Saturday, 3 October 2009

Health campaigners to lobby top Tories

North West wellbeing and health campaign group Our Life is lobbying top Tories gathering in Manchester next week at the Conservative Party annual conference to call for action to be taken on irresponsible drinks promotions to tackle the rising unhealthy drinking culture in the region.

At a fringe meeting at the conference on 6 October 2009 entitled “Is Alcohol Too Cheap?” Our Life will trail research, to be launched later this month during Alcohol Awareness Week, showing that North West people want government to take firm action to facilitate healthier choices and protect local communities.

As we previously reported, the North West has one the worst drinking levels in the country and 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.

“Next week in Manchester we’ll be informing David Cameron and the Conservatives that the case for action to address alcohol harm is compelling," said Our Life chief executive Dr Alison Giles, "and that avoiding regulation to reduce the burden on business is misguided when alcohol harm costs the taxpayer £10 billion per year.

“The attitudes of people in the North West and health statistics combined should act as a strong message to North West politicians in the forthcoming election that leadership on alcohol issues is a necessity.”

Award-winning Journalist to deliver Lancaster University Peace Lecture

sophie_mcneill.jpgAward winning Australian foreign correspondent Sophie McNeill has been invited to deliver the Lancaster University 2009 Richardson Institute Annual Peace Lecture.

Sophie has covered some of the world’s most difficult and dangerous stories from areas such as Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan (from where she recently covered the Presidential elections), Pakistan and Gaza and she has been based most recently in Jerusalem, Beirut and New York.

A political activist since the age of nine, at just 15, she made her first documentary, Awaiting Freedom - traveling alone to East Timor to film the health crisis crippling the country. The film received national praise and Sophie was named WA Young Person of the Year at age 16.

Regarded as a seasoned foreign correspondent although still just 23, currently working for Dateline SBS in Lebanon, her journalism has been praised as ‘exceptional’ by the celebrated journalist John Pilger.

Her talent and courage as a journalist and her commitment to tell the stories of those affected by conflict and injustice have been recognised in the wide range of awards she has received, including the highest award for an Australian journalist – the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year 2008 - for her film, Palestine: Divided it Falls, made for SBS.

"Going to another country alone, let alone a war-torn country where women are not well received showed a lot of courage and confidence," said the judges of the film. "She certainly has the courage and sense of justice needed to make a great journalist [and] is a fine example of why we need to start thinking globally."

She was also awarded Western Australia's Young Person of the Year Award (when she was just 16), was a New York Film Festival finalist in 2006 and was honoured as the 2008 Young Woman of the Year and Journalist of the Year, an award given by Australia’s women’s magazine YEN.

This is the fourth annual peace lecture at the Richardson Institute which was established in 1959 as the first peace research centre in Britain. The inaugural lecture was given by the renowned Middle East correspondent of The Independent Robert Fisk, who is an alumnus of Lancaster University. It was standing room only at a packed last year’s peace lecture which was delivered by the veteran political campaigner Tony Benn.

• Sophie's free public lecture called ‘Reporting from conflict zones: telling the stories of the victims’ will be held at Lancaster University (Management School Lecture Theatre 8) on Thursday 15th October,6.00-8.00pm.

• For more information about the Richardson Institute for Peace and Conflict Research visit:

Friday, 2 October 2009

Fill in a survey and win a Christmas hamper

Lancaster City Council is asking for just a few minutes of your time for a chance to win a luxury Christmas hamper worth £125.

The council's Cycling Town (CT) Team is carrying out its annual travel survey to find out what modes of transport residents most often use to get themselves to work and what prevents them from using others.

The results of the survey will help the team develop more ways in which it can encourage more people to travel by bike.

Completed questionnaires will be entered into a prize draw for the chance to win a number of prizes including a hamper filled with a selection of delicious food and drink provided by Booths, Scotforth.

The simple questionnaire is available online at or you can request a paper copy by contacting the CT Team on 01524 582392 or by email to

Completed surveys must be returned by Monday, 14 December.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Freegle Co-op Network Arrives in Lancaster

freeglelogo_whitebg.gifJust launched in our area is Lancaster Morecambe Freegle, part of the national online re-use network Freegle, formed in the UK as a friendly local alternative to the US-based Freecycle Network.

In less than three weeks since Freegle was formed, 193 local groups like the new local group – 37% of former Freecycle groups and representing 892,000 members (43% cent of the total UK Freecycle membership) – have moved to the new co-operative umbrella organisation, and many more groups are expected to follow.

The people behind Freegle, which means Free Giving, Locally, Easily, say the new network offers greater freedom for people in the UK to organise the way we work to suit local needs, without the rigid management hierarchy imposed by The Freecycle Network.

Freegle’s sole objective is to enable individuals to ‘do their bit’ by keeping household goods out of landfill by giving away things they don’t want, to people who can use them. This will be a truly grassroots co-operative run by and for local people.

Freegle was formed by UK volunteers asked to leave The Freecycle Network after requesting greater autonomy for more than two million members in this country. Freecycle had around 1400 volunteers who ran local groups and of these 450 of them have been lobbying the US management for changes to the organisation structure and way of working over the past few months. It is not possible for disenfranchised local groups to continue with their existing name: breakaway groups in the past have faced legal action from The Freecyle Network, which vigorously defends ownership of its trademark. (For more on this, there are reports here in Recyling and Waste Management News, The Ecologist and the Daily Telegraph.

"The UK has been a big player in Freecycle’s global network, accounting for approximately one quarter of all re-used household items saved from landfill, and with more members per head of population than any other country," a spokesperson for Freegle said. "There are already millions of people in the UK who offer unwanted household items for reuse by others, rather than dumping them."

“The creation of Freegle was inevitable when dedicated Freecycle volunteers who simply asked for greater autonomy in the UK were asked to leave and their groups closed," explained Louise Belcher, the Lancaster Morecambe Freegle group owner/moderator, echoing the views of the former UK director of Freecycle, Neil Morris. "This left us with no alternative but to set up an alternative for our members in the UK. In the end it has been the best possible outcome.

• Find Lancaster Morecambe Freegle at

• The new Freegle site is open to everyone who wants to do their bit for the planet - just visit

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Local Comics Artist Secures Publishing Deal

Thomas Wogan is DeadLocal comic artist Dave Hughes will be celebrating the first professional publication of his work this weekend, when he heads to the Birmingham International Comic Festival to sign copies of his graphic story, Thomas Wogan is Dead.

Dave self-published his quirky tale back in January, and it met with praise from comics fans, including longtime comics editor and writer John Freeman - another Lancaster-based creator - who gave the Morecambe-based story the thumbs up on his British comics new site.

Enthused by the response, Dave sent the book out to various publishers, with Dorset-based Tabella picking up the reprint rights in July. The new edition of the story will be on sale at the Birmingham International Comic Show this weekend, which is expected to attract thousands of comics fans from across the country and beyond for a two day extravaganza at the Think Tank venue.

Dave, who works at Lancaster University, is clearly delighted by the new edition, which should be available to order from local bookshops over the next few weeks.

"There are some differences to the original version, the most noticeable of which, I feel, is the addition of a commercial font," says Dave. "I gave this some serious thought after Tabella suggested looking at the lettering."

Lancaster is now home to several comics creators, including Boom! Studios artist Paul Harrison Davies, DC Comics and Marvel writer Andy Diggle, football comic artist Nick Miller, writer Antonella Caputo and others.

Thomas Wogan is Dead is available from Tabella Publishing for £5.99: more details here. ISBN: 978-0-95580888-3

Monday, 28 September 2009

Uni Students Issued with Crime Packs

More than 700 university students are being given crime prevention packs in a bid to beat the burglars.

The Lancashire Police packs are being given to Lancaster University and University of Cumbria students who live in the 220 off-campus properties managed by Lancaster University Student Union.

Housing staff will hand deliver the packs containing crime prevention advice, ultra violet marking pens and timer switches.

"As the students return for the new term, we endeavour to work in partnership with the local universities to provide crime prevention advice," explained Jan Brown, Lancaster Police's crime prevention officer.

"The ultra violet marking pens can be used to security mark students' property and the timer switches will make sure that their homes look occupied, even when they are out at lectures or down at the pub."

Michael Payne, president of Lancaster University Students Union, added: "This important initiative is part of the Students' Union and the University's campaigns to keep students safe, working in partnership with our local police.

"The University is lucky to be known as one of the safest in the UK, and we want to maintain this as well as helping the police with crime prevention."

Sex Assault: Police Issue eFit

Lancaster Police have released a computer-generated image of a man they want to trace in connection with a serious sexual assault in Lancaster.

The incident is alleged to have taken place in an alleyway off Brock Lane near to the Horse and Farrier pub on Brock Street between 10pm on Saturday 5 September and 12.40am on Sunday 6th September 2009.

The woman met her alleged offender outside the pub after leaving friends to have a cigarette. They got talking and went back inside the pub together where they continued to drink for some time before leaving together in the direction of the alleyway where the incident is alleged to have taken place.

Officers are appealing to anyone in the pub on Saturday night that saw the couple to come forward.

He is described as being in his late twenties, between 5ft10 and 6ft tall, stocky, muscular build with dark brown cropped hair 'number two cut'. He is clean shaven with blue eyes and an olive complexion and was smart in his appearance, wearing a pale blue top. He is also possibly known as "Ian".

The woman was wearing black trousers and a black and white vertical striped top.

"I'm keen to trace people that were in the pub at the same time as the pair or anyone that saw them leave together," commnetd Detective Inspector Martin Clague, from Lancashire Police's Force Major Investigation Team. "I would also appeal directly to the man described to come forward so he can help us with our enquires."

• Anyone with any information about the incident should contact Lancashire police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

County Council Rejects Veggie Savings

Lancashire County Council Tories have rejected a simple proposal from Green County Councillors that would have cut greenhouse gases across the county while at the same time saving the council money.

At the meeting of Lancashire County Council on Thursday 24th September Green County councillor Chris Coates proposed that Lancashire should join the Meat-Free-Mondays campaign and make a modest cut in the amount of meat consumed across the county.

“Across the world, meat production accounts for 18 per cent of harmful greenhouse gas emissions," Chris claims. "Cutting down by one day a week would have been a simple way of the council helping to combat climate change.”

The proposal - which called on the County Council to review the content of meals provided by County Council services, carry out an information campaign through the media and in schools and to produce a set of affordable meat-free recipes - was defeated by the ruling Conservative Group on the council.

It would seem the Conservatives much-touted claims of anting to reduce public spending do not extend to the dire possibility of losing out on meat dinners in the County Council canteen...

“I'm disappointed at the lack of support for our proposal," commented Lancaster East Green County Councillor Sam Riches. "Not only would it have helped the planet, but it would have saved money that could have been spent on other services.”