Thursday, 24 September 2009

Put On Your Top Hat, And Dance - with Ludus


Are you a budding Fred Astaire, Ruthie Henshall, Billy Elliot or Maria Von Trapp?

Well this month Lancaster's Ludus Dance is offering you the chance to dance along to all your favourite show-stoppers at their Musical Theatre Super Sunday.

Featuring exciting choreography from some of the greatest shows of all time, there will be sessions for beginners in the morning and improvers in the afternoon, so you can attend one to try your hand, or make a full day of it and attend both.

The sessions will be led by Helen Gould and Kat Irving, both familiar faces for participants of Contemporary and Street Dance classes at Ludus. They are both very excited at the prospect of a whole day of twirling canes and bowler hats.

“We’ve drawn on the wealth of Musical Theatre you’ll find in London’s East End or on Broadway," says Helen, "and picked out a range of classic pieces which illustrate the diversity of the genre, from ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Wicked’ right through to ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Cabaret’.”

“The sessions are guaranteed to be lots of fun because these songs bring out the over-actor in all of us," Kat adds. "I’m looking forward to an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular with lots of jazz hands in attendance!”

The event is for over 18s only and takes place on Sunday 4th October. The morning session runs from 10.30am to 12.30pm and the afternoon session runs from 1.30pm to 3.30pm. Individual sessions cost £10.50 (£8.50 concessions) and the whole day costs £16 (£14 concessions). And if you just can’t get enough, Kat runs a regular Musical Theatre session on a Wednesday from 6.30pm at The Borough on Dalton Square.

• To book, please contact Ludus Dance on 01524 358936 or visit their web site

Monday, 21 September 2009

Starkey Celebrates Henry VIII at Uni

Historian and TV presenter Dr David Starkey will be at Lancaster University tomorrow, celebrating the legacy of one of the most famous monarchs in history.

The History Department invited Dr Starkey to give a public lecture to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII.

The free lecture, entitled 'Henry VIII: Five Hundred Years of Fame, 1509-2009', will be held at 6.00pm in George Fox Lecture Theatre 1, tomorrow, 22nd September.

Members of the public, staff and students are welcome to attend. Seats will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Cumbria-born Dr Starkey, perhaps best known for his TV series The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, has had huge success at bringing history to a mass audience.

He's maintained links with the region and was presented with an Honorary Degree from Lancaster University in 2004.

• For further information contact 01524 594979 or e-mail is

Sustainable Solutions company seeks Local Food Project Worker

LESS (Local & Effective Sustainable Solutions), a Community Interest Company set up to promote sustainable living in the Lancaster area, seeks a Local Food Project Worker. Here are the details.

The successful person will:

a) plan three public events in the Lancaster district celebrating food,

b) compile a local food directory,

c) apply for grants

The successful applicant will be working 15 hrs/week for 6 months, £18K pro-rata. For full details e-mail Simon Gershon (director) The closing date is 2nd October 2009

In Memoriam: Professor Philip Reynolds

The funeral for Professor Philip Reynolds, Lancaster University's second Vice Chancellor and founding Principal for Furness College, will take place at Lancaster Crematorium tomorrow.

Professor Reynolds, who died earlier this month after a long illness aged 89, served as Head of the University's Politics Department until 1973, going on to become Vice-Chancellor of the University in January 1980, serving until 1985. He was also Principal of Furness College.

Fiercely dedicated to the success of the University, he helped see it through troubled times, which included a student rent strike and the closure of some departments as it sought to stabilize its financial situation in the face of Tory education cuts. As The Times notes in its obituary, between his appointment and retirement as Vice-Chancellor, the university system as a whole lost about 20 per cent of its annual grant; yet over that period Lancaster achieved a substantial accumulated surplus on revenue account and was able to invest in its emerging research profile. .

Departments cut at the time were Archaeology, European Studies and six languages: Russian, Czech, Serbo-Croat, Arabic, Latin and Greek. Sady,

Professor Reynolds balanced the need for stringency with a love of the finer things in life, helping to build up the Furness College wine cellar and asking that funds raised to commemorate his period of office as VC should fund an annual concert for as long as they lasted.

Professor Reynolds is survived by his wife, Mollie their their children Sue, Anthony and Michael and his four grandchildren.

• The funeral is at 2.00pm on Tuesday, 22nd September at the Lancaster Crematorium. No flowers please, donations to Amnesty International c/o the funeral directors, Preston Ireland Bowker, 20B Queen Street, Lancaster LA1 1RX.

Philip Reynolds Obituary in The Times

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Nuisance Jet Skis on the Lune: will Anyone Act?

(Updated 22/9/09): Local bird lovers have again raised concerns over jet ski use on the River Lune, concerned for the safety of nesting birds: but while the problem of 'nuisance users' appears to be growing, the question of just which local body should be dealing with it continues to mean no action is being taken

Most local jet skiers and water skiers are responsible uses of local waterways and continue to follow a voluntary code when enjoying their sport on the River and in the Lune Estuary, but a minority, causing major problems for local wildlife, are causing increasing concern.

Earlier this year, Steve Wallis, a volunteer for the British Trust for Ornithology's Wetland Bird Survey, told virtual-lancaster that on 24th August four jet skis reached Skerton Weir and one of them actually went over the weir and into the river proper and disturbed a huge amount of bird life.

"At high tide, the birds that normally feed at low tide take shelter above the weir until the tide goes down," Steve reported. "As you can imagine, it was chaos and the skiers were totally oblivious and unconcerned about what they had done."

As a volunteer for the wetland bird survey, Steve says the jet skiers are a huge disturbance every time he does his count. "They regularly skied up to the weir throughout the breeding season and caused total chaos scattering nesting birds."

The problem is not a new one. Virtual-lancaster first reported on this issue back in 2004, noting that a voluntary agreement with jet and water skiers agreed some years ago means they are not meant to go beyond Carlisle Bridge.

"An agreement was made some years ago with the jet skiers that they would keep to the main body of the river and not enter channels off the Lune," explains local bird lover Jon Carter, a regular contributor on wildlife issues to the Lancaster Guardian and until recently, the local co-ordinator for the BTO Survey.

Jon has been counting the Lune stretch from Lancaster to Conder for 20 years and says the voluntary agreement seems to be being ignored by many the current batch of watersports enthusiasts.

"I was rather hoping that the recession would see some of these fun-seekers tightening their belts and getting rid of their jet skis but it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect.

"I have been aware of this problem for a number of years and we have tried to keep the doors of communication open with the jet skiers," he adds. And, as water users predicted back in 2004, "The problem has increased since the speed limit enforcement on Windermere, suggesting that a number of jet skiers may well be from outside of the area and therefore uninformed of the voluntary restrictions in place."

This would certainly seem to be the case, because since this story was first posted, jet skier Rob Cook has 'come clean' and admitted he is one enthusiast who took his vehicle just a little too far, taking it up and over the weir.

"I didn't know at the time that this was not permitted," he told virtual-lancaster, "and I will not be doing it again.

"We are not all maniacs," he insists: his action was simple ignorance of the code.

"Some of us are very skilled riders who have the utmost consideration for the locals and the environment," he adds.

"Granted, some members of our community are reckless and irresponsible," he does admit. "They do have a tendency to 'buzz' fishermen and canoe users but on the whole we are not that bad."

An Ever Growing Problem

Unfortunately, the problems caused by a small number of jet skiers does seem to be getting worse. "Apart from my BTO survey I visit this area daily, counting bird population and movement," says Steve Wallis. "It's not only the weekends when they ski this area: it can be any day of the week, often daily at high tide.

"A few weeks ago there were six jet ski and power boat racing near the weir and the smell from fumes was appalling as well as all the noise.

Badly affected were cormorants, returning to the Heronry on the island at Skerton. "The Cormorants are a shy bird and yesterday they were very badly disturbed," Steve reveals.

Rob Cook suggests some simple things could be done to try and calm some of the excesses of some of the more 'enthusiastic' jet skiers.

"A speed limit and a sign on the shore by the Golden Ball pub explaining where we can and cannot ski," he suggests, and "a map showing areas to avoid and an explanation of the reasons why.

"Most reasonable skiers will take notice of this, keep clear and keep the speed (and therefore the noise) down," he feels. "The current sign on the pub wall is too small and not all the skiers go to the pub."

Who Controls the Lune?

Unfortunately, as virtual-lancaster also discovered back in 2004, whether any action will be taken by local authorities remains uncertain, largely due to confusion over who is responsible for what parts of the Lune and its estuary. Green Councillors Jon Barry and John Whitelegg have investigated the issue on separate occasions, and the question of which local body polices which part of the Lune is proving an obstacle to any new byelaws being passed or action taken.

According to a senior council officer, while it appears the Port Commissioners based at Glasson Dock are responsible for the tidal part of the river to Skerton Weir, the Council doesn't seem to know this for certain - but thanks to John Whitelegg's efforts, are now at least seeking clarification. Lancaster City Council's only responsibility arises as landowner of some of the river bank, and whilst the Council, as landowner, could perhaps seek to restrict access on to the river from its land, because the jet skis are actually using the Council's land to launch, the Council therefore currently has no power to act.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency, which has acted against nuisance caused by jet skiers in other parts of the UK, say that they are responsible only for the river upstream of Skerton Weir, and that they would only make byelaws for flood, drainage or water resource reasons.

This is all bad news for our local bird population: while use near Skerton Weir is fast becoming an issue, many are more concerned by jet ski use further down the Lune, especially on the marsh channels where birds are nesting.

The effects of noise will be even worse as winter approaches, because birds nest in the marshes have a very short time to feed, which they need to do to survive overnight cold. Any disturbance will wreck the feeding cycle -- and the bird population numbers could be decimated.

Warnings Ignored

Back in 2004, Lancaster councillor Ron Sands argued action had be taken, pointing out then that the Lake District National Park Authority's recently-introduced speed restrictions on Lake Windermere would lead to what he calls "a search by the hundreds of displaced skiiers for alternative habitats to destroy."

One Local water sports lover - pointing out, rightfully, that most use rivers and waterways responsibly – suggested some 7000 fans of such activities would be displaced by the ban.

Sadly, Ron's prediction has come true and, even more sadly, no-one in authority seems to have be prepared, as yet, to act.

Obviously, once informed of the voluntary code, some skiers such as Rob Cook are more than prepared to abide by it. There is other good news for our local wildlife, too: there is legislation in place that could be used, perhaps to address some of the issues.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for example, specifically prohibits anyone from “intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.” Such actions should be reported to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, for one.

In Scotland, this act was amended by the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 which has enabled specific prosecutions for the harming of wildlife by jet skiers, but it doesn't appear that similar legislation has yet been enacted for England or Wales.

Despite apparently dragging its feet locally - and even, it seems, denying it has any powers to act - the Environment Agency, where it has responsibility for a river, now also seems able to act against jet ski mis-use. Peterborough Today reported it was recently called on to deal with jet skiers on the River Nene, after the paper have highlighted concerns there about jet ski nuisance.

The Environment Agency has also urged river users and passers-by to call a special hotline if they spot anything suspicious on 0800 80 70 60 or via their web site visit

There seems no doubt that the British government dragged its feet to act on jet skis, but in addition to any UK legislation there appears also to be EEC legislation to back up any action taken.

Then of course, there's the radical path. Novelist John Fowles has said he would like to machine-gun jet skiers near his home in Lyme Regis - although we'd argue, again, that many water sports fans aren't causing problems, so that's probably a little extreme...

• If you're a bird lover concerned by potential nuisance caused by jet or water skiers, write to your local councillor: or you could try contacting the Environment Agency's Biodiversity and Recreation Officer at their Preston office (Lutra House, Walton Summit, Bamber Bridge, Preston PR5 8BX) who may be able to facilitate some discussion between interested parties about the use of the river