Saturday, 5 March 2011

Police name two people found dead in Morecambe

Police have named the two people whose bodies were found at an address in Morecambe yesterday.

The bodies of 44-year-old Robert Holden and 40-year-old Nicola Holden were found at their home address on Low Lane in Morecambe after police were called to the address at around 11.50am yesterday morning.

Detectives are investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths but they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.




Spruce up your fashion sense at The Storey

If you've ever wanted to enter the glamorous world of fashion design, or simply desire to make your own classic shift dress, Lancaster-based fashion designer Jennifer Pritchard Couchman is offering you the chance, with a new series of short fashion courses, to be held at The Storey Creative Industries Centre in Lancaster.

Designed as an informal introduction to fashion design, pattern cutting and garment construction, the courses cater for everybody to come and enjoy, gain new skills and improve your dressmaking and pattern cutting skills.

Jennifer Pritchard Couchman is a Lancashire based bridal and fashion designer, based at The Storey Creative Industries Centre in Lancaster.

Her gowns has been featured in numerous bridal magazines and websites, and has recently been applauded for her stunning ‘Word Dress’ a collaboration with Lancaster’s Litfest.

Courses will run from May until December 2011 and have been designed to cater for everybody who is interested in fashion design, from beginners to advanced levels.

Courses start from £35.

• For more information and booking details, please email Jennifer on
01524 849936 or email jenniferpritchardcouchmanATgooglemail.com




Friday, 4 March 2011

Admission fees for pools and parks set to rise from Monday

New fees and charges for the use of Lancaster City Council-run leisure facilities will come into effect on Monday 7th March.

The decision made by Cabinet to increase the prices charged at Salt Ayre Sports Centre, community pools, Williamson Park, parks and recreation grounds and the Platform takes account of the rise in inflation and the implications of the increase in VAT.


The rises, which will for example see the cost of a swim at Salt Ayre rise to £3.50 for adults, met with opposition from Conservatives and Green councillors, among others, but have now come into force.

“Any decisions made which involve an increase in prices for any of our services are not taken lightly," commented Coun June Ashworth, Cabinet member with responsibility for cultural services.  "However, it is important to ensure the council can continue to provide value for money services which give people access to a wide range of leisure opportunities whilst retaining fees at affordable and competitive levels.”

• For a full list of the new prices for all the council’s leisure services, visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/prices 

UNISON Hail Funding Decisions on Police Community Support Officers

UNISON has welcomed news that the majority of the external funding partners for some 170 plus Police Community Support Officers have found the funding within their severely and savagely cut budgets to continue with the provision of Police Community Support Officers within their communities to enable the greatly valued and appreciated work that they do jointly with the Constabulary to continue.

This means there will be  compulsary redundancies for PCSOs - a possibility that outraged many and saw local MP David Morris take action in Parliament to oppose their loss.

“This is the news that our PCSO members and communities have been waiting for," said Branch Secretary Maureen Le Marinel, "but we must not forget that we have other UNISON members across all the Public Services in Lancashire that may not be in the same position. 

"Local Authorities have had a difficult task in setting their budgets due to the austerity cuts placed upon them by this Government," she added, "and some staff will find themselves out of work because of them and this UNISON Branch sends a message of support to those Public Sector Workers in that position.

"We believe that the campaign run by this branch in raising the awareness of MP’s, Peers, Councillors and the Communities of Lancashire has had a significant impact in the decision making process and we thank them for their support.

"The most important and positive message that can be given now is that there will not be a need for ‘Compulsory Redundancy’ as first feared.  Although uncertainty still remains for PCSO’s in the future, given the Home Office has only provided a guarantee of funding for two years and the external partners have provided funding in a mix of one and two years, however these decisions will allow for further work to be carried out in this area of Neighbourhood Policing and the value that PCSO’s brings to it."

Maureen has thanked all PCSO’s for their patience in what has been a very difficult time for all concerned but notes the campaign is ongoing.

"The work will not stop we will continue to work to ensure the continuation of the role of PCSO within Lancashire Constabulary long into the future not just the next two years.”

Hala Estate to get a makeover, Open Day announced

A possible design for a new play area which Hala Community Group will be on hand to tell residents more about at a planned Open Day. More designs on the group's Facebook page
Lancaster City Council and its partner contractor Forrest will be carrying out major improvement work on Lancaster's Hala Estate, and will be holding an open day for residents to find out more.

The event will be held at Beck View Sheltered Housing Scheme on Thursday 24th March from 9am to 12pm and from 2pm to 5pm.

The improvement work being undertaken during 2011 and 2012, will see a number of properties receive new kitchens, part bathroom improvements and re-rendering. The open day is an opportunity for tenants to meet the contractors, choose their kitchen and colour of rendering, and find out more about the work taking place.

There will also be an opportunity to see the plans for the new play area which Hala Community Group (Facebook group here) have been working hard to raise money for.

The city council’s recycling team will also be on hand to offer information and advice about bin collections and recycling, and Emcor Engineering Services will provide advice on energy efficiency including thermal insulation, and offering the chance to win £50 B&Q vouchers in their prize draw which will be open to anyone who has an annual gas service carried out by them.

Vision Services will be talking to tenants about the upgrade of the communal satellite system which will allow them to upgrade to Sky Plus without needing a separate individual dish.

“The city council is working closely with our contactor Forrest and other partner agencies to upgrade a number of the council’s housing properties," explains Councillor David Kerr, cabinet member with responsibility for housing. 

“The work due to be carried out in Hala will bring significant benefits both to the properties and the local community and we would encourage the tenants to come along and find out how we are improving their estate”.

Lancaster City Council’s partnership with social housing regeneration expert Forrest is now in its second year of a five year contract, and is working hard to deliver real value for local people.

Forrest are currently carrying out kitchen, bathroom and external refurbishments and re-rendering works across the Lancaster district.

They have already shown their commitment to supporting local groups and helping to regenerate community spaces thorough projects such as the indoor garden at Beck View Centre, and by funding the refurbishment of the basketball area on Hala Green.

Star Wars R2D2, comics creator and more at the Storey

Lancaster's Storey Creative Industries Centre will host a comic and science fiction fair on Saturday 19th March.

A must for all collectors of Doctor Who, Marvel and DC Comics, film posters, trading cards and toys, along with an appearance by Star Wars robot R2D2,  John Freeman, editor of the upcoming STRIP Magazine will be at this event - and we're sure some local Lancaster-based comic creators will also be putting in appearance, too.


The Fair opens at 12 noon, admission £1.


• For enquiries about exhibition stalls contact mse.events@yahoo.com

•  Click here for a Google Map of the location

Spending Cuts Crisis: Get To London for 26 March

Lancastrians packed into Lancaster Town Hall to hear RMT leader Bob Crow, Right to Work speaker Chris Banbury and Green Party member Gina Dowding speaking about the spending cuts on Wednesday 23 February at a meeting chaired by Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts’ Audrey Glover.

The list of cuts to the most vulnerable, of efforts by the government to drive down wages by driving down benefits, the strengthening of barriers to social mobility by cuts to education funding at all ages goes on and on, as does the anomaly of allowing tax evasion by the wealthy while cutting jobs in essential services.
Crow showed the meeting the Employers’ Charter produced by the Cameron administration, removing employees’rights. There was no doubt in the mood of the meeting that the way the cuts are being implemented are ideologically based, designed to create division and resentment between sectors of the poor while the rich walk away to the east with everything they can milk dry from the UK.

Bob Crow pointed out that the Con-Dem strategy is to blame everything they did on the debts left by the Labour Government over-spending. He noted that until the banking crisis the UK economy was strong, and undamaged by public spending. The deficit was caused by the bail out. The strategy of using it as a rod to beat the lower income classes, and by putting the nations assets in a fire-sale, rather than by dealing with tax evasion and bank regulation, is the coalition’s own. However he doubted that Labour would have done more than spread out the same pain over a longer period.

Simon Rudd spoke movingly about his family’s desperate need for respite care for his daughter, who is disabled. Respite care that is being cut. As I also am a person who cannot ever spend a single night or day away from home without help from elderly respite care services I am losing, he has my complete support.

Helen Gallagher spoke about the effects of cuts on women, who face massive job losses, cuts to benefits, cuts to pensions, and increases in taxation. Indeed it begins to look as if the government sees no place for women in the paid workforce, the pensioned elderly, in care homes or even among the unemployed on benefits. No place but home, and that somebody else’s. The government’s vision for women is as an unpaid ‘Big Society’ labour force, cleaning up social messes and oozing social glue from the intrinsic generosity of our hearts, whilst nobly starving and being called workshy scroungers.

After the meeting she was greeted by a series of men keen to step up and make it clear that they had no intention of sitting like beggars chewing on crumbs wrenched from the vulnerable, while the bankers whose greed and amorality created the deficit still pocket millions in bonuses.

Every speaker emphasised the need to get as many people as possible to support the National March and Rally in London on Saturday 26 March. While people in other countries face bullets and tanks in their human struggle for democracy and fairness, our leaders tour the countries of despots selling them crowd-control weaponry (no it’s not ‘just’ the big stuff). Our country faces an ideological crisis that will completely change the future potential of our families, our streets, our country and the entire world and it’s time we faced up and dealt with it. One day out. Fortunately, my last respite care voucher is good til March 31.

Many trains and coaches have been organised. For help with transport go to the Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts Facebook page for up to date info.

Visit the March for the Alternative website. http://marchforthealternative.org.uk/

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Police appeal after attempted bag snatch

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after an attempted bag snatch in Carnforth on Monday (28th February).

The incident happened around 10.30am on Market Street outside the post office. The 45 year old victim was approached from behind by a man who took hold of the rucksack he was carrying and tried to pull it from his possession. Luckily for the victim he was unsuccessful and fled the scene.

He is described as 5ft 6inches tall, aged in his early 20s with strawberry blonde hair. He was wearing a cream coloured top with blue stripes.

DC Rachel Killinger from Lancaster CID said: "I would appeal to anybody that witnesses this incident or with any information to contact Lancaster police on 01524 596634 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

International Women's Day Celebrations in Lancaster

It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on Tuesday 8 March and the Lancaster Women @ The Gregson (WAGs) have again initiated a series of events to mark it.
At 8pm will be the grand opening of ‘Women Like Us’, an exhibition celebrating women in Lancaster and beyond. Lancaster is full of strong and motivating women; WAGs want to celebrate the lives of these ordinary women who in their own way are doing extraordinary things every day and to recognise the positive aspects of women and their contribution to society. The Women Like Us project is a piece of artistic social history in Lancaster.
Lancastrians (men and women) have contributed photographs of women that made an impact on their lives. Mothers, grandmothers, friends, teachers, historical figures, politicians, peace workers and contemporary personalities. WAGs have created an artwork from all your photos and other correspondence.
The 'Women Like Us' Exhibition will run at the Gregson until the end of March.

Also on 8 March at the Nuffield at 8pm you can see Peggy Shaw and the Clod Ensemble present MUST: The Inside Story. Legendary New York performance artist Peggy Shaw takes the audience on a journey across the landscape of her own body.
Renowned for her gender bending autobiographical work, Shaw recounts her extraordinary experiences of the medical profession from her current perspective as a 65-year-old lesbian grandmother. MUST weaves together the stories of a lifetime, with live musicians performing a powerful score for piano, double bass and violin.
www.clodensemble.com
A post-show event provides critical perspectives on the performance and the issues it raises. All are welcome. Chaired by Professor Elaine Aston, with Peggy Shaw, James Frieze and Rosemary Betterton.
Book online at: http://www.nuffieldtheatre.com/
Tickets: Web advance: £10 / £7, Standard: £11 / £8
Peggy Shaw is also running a masterclass - see Monday 7 March listings for details.
Book online at http://www.liveatlica.org/ or call the box office on 01524 594151.

Friday 11 March sees ‘Hurried Steps’ at the Dukes DT3 at 7.30pm. Put together by New Shoes Theatre and Amnesty International, these eight stories, recounting women’s testimonies of violence, are presented in an honest, stark, no frills style, as part of the Dukes' IWD celebrations.
Hurried Steps has ignited a global debate about the impact of violence against women. Written by Italy’s foremost playwright and advocate of women’s rights, this powerful hour long play tells the true stories of women from around the world.
A panel discussion follows the performance.
Recommended for age 15+, Price £7 / £5 (concessions)
http://www.dukes-lancaster.org/theatre/hurried-steps

On Sunday 13 March the WAGs meet at 8pm in the Gregson Bar.

Tuesday 15 March at 7pm sees Dr Jo Armstrong and Jude Towers of Lancaster University Department of Sociology will be presenting a session for women called 'Increasing inequalities: the philosophy of the cuts and the multiple impacts on women'. 70% of the spending cuts come from women's pockets. Public sector job cuts hit women harder as do public service cuts. This session will provide an understandable breakdown of how the cuts affect women, and why. Followed by a Q&A session.
Organised by: Lancaster Women Against the Cuts In the William Stout Meeting Room, Lancaster Friend's Meeting House (next to the train station).

From Thursday 24 March - Saturday 16 April 2011 Georgia Rusch’s ‘Little Bird' Exhibition can be seen at the Dukes. This colourful and vibrant installation of a flock of birds asks you to join in by creating one yourself. Birds can be 3d sculptures, made in any medium to be hung in The Dukes gallery. The birds will then be sold to raise money for charity.
All Proceeds go to Women for Women International. Submit one bird in 3D, made from any medium. It Must be around 15cm in msize and have a loop attached for hanging. Deliver you bird to The Dukes reception with your name and brief description by March 15th. For more info contact: l.ttlebird@yahoo.com. See pictures of your bird on: The L.ttle Bird facebook pageFor an example template to make a bird click HERE. The Dukes gallery is open from 10am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday.
In preparation for this a papier mache workshop to make and donate a bird will be held from 6.30-8.30pm on Monday 7 March at the Dukes. Places are limited and should be booked at the Dukes Box Office, tel: 01524 598500
Enjoy!

Dog is bound by its own lead and left to drown in Lune

The body of a dog has been found with its legs bound by its own lead, on the banks of the Lune Estuary.
 
The grim discovery was made by a member of the public close to the Snatchems area of Morecambe on Saturday 19th February. Lancaster City Council was notified of the findings and the body was removed and taken to White Lund Depot for further examination by the council’s dog wardens.

It seemed likely that the dog, died as a result of drowning after having its legs tied together by its own lead before being thrown into the water.

It sems to be a black Bull Terrier type dog with what appears to be a distinctive white patch around the top of its left hind leg, had no identity tag or chip,

We have chosen not to publish supplied photographs of the dead animal, as we feel they are too distressing. If anyone is missing a dog or  has any information which might lead to the identity of the dog or its owner, they should contact the council's Dog Warden Service - tel. 01524 582935 .

The RSPCA has also been notified.

Councillor Mace "gagged" trying to challenge Market move plan

Councillor Roger Mace
Former Council Leader and Conservative Councillor Roger Mace is wondering if the City Cabinet and Council staff have something to hide after being "gagged" at this week's Full Council during discussion the future of Lancaster Market.

Councillor Mace, who is opposed to plans to move the Market to the City Museum building agreed by Cabinet, says he was prevented from presenting an amendment to the motion on the Market in a debate at yesterday's City Council meeting by use of a little known procedural device.

The motion, which had been placed on the agenda by the Conservatives expressed the need for action to reduce the costs of the indoor market based in the Market building.

The blocked amendment would have added the words "This Council therefore welcomes the fact that alternative locations for the Lancaster Market are under consideration but does not consider that relocating market tenants into the Lancaster City Museum building is an idea worthy of investigation at the present time."

"Someone somewhere must have been afraid of what might be said during the debate" says Councillor Mace, "or it would not have been curtailed before it had even started."

"My intention was to draw attention to the misunderstandings surrounding the Cabinet's recent decision to investigate moving the traders into the City Museum building, and test council opinion accordingly."

An image from a report suggesting changes to the current market
to make it more appealing to shoppers
The Conservatives point out that in answer to a written question asking whether the upper floor of the museum is also being considered for use by the market - and not just the ground floor, the Council's Chief Executive Mark Cullinan replied: "Yes, the upper floor is being considered, albeit there are areas where the regimental museum is located which would be unsuitable for a market."

This should come as no real surprize, of course: when the proposal was first raised last month, Green Party Cabinet member Jon Barry told virtual-lancaster the overall plan included the possibility of the Museum being moved from its current location entirely, perhaps to the Castle's Shire Hall, as the courts held there are seeking new premises (see news story)

The Cabinet decision to consider moving the market has already met with strong reactions. One letter in the Lancaster Guardian states "It must rank as the most stupid idea since Mr Blobby moved into Happy Mount Park" and goes on to say "an extension to such a beautiful Grade 2 listed building into New Street could be viewed as corporate vandalism and would surely have the Civic Society and English Heritage up in arms."

"Thinking the suggested move is to the ground floor of the City Museum - threatening only the exhibition space - has been enough for one commentator to brand the proposal as the closest thing to crazy," says Councillor Mace. 

"The misunderstanding that cabinet's decision to undertake further investigations into the conversion of the City Museum to accommodate Lancaster Market referred only to the ground floor of the museum building should have been exposed and refuted before now."

Earlier in the same meeting, Councillor Mace had been "guillotined" in mid criticism of the City Council's budget.

Councillor Mace has strong views on the Market's future and although he considers the costs of the current building mean it must be moved, other possible locations present their own difficulties. Responding to a suggestion that it might be moved to the Ashton Hall in Lancaster Town Hall, for example, he told virtual-lancaster it was popular for wedding receptions, "so that helps make it problematic as a new location for the market.

"I remember the relative success of the market when it was at the temporary building near the current bus station," says Roger, "so this prompts me to suggest looking at some new-build location within the revised thinking for the Centros development.

"It would be an opportunity to reduce the space allocated to the market: space which is empty and unlet to tenants at the present time.

"There are other possible palliatives to the City's financial burden from the Market Building, but unfortunately, the hard truth is that a move of the Market Tenants to a new location will only achieve the objective of reducing the annual costs to the Council of the Market building if an alternative use or user for the Market building becomes available to follow any permanent move by the Market Tenants to different premises."

In Review: Beaumont Dance Company's "Targetted"

Probably only someone who is not a dancer (like me) would try to define what dance is, but I'll have a go: people making pleasing shapes with the body, to music, usually in concert with others. And this is exactly what the Beaumont Dance Company do in their three short pieces, 'Targetted'. Yes, targets have got everywhere, and, as the performers said, sometimes they like them, sometimes they don't.

The first piece uses installation to good effect, with the shadows of two performers reflected on the screen as they reach for targets: invisible ones as well as visible round ones, including a small, elusive one which flies away. The second piece, featuring touch, is performed by two pairs of students to the sound of Cher's 'Bang Bang - you shot me down'. The third, perhaps the most memorable, features five students, three in wheelchairs, two in chairs, in a diagonal row across the stage: as 'May the road rise with you' plays, they move in turn - sometimes dramatically - in their own 'signature' way.

What is impressive is the evident self-discipline and teamwork which is perhaps not usually associated with young performers such as these. They performed very much as a group, united not only by their clever tuxedo-T-shirts, but also by the timing. These performances had obviously been very carefully rehearsed and the students' dedication was evident.

• 'Targetted' will be performed again at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal (details TBA).

Jane Sunderland

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Could you be a City Councillor?

If you've ever ranted about the City Council or declared you could do a better job than those currently elected, now's your chance to prove yourself.

Despite the inevitable brickbats from voters and local press when things go wrong (Mr Blobby, Lancaster Market, to name but a few debacles down the years), becoming a local councillor can be a very rewarding experience. It also offers a unique opportunity to make a difference to your community and to help shape, direct and monitor the services which affect the people who live in, work in and visit the Lancaster district.

On Thursday 10th March, Lancaster City Council is holding a briefing session, in the banqueting suite at Lancaster Town Hall from 6pm, for potential city council election candidates and agents.

The briefing will give potential councillors an overview of the election process, a background of what would be expected of them if they were elected in terms of time commitment, attending meetings, ward work and experience and a brief overview of the work undertaken by Lancaster City Council and how the democratic structure works.

Nomination packs will also be available for collection.

The next city council elections will be held on Thursday, 5th May 2011 when all 60 councillor places are up for re-election.

For more information telephone the elections helpline on 01524 582905 or email elections@lancaster.gov.uk

Flax to launch new books from three authors

Flax, the publishing inprint of Lancaster LitFest, will be launching chapbooks by Dinesh Allirajah, Sarah Dobbs and Ian Seed on Friday.

With live readings, good company and all the trimmings that make Flax launches a good night out, these latest books offer a triangle creating an uneasy tension and sharp illumination on how we communicate and why we don’t.

Dinesh Allirajah, who is chair of the Black Arts Alliance, is a freelance writer of short stories, articles and  poetry and runs creative writing workshops. 

English and Creative writing lecturer Sarah Dobbs is the author of various genres including crime and horror, as well as stage plays.

Ian Seed, editor of the pioneering web zine Shadowtrainhas worked as a freelance writer since 2004 and run workshops in museums, schools, colleges, hospitals, day centres and prisons.  He now works as a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Cumbria and as a visiting lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Lancaster.

Flax produce both digital and print publications: their digital arm marries traditional book design with online publishing to produce anthologies, available for free downloads from the Flax web site; their print is committed to high quality layout and visual design for the work.

 • Flax Launch, Friday 4th March 2011, 7.00pm the Music Room, The Storey, Lancaster. Free Admission. There is no need to book, but to be assured of a seat, email sarah.hymasATlitfest.org


Web: www.litfest.org/2011/02/04/flax-singles-023-024-025/

In Review: Children of Killers

While many of those of us in Europe may think of genocide in Rwanda as something that was over and done with 16 years ago, put to rest with the assistance of 'Truth and Reconciliation' commissions, this was never to be true for Rwandan survivors. Everyone knew people who had died; many people knew who the killers were. Many survivors were maimed. Fathers were imprisoned, women became heads of households, children grew up never having known their fathers - or, often, not knowing who their fathers were.

Eventually, if they expressed contrition, those fathers were released - but to whom? To mothers who had given birth to other men's children in their absence; to sons and daughters who knew why their fathers had been in prison; to daughters and sons of Hutu and Tutsi some of whom continued the blame and ethnic hatred. No wonder that the fathers' release was looked upon with ambivalence, tension and psychic confusion.

So, what was Dukes Young Actors Director Louie Ingham doing letting her group of mostly white, privileged young people loose on Katori Hall's script of Children of Killers? It must have seemed a risky choice. But Ms Ingham's instincts were clearly in the right place: not only must this have been a profound learning experience for the actors themselves on all sorts of dimensions, it also worked as an impressive piece of theatre.

Children of Killers is a disturbing, eye-opening but also extremely moving production. 'Realistic' scenes alternate with dream sequences, when gahahamuka (ghosts) come back to haunt the dreams of the living. The gahahamuka also function as the consciences of the living: consciences which sometimes go unheeded.

The actors immerse themselves thoroughly in this tragic, largely unacknowledged bit of post-genocide history and equally thoroughly convince in this short, tense dramaticisation of it. Civil war and its aftermath anywhere would raise similar issues. The play ends with the return of one father, 'The Butcher', who claims his wife's son as his own but rejects his son's younger sister. There is no simple, neat happy ending: for different reasons, truth and reconciliation remain ideals which are never (and can never ever be) fully lived up to.

It would seem inappropriate in a play such as this to single out individual glowing performances (although there were several), so I will not. Enough to say that the Young Actors as a team have produced a quite extraordinary play. This is not only because of their apparent empathy with young people from another, very different point on the planet, and their good acting skills, but also because of the sheer smoothness of the production. Congratulations to all involved.

Jane Sunderland

Still to run: Wednesday 2nd March 2 - Thursday 3rd March, 7.30 pm

The Dukes, Moor Lane, Lancaster LA1 1QE Box Office 01524 598500
Tickets £6.00 (£4.00 concessions)
Recommended for ages 14+
Web: www.dukes-lancaster.org/theatre/children-of-killers

Also playing at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, Thursday 5th May, 7.00 pm
(Box office: 01539 725 133)

Further Reading...

New York Time Out - Interview with Katori Hall in 2009

Show off your label - it's Fairtrade Fortnight!

Lancaster City Council is supporting Fairtrade Fortnight and asking shops and other organisations to “Show off your label” from 28th February until 13th March 2011.

Lancaster district is a Fairtrade District and this year, the Fairtrade Foundation is asking everyone to shout about the Fairtrade products you buy and which offer 7.5 million people in the developing world a more secure future.

You can support the Lancaster and Morecambe Fairtrade Group by visiting Williamson Park on Saturday 12th March  from 2-4pm. During the afternoon, you'll be able to sample Fairtrade products at the Pavilion CafĂ© and admire bunting prepared by local school children.

There will be free Fairtrade hot chocolate for each child on the production of an admission ticket to the park's Butterfly House bought on the day.

• For information about Fairtrade locally visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/fairtrade

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Beaumont Dance Company show to debut at Dukes DT3

A dance company formed by students at the Skerton-based Beaumont College for young people with physical and learning disabilities will perform independently for the first time at the Duke’s DT3 Theatre in Lancaster on the 3rd March 2011 at 1.30pm.

Beaumont Dance Company, which was formed last year to give learners experience in choreography, technique and performance, debut their show ‘Targeted’.

The show, which is about what it is like to be young, disabled and in education, will be followed by a question and answer session with the dancers.

• Tickets for the public are on sale at the Dukes Box Office at £2 each contact: 01524 598500 or email tickets@dukes-lancaster.org; more information is at www.dukes-lancaster.org/dance/targeted

• More about Beaumont College at: www.beaumontcollege.ac.uk

£16 billion should not be spent on high speed rail, says local Green

Image: Birmingham Chamber of Commerce
When the Green Party conference came out overwhelmingly against the HS2 proposal for a Birmingham-London 250 mph train earlier this week, Lancaster Green Councillor John Whitelegg was at the centre of the debate.

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, launched the public consultation on High Speed Rail on Monday, one of the biggest public consultations ever undertaken, which will cover the Government's proposed strategy for a wider network linking London, the West Midlands and Manchester and Leeds, and the proposals for a route from London to the West Midlands.

"The time for high speed rail in Britain has come," the Transport Secretary said. "We have before us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an opportunity to reshape our economic geography. Too often in the past, Britain has baulked at the big decisions. We must invest in Britain's future. We cannot afford to be left behind - investing in high speed rail now is vital to the prosperity of future generations."

The government claims the proposed wider network would deliver around £44bn of benefits and would cut 30 minutes off the journey between London and Birmingham and around an hour off journeys between London and Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. In addition, released capacity on existing lines such as the West Coast Main Line would offer the possibility of more frequent, fast commuter services from places such as Milton Keynes and Coventry.

The consultation will run until 29th July, and there will be roadshows in towns and villages along the proposed route between London and the West Midlands.

There is already plenty of opposition to the scheme, not least from people living on the route, but also from organisations such as The TaxPayers’ Alliance, whose research has already indicated flaws in the business case,  but this morning said the full £30 billion cost of the project would cost every family in Britain £1000 a year, arguing it should be scrapped.


The Greens, who say they remain committed to genuine improvements in public transport, voted overwhelmingly to campaign against the HS2 project, saying proposals currently on the table would be "economically and environmentally unsound."

The Green Party remains in favour of high speed rail in principle, but any project would need to meet strict criteria.

"The Green Party is opposed to the current HS2 proposals," said Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP, who visits Lancaster this week to speak to a Stop the Cuts meeting. "The economic case is unsound. The claims about reducing CO2 emissions are questionable to say the least. And the huge damage which would be caused to local communities and their environment would be unsustainable."

City Councillor, transport expert and Green Party spokesperson on sustainable development Professor John Whitelegg says the proposed HS2 trains would burn 50 per cent more energy mile-for-mile than the Eurostar.

"HS2 would produce more than twice the emissions of an intercity train," he claims. "It's a ‘rich person's railway' - the business case assumes that a third of passengers will be on incomes of £70,000 or more.

"Everyone knows the Greens and passionately committed to social justice and to the environment. The current HS2 proposals would serve neither."

Councillor Whitelegg proposed the motion opposing the proposal at the national conference and is very pleased with the result.


"HS2 makes no sense at all," he told virtual-lancaster. " The business case is severely flawed, the predictions for job creation are complete nonsense and it will not reduce carbon dioxide emissions as originally claimed. 

"It is the exact opposite of what we should be doing," he argues. "90 per cent of all our journeys in the UK are less than 10 miles in length and we urgently need a massive transformation of urban and rural transport in this country to bring us up to the best standards in Europe.  Spending £16 billion to encourage rich people to travel a lot to London is not a priority."


Speaking about the project last year before the election, the Chairman of High Speed Two company, Sir Brian Briscoe, told PublicService.co.uk the new line would "probably" aid the transition to a low-carbon economy.

"The sustainability of the project depends upon how you generate the electricity to run the trains," he claimed. "Rail is a more sustainable option than flying or travel by road, probably – or it could be if we start providing more electricity by renewables. It is a good way of moving large numbers of people between centres."

Other supporters of the project argue a national high-speed rail network could boost Britain's economic output by between £17bn and £29bn a year and the up front costs should be seen as an investment rather than a drain on resources.



Web Links

• High Speed Two Ltd: www.hs2.org.uk
Includes details of the public consultation and background on the project

PublicService.co.uk: High Speed Rail - An investment in future prosperity?
28 February 2010: A national high-speed rail network could boost Britain's economic output by between £17bn and £29bn a year, says Julie Mills, who argues that the up front costs should be seen as an investment rather than a drain on resources




PublicService.co.uk: HS2 - Not Blind Faith, but could it be partially sighted?
4 May 2010: Sir Brian Briscoe – former LGA chief executive and now chairman of HS2 – the company established to advise on the development of high-speed rail services between London and Scotland – tells Dean Carroll how he expects the £30bn project to proceed


Taxpayers Alliance: High Speed Rail Research document (PDF)
Despite the severity of the fiscal crisis politicians of all parties are backing High Speed Rail (HSR), but the evidence gathered by the TPA suggests that there is no robust financial or economic case for the project and will not solve the key practical problems of lack of capacity on commuter road and rail. Instead it is a hugely expensive vanity project that requires extensive work on unnecessary new lines.

Energy Minister to open Lancaster University's new research centre

Charles Hendry MP
The Rt Hon Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State for Energy & Climate Change, will officially open Lancaster University’s new energy research centre, Energy Lancaster, on Thursday 10th March.

The launch will involve a presentation outlining Energy Lancaster’s activities by its Director, Professor Colin Boxall, and a presentation by the Minister on the UK’s energy agenda. This will be followed by a Q&A debate with the Minister and key members of Energy Lancaster.

There will also be an exhibition showcasing Energy Lancaster’s activities on such matters as energy policy, nuclear energy, carbon management, wet renewables and solar cells and  photovoltaics, as well as energy conservation.

Energy Lancaster aims to bring together Lancaster’s world leading expertise in a wide range of energy related areas. By combining cutting edge research in these areas with Lancaster’s well established and respected knowledge transfer activities in Infolab 21 and the Lancaster Environment Centre, Energy Lancaster is contributing to the development and management of a secure and sustainable future for the UK’s energy needs.
 
Beyond his Parliamentary career, Charles Hendry’s business career has mostly been spent working for international marketing companies. He was Founder/Chairman/Chief Executive of The Agenda Group, a specialist consultancy helping company Chairmen and Chief Executives with their corporate networking.

His political interests including trade and industry, youth policy, rural affairs and agriculture   and he's a Patron of the Big Issue Foundation, which helps homeless people.


Full details here on the Energy Lancaster web site. Registration is required not later than 7th March, 12pm. All LU staff and external organisations are welcome to attend.

Register to vote - before it's too late

Time is running out to make sure that you are registered to vote in time for the local elections, which take place on 5th May, when new city councillors will be elected to represent Lancaster and Morecambe taxpayers until 2015.

Parish Councils and town councils throughout the district will also be holding their elections on 5th May., but if you’re not on the electoral register by 14th April, you won’t be able to vote.

Canvass forms were delivered between August and November last year, so if you filled one in you should still be registered and do not need to do so again unless you have since moved home.

If you have moved home you will need to fill in a ‘rolling registration’ form, if you haven’t done so already.

• For help and advice call the elections helpline on 01524 582905 or visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/elections

Monday, 28 February 2011

Lancaster schools join 'The Big Pedal'

At least seven schools in the Lancaster and Morecambe area will begin an exciting cycle race called The Big Pedal next week (7th March), competing against around 260,000 children from 800 schools across the UK, to be the fastest school. 

The race, powered by UK charity Sustrans and funded by the bicycle industry through its Bike Hub, will last for three weeks and follows a similar format to the Tour de France; each day is a different time trial, with different stages, from long flat sprints to hillier mountainous climbs. The more children, parents and teachers that cycle in to school on each day, the quicker time the school is awarded for each stage. The school with the lowest time overall will be declared winner.

Over 2800 children from the local area will get the chance to be involved with The Big Pedal, which aims to inspire and encourage pupils, parents and teachers to cycle on a regular basis. The race is open to any school within the UK and it is free to take part. Schools can sign up to take part in the entire three week challenge, or register for the special one-day stages that will take place in the last week of the race – which is also Bike to School Week (21 – 25 March). Registration for the race is open until March 4th so there’s still time to enter.

Registered local schools so far are Bowerham Primary School,  Ellel St John the Evangelist C of E Primary School, Galgate, Great Wood Primary School, Morecambe, Heysham High School Sports College, Morecambe, Slyne-with-Hest St Luke’s CE Primary School, St Wilfrids’ C of E Primary School, Halton and Torrisholme Community Primary School

“We’re really pleased with how many schools have signed up to the race," say Annie Cousins and Kathy Bashford, Sustrans Bike It officers for Lancaster, "and there’s still time to register, so we hope that even more schools will be competing by the time the race starts.

“The race will act as a great way for the whole school community to join together as they take on other schools from across the country – it’s a really great competition.”

First prize for national winners of the race is a spectacular day with the M.A.D cycle stunt team, who have performed for people all over the world, from Pepsi-Cola in Saudi Arabia to Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve at his birthday party. National runners up win a Minipod bike and scooter storage system worth over £1,000 for their school.

The fastest school in each region will win an amazing bike workshop kit consisting of 78 bike tools, a shadow board to hold them all in and a bicycle work stand for all your school's cycle repair needs supplied by Fisher Outdoor and Weldtite. Fisher Outdoor has also provided five cycle repair tool kits and floor pumps that can be won in the daily challenges in the last week of the Big Pedal. 

The Big Pedal, delivered by Sustrans and funded by the cycle industry, celebrates the fun that cycling brings children. Learning to ride a bike is a key milestone in children’s lives, and the thrill of getting about independently is an important part of growing up.  Bikeability, backed up with other wider skills programmes, gives them the confidence to ride safely, and the Big Pedal shows that children everywhere can cycle safely to school.

• To see up-to-the-minute information on which schools in your area have registered to take part, go to http://thebigpedal.org.uk/schools/map 

• More information on the national Big Pedal campaign at: http://thebigpedal.org.uk