Friday, 18 September 2009

Origami Bus Used to Launch Lancaster Census Rehearsal. No, really...


Above: Robert Redfern, Deputy Mayor of Lancaster with Jonathan Ayre, 2011 Census Lancaster Area Manager; Ian Cope, Deputy Director 2011 Census Operations; Glen Watson, 2011 Census Director and children from Cathedral Primary School, Lancaster and Great Wood Primary School, Morecambe, at the launch of the 2009 Census Rehearsal. Oh, and an origami bus...

To mark the launch of the 2009 Census Rehearsal in Lancaster today, a giant origami bus has been unveiled in the Ashton Memorial. No, we don't quite understand the symbolism either - and we shudder to think what, in an age where we're supposed to be saving public money, what it cost.

Apparently, though, this origami model is designed to represent how the community of Lancaster will help shape the 2011 Census which in turn will help shape the future of the local area.

The model was unveiled by Councillor Robert Redfern, the Deputy Mayor; Glen Watson, the Office for National Statistics Census Director and local school children from Lancaster and Morecambe.

The census, carried out every ten years by the ONS, is an estimate of the population of England and Wales, and its results are used to make sure local communities are correctly represented and receive appropriate funds and services such as transport and housing. The next census is planned for March 2011 and Lancaster has been selected to take part in the 2009 Census Rehearsal, essentially a test run of the 2011 Census.

From today 65,000 households in the local area will receive the rehearsal questionnaire of 56 questions and will be asked to fill it in on Census Rehearsal Day on Sunday 11th October 2009, just over three weeks away. By taking part, say the organisers, the residents of Lancaster will play an important role in helping ONS make sure that everything will run smoothly in the 2011 Census, including testing the new online questionnaire.

“The census plays an important role in future planning for Lancaster City Council," argues Deputy Mayor Redfern, "as the results are used by central government to help allocate the amount of money we have to spend on services such as transport, housing, health and schools.

It's vital then that every single person is counted, and so important that as a city we help shape the census through taking part in the rehearsal.”

To help manage the rehearsal, Jonathan Ayre has been appointed census area manager for Lancaster. He will be tasked with managing a team of 74 census co-ordinators, collectors and special enumerators, who will be recruited in the local area, who will work closely with the local authority and community groups to conduct the Rehearsal. (The ONS has been already begun recruiting people for this test over the past few weeks through advertisements in the local newspapers and elsewhere).

Commenting at the rehearsal launch today Glen Watson, ONS Census Director said: “The rehearsal is our chance to road test all of the work we have done to make sure we get a high quality snapshot of the population of England and Wales when we come to the 2011 Census itself. Returning the 2009 Census Rehearsal questionnaire is really straightforward - and it can be done securely online too, using a unique code. So our message to people is, help us to help you by making the rehearsal a real success, in turn this will enable us to ensure we make the best possible population estimate in 2011."

Which all sounds very worthy, but it still doesn't really explain that origami bus...

• For more information on the 2009 Census Rehearsal or to request a copy of the census questions in braille or alternative languages, please visit or telephone 0300 0200 901. British Sign Language video clips and audio recordings are also available on the site.

Facts about the 2009 Census Rehearsal:

• The rehearsal is taking place in three areas - Lancaster, the London Borough of Newham and Ynys Môn – Isle of Anglesey

• In total, around 140,000 households in these areas will be asked to take part on Census Rehearsal Day, 11 October 2009

• These areas represent a cross-section of the population and include a broad range of housing types

• In parallel to the rehearsal a small scale test in Birmingham will be undertaken

• The small scale test in Birmingham will include 17,000 addresses and will utilise some of the procedures and processes being delivered within the rehearsal

• Everyone is asked the same questions on the same day in order to take a snapshot of the population at one moment

• The census is easy to fill in, confidential and can be filled in online for the first time

• The results from the rehearsal will not be published but used to improve procedures for 2011. There are 56 questions in total, 14 are about the household and its accommodation and 42 questions are for each individual member of the household to complete

• Most questions can be answered by a simple tick

• Taking part in the 2009 Census Rehearsal and test in Birmingham is voluntary. Everyone will be obliged to take part in the 2011 Census

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Stand Firm on Binge Drinking, Say Campaigners

logo.gifNorth West region-wide wellbeing and health campaign group Our Life has expressed concern at reports that the government is considering delaying new laws to tackle the rising unhealthy drinking culture in the UK. The delays may also impact on locals, where the most recent statistics on alcohol-related crime run into the hundreds.

Reports in today’s Times newspaper suggest that “measures to curb binge drinking top a list of regulations to be shelved” as the government looks to curtail parts of its legislative programme in the face of the current economic downturn. Our Life has reacted angrily to reports that the government’s proposed mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers might be delayed until after 2011 as part of a “clear out” of anti-business measures believed to have been ordered by the business secretary Lord Mandelson.

“The government must stand firmly by its pledges to tackle binge drinking and alcohol harm," argues Our Life head of corporate affairs Andy Walker. "Such measures are hugely popular with the public. Only last month 72% of respondents to an Our Life poll called on the government to ban activities such as all-you-can-drink offers and other irresponsible and excessive drinks promotions such as dispensing alcohol directly into customers’ mouths.”

The North West has one the worst drinking levels in the country for people drinking at hazardous or harmful levels (1.33 million adults). In the North West, one person is admitted to hospital every seven minutes for an alcohol-related condition and more than 73,000 recorded crimes across the North West last year were related to alcohol – of these 50,000 were violent offences.

In Lancaster and Morecambe alone, the 2007/08 figures produced by the North West Public Health Observatory (PDF link) cite some 797 alcohol attributable violent crimes; 15 sexual offences attributable to alcohol; and 23% of Lancaster’s 16 an over population estimated to be engaging in binge drinking.

The Safer Lancashire Community Safety Partnership states in its 2007 Strategic Assessment that “The levels of binge drinking and alcohol related hospital admissions in the Lancaster district, are currently at a higher rate than the England average. A key factor in criminal behaviour is alcohol.”

“The cost and stress caused to people across the North West by alcohol promotions that result in excessive consumption has gone too far and people want action,” Walker continues.

“The promotion of excessive drinking leads to enormous personal distress for families blighted by alcohol harm and is a massive cash burden on policing and the health service. The estimated cost of alcohol-related and alcohol-specific crime in England is £12 billion and the cost to the NHS in the North West region alone is more than £400 million,” said Walker.

“We cannot afford to wait on this until 2011. Instead of listening to the vested interests of the alcohol retailers who would rather the government did nothing, ministers should take note of the views of thousands of people across the North West who want to see effective measures to address alcohol harm and implement a strong code of practice for alcohol retailers as soon as possible.”

Our Life, which is based in Manchester, is a campaigning organisation working with individuals and organisations who want to achieve the real and lasting changes that will make the North West a healthier place to live. Established as a social enterprise, it offers creative ways for the NHS, local government, the public, business and voluntary organisations to work in partnership to make sure that the North West becomes one of the healthiest regions in the country.

• More Info:

The Strategic Assessment identifies key strategic threats and related issues that affect the Lancaster district Community Safety Partnership (PDF format)

LitFest 10 Day Line-Up Announced

ian_mcmillan_orchestra.jpgLancaster’s Literature Festival is back next month with a wide range of authors to tempt book lovers over its extended ten-day run.

There are dozens of great writers to tempt readers at this year's festival, now in its 31st year: from Booker-shortlisted writers to a pick of the crop of new debut novelists; from rock ‘n’ roll excess to a whole day full of subtle and beautiful poetry.

Most of the events take place at litfest’s new home in the Storey Auditorium, while the headline event – The Ian McMillan Orchestra – will be held at The Dukes.

A firm favourite with litfest audiences, the Yorkshire poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan brings a scintillating night of poems, music, comedy and impro - like nothing you’ve ever seen before!

He teams up with composer and accordionist Luke Carver Goss and the mighty Orchestra in this sizzling mix of songs. Powerful, echoing tales of death by shanty, industrial manoeuvres, dads, voices found, iPod’s, 9/11, mining and the late great Ronnie Barker.

kate_pullinger.jpgFrom trusted names to the latest trends – litfest has it all this year. Fans of historical fiction should book their tickets for novelists Kate Pullinger and Cynthia McLeod, who both bring historical novels featuring wealthy, powerful women to the festival.

DJ Taylor, who reads with John Murray, will take their audience back to the London high life of the 1920s. This event will also feature a discussion about the state of the novel today.

sarah_hall.jpgReaders who enjoy following the big literary prizes can see prize-winning authors Andrew Miller and Sarah Hall reading together – with Sarah reading from her new novel, How to Paint a Dead Man, which was longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.

chika.jpgYou can also catch two writers from Africa’s most prestigious literary prize – The Caine Prize – EC Osundu and Chike Unigwe as they visit Lancaster as part of an international tour.

For those looking for the latest names to watch out for, litfest has a batch of new novelists - Jenn Ashworth, Richard Milward and Chris Killen - two of them chosen by Waterstones for their New Voices 2009.

And if you love to read the book before you see the film, get along to see Steven Hall, whose novel The Raw Shark Texts is being made into a film screenwritten by Slumdog Millionaire writer Simon Beaufoy. Described as a mix of The Matrix, The Da Vinci Code and Jaws, it’s like nothing you’ve ever read before!

Fans of the band The Fall are in for a treat as music journalist Dave Simpson, author of The Fallen: Searching for the Missing Members of The Fall, offers a night of fiction, non-fiction and music. In his book he uncovers a changing Britain, tales of madness and genius, and wreaks havoc on his personal life. He will be joined by Manchester-based Peter Wild, editor of the fiction anthology Perverted by Language: Fiction Inspired by the Fall, and Niall Griffiths, one of the writers who contributed to that collection.

paul_magrs.jpgFor a night with a real difference, why not celebrate the publication of Paul Magrs’ fourth novel in the Brenda and Effie series – described as ‘Alan Bennett meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. The litfest team will be dressing up as characters from these hilarious and delightful novels – and of course you're invited to join in if you dare, or just go along as yourselves if you;'re not ina Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of mood!

In addition to all this litfest is also offering a full day of poetry events, featuring eight very different and very talented poets, some of the best short fiction you could find, writers’ workshops, digital poetry displays, and writing from local writing groups.

• For a brochure contact litfest on 01524 62166, or visit their website at

• All tickets can be booked through the Lancaster Visitor Information Centre at The Storey 01524 582394 or through the litfest website.

Pictured: The Ian McMillan Orchestra (top). Featured are L-R: (back) Luke Carver Goss, Ian McMillan, Nathan Thomson, Oliver Wilson-Dickson. (front) Clare Salaman, Dylan Fowler. Picture by Nigel Barklie. Tel 07973252131. Also above: Kate Pullinger, Sarah Hall (picture: Martin Figura), Chike Unigwe (picture: Rocio Motty) and Paul Magrs.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Lancaster celebrates 'Lino King's'; generosity and Cycling Link

LordAshton1.jpgLancaster City Council will be celebrating the centenaries of Lancaster Town Hall and the Ashton Memorial over the weekend of 26th- 27th September.

In 1909, James Williamson II, Lord Ashton, Lancaster’s millionaire manufacturer and ‘Lino King’, presented the town with both a new town hall and the baroque edifice, the Ashton Memorial, built in Williamson Park (itself donated to Lancaster by his father). Both buildings were opened to the public in the same year.

The Memorial stands in 54 acres of parkland, adjacent to an original palm house, now serving as a tropical butterfly house. A 'mini-beast’ centre, shop and café complete the complex.

While Lord Ashton himself remains, like many Victorian millionaires, a subject of controversy - despite paying union rates to his factory workers, working conditions were far from the standards of today - there's no doubting his lasting legacy on the town. (The Council has a feature on Lord Ashton on its own web site here, citing how he reacted to challenges to his power).

To celebrate the centenaries, Lancaster City Council has organised some extra special events, starting on Saturday 26th September with a reincarnation of Lord Ashton receiving visitors at the Memorial (presumably untroubled by dissenting or disgruntled workers) and leading a tour of Williamson Park.

A free Lord Ashton's Lancaster Guided Walk will take place on Saturday. Join a Blue Badge Guide for a tour of the ancient city, highlighting buildings and places associated with Lord Ashton and his industrial rivals. The walk starts at Lancaster Castle’s John O’ Gaunt Gateway at 3.00pm.

The celebration continues on the Sunday, with his lordship presiding over a full day of popular entertainment from Edwardian times, presented in marquees, adjacent to the Memorial.

A fascinating connection between Lord Ashton and present day Lancaster, is also acknowledged. Lord Ashton was an early bicycle enthusiast, spending much time cycling in the grounds of his Lancaster residence and as regular readers know, by coincidence, Lancaster was one of just six places, designated as ‘Cycling Demonstration Town’ in October 2005.

Since then, through the efforts of the Celebrating Cycling Campaign, Lancaster District can arguably claim to have achieved the status of cycling capital of the North West.

This 100 year link is commemorated with Planet Bike – a celebration of all things bike, past and present.

Located at the foot of the Memorial’s impressive western steps, Planet Bike will feature cycle themed events, stalls and activities, throughout the Sunday.

The Edwardian entertainment, to be presented next to the Memorial, will include:

• Sir Henry and Lady Greatham with their ‘Greatham’s Grand Puppet Show’, a patriotic history of great British heroes and events

• Hautbois – Mr and Mrs Heavisides, singing songs from the music hall and variety theatre, accompanying themselves on a great variety of instruments

• The Duo of Mr Morgan and Mr West, commonly known as Bamboozlement, demonstrating their magical powers

• The favourite puppet show of Punch and Judy, presented by the renowned Professor Robanti

Down the hill from the Memorial, Planet Bike features:

• The Trials Display Team’s Amazing Cycling Stunt Show

• A Unicycle Extravaganza, including world record skipping on a unicycle

• Cyclemagic, a duo who, attired in period costume, present and demonstrate a collection of historic bicycles, ranging from a replica 1820s hobby horse to a restored 1880s tricycle.

There will also be a variety of displays and stalls, such as Dr Bike’s free basic bike repairs, virtual bike racing and pedal powered smoothie making! The Cycling Demonstration Team stand will provide lots of cycling literature, information and advice.

Up at the Memorial, Dyno Start, Carnforth’s cycling shop, will be displaying a selection of historic machines from their own bike museum.

The Centenary Celebration starts at 11am on Sunday 27 September and finishes around 5.30pm.

All events and activities are free of charge. The day formally begins with a cycling cavalcade, leaving the Park’s Wyresdale Road gates, en route for the Memorial, and led by Lord Ashton on a unicycle! Everyone is invited to join in with their bike or follow on foot.

In addition to events taking place in Williamson Park, Lancaster City Council and a range of local organisations will be celebrating the centenaries as part of the annual Lancaster Unlocked weekend.

• Full details of all the events are available from Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres (Tel. 01524 582394 / 582808) or by visiting

Monday, 14 September 2009

Still Time to Reconsider Costly Bypass Plans, say Campaigners

Campaigners against the proposed M6 Link Road north of Lancaster to Heysham port are calling on Lancashire County Council to reconsider the costly scheme - even though outgoing Labour councillors tried to saddle their Conservative replacements with the project just before the last local elections.

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe, a group campaigning for integrated transport measures for Lancaster and Morecambe, recently discovered that Labour County Councillors, staring defeat in the face at local elections earlier this year, tried to rush through orders on the building of the controversial Heysham M6 Link road in Labour's final days of power. If they had been successful they would have committed their Conservative successors to the expensive, destructive and under performing Labour plan.

Despite major unresolved issues, the then Labour Council Cabinet member Matthew Tomlinson gave his go ahead on orders which would have triggered the compulsory purchase of millions of pounds worth of green belt farm land north of Lancaster and Morecambe, which would then be bulldozed by the Council to build a massive lorry route to Heysham from the M6.

Behind the scenes, the County Council planners were in discussion with the Department for Transport (DfT) on the content of the draft orders, and the DfT have since made a number of comments pointing out errors and suggesting changes to the Council's plans. There was no agreement on the orders as given the go ahead by Cllr Tomlinson, who lost his seat in the election a week later.

It was left to TSLM to point this out and local MP Geraldine Smith took up her constituents' concerns, raising the matter with the Department for Transport and urging Lancashire County Council to comply with the law and obtain a new and valid resolution to make the Orders.

The Council's Solicitor has since announced that a new resolution will be considered in October.

"This scheme would have a major impact on my constituents", said Geraldine Smith MP, "and it is only right that the correct procedures should be followed at every stage."

"What a pity that the new Council has not taken the opportunity to seize the transport initiative in Lancashire," commented David Gate, Chair of TSLM, clearly pleased that despite Labour shenanigans, the scheme has not yet cleared all the legal hurdles, and is not yet assured of funding from a cash-strapped government.

"The world has changed and moved on since this HGV route plan was first mooted," he argues. "Plans to get Lancaster and Morecambe connected and moving again already exist: they are gathering dust in Council offices as they work to get the lorry route plan up and running.

"The new County Council has the opportunity to shake off the financial burden imposed by the old Council, and to prioritise these integrated transport plans to free up congestion in North Lancashire with less of a contribution to the national debt mountain."

Before the road project can go further, Lancashire County Council need to publish the “Orders” for the Heysham M6 Link and will then issue Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to acquire the land for the road, Side Road Orders (SROs) to block up local roads while they are building it, and so on.

When the Orders are published, TSLM say they will ask all their supporters to object to them, and express their continuing opposition to the destructive plans, which the campaigners hope will lead to another Public Inquiry to consider the details of the scheme.

"This damaging scheme, which will have such an impact on the people of the area, should go back to the full Council for a decision", feels Mr Gate.

Morecambe Festival Success


Thousands of people converged on Morecambe at the weekend for We Do Like to be Beside the Sea, a two day feast of seaside fun.

Morecambe Visitor Information Centre reported a bumper weekend with more than 1,500 people passing through its doors with the Festival attracting people from far and wide.

Glorious sunshine provided the perfect backdrop for a packed programme of traditional seaside fun and frolics organised by Lancaster City Council, which included music and daredevil antics and the Bradford to Morecambe historic vehicle run.


Unfortunately a planned Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which was due to take place on Sunday afternoon, did not take place. High winds at the point of departure, RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, meant it was unsafe for the planes to take off.

"The festival is one of the highlights in our events programme and this year was no exception," felt Coun June Ashworth, Cabinet member with responsibility for Cultural Services at the city council.

"Morecambe was packed with people and I'm sure that those people who attended the festival who are not regular visitors to Morecambe will have seen what we have to offer and come back on a more regular basis.

"It was obviously a disappointment that the flyover did not take place but hopefully the other entertainment that was on offer provided more than enough fun to go round."

The entertainment marquees helped create the perfect seaside holiday atmosphere with acts including Punch and Judy professors, escapology and sword swallowing, a flea circus, sea songs and shanties, a pierrot troupe and a seaside variety show.

Visitors to the festival were asked to complete a survey. Two thirds of those who took part were from outside of the district and almost all rated it as "very enjoyable".

Pink Flamingos Fly into The Dukes!

Crimson WingA film highlighting the plight of East Africa's lesser flamingos that could help to save one of the world's greatest wildlife spectacles is to open a series of environmental films hosted by The Dukes as part of Lancaster's One Planet Festival in October.

Crimson Wing, which opens on 4th October at The Dukes, is the first film by Disney's new natural history label, Disneynature, and is a documentary on the life and struggles of a million-strong colony of pink flamingos in Lake Natron, the largest soda lake in the Rift Valley, Tanzania.

An estimated 1.5m flamingos hatch on its mudflats each year, 75 per cent of the global population of the species. The birds are under threat from a new soda ash chemical factory planned for the area.  Environmentalists believe the film will prove a powerful weapon in the fight to prevent a controversial soda ash mine being built at Lake Natron, which they claim will destroy the unique habitat vital to lesser flamingos throughout the region.

“We’re really pleased to be able to show Crimson Wing just two weeks into its general release, which is very early for a film of this kind to be shown in Lancaster," commented Johnathan Ilott, the Dukes Film programme manager.

"The film is not only full of beautiful images but has an important environmental message and so is ideal to open the Green Screen season of environmental films The Dukes is hosting as part of Lancaster’s second One Planet Festival.”

CrimsonWing.gifAlso scheduled for the season are Big River Man, an environmental documentary about larger-than-life Slovenian extreme swimmer Martin Strel's insane attempt to be the first person to swim the Amazon; and A Time Comes, the story of the Kingsnorth Six, the activists who scaled the Kingsnorth power station chimney and the jury who supported their right to take direct action to protect the climate from the burning of coal.

The One Planet Festival, which runs from 2-12th October, aims to highlight issues surrounding climate change, inspire practical action to reduce our environmental footprint and to celebrate the diverse culture, produce and innovations of the Lancaster district.

• For other One Planet Festival events and more information visit

• The full programme of Green Screen films and events at The Dukes as part of the One Planet Festival can be found at at and To book tickets please call the box office on 01524 598500.

McGuinness Celebrates Major Win

john_mcguiness2.jpgTop local bike champion John McGuinness snatched a brilliant victory on the final lap of Sunday's Metzeler National 1000cc Superstock Championship race at Croft on Sunday, taking full advantage of a coming together between team-mate Steve Brogan and Alastair Seeley on the last corner.

Less than a second separated the leading four riders throughout the 15-lap race and John was able to grab the win and take his first British Championship win since Brands Hatch in 2001, also moving up to third place overall in the championship in the process.

Having shown strong form all year on the Padgetts Honda, John was keen to continue his excellent run of podium positions.

"I'm totally and utterly over the moon with the win and, to be honest, a bit emotional too!" John said after the race. "It's eight years since I last won a British Championship race and it feels so good to have won one again, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen again.

john_mcguiness1.jpg"It was a brilliant race to be part of and with positions changing all the time, the race was so much fun and it was over in a flash. Any one of us could have won but the two boys in front of me had a bit of a coming together and so I was more than happy to dive up the inside and take the win.

"I've been on the pace all year and it's a terrific reward for all of the Padgetts team that we've stood on the top step today. Moving up to third in the Championship is an added bonus and, overall, the job's a dream!"

• The next round of the National Superstock 1000cc Championship takes place at Silverstone in two weeks time but, prior to that, John will be having his annual outing at Oliver's Mount, Scarborough with the International Gold Cup meeting taking place on 19th- 20th September.

• Picture by Glynne Lewis