Saturday, 15 November 2008

Spotlight on Spotlight at the Yorkshire House

There’s another powerful line-up of poetry and music on offer at this month’s Spotlight Club (Friday 21 November) at the Yorkshire House, Lancaster, with some of the area’s top-notch writer’s and performers.

Poet Marvin Cheeseman ( made his debut as a comedy performance poet in 1998 at Manchester’s Frog and Bucket comedy club. The following year, after winning several poetry slams, he was featured in the Manchester Poetry Festival. 2000 saw the release of his first poetry collection Full Metal Jacket Potato published by The Bad Press, which led to appearances at a range of festivals and comedy venues around the country, including four separate appearances at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

Over the last five years Marvin’s work has featured on BBC Radio 1, 2 and 4 and he appeared on the BBC television poetry series Whine Gums. He has published a limerick collection entitled Making Prawn Sandwiches for Roy Keane and a new book We Hate It When Our Ex-Lodgers Become Successful earlier this year.

Mihkel Hassan is 21, born in Salford, and is a Hip Hop street poet currently a student at the University of Cumbria, studying youth and community development and also working as a youth worker.

"I started writing poetry when I was nine years old, and when I was 13 started rapping, which later developed into hip hop street poetry," he says. "My debut performance was at the Spotlight last November.

My influences are 2pac Shakur, Eminem, Byron Vincent, my friends and family, and what I view round me.

"My poetry is political," he reveals. "It challenges the government and questions society. I feel blessed, coming from a council estate and to be so young, and having the opportunity to express and represent the people is amazing."

Kim Moore has recently had poems accepted in Obsessed with Pipework and Brittle Star and a web e-zine, Pomegranate for writers under thirty. She is in her first year of an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and works as a full time peripatetic brass teacher for Cumbria Music Service. "I like to write poems about people/relationships and I've been writing for about two years."

Viki Lawless recently completed a Masters degree in Writing Studies and is working on her first collection. Her favourite poets include Selima Hill, Anne Michaels and Michael Donaghy.

The event also features music from Stuart Anthony and Mollie Baxter. Stuart writes and performs moving songs that lead you into his honest perceptions & emotions of love and life. His debut album The Colourful Truth is describes as a tour de force of original songwriting, emotional vocal delivery and beautiful guitars, dominated by 12 & 6 String Acoustic.

Mollie Baxter lists her influences as: Coffee, Dylan, Morrisons, snails, slut's wool, Cat Power, Tori Amos, scales, Koji Suzuki, the Gothic, hunger, prevarication, Erin Mckeown, tupperware skies, Johnny Cash, PJ Harvey, Jeff (sweating like a June bride) Buckley, Julianne Moore, Carrie Ann Moss, Julia Cameron, Janet Burroway, Monkeyrack Writers, Spotlight, mashed potato, bus seats, found things, lists of things to do, morning pages, a nice cup of tea and a sit down, radio 4, orange and silver, the tides, Haruki Murakami, Studio Ghibli and Polaroids...

Compered by Simon Baker the literary parade kicks off at 8.30pm with an Open Mic from 8.45 - 9.15pm. Admission: £3/£2 (Conc.).

Web LInk: If you want to book an Open Mic spot, e-mail:

Ice Skate in Morecambe this Christmas

An open air ice rink will transform Morecambe into a winter wonderland this Christmas, so get your woolly hats, scarves and mittens on and glide around the (synthetic) ice, pretending you are the next Torvill or Dean.

For the less competent skaters out there, and for those who prefer to watch rather than participate, alongside the ice rink will be a host of festive stalls offering refreshments and opportunities for that last minute Christmas treat.

The rink will be open from Wednesday 17th December 17 through to Monday 22nd December from 1.00pm to 9.00pm. It will be situated in the car park next to The Platform on Marine Road Central, Morecambe.

The mobile synthetic ice rink will be able to accommodate up to 75 people at a time and comes with a snow machine, a music sound system and a mascot - ‘Peter the Penguin’. Admissions to the ice rink will cost £3 for adults and £2 for children.

Poulton Neighbourhood Management and Winning Back Morecambe’s West End, both of which are Lancaster City Council regeneration schemes, are organising the Winter Wonderland and there will be lots of other entertainment on offer throughout the week, including a nativity and carol service with local primary school children. The nativity scene and carol singing will take place outside The Platform on Thursday December 18 from 6.30pm.

Lancaster City Council is also offering free parking on Sundays in the run up to Christmas in all its managed car parks in Morecambe, so why not take advantage of the offer by spending the full day in Morecambe – there is plenty to do. Santa will be visiting the grotto in the Festival Market, next door to The Platform, on Saturdays and Sundays throughout December.

You can also rent the rink for a special occasion at very reasonable rates. For more information about the Winter Wonderland call Alan Winters on 01524 401004.

Continental Market comes to Lancaster

Lancaster’s Market Square will play host to a visiting continental market from 21 to 23 November.

On offer will be gourmet treats including French cheeses, Spanish paella, German sausages, Pyrenees jam, garlic prawns and potatoes, crepes and much more.

A selection of non-food products on offer including lavender, amber jewellery and porcelain from Limoge, will also be on offer.

The market has been organised by Lancaster City Council, Marketgate shopping centre and St Nicholas Arcades.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Santa's in Morecambe - and Lancaster!

Santa popped into Morecambe’s Festival Market this week to prepare for the opening of his grotto on the weekend of 29 and 30 November between 10am and 4.00pm.

For just £1 children will be able to meet the great man and receive a special Christmas gift.

And, as an added bonus, to celebrate the opening, children visiting the grotto on 29 and 30 November can have their photo taken with Santa by a professional photographer between 10am and 12.00pm or 1.00pm and 4.00pm.

Following the opening weekend, the grotto will be open between 11.00am and 3.00pm on 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21 December.

On 7 December another special guest, the Bay Radio elf, will be taking part in the festivities and talking to children live on air.

Market manager, Tracey Bruce, said: “Last year’s ‘Santa and Me’ photograph promotion was so busy that this year we have had to extend the days to make sure all children have the opportunity to join in.

“This, added to the visit by the Bay elf means our grotto is going to be better than ever - and at just £1 it’s affordable to all.”

The Festival Market, which is operated by Lancaster City Council, has hundreds of bargains on offer all year round.

• Talking of Santa, don't forget he and his reindeer will be in Lancaster this Sunday (16 November) for the annual switching on if the lights! The fun kicks off late afternoon in Market Square with Bay Radio on hand to deliver music to keep people warm by dancing to it!

Free Parking for Christmas

Local shoppers will be able to enjoy free parking at selected times in Lancaster and Morecambe in the run up to Christmas.

On Sundays between 16 November and 28 December there will be free parking at all of Lancaster City Council’s pay and display car parks in Lancaster and Morecambe.

There will also be free parking for anyone coming into Lancaster to enjoy late night Thursday shopping.

On Thursdays from 20 November until 18 December all of the city council's car parks will be free to use after 6.00pm.

Evening parking in Morecambe is already free.

“This concession is designed to support local retailers by making it less costly for local people to take advantage of the late night shopping," commented Coun Roger Mace, Leader of Lancaster City Council, "and Sunday shopping facilities offered locally in the run up to Christmas.”

Did the Councils Fireworks Light Your Fire?

Lancaster City Council has launched an online consultation to find out people’s views on this year’s Fireworks Spectacular.

The annual event went off with a bang on Saturday when thousands of people braved the rain to watch the biggest and best display in the event’s 16 year history.

The city’s Tourist Information Centre, which stayed open late to answer queries, reported a bumper number of enquiries with 668 people through its doors. This was more than double the previous Saturday’s figure of 300.

Coun Shirley Burns, cabinet member with responsibility for tourism and events, said: "The Fireworks Spectacular is always one of the highlights of the year in Lancaster and this year’s was no exception.

“People turned out in their thousands despite the very wet weather and they were treated to an excellent display.

“I’d like to thank all those involved in the organisation of the event for a job well done.”

The display, which was organised by Lancaster City Council, marked the end of a day of events in Lancaster themed on the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.

Taking place in a variety of the city’s historic buildings, the events included period music groups Hautbois and Diabolus in Musica, talks on Lancaster’s connection with the Gunpowder plot, and a series of guided walks.

The newly formed Lancaster Independent Network of city traders supported the celebrations by organising live street performers in and around Market Square.

The event was also supported by Marketgate shopping centre and St Nicholas Arcades.

Lancaster City Council wants to know what spectators thought of the event and how it can be improved for future years.

• To take part in the short consultation visit

The short questionnaire should only take five minutes to complete.

‘Hamlet’ Runner Up for Major Fringe Theatre Award

demi-paradse's Hamlet at Lancaster Castle

Local theatre company demi-paradise's production of Hamlet at Lancaster Castle this spring was runner up for the 2008 Equity Ensemble Award, part of the long established Peter Brook/Empty Space Awards.

The prize was won by Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) for its multi-media national touring production of ‘1927’.

Company founder and producer Stephen Tomlin attended the awards ceremony, held at the National Theatre Studios in London on 4th November, to hear the winners announced by veteran producer Thelma Holt.

Demi-paradise was cited for its ‘…enormously forceful energy that cultivates audiences to cultural advantages that would otherwise be denied them. It brings life to Lancaster Castle, a regional landmark.’

“It was an honour to be nominated and a great achievement to finish runners up at the UK’s most prestigious fringe theatre awards," says Stephen. "To have come this far on reputation alone – none of the national newspaper critics sitting on the panel having seen our work – is quite remarkable.

"The National Theatre of Scotland, Edinburgh’s Forest Fringe, Liverpool Everyman Studio and demi-paradise were the only regional or national based bodies nominated in the six award categories; the lists otherwise consisting entirely of leading London venues and companies. I am proud of our rolling ensemble and the six Shakespeare promenade shows we have produced since 2000 at Lancaster Castle.

"I’m also grateful to our loyal sponsors and industry associates for their ongoing encouragement and support. It was a real bonus to make personal contact on the day with the national newspaper critics and I hope we can persuade some of them to make the journey north to review our next classical theatre production in Spring 2010.”

• For for more information on company and productions visit:

Give What You Can, Take What You Need

In the lead-up to new show Dinner With America, showing at Lancaster University's Nuffield Theatre 29th & 30th November, London based artist Rajni Shah delivers a free participatory experience in the centre of Lancaster.

Drawing on Shah's ongoing research into gift-giving as intervention in public space, this interactive performance takes place in the busy communal area of the St Nicolas Shopping Arcade in Lancaster town centre.

Passers-by are greeted by a large dinner table, where other members of the public are seated. Newcomers are invited to take part by accepting the gift of a small envelope containing a pound coin, a conversation starter, and an instruction to use the pound as inspiration to make, buy or find something to bring back to the table and then share whatever is on the table at that time.

“It was wonderful to have the excuse to talk to complete strangers," sais one previous particpant. "This was an unforgettable experience.”

This project was originally commissioned by the Nuffield Theatre and Futuresonic Festival, and first took place in Manchester’s Picadilly Gardens in April 2008.

Monday, 10 November 2008

When is a Local paper No Longer Local?

American-owned free paper Lancaster and Morecambe Citizen is closing its office and moving all but one of its staff out of Lancaster to different areas.

The office closure means the paper will no longer have an editor of its own but will instead sell advertising to hard-pressed Lancaster businesses from outside the area.

It will employ just one reporter, based at home - its only investment in the city.

The newspaper's editor, Phil Fleming will take over as the group editor of the Citizen group, also covering papers in Chorley, Blackpool and Preston and will be based in Blackburn.

North West media site How Do reports that in addition to local cuts both Eric Henshaw, managing director of Newsquest Bolton, and Derek King, the publisher for the Newsquest Merseyside operation, have been made redundant.

Henshaw has been with Newsquest for 30 years, managing Newsquest Warrington for nine years, Interactive Media in London for four and steering the Bolton outfit for the last seven.

We gather more redundancies may be to come across the group, which closed its Preston office earlier this year but still produces a Preston Citizen newspaper. Last month, five editorial staff were made redundant across the Bolton, Bury and Leigh offices.

Newsquest, which operates 300 newspaper titles in the UK including the Citizen group, The Argus in Brighton and Scotland's Sunday Herald, has seen advertising revenue tumble by 23.6% year on year in Q3.

Brand Republic recently reported that Newsquest owner Gannett, the US-based media group behind USA Today, has seen classified ad revenue dwon 29.1% year on year. The company did not, however, reveal the absolute amount of ad revenues.

It seems odd that in the week that the Lancaster Guardian, owned by Johnson Press, is about to go through a major revamp, the 'economic turmoil' should bring such disaster to a paper that was so incredibly well-read a few years ago. It's hard to believe it has declined so sharply.

Perhaps poor management is to blame? Earlier this month,, a website for journalists and journalism students, reported that an e-mail championing the "deep sacrifices" being made by Craig Dubow, chairman and president of Newsquest's American parent company Gannett, caused anger among employees.

The email reported Dubow had taken a $200,000 (17pc) pay cut from 1 November, continuing through 2009, reducing his salary to around $1million per annum. Barely enough to survive on, then.

A senior reporter with Newsquest told HoldtheFrontPage: "It is heartwarming to know that someone so senior as Mr Dubow has taken a pay cut for the company, but we're all worried about whether he will be able to survive on his salary of more than $800,000 a year.

"To put out minds at rest, we have decided to hold a whip-round and shall certainly be nominating him for employee of the year.

"Joking aside," the reporter continued, "it would take most young senior reporters more than 20 years to earn what he earns in a year.

"For the Newsquest chiefs to think sending this email would be good for morale shows how out of touch they really are.

"This newsroom has already had redundancies and is currently facing more. This email has fuelled anger."

The National Union of Journalists has responded angrily to cuts elsewhere in the country made by Newsquest.

"It is clear that they are not interested in their employees' wellbeing, but only interested in saving money and closing local offices," NUJ assistant organiser Don Mackglew after it was announced that 12 editorial positions go across Newsquest papers in north and east London.