Friday, 5 November 2010

In Review: Hypothermia

Having just got back from seeing Hypothermia, a production by 'A Full Body and the Voice' written and directed by Vanessa Brooks, I can honestly say that it's one of the best things I've ever seen at The Dukes (and I've been in Lancaster a long, long time).

It is set in a German Hospital for Hereditary and Incurable Diseases somewhere in the frozen North in 1940 (for which read eugenics, beautiful blond pale-eyed boys, super-human bodies, and women who can produce as many children as possible). But it is about whether one person can really be valued above another, and what those of us who have the good luck to have characteristics which are socially valued do when others of us, who do not, are seen as not only disposable but a drain on 'our' resources. The frozen landscape (along with the consumption of large amounts of alcohol) acts as a metaphor for the numbing of feeling and the implications of that for action and decision.

So, the play is interesting, important, well-crafted, with lean, sparse dialogue. The plotline is also simple: what will happen to these people? But the production is as chilling as the setting - and, at the same time, stunning. Magnificent. A privilege to have watched. The five actors are all superb: Oskar Weltz, the only patient we see (Ben Langford), used as a general factotum; Dr. Erich (Daniel Hoffmann Gill), who 'runs' the hospital; Lisa (Faye Billing), secretary and de facto nurse; Dr. Katscher (Johnny Vivash), the Nazi who oversees and controls the hospital, and which patients are 'transferred' to another (as a result of being assigned a 'plus' or a 'minus'); and Frau Poppendick (Margaret Fraser), whose 15-year-old son son died at the hospital of a burst appendix which Dr. Erich had supposedly removed.

The dialogue between the characters is fast-paced and always tense. There are silences and much eye-contact between pairs of characters; Oskar not only watches and listens intently but mimics the actions of those who run his life, making sense of them (or not). At the end he turns the tables by making an autonomous, selfless and unpredictable choice.

Set partly in the hospital office, partly outside on the ice (or under it), two tense days unfold with an edge of surreality, large chunks of physical theatre, Lawrence Kaye's extraordinarily atmospheric music, and singing and dancing. The set includes two desks structured like metal cots. There is much shouting, throwing of objects, and knocking over of furniture. The stage is brightly lit for most of the time. All this makes for uncomfortable watching. But this is a production of the highest calibre which really should not be missed. It has one more night to run. Go.

Jane Sunderland

Hypothermia was performed at The Dukes, Lancaster on Saturday 6th November.

Lawrence Kaye’s blog about Hypothermia

Stolen caravan recovered in Morecambe

Police have recovered an £11,000 caravan from a site in Morecambe, after it was stolen from Garstang last year.

Caravan owners are now being asked to make sure they have security measures in place so that their property is not targeted by criminals.

Detective Sergeant Simon Ingham, from the Stolen Vehicle Squad, said: “Caravan crime in Lancashire is the lowest it has ever been but we would still urge owners to make sure that caravans are stored securely and that they fit appropriate security devices.

“This particular recovery shows that Lancashire Police continue to actively search for stolen caravans and if you are found with one in your possession it will be taken off you and given back to the rightful owner.”

Inquiries into the stolen caravan are ongoing.

• Anyone with information about caravan theft is asked to contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Sainsbury's Morecambe employs 270, but fears for other local jobs remain

Sainsbury's has announced that nearly 300 new jobs have been created in the area as the result of its new Morecambe superstore, but its long term impact on local employment may not be so positive.

Announcing that the opening of the new 40,000 sq ft Sainsbury’s Morecambe store will reduce unemployment in the area after creating 270 new jobs, the company also revealed new colleagues were looking forward to starting their new careers when the store opens on Wednesday 17 November and will feature hot food and pizza counters, salad bar, pharmacy, plus large TU clothing, homeware and entertainment sections.

Sainsbury’s held two recruitment and information days at Lancaster and Morecambe College earlier in the year, which was attended by around 1,800 people. All department managers were on hand to talk about the opportunities of building about a career in the new store.

66-year-old Paul I’Anson is returning to work after retiring from running a dental practice at 60. Having looked for work for the last two years, he has now been recruited as a warehouse operative in the Commercial Team at Sainsbury’s Morecambe.

“I decided to look for a role as I wanted to get back into employment at a great place to work, and Sainsbury’s has given me this wonderful opportunity," Paul said. "I feel valued and it’s very nice to be fulfilling a work role again.”

Sainsbury’s store manager Martin Corban said the store had received a fantastic response to the roles that were on offer. “We filled up the roles available to the people of Morecambe really quickly," he said, "and we’ve recruited a high calibre of colleagues who cannot wait to deliver excellent service to our customers”.

While the new jobs are welcome, here are concerns the new Sainsbury's will have an impact on other local jobs which may negate the immediate benefit of another large employer in the town.

Supermarkets are always keen to stress the employment benefits of store expansion. Back in 2000, Corporate Watch noted a report from the Institute of Labour Research at the University of Essex which showed that new superstores boosted employment in the food retailing sector by 12 per cent between 1983 and 1994. But another report by the National Retail Planning Forum revealed that new food superstores have a net negative impact on retail employment, indicating each new superstore accounts for a loss of 276 full-time employees.

The report indicated that the net impact of 93 superstore openings nationwide would lead to a decline of three per cent in the number of full time jobs - or a loss of 25,000 jobs within three years. The immediate increase in superstore employment, the authors argued, is offset by the more gradual decrease in specialist food retailer employment in the 10 mile zone around the stores.

By contrast, in 2006, the New Economic Forum published research that indicated that
street markets offered better choice on fresh fruit and vegetables than supermarkets at half the price, generated substantial benefits for the local economy and created twice as many jobs per square metre of retail than supermarkets.

Corporate Watch: How Supermarkets Destroy Jobs
Local newspapers are often ecstatic at the news that another supermarket development is on the cards in their town. But would they be so happy if they new the real effect that supermarkets have on jobs in other community-based businesses? Corinna Hawkes and Jacqui Webster investigate.

Impact of Large Food Stores on Market Towns and District Centres 
National Retail Planning Forum 1998. PDF download here

New Economic Forum: Markets create twice as many jobs as supermarkets and food is half the price
22 May 2006

The Guardian: The Price isn't Right (2004)
Supermarkets don't sell cheap food, we just think they do - and they're ruining local economies

Local poets in new eBook Poetry Anthology

Lancaster LitFest has launched An Elastic Sky, an expansive free eBook anthology from Flax Books featuring poems that orbit moon, kitchen tables, oceans, attics and football pitches.

Throughout, they show a tenderness and quiet ruthlessness for honesty in our disquieting world.

The eBook showcases new work from Rebecca Irvine Bilkau, David Tait, Michael Crowley, Ron Scowcroft and Jim Turner and can be downloaded as a PDF (flax 022) on the LitFest web site.

LitFest also commissioned Morph Films to translate a poem from each author into a film. You can view the results on the LitFest site here.

Fleetwood Halloweeners turn more trick than treat

Police in Fleetwood are appealing for witnesses after a group of teenagers turned into sneaky thieves on Hallowe'en.

The incident happened at 7.00pm on Sunday 31st October on Seabank Road in Fleetwood. A group of youngster approached the house and knocked on the door as trick or treaters. Once the owner had given them sweets, some of the group have started taking decorative Hallowe'en items from the garden.

The woman has then chased the thieves down the street but one of them has stayed back, entered the house and stole the sweets and a digital camera.
PC Oliver Maughan said, “I would appeal for anyone with information to come forward and contact the police. The victim’s two young children were left very shaken and even gave away their Hallowe'en sweets just to get the offender out of the house.

“I would also urge people to make sure they keep their property safe and secure at all times. If you have to leave the house for whatever reason then make sure you lock your door and keep your keys and personal belongings close to you at all times.”

• Anyone with information is asked to call police on 08451 253545 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Man ‘pepper sprayed’ in Morecambe

(Updated 9/11/10): Police are appealing for information after a man was believed to have been ‘pepper sprayed’ in Morecambe.

Sometime between 11.30pm and 12.30am on Saturday night (30th October 2010), a 48-year-old man from the town was walking along Glentworth Road East. A car pulled up beside him with two men onboard and they sprayed him in the eyes before driving off.

The substance caused the man’s eyes to stream and he suffered blurred vision for a short time.

A similar incident happened in Morecambe in August, when a woman was sprayed in the face with corrosive liquid shot from a water pistol, after stopping to help a car driver with directions. The Morecambe Visitor reported that police appealed for information after the 52-year-old was left with a swollen face after the incident.

• Anybody with any information about this incident or who knows who is responsible is asked to contact police on 08451 25 35 45. Alternatively they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

19ninetynine headlines Guy Fawkes gig at the Yorkshire House

19ninetynine, who are playing the Yorkshire House on Saturday night. © Black Orchard Photography 2010.
More info:

Manchester-based netlabel Flat Hedgehog Records has organised a smart-sounding Guy Fawkes music event at Lancaster's Yorkshire House on 5th November.

Headlining are 19ninetynine, arguably one of the best electronic bands around Lancaster and as a result always draw a large crowd. Also on the bill are Crystalline Theory and ICE, with popular local DJ Andy also on hand, bext known for the local EBM night Darkside.

"ICE are a four-piece pop rock band with beautiful vocals – a really gorgeous sound to hear," enthuses Flat Hedgehog event organiser Claire Bath. "Crystalline Theory are relative newcomers to the scene, combining experimental electronica with talented singing and intriguing lyrics.

"The single band member, Richard Owens, balances his time as a musician with his time as a Theoretical Physics student at Lancaster University."

(Claire tells us Crystalline Theory will also be playing on campus at County Bar on the 3rd

"Our aim for this gig is to just show off the beautiful music that Lancaster has to offer, most of which is experimental and a bit different," she explains. "The music alone would make us stand out from other gigs! However, we've kept the event price very low at £2.50, and we're emphasising the atmosphere and the bonfire night theme with UV lighting, free treacle toffee and even a  fake fire lighting effect for the stage!

If the event is a success, Flat Hedgehog hope this will not be the only night of this nature, so get along and support several local bands.

Full details of the event on Facebook
• 19ninetynine Official Site:
• Crystalline Theory Official Site:

• ICE Official Site:
• Flat Hedgehog Records:

Bonzo! Doo Dah Band at the Platform

Fans of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band will be delighted to learn that Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater and Sam Spoons have teamed up with super-pianist Dave Glasson to bring more fun and music to the Platform on Saturday 20th November.

The Three Bonzos and a Piano gig is an ace opportunity to enjoy diabolical mayhem from the largest number of Bonzos still playing together anywhere on the surface of the earth, playing such classics such as ‘Ali Baba’s Camel’, ‘Hunting Tigers Out In India’, ‘Alley-Oop’, ‘Can Blue Men Sing the Whites’ and many more.

For those who missed the recent (and possibly final) Bonzos reunion tour or wish to re-live those glorious times, Three Bonzos and a Piano will provide a very entertaining, life affirming ‘hair of the dog’.

The band aim to dig out all the old songs from the Bonzos’ back catalogue, including songs that have not previously been performed, as well as brand new songs from their new CD Hair of the Dog.

After originally breaking up in 1969, the Bonzos reformed for a series of London shows and a UK tour between 2006 and 2008. Viv Stanshall, their front man, had died in a house fire in 1995, and was replaced by guest appearances of artists including Ade Edmondson, Stephen Fry, Paul  Merton and Phil Jupitus.

Their first gig in Brighton was sold out and three more monthly gigs at the venue were immediately added. Their 2009 tour of the UK saw sell out shows at three out of four venues from Penzance to Gateshead.

• The show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £15, £10 (students) from the box office on 01524 582803 or in person at Morecambe or Lancaster Visitor Information Centres. For more information visit

Appeal to trace man in Garstang

Police are appealing for the public’s help in tracing a man following an incident at a shop in Garstang.

Just before 5.00pm on Friday 24th September, a man entered the Co-Op store on High Street in the town. After paying for a box of chocolates, the man asked the cashier if they could change a quantity of notes.

As the cashier was concentrating on counting out the money, the man started talking to them and confused them into handing over cash from the till along with the money he had originally asked to be changed.

The man is described as being around 25 years old, having slightly tanned skin and of medium build with short, dark brown hair.

PC Alexis Walch said: “We are keen to trace a man captured on CCTV and speak with him in connection with this incident.

“I would appeal to anybody who recognises the man in the photograph to contact police.

“I would also like to speak with anybody who might have any information at all which could assist with this investigation.”

• Anybody with any information should contact police on 08451 25 35 45 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Heysham Power Station offline status 'routine'

One of Heysham nuclear reactors was taken offline on Monday after what owners EDF Energy called an "unplanned outage" - but the power station has categorically denied internet rumours that it was caused by a computer virus.

"We took unit 2 at Heysham 1 off line on 1st November to carry out a routine repair," a spokesperson for the Station told virtual-lancaster.

It's not known when the reactor will be back in action.

"Because of the effect of speculation on the wholesale electricity market, we don't give technical causes or forecast return to service dates for commercial reasons," But it's not an unusual event and there are absolutely no safety implications."

Rumours began to circulate that the reactor's operating systems had been bit by a computer virus, but this has been denied.

"There is absolutely no link between the cause of Heysham 1's trip, and any 'cyber security' issues," the spokesperson added.

Heysham 1's two reactors returned to service in March 2009 following a 17-month outage. The pair are capable of supplying 1,160 megawatts, or enough energy for more than 1.5 million homes.

Food and Film at The Dukes

A feast for the eyes and tastebuds is on the menu at The Dukes on Saturday 20th November., because the cinema has teamed up with Lancaster’s Sanah Patel to provide a great food and film offer.

For the special price of £7.50, film fans will receive a ticket to see the film Peepli[Live] and a selection of Indian food created by Sanah’s Eastern Cuisine.

Peepli[Live] is a biting satire about a lazy farmer in rural India who concocts an extreme plan to keep his land.

On the eve of a national election, Natha faces losing his land over an unpaid government loan. Desperate, he seeks help from a local politician who advises he commits suicide to benefit from a scheme that supports families of deceased farmers. A journalist discovers the plan and ignites a media frenzy over whether or not he will commit suicide.

Advance booking for this food and film offer is required by 18th November. Food is available from 7.00pm and the film is screened at 8.00pm. Peepli[Live]  is certificate 15. To book, ring The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or online at

GM food Documentary screening at The Dukes

A screening of a documentary about GM food at The Dukes next week (Wednesday 10th November) is sure to stir plenty of fresh debate about this controversial topic.

The free screening of the 30 minute long TranXgenia: The Story of the Worm and the Corn will be followed by a discussion with  local organic farmer Alan Schofield, from Growing with Nature, food campaigner Rhiannon Westphal and the film's director,  Amaranta Herrero (Documentary Director).

The film reports on the experiences of people in Catalonia and Aragon of GM food and how it affects us all and the conflicts provoked when these new biotechnologies jeopardise the development of alternative organic production and consumption models.

Laboratory experiments conducted in 2008 involving the feeding rats with these foods (soya, corn, potatoes, etc) found they resulted in serious problems for the animals liver, pancreas and kidneys, impaired immune system and decreased fertility (Reports here, Google Translate link; original link

Organic farmers have warned it will be impossible to keep GM separate from non-GM once if they become widely grown in the UK because of cross pollination.

The British public had a huge impact on GM when it was first introduced in 1997. GM ingredients were taken out of supermarkets, then crops were stopped from being grown here through lobbying and direct action. But now GM trials are again being conducted in England and it's possible that commercial growing could begin as soon as 2013.

In June, hundreds of genetically modified potatoes were planted behind security fences in Norfolk in a new trial of the controversial science, after being given the go-ahead by ministers as part of a publicly funded project to develop new disease resistant potatoes in Britain.

The discussion after the film screening will focus on how the return of GM crops to Britain would affect organic and conventional farmers and consumers, and on exploring the different possible responses to the return of GM.

TranXgenia: The Story of the Worm and the Corn 7.30pm Wednesday 10th November The Dukes Gallery. Free - Everyone Welcome

• Or, view the film in Spanish...

TranXgenia from miquel gual on Vimeo.

International Idiocy Lands In Lancaster!

Those funny folk at The Lancaster Comedy Club will be bringing a truly international flavour to the city on Sunday 14th November with acts from as far afield as Ireland and New Zealand.

On the bill are Dublin's Caimh McDonnell, whose gentle yet incisive humour makes any audience feel involved whilst playing with their expectations - sucking them in with his chatty, playful stage presence before metaphorically slapping them in the face with an unexpected punchline.

Caimh's also in demand as a writer with stuff popping up on the airwaves and on telly's 2DTV.

New Zealand's Sully O'Sullivan a man with a wicked sense of humour, been declared a highlight of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival by the New Zealand Herald, a highlight of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival by The Scotsman, won Canada’s Masters of the Universe Improv Competition, and featured on Australian TV’s The Comedy Channel.

Geordie Andy Fury has been making a name for himself up and down the country as he squeezes in the comedy around his day job as a journalist. As always, the show comes complete with a compere and meal deals are available for those who fancy making a night of it.

• The fun takes place in the upstairs room at The Borough, Dalton Square on Sunday  14th November. The show starts at 8.00pm and admission is £8 on the door if tickets left but those in the know book in advance for £6 on 01524 64170 or at

Lancaster to host first Anarchist Fair

In the midst of looming wide ranging cuts to public services the first ever Lancaster Anarchist Fair will open its doors this (Saturday 6th November)  in the Friends' Meeting House, Lancaster.

As an example of anarchy in action organisers tell us the event is free, organised by local volunteers. The Fair is expected to attract around 100 people keen to learn about more democratic and just ways of living and organising.

The event will stage a range of workshops on topics as diverse as setting up workers and housing cooperatives, making decisions without leaders, the people’s history, what is anarchy and more. As well as a range of interesting stalls, games, short films and a reading area for quiet contemplation.

A cafĂ© selling locally grown, home cooked food will also be available as well a ‘freeconomy’ stall where people give things away for free. Children are welcome and the building is accessible but the workshop space is up one flight of stairs, we will try and help if you need support to move around the building.

“Most people don’t recognise that what they are doing is practising anarchy," says one of the organisers, Dave Holtham. When local groups organise litter picks, jumble sales, village fetes or charity fundraisers, swap shops, community led projects such as Fairfield Orchards, or the Lancaster Car Club, most people involved in activities like these don’t do it for profit or to boss other people around, but to benefit and enhance their community.

"This is anarchy in a nutshell – living cooperatively without exploitation. There are so many really good examples of anarchy in Lancaster and Lancashire that we felt it was about time we connected the dots and brought it all together.”

Anarchist fairs and bookfairs have acted as the centre of anarchist organising and networking for decades, with thousands of people attending the London event every year. (We're pretty sure there have been anarchist events in Lancaster in the past, too). The recession has also given anarchism a fresh impetus, with anarchist flags flying above occupied universities, schools and factories whilst summits across Europe attract increasing crowds demanding freedom and equality and an end to a world of oppression and profit.

“We're aiming to challenge many of the views and assumptions people have about anarchism," says Sarah Karney, one of the event's other organisers. "Most people think anarchy is about lawlessness and doing what you want when the reality is it is almost the complete opposite.

"Lawlessness and doing what you want is how governments and powerful corporations like banks behave right now, whereas anarchy is about sharing, living cooperatively, equality, freedom, respect and direct democracy.

"We all need to sit back and seriously question the world and how it works – is this really the best we can do?”

• When and Where: Saturday 6th November, 10.30am – 5.00pm, Friends Meeting House, Meeting House Lance, Lancaster.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Lancashire Chief Constable Reflects on a Successful Year as crime figures fall again

Although 2011 may prove problematic for Lancashire Police, with cuts to their budget on the cards, falling crime levels, an excellent rating from HMIC and national recognition for public protection work, are just some of the successes highlighted in the Lancashire Constabulary Chief Constable’s 2009-2010 Annual Report.

The 12-page report, published this month, outlines Lancashire Constabulary’s performance over the past year, along with its plans for the year ahead.

It details progress in a number of key areas, including public protection, serious and organised crime and road policing; and points to the fact that Lancashire Constabulary is one of the strongest performing forces in England and Wales.

In his introduction, Chief Constable Steve Finnigan writes, “I am immensely proud to report that we have once again delivered extremely positive performance over the past twelve months.

“I am pleased to be able to report that, in 2009//10, overall crime fell by 8.7 per cent when compared to the previous year; that is equivalent to 10,000 fewer victims of crime.

"This is the fifth successive year that crime has fallen, and in some categories, such as burglary and auto crime, levels have been reduced to those not experienced since the 1970’s.”

He pays tribute to partner agencies, Lancashire Police Authority and staff for their hard work and dedication, and in reference to the challenges ahead, says the Constabulary will meet and tackle these head on.

“I am determined to ensure that we do not become complacent about our achievements," Mr Finnigan conclude, "but continue to strive towards achieving our ambition of consistently being the best police force in the country and, indeed, to secure the safety and confidence of those who live, visit and work in Lancashire.”

• A full copy of the report can we found at