Saturday, 13 June 2015

Lancaster Comics Day: A Really Heavy Greatcoat Special

With Lancaster Comics Day tomorrow in Lancaster Library, what better way to celebrate than with a special Really Heavy Greatcoat special, which will also feature in a special "Jam" comic, Frankenzine, on sale on the day?

The strip sees current Greatcoat owner Kevin finally moving out of previous Greatcoat owner John's house - has he forgotten anything important? - and some acrobatics from the Comics Day mascot, Dennis the Cat.

The Really Heavy Greatcoat, first published in 1987, created by John Freeman and Nick Miller, is Lancaster's longest-running comic strip, and has featured in numerous local community magazines and the virtual-lancaster.net website (those strips now featuring in an archive on Tapastic), and also had a run in Comics International.

Lancaster Comics Day has been organised by the Friends of Lancaster Library and as well as hosting panels appearances with North West-based comic creators Andy Diggle (a writer for both Marvel and Image Comics), Doctor Who writers Eddie Robson and Tim Quinn and 2000AD and Doctor Who artists John Ridgway and Dave Taylor, offers stalls (selling books, comics and toys) and appearances by a lot more comic creators including Preston-based Graham Pearce and Dave Windett, Lancaster's Jack KnightHarry Saxon and Paul Harrison-Davies,  plus Tom Ward and Chris Welshplus authors AS Chambers, Adam Millard and Sophie Sparham. There will also be a whole day of gaming, courtesy of House Lancaster Gaming Group.

• New RHG adventures from Nick are running online on Tapastic, along with a spin-off, Skid Avenue.


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Local Businesses urged to back LOVEMyBEACH campaign

Craigwell Hotel co-owener Gillian Catterall - backing LOVEmyBEACH. Image: LOVEmyBEACH
Do you love the beach? As a local business, would you like to show your customers you care about the environment as well as help cleaner seas and support community groups passionate about their local beach? By signing up as a LOVEmyBEACH business you can! And it's free.

LOVEmyBEACH is a campaign with a huge challenge: to work together to keep local beaches and bathing waters clean. You don’t have to live by the sea to make a difference – wherever you live, work, visit in the North West, you can support the campaign.

Now, LOVEmyBEACH is asking businesses to take action to be beach friendly in how they operate by following a simple checklist for which they will be rewarded with a certificate and window sticker.
Gillian Catterall, co-owner of Morecambe's four star Craigwell Hotel, was one of the first businesses to support LOVEmyBEACH.

The Craigwell is supporting LOVEmyBEACH by chatting to guests about how to look after our beautiful North West beaches and bathing waters.

"We have also been giving out LOVEmyBEACH leaflets to encourage people to pick up after their dogs," says Gillian. "On our beaches, you can walk the miles of coast and see migrating birds in the winter and spring.

"Holiday makers embrace summer sunshine and enjoy the stunning tides and sunsets against the ever changing backdrop of the views over to the Lake District mountains. All on our doorstep.

"That's why it is so important that we all show our support. We each have to take responsibility for keeping our beaches clean and importantly it will hopefully encourage more visitors to enjoy the beauty of Morecambe Bay."

• Find out how much you love your local beaches by taking this quiz on the LOVEmyBEACH web site

• Local businesses can download a form here on the LOVEmyBEACH web site to find out how to back the campaign (PDF)

• Morecambe Bay hotel owners can download a form here on the LOVEmyBEACH web site to find out how to back the campaign (PDF)

• For more information go to lovemybeach.org or contact Emma McColm LOVEmyBEACH Co-ordinator by email emma@morecambebay.org.uk or by calling 01539 734888

Morecambe Bay hosts four-day bicycle extravaganza



Morecambe Bay is hosting a four-day bicycle extravaganza from today, 11th June until 14th June, to celebrate the opening of a new long distance cycle route around the Bay.

People of all ages and abilities have been on their bikes to join an inaugural ride of the route from Walney Island today, Thursday 11th June. The Bay Cycle Way then goes through the Furness Peninsula and South Lakeland, and crosses into Lancashire for the final leg of the journey on Sunday.

There will be a free musical led ride on the final stretch of the journey, from Lancaster’s Millennium Bridge to Glasson Dock at 2.00pm on Sunday 14 June (arrive earlier to ‘bling your bike’). This will be followed by a free family fun bicycle-themed celebration at Glasson Dock (1.30-5.00pm, 14th June) to welcome the riders at the end of their journey, including live music, street theatre, face painting, balloon modelling, clown bikes and storytelling.

Around 40 people will cycle the first ride of the 80 mile full route, over four days, and many more will join for local led rides and activities along the route. The new path includes many traffic-free sections and is aimed at families and leisure cyclists who want to go at their own pace to explore the distinctive culture, wildlife and food of the area. As well as traversing along serene open views of Morecambe Bay, the route winds its way past tourist attractions such as Conishead Priory, Morecambe’s art deco hotel The Midland, sticky toffee pudding capital Cartmel, Birkrigg stone circle, Gleaston Water Mill and the RSPB’s wildlife haven at Leighton Moss.

Members of the public are invited to join the ride as it progresses around the Bay – more information about start locations and signing up for free can be found at www.sustrans.org.uk/events/four-day-morecambe-bay-cycle-way-ride

Janet Barton of Morecambe Bay Partnership said: “The launch of the Bay Cycle Way is a really exciting development for the Morecambe Bay area. Visitors to the area will be able to experience the many wonders of this special place at a relaxed pace, taking in stunning views and sampling local produce and hospitality.

"Bringing cycling tourists to the Bay area will help to support and strengthen our visitor economy, creating and safeguarding jobs.”

Sustrans’ Cumbria Area Manager Nikki Wingfield said: “Morecambe Bay is a unique landscape famous for its fascinating history, unique food, and rare wildlife and we want to celebrate this with a four-day series of events to launch our new cycle path. This is a great chance to explore the hidden secret assets of the Bay slowly, at your own pace, and join in with one of the many activities and rides along the 130-km route.”

In the spirit of slow tourism the route is designed to encourage cyclists to take their time and stop to drink in the awesome views, sample mouthwatering food and see the Bay’s history and heritage come alive. Visitors will travel past stunning views and headlands across the Bay, with a chance to detour to see the stunning ruins of Furness Abbey, pause to watch wildlife such as the seals at Walney, or get a glimpse of rare birds like ospreys or avocet. A series of loops and spurs off the route, which take in even more of this special area, are also in early stages of development.

The Bay Cycle Way has been made possible with funding from the Coastal Communities Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund. It is developed by Morecambe Bay Partnership and is the latest addition to Sustrans’ National Cycle Network - over 14,000 miles of cycle and walking routes across the country. The launch event is part of activities across the country to mark the Network’s 20th anniversary.

The Bay Cycle Way is the latest addition to Sustrans’ National Cycle Network – over 14,000 miles of cycle and walking routes across the country. The launch event is part of activities across the country to mark the Network’s 20th anniversary.

The signed path will link existing traffic-free routes and quiet lanes and lead visitors through the distinctive culture, wildlife and food of the area, including Gleaston Water Mill, Ulverston, Humphrey Head, Grange–over-Sands, Levens Hall, Arnside, Carnforth, Morecambe, and Lancaster. The route can be done either in stages as day trips or as part of a longer visit that will uncover the secrets of the Bay’s stunning land and seascape in an inspiring natural environment.

Morecambe Bay Partnership is a small orgainsation making big things happen in the Morecambe Bay area. We are a place based organisation with the aim of recognising and celebrating the Bay’s special heritage, and securing resources that will bring jobs and growth to the area. We aim to secure £10m of investment that will create or safeguard over 8,000 jobs, increasing visitor numbers by 3% equating to an increase in the visitor economy of Morecambe Bay of £15m by 2016.

Sustrans is the charity that’s enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. They want to see a safer school run and believe that every child has the right to walk, cycle or scoot to school. To bring about this change, they're pushing for the government to make dedicated funding available, commit to lower traffic speeds, and transform local walking and cycling routes. Join the campaign at www.sustrans.org.uk/saferstreets

• For more information about the celebration event or the Bay Cycle Way visit www.morecambebay.org.uk

• For more information about the National Cycle Network and Sustrans visit www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/national-cycle-network


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for 10th to 18th June 2015

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.

This period sees quite a churn in the entertainment available. The main release is the science fiction adventure Jurassic World (12A) which is the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise.

Other films recently released and new to our region are the drama-romance A Royal Night out (12A) concerning the princesses on VE day; the dramas Clouds of Silo Maria (15) and Rosewater (15) and two documentaries Heaven Adores You (15) and The Look of Silence (15).

As new films appear so the old must go and this period sees the loss of Far From the Madding Crowd; Moonins on the Riviera; Poltergeist; Spooks: The Greater Good and Wild. However quite a number of films have also reappeared on the screen including Big Hero 6 ; Cinderella; Dino Time; Focus; the excellent Shaun the Sheep and the poignant Still Alice.

It seems likely that we will soon lose Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tomorrowland: A World Beyond. However later this month we are due to find Take That Live and the ever popular Minions will reach our screens.

Despite the loss of Poltergeist, this is an excellent period for horror movies with the release of Insidious: Chapter 3, the third in the franchise and the screening for one night only of the second of the three with Insidious 2.

Reviews

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Director: Joss Whedon
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, James Spader, Paul Bettany
This is the eleventh film in the franchise and the movie starts where 'The Avengers' finished. Following a raid on a Hydra outpost, Stark (Downey) and Banner (Ruffalo) complete Stark's defense program to protect the earth using an artificial intelligence. However the latter, Ultron (Spader) strives for human destruction. Ultron attacks the avengers and develops a plan to end humanity. Following the battle the avengers start to fight among themselves. However Stark creates a new being, Vision (Bettany) who aids the avengers in their final confrontation with Ultron. This is a very fast acting movie, louder and bigger than its predecessors with complicated plot and titanic special effects. The movie has received good reviews and will delight anyone who enjoyed previous Avenger movies.

Cinderella
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Stellan Skarsgard, Richard Madden
Disney's re-telling of the story of Cinderella. Cinderella (James) finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) following the death of her father. The film sticks very close to Disney's 1950 animated musical. Cinderella is rather 'sickly sweet' but this is offset by the malevolence of the character of Lady Tremaine. The movie has some comedy action and a good selection of special effects. There is nothing in here to offend and the movie will be loved by all.

Focus
Director: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Will Smith, Gerald McRaney, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Robert Taylor
Nicky Spurgeon (Smith) is a career con artist who, early in the film, takes on an inexperienced Jess Barrett (Robbie) as an apprentice. There is a sexual chemistry between the two, but Nicky and Jess part. Years later Nicky is running a con for the billionaire motorsport owner Rafael Garriga (Santoro), but finds that Jess is now Santoro's girlfriend. The chemistry again starts between Jess and Nicky and we find they are both trying to con Garriga. However the latter seeks revenge. The movie is something of a dark romance with some violence and a good amount of comedy. It is well acted in exciting locations and is sure to entertain.

Insidious: Chapter 3
Director: Leigh Whannell
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermal Mulroney
The movie is set some years before the original Insidious brought us the haunting of the Lambert family, and the film is the third in the Insidious franchise. Quinn (Scott) and Sean (Mulroney) Brenner are daughter and father, Quinn's mother Lillith having recently died. Quinn starts to experience paranormal incidents and subsequently becomes the victim of full blown attacks by a malevolent entity. Her father contacts a gifted medium Elise Rainier (Shaye) and convinces her to work to save Quinn from the monster that is responsible for the hauntings. This is a very competent horror movie that builds up the tension and allows the audience to empathise with the various characters. There are frights a plenty and during the film we come to see the development of Elise into the fearless medium that we meet in the other films in the franchise. A 'must see' horror movie.

Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, B.D. Wong, Chris Pratt
This is the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park series and the best of the sequels. Jurassic World is a theme park in Costa Rica that has been open for some two decades. However visitors are starting to get bored with the sight of tame dinosaurs. Hence, their lab has been using genetic techniques to create a real monster dinosaur, Indominus Rex, to rekindle interest. The park is managed by Claire Dearing (Howard) and Owen Grady (Pratt) is an animal behaviourist working with the Dinosaurs. On the day that Claire brings her two nephews to the park the Indominus Rex escapes. She must work with Owen to save her nephews and save the day. The movie has number of fine action pieces though the action gets in the way of character development. Also there is a romance element between Claire and Owen. The dialogue in not always believable, but there are jokes and the film pays homage to the original Jurassic Park. For an audience not yet jaded by dinosaur action, this is an entertaining action film.

Pitch Perfect 2
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Anna Kendrick, Elizabeth Banks, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Brittany Snow
A sequel to the the 2012 movie 'Pitch Perfect' with many of the cast from the previous movie continuing with their roles. The Bellas are an a cappella singing group at Barden University who have previously won a national competition. A hilarious 'wardrobe malfunction' during a performance means the group will be disbanded unless they can redeem themselves by winning the world a cappella tournament in Holland. This requires beating their rivals, a techno group called Das Sound Machine. This is one of the better teen movies and is the highest grossing musical comedy. A worthy successor to the original film.

San Andreas
Director: Brad Payton
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Dwane Johnson, Carla Guging, Ioan Gruffudd, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson
A magnitude nine earthquake hits California, demolishing Los Angeles and San Francisco. Chief Ray Gaines (Johnson), a pilot working for the LA Fire Department, rescues his estranged wife Emma (Gugino) from a crumbling building. The the two of them fly to San Francisco to save their daughter Blake (Daddario). Blake meanwhile been rescued by an engineer Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and his brother Ollie (Art Parkinson). This is a feel good disaster movie, following the lives of a half dozen people against the backdrop of a devastating series of earthquakes. There is impressive CGI footage of leveled cities and widespread destruction. Also we have fine acting from Daddario and Johnson, the latter playing his archetypal action character with a soupcon of humour. A proficient and watchable film.

Spy
Director: Paul Feig
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne
Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is a CIA agent who works at a desk. However her partner Bradley Fine (Law) is assassinated in the field whilst another agent Richard Ford (Statham) is compromised. Despite lack of practical experience, Cooper volunteers to go underground and infiltrate the network of the arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Byrne) in order to avenge Fine's death. In truth the plot does not really matter in this film, simply enjoy it as a tremendous send up of spy movies. McCarthy brings all her comedic talents to bear in this spoof and Statham also sends up his usual macho roles. Great performances, great comedy.

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond
Director: Brad Bird
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Hugh Laurie
A Walt Disney film which attempts something a little different. Casey (Robertson) is a young woman, by nature an optimist with great enthusiasm for science. She gets into some minor trouble which leads her to finding a badge with the magical property of transferring her to Tomorrowland, a place outside the usual dimensions of the earth. Helped by a mysterious woman Athena (Cassidy) she finds Frank (Clooney), an inventor. Together they travel to Tomorrowland where their aim is to inspire hope amongst the people of earth. It is admirable that Disney is rather 'breaking the mold' with this film and it is likely that the target audience comprises young adults who are still enthused by science. However adults are likely to find the movie unduly complex and perhaps a little boring. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Dog owners of possible danger to pets on Quay Meadow


Quay Meadow, Lancaster. Photo: Beyond the Castle

(Updated 11th June): Beyond the Castle - the group aiming create a high-quality public space around Lancaster’s historic castle - reports they have been made aware that a dog has died on Lancaster's Quay Meadow, and a number of dogs have taken ill.

Symptoms appear to be lethargy, sickness, loss of appetite. The dog that died had a shrunk kidney while another had serious diahorrea.

"We do not know the cause of death, or if it is linked to the meadow," they state in a post on their Facebook page, "but we would encourage owners to be cautious and maybe keep dogs on a lead for now.

"We don't want to cause alarm, but thought we should share this information with you.

"Please contact us if you have any relevant information while we are trying to establish facts."

UPDATE: Beyond Lancaster continue to investigate this issue. They have found some local evidence of weedkilling along houses on the Quay (not by the Lancaster Council), but there is no reason to assume that this would have caused problems for dogs, as some have speculated.

Any spraying by the Council (or an approved contractor) would be glyphosate based (or similar) and would not cause an acute public safety issue, although the jury is about about long term build up in soil and water courses. "We have double checked with Environmental Services and there has not been any spraying in recent weeks," the organisation report, which has also walked the Meadow with Environmental Services to see if anything out of the ordinary was in evidence.

"We have spoken to Burch Tree Vets and Bay Vets," they state. "Both practices are not aware of unusual incidences of dog deaths or illnesses. However, recently there have been some cases of the Parvovirus and one of the sympthoms is diahorrea. The virus can be deadly, but a vaccine is available.

"We were also advised of another illness that can lead to organ failure, a bacterial infection called Leptospirosis, transmitted via rat urine. Again, a vaccine is available.

"We have not come across anything that would suggest foul play, but as the dogs in questions have been off the lead, and possibly in and out of private properties, it is impossible to establish with certaintly the chain of events.

"We are talking to the ward councillors and also the owner of the dead dog (that we know of), and we have asked to be kept informed if they wish to pursue the matter through the Police/ the PCSO. In the meantime we would advise owners to keep dogs away from residential properties/ gardens, and consider vaccinations. And please contact us and/or your ward councillors with any concerns or relevant information."

Snooker Club Assault - Appeal for witnesses launched

Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed an assault outside a snooker club in Lancaster last month to come forward.

At between 5.45pm to 6.00pm on Tuesday 12th May, there was an altercation between two men in Squires Pool and Sports Bar on Church Street which resulted in one of them, a 35-year-old local man, being punched, falling to the floor and losing consciousness. It is thought that he suffered a head injury.

PC 2320 Jim Buddo from Lancaster Police said: “I am asking anyone who witnessed the assault to come forward.

“We believe that someone may have filmed the incident on their mobile phone so I would appeal to that person in particular to get in contact with the police.”

An 18-year-old man from Lancaster was arrested on 12th May but has been bailed pending further enquiries until 8th June 2015.

• Anyone with information can contact PC 2320 Jim Buddo on 01524 596627 quoting incident reference 1137 of May 12th. Alternatively, they can call 101. Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555111 or online at Crimestoppers-uk.org