Friday, 21 November 2008

'Christmas Collection' Exhibition in Kirkby Lonsdale

Some of the region's most excellent artists are exhibiting at Finestra Gallery in Kirkby Lonsdale this Christmas, as the gallery celebrates its fifth year.

William H Jones has completed new paintings exclusively for this exhibition comprising Kirkby Lonsdale winter scenes, including one of the Town Square (right). There are paintings by Kerry Darlington, who has become well known for her very contemporary mixed media paintings, and paintings by Lancashire artists Mike Howarth and Barry Hilton.

Yorkshire artists James Wheeler and David Allen are also featured. James paints atmospheric landscape views in oil on a cork surface, with an unusual depth and texture. David is an outstanding pastel painter, and is a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists at the prestigious Mall Galleries on London's south bank.

A favourite in the gallery is ceramicist Christine Cummings, who with John Bradshaw is exhibiting her exquisite animal figures, alongside Karen Lainson's superb ceramic horse sculptures. There is also a collection of bronze and ceramic hares by Paul Jenkins.

Angela Smyth, whose pictures of humorous characters in everyday life (including The Casting Couch, left), is also exhibiting, and there are paintings from two of the founder members of Green Door Studio, Fiona Clucas and Thuline De Cock. Louis Morton has completed some stunning new watercolour paintings, and this year there are remarkable animal paintings by David C Lyons.

There is a continuous display of contemporary glass by Alexandra Hamilton, Janice Bradshaw and Christine Romano, alongside jewellery by Val Brammer, Della Clark and Kirkby Lonsdale's Sondra Gray on show at the gallery.

This new Christmas exhibition starts on 29th November, and runs until the 31st of January 2009, and the gallery is open every day from 10.00am to 5.00pm. Contact gallery owner Bernadette Jones on 015242 73747 for further details about any of the artists featured.

Visit the Finestra Gallery web site

In Pictures: Sleeping Beauty at The Dukes

Here are some images from the The Dukes new show, Sleeping Beauty, which opens tonight, 21st November, and runs until 3rd January.

Described as a magical adventure of wicked spells and heroic rescues, the characters of the classic fairytale are vividly brought to life in an enchanting adaptation that promises the whole family an extra helping of sparkle and excitement over the festive period.

Briar Rose is a smart girl. She's clever, feisty and completely brilliant at puzzles and sword fighting. But she's also trapped. Cursed at birth by an evil witch, her parents wont let her leave the castle. Her only company is a half-dragon, half-human, and he has his own issues.

Branwen and Modron: two witches locked in an ongoing struggle between good and evil. Briar Rose enjoys Branwen's protection until a few days before her sixteenth birthday when the battle for good is lost, sending her into a deep sleep for a hundred years.

Luckily for Briar Rose, Prince Owain is on the case... but he's not awfully smart or brilliant. With danger lurking around every corner, can the young prince find the courage to defeat the terrible Spider King and the pesky forest faries in time to save the sleeping beauty?

Sophie Trott as the fesity Briar Rose and Sally Evans as the witch, Modron. Photo: George Coupe

Sally Evans as Modron. Photo: George Coupe

Karl Dobby as Gryff and Gareth Cooper as Prince Owain, clearly in trouble during their quest to rescue Briar Rose. Photo: George Coupe

For tickets call the Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit

Green Fair Date Ste

This year's Green Fair will take place on Saturday 29th November from 10-4.00pm at the Friends Meeting House in Lancaster. There will be the usual selection of stalls, food and Father Chrismas in his grotto. Music will be provided by a number of local artists - including vocals and guitar
from Pat Simmons and Rashid Winter on Spanish guitar.

The Fair is an annual opportunity to find out more about Green activities in the Lancaster area.

Learn to Cycle' Courses for Youngsters

Parents who are thinking of buying their youngsters a new bike for Christmas might want to take advantage of the Lancaster City Council's 'Learn to Cycle' sessions taking place in January.

Normally run as part of Council's Holiday Activities Programme, the sessions proved to be such a big hit with budding cyclists that the council plan to offer bags more at weekends in 2009 - good news given Lancaster's status as a Cycling Town, and what some see as the urgent need to encourage better cycling given how potentially dangerous it can be in some parts of Lancaster.

While statistics suggest that cycling numbers have increased in the area, accidents have decreased overall, but nine adults and two child cyclists were seriously injured on the area's roads in 2007, and 28 adults and nine child cycclists slighty injured in the same period, according to figures published today in the Lancaster Guradian.

Last Thursday 24-year-old labourer Carl Blamire was killed after colliding with a lorry on Morecambe Road. His family are devastated by the tragedy, the circumstances of which are still being investigated. (Police are still appealing for witnesses to come forward, and anyone with information should call Lancaster police on 01524 63333, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111).

The sessions are run by Sustrans Bike It Officer, Kathy Bashford and council cycle trainers at Salt Ayre Sports Centre and will show children who use stabilisers or cannot yet ride how to get started.

Pedals and stabilisers are removed at the start of the two hour session so that the children can learn to balance before they progress to pedaling, By the end of the sessions the council ran in October all the children improved their balance and many of them were able to ride unaided.

"I was very impressed with the 'Learn to Cycle' course that my daughter attended during the school break in October," said Morecambe mother Jackie Sanderson who is keen to recommend the course to other parents. "The instructors were extremely approachable to the children, very patient and provided lots of support and encouragement.

"I must admit that I was very curious to see how they would be able to teach the children how to ride without the use of stabilisers and was amazed that in just under an hour all six children were attempting to cycle!

The next four 'Learn to Cycle' sessions at Salt Ayre Sports Centre will take place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 25 January at 10am - noon and 1pm - 3pm. But you'll have to be quick - sessions are certain to be in great demand by all those who are asking Santa for a new bike this Christmas.

Pictured: Sam and Elizabeth Price, participants in an earlier training course at Salt Ayre. Picture courtesy Lancaster City Council

• To book a place contact Lancaster City Council's Cycling Demonstration Town Team on 01524 582392. All courses cost £5 and participants must bring a roadworthy bike, suitable clothes for being outdoors and be accompanied by an adult.

The courses are also offered free of charge to children attending the district’s Bike it schools.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Guardian Readers Caught in Traffic

The national Guardian published a piece on moving to Lancaster last weekend, claiming one local described the town as the "Brighton of the north" (a claim usually reserved for Morecambe, so I imagine Councillor Sands will be having words).

"Lancaster has that right combo of heritage and heresy," wrote Tom Dyckhoff. "It's a much prettier place than you'd think, crowned with the twin confections of a castle and the folly-to-end-all-follies, the Ashton Memorial."

Here at virtual-lancaster we did wonder if he had actually visited at one point, since he seems to have missed the fact that Lancaster now has two universities, not one (St. Martins now re-branded as the University of Cumbria), and the Morecambe gaffe was pretty stupid. However, he soon put our minds at rest: despite noting Lancaster is well connected, he despaired of the one way system, a sure sign of the unwary casual visitor who arrived by car.

"How the devil do you get out of it?" Tom wailed. "We were shuffling round the ring road in terminal traffic for an eternity. The centre may have its highlights, but it can suffer from the old provincial dreariness."

Didn't you know this was a Cycling Town, Tom? Or perhaps you should have come by public transport?

Places to move to? Tom suggests southside near the university, Haverbreaks, "and close to Williamson Park, with great views. Aldcliffe, too, near the canal. Primrose and Freehold for lovely, cheap, sandstone terraces."

Of course, you'll have to find an estate agent that's still open to buy a house from, given the departure of Reeds Rains and the Halifax from our streets, and the fact that some agents are on part time weeks right now thanks to a very quiet housing market. So take these suggested Market values with a pinnch of salt: Detacheds, £280,000 - £420,000, but up to £800,000 on the swankier fringes. Semis, £120,000-£260,000. Town houses, £230,000-£400,000. Terraces from £95,000, larger terraces from £150,000 up to £220,000. Two-bed flats, £90,000-£220,000 for swanky warehousey ones.

Read the Guardian article

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Celebrate Lancashire Day

Lancaster City Council's Visitor Information Centres will celebrate all things Lancashire later this month by giving away free key rings and pens.

27th November is Lancashire Day and Lancaster Tourist Information Centre and Morecambe Visitor Information Centre will be open all day for people to pop along and pick up lots of information about the county and enjoy a taste of some Lancashire products.

To celebrate this special day both centres will be having a free prize draw to win a “Made In Lancashire’ limited edition food hamper. This delicious selection of festive produce includes beer from Bowland Brewery, Sandham Lancashire Cheese, J.Atkinson’s coffee, Farmer’s Wife Orange and Whisky Marmalade, Pendle Pat-a-Cakes Christmas Pudding and Ent Icing Christmas Cake, Reedy’s Tomato and Date Chutney, Lancashire Tea and Just Chocolates.

The centres will also be giving away free Lancashire key rings and pens – but there are limited supplies, so get there early.

Lancashire Day recalls the occasion on 27 November 1295 when elected representatives from Lancashire were called to Westminster by King Edward I to attend what later became known as “The Model Parliament.” True Lancastrians are asked to raise their glasses and drink the Loyal Toast to “The Queen, Duke of Lancaster”.

Books, tea, badges, fridge magnets, cufflinks, china mugs, and plaques – all with a Lancashire theme - are just a few gift ideas available from the information centres.

Look no further if you’re struggling to find that ideal Christmas present for friends and family that now live away from the area.

• Free information sheets on Lancashire will be available from your local Visitor Information Centre to find out more about this special day.
Lancashire Day Information on the Friends of Real Lancashire web site

Unmasking the region’s Green Heroes

The search is on for environmentally conscious companies from across Lancashire as the Northwest Business Environment Awards (NWBEA) 2009 sets out to unmask our green heroes from industry that are putting the environment at the heart of their company’s success.

Green super sleuths and hosts of next year’s prestigious awards event, Mersey Basin Campaign in partnership with the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), want businesses from Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire to inform them of their green credentials.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are invited to enter the 2009 awards by nominating themselves, via a simple application entry form, in one or more of the following award categories; Best Environmental Practice (products and service), Built Environment, Sustainable Procurement, Environmental Innovation and Environmental Champions.

Of course, NWBEA 2009 is hoping to receive tip-offs from companies as well as organisations that want to celebrate their regional suppliers and clients that excel in environmental and business excellence.

To be in with a chance of winning an award and being crowned a Green Hero for 2009 entries need to be in before 2nd February 2009. Entry forms and advice on how to write a winning entry can be found on The awards event will be held in June 2009.

The identity of NWBEA 2009 green business heroes will be revealed at a prize-giving ceremony hosted by the Mersey Basin Campaign and the NWDA. The awards are supported by ENWORKS, the Royal Institute of British Architects, Envirolink Northwest, Groundwork Northwest, Environment Agency, Environment Connect, Envirowise, Buy Recycled, CBI Northwest, the Institute of Directors and the Institute of Civil Engineers.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Witches and Greeks Storm The Dukes!

As the final touches of Christmas magic are added to its upcoming festive show Sleeping Beauty, The Dukes has announced its new Spring season of touring and Home Grown work, which includes a dramatic new tale based on the famous Pendle Witches and an outdoor adventure in Williamson Park with Jason and the Argonauts.

Sabbat, written by Richard Shannon, is a powerful new play commissioned by The Dukes that attempts to unravel the mysteries behind one of England’s most famous trials, that of the notorious Pendle Witches. Did Alice Nutter and the others really attend a witch’s Sabbat on Good Friday, 1612? Or were these innocent Pendle folk used as scapegoats during a time of paranoia, superstition and persecution? Sabbat runs from 29th January – 21st February 2009.

Jamaica House, an emotional drama set on the twelfth floor of an empty tower block, is the second Dukes production of the season running from 19th March – 11th April. Former resident Jean returns to the crumbling tower block Jamaica House for one last time but finds it hard to say goodbye to a building she has lived in for nearly thirty years.

The summer will once again see a fantastic new show setting sail in Williamson Park, when Jason and the Argonauts opens on 2 July. This timeless story of love, honour and heroism is based on the ancient Greek myths that have beguiled generations. Jason and his crew, The Argonauts, must journey in search of the legendary Golden Fleece. They encounter countless obstacles in their quest: giants, perilous seas, vengeful gods and the bewitching song of the Sirens. As you travel around the magnificent lakes, dells and gorges, you’ll take to high seas, visit Mount Olympus, the realm of the gods, and challenge the monstrous hydra in a sensational final battle.

A great new ticket offer will also launch alongside the season, allowing customers to enjoy all three shows for the price of two. Holders will also get a Dukes discount card offering 25% off other events.

“It only feels like five minutes since we were planning the current Autumn season so I can hardly believe that we’re launching another," commented Director Joe Sumsion. "When I came into post last February, we promised that The Dukes would showcase the best work from Lancashire and beyond and I truly believe that we’ve kept that promise.

"I’m proud to say that over the next six months we’ll be creating three brand new Dukes productions, made all the more accessible with our new three for two ticket offer. Alongside our Home Grown work we’ve got some great comedy, music and drama and a cracking family programme too.

"And of course, I can’t wait to get started on our outdoor theatre production, Jason and the Argonauts. I’m just wondering how to make the rocks at Williamson Park clash against each other as the Argonauts sail through the lake. The Dukes moves mountains? Watch this space!”

Alongside these Home Grown treats, The Dukes will be playing host to some of the best national touring work including Queen Bee, a chilling new drama from The North East Theatre Consortium (8 and 9 May) in which three women find themselves forced together in an isolated Northumberland house in a contemporary gothic ghost story.

Straight from a sell out show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, Top of the World present Paperweight on 21st May, an (almost) silent comedy of two men trapped in mindless office jobs whilst Queer Up North and multi-award-winning Starving Artists bring a new one man show, Eat Me to the venue (30th May).

People who like their theatre a little more physical won’t be disappointed when Precarious present their astonishing boundary pushing work The Factory on 25th April. On 2nd May, clowning, puppetry and performance are combined in Lost in the Wind by Lost Spectacles.

Two side-splitting comedy shows also feature in the season, Who Writes this Crap? (17th January), a fast paced two-hander from Joel Stickley & Luke Wright (poet in residence on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live), based on the critically acclaimed Penguin paperback, and 1000 Years of German Humour (8th May) with award winning German Comedy Ambassador, Henning Wehn, in a show that wowed the Edinburgh Festival crowd this year.

A fantastic new version of Peter Pan from The Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis and Visible Fictions will be showing on 30th April and 1st May. Featuring the work of one of the world’s best shadow puppetry artists, this production combines live action, shadow art and vibrant storytelling. And DT3 will play host to another great piece of theatre for young people when Loci Productions return with their acclaimed show Mind the Gap on 28th February.

For younger children, Monster Productions return with another magical journey, The Garden of Dreams (17th & 18th April). Also making a return visit after a recent sell-out performance is the hilarious James Campbell (21st February), the world’s only stand-up comedian for children.

Music lovers will be spoilt for choice as The Dukes continues to bring the best local, regional and national talent to the venue. Singer songwriter Charlie Winston will be appearing on 28th February, while popular Lancaster band Dose take to the stage on 7th March. DT3 supported label Barnbox return for a night of music on 24th April and the heady strains of jazz will be heard when Lancashire Sinfonietta perform on 9th May. Also in May, you can follow in the footsteps of fan Chris Evans and see the mirthful Lancashire Hotpots, with their comedic observations on 21st Century life.

The start of a new creative partnership between Ludus and The Dukes will be signalled on 23rd January when Ludus present the world premiere of ID:me, a new piece of dance theatre. And on the evening of 8th February, artist Sumit Sarkar will take control of The Dukes in a groundbreaking new event, Co-mission, featuring contemporary culture, creativity and curry!

The University of Cumbria return in January with two productions from the 3rd Year Drama students, Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall (14th – 17th January) and Colder Than Here by Laura Wade (21st – 24th January).

The venue will also be bringing the best from the international stage with live opera, classical music and ballet streamed by satellite direct from The Royal Opera House, London including Handel’s Messiah (5 April), Ondine (3 June) and La Traviata (30 June).

• For more information or to book for any event in the autumn season, call Dukes box office on 01524 598500. Web Site:

Cycling Survey Launched -- win a hamper!

Lancaster City Council is asking for just a few minutes of your time in return for the chance of winning a Booths luxury Christmas hamper full of delicious local food and drink worth £100.

To help the council's Cycling Demonstration Town (CDT) Team find out what modes of transport residents currently use to get themselves to work and what prevents them from using others, the team are carrying out a survey.

The results of the Lancaster and Morecambe Travel Survey will help the team develop more ways in which it can encourage people to get to work by bike.

Completed questionnaires will be entered into a prize draw for a hamper full of gastronomic delights provided by Booths, Scotforth.

The two runners up will both receive £25 worth of cycling vouchers.

But you'll have to be quick - completed surveys must be in by Friday, 12 December.

• The questionnaire is available online at or you can pick up a paper copy by contacting the CDT Team on 01524 582392 or by sending an email to

Top ABBA tribute band comes to The Dome

Voulez Vous, one of the UK’s greatest and best loved Abba tribute bands will be playing at the Morecambe Dome on Saturday 29 November.

Voulez Vous promise an evening of pure Abba nostalgia, with a glittering array of costumes and one of the most stunning light shows and stage sets touring today. The show is a salute to one of the most prolific song writing teams in history, Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

This has to be the show to see for all Abba fans, offering renditions of the band's greatest hits including ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Thank You For The Music’, ‘S.O.S.’, ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ plus many more of the nine number ones and nineteen top twenty hits made famous by the fairy tale music product of the 1970s.

• Tickets for this spectacular show are priced £14.50 and are available from the Box Office on 01524 582803 or 01524 406108.
Voulez Vous Official Web Site