Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Mitchells Brewery To Be Demolished?

mitchells_brewery.jpgvirtual-lancaster has learnt that local company Mitchells has given notice to Lancaster City Council that it intends to demolish the old brewery off Lancaster's Moor Lane.

The company does not require planning permission to demolish the premises.

However, the plan is already being met with fierce opposition from local Bulk ward councillors, who argue the buildings could form a cornerstone of any new development in the area, without being bulldozed.

Reputedly haunted, the Brewery on Brewery Lane was originally built in the mid-1800s by brewers Yates & Jackson, which ceased brewing in the 1980s and were bought out by Mitchells.

Mitchells ceased brewing on the site in mid-1999, although the company maintained its pub and hotel chain and bought York Brewery in 2008. As well as the Brewery site, the company owns some 60 pubs and five individual hotels across North Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Local councillor John Whitelegg told virtual-lancaster he was appalled by the demolition plan.

"This is exactly what I thought would happen and why I asked for a Buildings Protection Notice, which was refused on the recommendation of Lancaster City Council's senior planning officers," he told us.
"The demolition would be an act of unrestrained vandalism," John argues, "and would result in the loss of a collection of buildings with enormous potential to enrich our cultural and regeneration efforts." 

Like other local councillors, John feels the plan will do nothing but give the city a bad name in the minds of many. The demolition would attract national publicity he feels "and Lancaster City Council if minded to approve would go down in history as a collaborator in vandalism."
All of Bulk Ward's councillors object to any demolition and have formally proposed that the application is rejected on grounds that it pre-empts the conservation area review, the inspector's report on the Centros development and the decisions of the Secretary of State on the importance Lancaster should attach to these buildings when considering planning applications.

It also contradicts Lancaster City Council's own policies to protect and preserve the city's historic buildings.
"I hope the Council will not agree to the demolition request," says John. "This proposal rides rough shod over democratic process and should be rejected outright."

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Wildlife WATCH Is Coming To Morecambe Bay


A new Wildlife WATCH group, the junior section of the Wildlife Trusts, is being set up in Morecambe Bay.

Wildlife WATCH groups are aimed at children between the ages of 8 and 13 years and children’s activities will be held at the Heysham Nature Reserve, close to the harbour and ferry port on Moneyclose Lane towards the Ocean Edge Morecambe Bay Leisure Park.

The first meeting will be at the nature reserve on Saturday 17th October from 10.00am to 12 noon. Adult volunteers who would like to help with the group will also be welcomed at this meeting, where details about the application process and forms will be available.

Lancashire's Wildlife Trust hopes that by talking part in the group, children will get an insight into the many aspects of wildlife and their environment. They'll be able to participate in fun activities such as pond dipping, minibeast hunts and making bird and insect feeders in order to gain experience in a number of skills and to increase their confidence in working with other people.

They will also be encouraged to act responsibly and to show a greater respect, knowledge and awareness of the area about them and into the wider world.

watch_logo.jpg• More info on the work of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust at:; there's a full list of Lancashire Wildlife WATCH groups here on the same site

• Further details can be obtained by contacting either Emma Garston ( or Nicola Estill ( who are reserve officers based at Heysham and who will be two of the group’s registered leaders.

Additional information about this group and other Wildlife WATCH activities can be found on the Trust’s website

Top Author Faber joins Fall Celebration at litfest


Lancaster litfest has just announced that best-selling novelist and short story writer Michel Faber will be giving a rare reading at litfest, joining Niall Griffiths, Dave Simpson and Peter Wild for a night of fact and fiction on Saturday 17th October inspired by British band The Fall.

Ever been held hostage in a dressing room with your parents? Ever been thrown off the bus in the middle of a Swedish forest or abandoned at a foreign airport? Ever been asked to play at one of the UK’s biggest music festivals with musicians you’ve just met who are covered in blood, or taken part in a ‘recording session’ in a speeding Transit?

If so you’ve probably been in The Fall. Dave Simpson made it his mission to track down everyone who has ever played in Britain’s most berserk, brilliant group and in The Fallen: Searching for the Missing Members of The Fall, he uncovers a changing Britain, tales of madness and genius, and wreaks havoc on his personal life.

Talking about the experience, Dave is joined by Manchester-based Peter Wild, the editor of Perverted by Language: Fiction Inspired by the Fall, and contributors Niall Griffiths and Michel Faber.

Twenty-three writers chose a song by The Fall and used it as inspiration for a short story for the book that features mechanical ducks, shark women that taste of liquorice, and celebrity deer-culling.

Scottish-based novelist and short-story writer Michel Faber's short story 'Fish' won the Macallan/Scotland on Sunday Short Story Competition in 1996 and is included in his first collection of short stories, Some Rain Must Fall and Other Stories (1998), winner of the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award.

His first novel, Under the Skin (2000), was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and he has also won the Neil Gunn Prize and an Ian St James Award.

Other fiction includes The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps (1999), a novella, and The Courage Consort (2002), the story of an a cappella singing group. The Crimson Petal and the White (2002), is set in Victorian England and tells the story of Sugar, a 19-year-old prostitute. His collection of stories, The Apple (2006) continues the tale of some of the characters from this book.

His most recent books are Vanilla Bright Like Eminem (2007), a further short story collection, and The Fire Gospel (2008), a novel.

Read an interview with Michel in January Magazine

Fact and fiction inspired by the post-punk band The Fall starts at 9.30pm on Saturday 17th October at the Storey Creative Arts Centre, where most litfest events will take place this year. Tickets £7.50 (£6.00 concessions). More info here on the litfest web site

In Review: Not The Jazz Festival

Humble Sam took in some jazz at the Gregson Community Centre last month - here's his review...

After God gave man Classical music, God gave man Jazz music, but then issues developed in the world of finance, and Lancaster City Council found itself in a fiscal pickle and withdrew funding from Lancaster’s Jazz Festival.

And thus local musician Stephen Grew of Grutronic and the Grew Trio took it upon himself to organise and host with sidekick Dave ‘Bassman’ Shooter of Huevos and Orchestre DC Dansette Not The Jazz Festival (Not Funded by Lancaster City Council), 12 hours of modern jazz music.

music_neil_c_young.jpgThe event took place Sunday 20th September 2009 at the Gregson Community Centre, who provided their large hall gratis for the festival, and kicked off midday with Colne band Neil C. Young Trio, a guitar driven ensemble which played Bossa Nova and Jazz Blues, especially the kind advocated by John Scofield. Hot/ cool, straight/ crooked, perpendicular/ horizontal, they swung.

Next up were Nick Grew and his brother Stephen, and as expected, they delivered the goods: 30 minutes of Electronica served in a lush sauce of minimalist soundscaping with lashings of tranquillity. Very nice, very now.

matt_robinson_maxwellsterling.jpgThe third act was two new superstars of the British Jazz scene: double bass player Maxwell Sterling and clarinettist Matt Robinson, who had recently performed together at the Manchester Jazz Festival. For 40 minutes, the two 20-year olds oscillated between Swing, Free Jazz, Bebop and Indian Classical music, showing an expertise and understanding of their instruments and Jazz music rarely seen even among elderly statesmen of British Jazz.These boys will go far.

After the intermission, the musical baton was picked up by drummer Philip ‘Sparks’ Marks and electronic wizard Nicolas Grew. ‘Sparks’ Marks manipulated his instrument with controlled mania while Grew painted discreet tonal pictures in which the audience could admire life, the universe and cups of tea. A tantric experience.

Dave Shooter’s band Huevos (bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet) then created some scrumptious Jazz Pop by gliding from Swing to South American driven rhythms to Hot Jazz to Funk and back again. Cool!

To counterbalance them, Stephen Grew whipped out his electronic keyboard to duet with Birmingham based drummer Mark Sanders on terms only known to the Gods. A mercurial battle of musical wits ensued which left the audience buzzing with excitement, as they were the musical equivalent of a treble espresso.

steve_lewis_dansette.jpgSo how does one follow that? With local big band Orchestre DC Dansette! Three guitars, drums ‘n’ bass, a small brass section (with fruity Joanna Mangona on saxophone) and one very charismatic singer (Steve Lewis, aka Deep Cabaret) colluded to serve the by now rather spoiled audience deliciously breezy, Jazz Funk driven African music with surprisingly philosophical (and at times even profound) lyrics. Although all the various members of ODD are highly accomplished and their music is a treat as the band chemistry is perfect, one was carried away by the three guitarists’ licks and riffs. Foxy music!

After the evening intermission, Gulliver’s Travellers descended onto the stage with their cheeky grins and even cheekier music: controlled moto-core folk fusion, aka as Albert Ayler meets Duke Ellington at the last chance saloon where per chance they bump into Stockhausen, Chick Corea and Robert Fripp music.

With songs about Calypso and rabbits (or were they about Penelope and hedgehogs?), they wowed the audience which was busily digesting their evening meals (courtesy of Alan Heyns). They bounced!

The Neil C. Young Trio brought the jive back to planet Earth before another intermission, after which, as if from another planet, wild synthesiser Richard Scott arrived with his amazing gadgetry.

Standing tall and proud, Scott waved his Wii sticks about and generated electronic ethereal sounds through his sensors and synthesiser tools while Sparks Marks weaved drum patterns into the amberonic soundscape.


And so for the grand finale: a jam session first between the notorious Grew Brothers and M. Gulliver on saxophone, followed by Stephen Grew with Maxwell Sterling and Matt Robinson and then augmented with Sparks Marks, Nick Grew and M. ‘Gully’ Gulliver: a final trip through Bebop, Electronica, Trad Jazz, Funk, Free Jazz, more Electronica and otherworldly soundscapes.

The event came to a halt at 10:30 pm as nothing more needed to be said, and so it was off to bed to dream of deranged scales, beautiful harmonies and the strangeness of sound. Steve Grew et al had achieved something that Lancaster City Council could never have: a non-plus ultra musical event.


Monday, 12 October 2009

Calendar Girls Star Celia Imrie at The Dukes

Celia_Imriew.jpgFilm and television star Celia Imrie will be starring in Mixed Up North at The Dukes, Lancaster for one day only on Saturday 31st October.

Well known for her work with Victoria Wood, including Dinnerladies, Celia has also made her mark in Kingdom and in films such as Calendar Girls, Bridget Jones and St Trinians.

Mixed Up North is a fiercely funny and moving account of an attempt to unite ethnic communities in Burnley. Celia plays Trish who sets up a youth theatre group for Asian and white teenagers. But half of them think acting is “gay”, one of the cast walks out, and the local politics of the town start to get in the way...

The show is packed with the fascinating and sometimes shocking stories of the youngsters and their community workers, as well as giving a poignant history of the town.

• Out of Joint and The Octagon Theatre present Mixed Up North by Robin Soans. Directed by Max Stafford-Clark. Runs from Wednesday 28 – Saturday 31 October at The Dukes, Lancaster. Tickets are priced from £8.50 and can be booked by calling the Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or There are also a number of free tickets available for under 26s as part of the A Night Less Ordinary Scheme.

• Celia Imrie's Official Web Site:

20 Is Plenty: Curb Speed Limits Now, Say Greens

Lancaster's Green Party will be launching a campaign for 20mph speed limit on every residential road in the district at a public meeting on 21st October.

While some local residents joke that they'd be lucky to achieve a speed of 20 mph on some Lancaster streets, especially given the number of roadworks taking place at present on Penny Street and elsewhere, the potential dangers caused by speeding are no laughing matter.

A pedestrian hit by a car at 40mph has only a 15% chance surviving. At 30mph the chance increases to 55% but at 20mph 95% survive.

The current 30 mph default speed limit for urban roads was set in 1934, when there were less than 2m motor vehicles registered on our roads. It was done to protect cyclists and pedestrians and the ambiance of our towns and villages. Today there are over 33 million motor vehicles registered and campiagners argue the legislation is now way behind the times.

The Green Party is launching its campaign for a general 20mph speed limit for residential roads at a public meeting at the Storey Institute on Wednesday 21st October at 7.30pm. The guest speaker will be Rod King, national co-ordinator of the “20 is Plenty for Us” campaign ( which has won widespread approval for this child-friendly limit.

The meeting is jointly organised by city councillor John Whitelegg and county councillor Sam Riches.

“If we want our streets to be safe and calm and considerate for children, older people and those with mobility difficulties a general speed limit of 20mph does the trick," argues John. "20mph limits are already in place in many cities in mainland Europe and have produced massive reductions in deaths and injuries.

"It is time we had them on every residential street in Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham.”

Similar-sized towns such as Portsmouth, Oxford and
Norwich have already adopted a 20 mph limit, with Bristol and nearby Warrington piloting speed reduction schemes.

"In the recent county council election, I asked hundreds of residents in the area I now represent on the county council what they thought of a general 20mph limit for residential roads," says Sam Riches. "Over 80 per cent said they really liked the idea.

"We should now follow the example of Portsmouth and Oxford and get on with it.”

The meeting will look at the success of 20s Plenty in other communities and how this can be cost effectively implemented in order to create a better quality of life for everyone in the district.

A report on 20mph speed limits in the Lancaster District will be presented to Lancashire Locals Lancaster - a body where both Lancaster City and lancashire County Council representatives discuss policy - at 6.30pm on 1st December and Green councillors will propose that this is adopted throughout the district.

In a 2005 British Social attitudes Survey around 75 per cent of people were found to be supportive of 20 mph speed restrictions in residential areas, including 72 per cent of drivers questioned. However only 43 per cent of drivers favour speed bumps.

• 20 Is Plenty Campaign: