Wednesday, 29 September 2010

1984 at The Dukes

Conrad Nelson's 1984 at Lancaster's Dukes gives the lie to the view that novels can never make great plays. In some ways, they may actually make for better theatre than plays based on scripts, since the director of a novel-to-stage adaptation (guided by the adaptor, in this case Nick Lane) has the whole world before him or her.

Nelson's choice of an ensemble co-production (between the Dukes and Northern Broadsides) is absolutely right for 1984, given that wherever Winston (Nick Haverson) goes, people, different people, are watching him, and that no-one is quite what they seem.

Written by George Orwell in 1948, 1984 is the tragic tale of Winston Smith, a subversive living and working in a hyper-totalitarian state, which rules through propaganda and the instillation of fear, and who brings about his own demise by wrongly assuming that others share his questions and ideals. Orwell's novel resonated with subsequent practices in Russia and China, but even after 1984 chronologically came and went, with those of 2010: pervasive surveillance, the UK-USA 'special relationship', the entertainment and endless supply of cheap material goods which arguably hold back or at least contain resistance.

This is a taut production with excellent performances by all five actors (Nick Haverson, Kate Ambler, Chris Garner, Andrew Price and Carolyn Tomkinson), Kate Ambler in particular giving a consistently fiery performance as Winston's lover Julia (firier perhaps than Orwell's own view of women allowed). Chris Garner as O'Brien is frighteningly good in the electrocution scene in Act 2. I did feel however that this scene (and perhaps Act 2 as a whole) was over-extended: Act 1 anticipates with tension and foreboding what is to come; it may not have been necessary for Lane and Haverson to spell it out to such an extent when it did.

A comment on designer Sue Condie's set: a spartan topsy-turvy room, fractured by fault lines, obvious but important symbolism representing a world in which lies are cemented in the 'Ministry of Truth', and loyalty of family and friends can no longer exist, given that anyone may betray anyone else (to the point that a father feels proud when his own daughter reports his 'thought-crime'). The room is dotted with small screens, and one large two-way 'telescreen' which cannot be turned off. This not only shows in all its invasive and destructive reality the notion 'Big Brother is watching you', but also Winston's fantasies and thoughts, addressing the critique that theatre, like the novel, can show what people are thinking and feeling as well as doing.

1984 runs until October 9. Go. It won't cheer you up, but it will show you (if you didn't already know) what Room 101 derives its name from. More, it's an excellent piece of theatre.

Jane Sunderland

A Northern Broadsides/The Dukes, Lancaster production in association with Stroud Theatre Company
The Dukes, Moor Lane, Lancaster LA1 1QE
The Dukes Box Office: 01524 598500
Tickets £14.50 - £17 (£9 - £11 concessions)

Remaining performances:

Sept. 30, 1 p.m., 7.30 p.m.
Oct. 1, 10.30 a.m., 7.30 p.m.
Oct. 2, 7.30 p.m.
Oct. 5, 7.30 p.m.
Oct. 6, 10.30 a.m., 7.30 p.m.
Oct. 7, 1 p.m., 7.30 p.m.
Oct. 8, 7.30 p.m.
Oct. 9, 2 p.m., 7.30 p.m.

Council appoints experts to review Lancaster Market

Krys Zasada, who
is spearheading
the NCS study of
Lancaster Market
Lancaster City Council has appointed market experts NCS, the consultancy arm of the National Association of British Market Authorities, to produce an indepth report on the future of Lancaster Market.

The future of the Market was hotly debated earlier in the year after attempts were made to partially re-purpose at least part of the Market building to the now failed supermarket chain ASCO. Councillors rejected the plan put forward by Cabinet after locals rallied in support of the Market which seemed to be lined up for closure.

NABMA supports local authority operated markets throughout the country and was chosen due to its track record in carrying out market reviews, recent examples of which include work for Glasgow, St Edmundsbury and Southwark councils.

The work will be lead by Krys Zasada, who is Managing Director of Sheffield-based Food Routes Limited and Policy Development Manager for the NABMA. Formerly Head of Manchester Markets, he was instrumental in the revamp of the New Smithfield Wholesale Market which was part-funded from European Union grant support, which sought to modernise and improve the business performance of the tenants and improve the physical infrastructure through a multi-million pound redevelopment of the site.

Zasada is an enthusiastic supporter of markets and their value to the community. In a report for the Retail Markets Alliance, he argued strongly that "markets matter.

"They bring richness and diversity to the High Street as well as giving customers choice and value for money," he wrote. “In this time of rising unemployment they are also important in terms of the jobs they create — currently supporting almost 47,000 independent trader businesses.

“Their performance during the recession has been mixed, just like the rest of the High Street," he acknowledged, "with good markets and traders continuing to perform well, while others have struggled.

“It’s important that we understand what makes a successful market so that others can learn from it. The successful ones are dynamic and innovative and respond to the changing demands of customers; and let’s not forget that many of today’s big retailers like TESCO, Morrison’s and M&S started life on markets”.

Zasada was recently appointed to the Government Task force on increasing the production and consumption of fruit and vegetables in England. He's also a member of the recently formed government Working Group on Retail Markets and a member of the Board of London Food overseeing the implementation of the Mayor’s Food Strategy.

Areas NCS will to cover in its report include  the viability of providing a predominantly (specialist) food retail market, in the context of Lancaster’s developing role as a heritage city; whether the current structure and layout of the market is fit for purpose and to identify any changes, that might be necessary; what appropriate lease arrangements should be in place between the council and the market traders, including the viability of a tenants’ charter.

They will also advise to what extent, if any, other complementary, non-physical works are required, such as marketing, to ensure a viable market and how the indoor and charter markets can be linked

The final report should be ready by December.

Coun Jon Barry, chair of the Lancaster Market Cabinet Liaison Group, said: "I am delighted with the level of expertise that NCS will bring to rejuvenating Lancaster Market. I am very much looking forward to their conclusions and on moving the market forward. These are exciting times for the market."

A spokesperson for NCS said: “NABMA is delighted to work with Lancaster City Council and welcome the opportunity to help support the market and ensure its long term future and sustainability."

National Association of British Market Authorities

Retail Markets Alliance Market Report (PDF, 2MB)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Young Dukes team in line for national award

DT32.jpgThe Dukes Creative Learning Department has reached the finals of a prestigious national competition.

Based at DT3 in Moor Lane, Lancaster, the team has beaten more than 500 others to reach the finals of the Children and Young People Now Awards 2010 and representatives of the department, together with some young people who use DT3, will be attending a glittering ceremony in London on 18th November at the Royal Horticultural Halls..

“This is like the Oscars for young people," commented Creative Learning Director, Guy Christiansen, "and to get to the finals is a real testament to what has been achieved here in just four years.”

DT3 is a theatre venue which is managed in partnership with Lancashire County Council’s Young People’s Service. It presents a year round programme of productions aimed at under 25-year-olds and provides opportunities for them to take part in and create original work.

The department offers workshops and educational resources for students and teachers as well as other fun ways for young people to get involved at The Dukes.

Between 2009 and 2010 DT3 offered nearly 15,000 creative participation opportunities for 5-25 years olds; which provided over 4500 young people with life enhancing creative experiences.

“The DT3 group just goes from strength to strength," feels County Councillor Mark Perks, who's cabinet member for young people. "They are very talented and enterprising young people and staff from our Young People’s Service and The Dukes have brought out the best in them. To have reached the final is a real tribute to all of them.”

Children and Young People Now is the most prestigious and respected journal for professionals working with children and young people in the UK.

Its awards programme celebrates the variety of creative, educational and developmental work undertaken with young people. There are 22 categories covering social work, youth work, public sector delivery and the arts.
The Dukes Creative Learning Department was nominated for the Arts and Culture Award due to its quality and diversity over the past three years.

Other Lancashire organisations that have been shortlisted include Leyland-based CXL, which works with public, private and third sector organisations to deliver a range of products and services and careers information, advice and guidance for young people and adults; the Blackpool-based Homelessness Youth Mediation Service; and Lancaster University's Creative Arts Volunteering team.

Children and Young People Now Awards 2010 web site (Shortlist 2010 here)

• Dukes Creative Learning Department:

Transition Cafe challenges the Politics of Food

Do you know where your food comes from or how it got to your plate? The next Transition Cafe event at Lancaster's Gregson Centre next month challenges you to find out about the role food production plays in the hot issues of today: climate change, oil use and poverty.

The politics of food is hidden in every mouthful we eat. There are lots of things we can do to make our food more sustainable. Just a little bit of knowledge about our food system can help us dramatically reduce our impact.

The night's speaker will be Rhiannon Westphal, who has been campaigning on food issues for the last 10 years and works at Lancaster's Single Step Wholefood co-op in Penny Street.

A Transition Café aims to create a social atmosphere to get together, have a drink and a meal, if you wish, and talk about a specific topic. Each Café kicks off with food, then a short(ish) talk from a speaker - then there will be chance to ask questions, of the speaker or other people.

• Transition Cafe: Rhiannon Westphal - The Politics of Food from 6.30pm. Speaker 7.15pm at the Gregson Centre, Moorgate, Lancaster. Free (donations invited). More info:

Monday, 27 September 2010

Local students advised to get their jabs

ill_people_lancaster.jpgThe Health Protection Agency is asking universities and further education colleges to encourage students to check that they have previously been fully vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella and Group C meningococcal infection.

Students, including overseas students, who discover that they are not adequately protected by two doses of MMR vaccine and a Group C meningitis jab will be advised to make arrangements to be immunised at the earliest opportunity.

“We tend to see more cases of meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia as winter approaches and we’ve had numerous outbreaks of mumps in our colleges and universities in recent years," warns Professor Qutub Syed, Director of Health Protection Agency North West.

“Students who live and work together in close proximity are particularly vulnerable to mumps if they are not adequately protected. It’s a highly infectious disease and it tends to spread amongst teenagers and young adults who were not vaccinated against it as children.”

The message to students who were not given two doses of MMR vaccine as children is that it’s not too late. Anyone up to the age of 25 is entitled to be immunised free of charge on the NHS. Two doses of MMR vaccine are necessary to guarantee immunity.

“We also have a very effective vaccine against Group C meningococcal disease," Professor Syed says. "The majority of children who were born after the vaccine was introduced in 1999 will be fully protected, which is why we see so few cases of Group C meningitis in the UK nowadays.

“However, we do not yet have a vaccine for Group B meningococcal disease and, whilst we are seeing fewer cases than we used to, we still see an increase in the winter months. It’s important for students to know the signs and symptoms to look out for and to seek immediate medical help whenever it is suspected.”

Meningococcal infection can cause meningitis (inflammation of the brain) or septicaemia (blood poisoning). Common early symptoms, which are not always present, may include:

  • A rash that does not fade when pressed with a glass (known as the tumbler test) due to bleeding under the skin
  • Sudden onset of high fever
  • A severe and worsening headache (without any other obvious cause)
  • Severe neck stiffness
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Very cold hands and feet
  • Drowsiness that can deteriorate into a fever

Local academic institutions are being asked to remind all UK born students that they should be up to date with MMR and meningitis C, reminding them as to when they should have received the immunisations so they can check that they did; ensure that adequate plans have been drawn up with the local Health Protection Unit to ensure good public health management of any cases of meningitis that arise during term time; and ask non-UK born students to ensure that they are properly protected against measles and mumps by having 2 doses of MMR vaccine and ensure that they are protected against meningitis C by having 1 dose of the meningitis C vaccine.

• For further information on these infections, please go to: or NHS Choices at:

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Dan Haywood's New Hawks, the Ponies and more at the Yorkshire House

new_hawksw.jpgDan Haywood's New Hawks, Padraig Whelan (and band), the Ponies and Mollie Baxter will be appearing at Lancaster's Yorkshire House pub on Saturday 2nd October for a special music night at one of the area's top music venues.

From London, Padraig Whelan is an enigmatic and elusive purveyor of luscious pharmaceutical-grade indie-folk. His accomplished band will accompany him.

Dan Haywood's New Hawks is an unwieldy and brilliant acid-folk-rock act that continues to horrify and enchant. A nine-piece band tonight. Playing some different tunes to their last local set.

Ponies is a beautiful punk-ethick troubador summoning healing and mesmeric powers from his Martin and his soulful songbag.

Renaissance woman Mollie Baxter will fix you with her fearsome wit, laser vocals and speak volumes with hers, the ruddiest guitar in town.

• The event starts at 8.00pm. No library books.
Admission fee just £4 or £3 to be decided by coin toss.

Read an interview with Dan Haywood by Tom Bramhall