 2009 has widened the nature of events that it hosts, which have included lectures, exhibitions and fairs for local charities such as Animal Care. Any monies raised directly benefit either the upkeep of St John's and/or other charities.

Now, the St John's Occasionals has launched - an enthusiastic bunch of volunteer amateur actors and singers who have worked very hard on their musical "Wartime Memories", which will be performed on Saturday 23rd January at 7.30pm.

Further Concerts will be performed by the Occasionals during the summer with proceeds being donated to local charities.

"Support for St John's and its events will ensure the survival of this historic building and benefit the wider community," says Occasional's Mandy Holten.

The efforts to make good use of St. John's are part of the work of the Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity conserving England ’s most beautiful and historic churches which are no longer needed for regular worship. It promotes public enjoyment of these churches, and encourages their use as an educational and community resource. It currently cares for some 340 churches.

• Information about the Trust’s work and all its churches is on the website www.visitchurches.org.uk

Monday, 11 January 2010

Council sounds positive note on Centros knockback

Far from being disappointed about the Secretary of State's recent decision on the Centros proposals, Lancaster City Council says it is more than pleased with the outcome: and despite the evident opposition from locals, it looks like they're going to push for a similar use of the Canal Corridor - but perhaps with less shops.

Responding to the inspector's views in more detail for the first time, the Council also sets out just why it stood, virtually alone, at the inquiry and gave support to the Centros plan for a huge shopping development, a multi storey car park and and other amenities on the Canal Corridor site. As we previously reported, developers chose not to speak at the inquiry on cost grounds - leaving the Council to speak for them, at local taxpayers expense.

The Council says it made a clear statement at the time of the public inquiry that it knew the developer's decision not to appear might jeopardise the outcome of the inquiry, but was taking the leading role to promote the implementation of its new Development Plan for the district, and to try to obtain a clear steer from the Secretary of State about the appropriateness of the scheme in principle.

Without such a steer the council may have needed to revise significant parts of the development plan.

“The inspector's report, and the Secretary of State's decision, has given ample support for the principle of the scheme," commented Coun Eileen Blamire, chair of the Council's Planning Policy Cabinet Liaison Group.

“It accepts that this is the only site capable of facilitating this form of retail and mixed use growth," Blamire argues, "and that, contrary to the view put forward by some objectors, it is sustainable and easily accessible for people inside and outside the city.”

Centros proposed solutions to accommodate additional traffic were accepted, the Council points out, as were the conclusions of the impact on air quality - two areas which locals still believe have not been properly addressed.

Looking at the prospective details of the scheme the Council points out there was agreement that the overall approach to layout and levels made sense, that a contemporary design with a good public frontage to Stonewell could work and the linkages to the existing centre are of critical importance.

The inspector also concluded that the controversial link bridge - an element that would be costly for the developers - was essential, but the Secretary of State wants to see detailed designs and more evidence to convince him that it is the right solution.

The Council also points out that the inspector's report doesn't hold out much hope for saving the Stonewell frontage as, it's argued, it would not be in the best interests of linking the existing centre to the site.

In its statement, the Council has accepted additional work needs to be done to address the Secretary of State's concerns about the amount of retail floor space - which might mean some reduction in scale. They haven't said at this stage what the shops removed from the project would be replaced with.

There's good news, perhaps, for campaigners who want to save buildings in the Canal Corridor development zone: the inspector and the Secretary of State have given clear guidance about the repair and viability test which must be proven before they can agreed to the loss of the unlisted buildings which would need to be removed to facilitate the scheme. This probably means Mitchells will have to hold off from their planned demolition of the old Brewery.

Acknowledging that evidence needed to be provided that the various buildings could not viably be retained, it was clear that the impact of retention of the ability to provide a viable new development would still be a major consideration.

“Having obtained the positive steer that the council needed, it has now agreed to take part in a new Government pilot scheme of mediation with the other principle parties," Coun Keith Budden, chair of the Planning and Highways Regulatory Committee, added, "to attempt to set an agreed benchmark on how to proceed.“

Expect plenty of heated debate in the months to come...