Saturday, 11 June 2011

McGuinness shows his class with 17th TT win

Morecambe's John McGuinness showed his undoubted class around the Isle of Man Mountain Course on Friday evening when he won a thrilling Senior TT race.

The Honda TT Legends rider found himself seven seconds in arrears at the end of the first lap but he hunted race leader Guy Martin down, and with two stunning laps on laps 3 and 4, he was able to go some 15 seconds clear and eventually came home for his 17th TT win and 33rd TT podium to round out another brilliant week on the Island.

With the race having been delayed by some five hours due to wet weather in the north of the Island, John was unusually down in fourth position as they swept through Glen Helen for the first time and although he clawed his way back up to third at the end of the lap he was still seven seconds behind the pace setting Guy Martin. However, being the quickest rider on the second lap allowed him to eat into Martin's advantage and a superb first pit stop saw him draw level with Martin at Glen Helen on lap 3.

By the end of the lap, he'd gone into the lead for the first time and, with a brilliant lap of 131.248mph, the fastest of the race, he was 12 seconds clear of Bruce Anstey by the completion of lap 4. A third of the race was still to be completed though but John has been in this position many times before and he controlled his lead for the remainder of the race, eventually crossing the line just over 7 seconds ahead of Martin who eventually took second.

Speaking later, a delighted John said; "I can't remember being pushed that hard in a Superbike race here for some time and I certainly had to work for it. I didn't have the greatest of practice laps on Thursday as I picked up a rear wheel puncture so it took me a lap or so to get dialled in to today's race. I made the odd mistake here and there and went wide on a couple of occasions but by lap 2 I was beginning to get in the groove a bit which was a good job as I was quite a way adrift and really had to dig deep.

"The first pit stop was mega and I pushed really hard on laps 3 and 3 and that was where I won the race. It gave me that bit of breathing space I needed."

"The second pit stop gave me a bit more time over Guy and over the last two laps I didn't let him get anywhere near me. To win my second Superbike race this week is superb and things couldn't really have gone any better for me at TT2012. I'm really enjoying my riding at the minute and I don't think I've ever ridden better.

"I've been fortunate to have been given some terrific equipment this year and I've just got to say thank you to everyone that's involved with John McGuinness Racing. Today's been my 17th TT win, my 33rd podium and my 51st finish and I'm dead, dead proud of what I've achieved this week."

Report by Phil Wain. Pictures by Pacemaker Press International

Friday, 10 June 2011

University of Cumbria welcomes students to open day

The University of Cumbria will open its doors to potential students this Saturday.

The open days, held in Carlisle, Lancaster and Newton Rigg, will be an opportunity for potential 2012 students to visit the university, meet current students, talk to expert tutors and student support teams and have a look around the campus.

As well as having a tour and picking up course information and application advice, students and their parents will be able to learn and understand more about university fees for September 2012 entry.

Information for Saturday 11th June 2011:

Lancaster Campus - (Registration from 12.00 Midday)
Carlisle - Fusehill Street Campus - (Registration from 12.00 Midday)
Carlisle - Brampton Road Campus - (Registration from 10.00am)
Penrith - Newton Rigg Campus - (Registration from 12.00 Midday)

For further information about our open days tomorrow or in the future, please visit

Appeal after assault on 15 year old girl in Skerton

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a 15-year-old schoolgirl was sexually assaulted in an alleyway in Skerton, Lancaster on Monday night (6th June 2011).

The offence took place at 8.50pm when the girl was walking home alone. She was followed by a teenage boy who has grabbed her and forced her into an alleyway off Barley Cop Lane close to Baker Street which links to Myndon and Oxford Street, where she was sexually assaulted.

The young girl screamed and kneed the offender, causing him to run off.

The offender is described as white man, aged around 17 or 18 years old; 5ft 10inches tall and a stocky build. He was wearing a black hooded top with the hood up concealing his face, dark bottoms and white trainers.

Police acted quickly on the assault, conducting door to door enquiries in the area.

“This is a serious offence on an innocent young girl," said DS Mark Stephens from Lancaster CID, "and I am appealing for any witnesses who may have heard or seen anything in the area around 8.50pm on Monday night to contact us.

“The incident happened in a residential area so I would urge anyone that thinks they saw the suspect either before or after the offence to contact police.

“I would like to reassure local people that an investigation is underway and patrols have been stepped up in the area.”

• Anyone with any information should call Lancaster Police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips

Following on from May's Slutwalk, numerous educators have expressed concern about Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorris' Bill to impose mandatory lessons on sexual abstinence on girls in our schools whilst ignoring any role boys might play in this matter.

To balance this process, a new poster is being produced to assist educators in teaching how to avoid sexual assault.

• Click on the image above to see a larger, more easily readable version.
Courtesy of

Drugs raid nets major drugs haul in Morecambe

Four arrested after heroin seized in Morecambe

Four men have been arrested after police recovered 200 wraps of suspected heroin after a raid at an address in Morecambe on Wednesday.

Officers raided the address on Arkholme Court on Wednesday night and discovered the drugs believed to be worth an estimated £2000.

Four men, aged 16, 20, 43 and 49 were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class a drugs.

“We will continue to work together with the community and act upon their concerns to target the supply of drugs and other related crime," said Chief Inspector Ian Dawson of the arrests. "I would like to reassure people that we are committed to tackling drugs in Morecambe and the surrounding areas.”

• Anyone with information or concerns about drugs in their community can contact police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

County Council shells out for sheriff's shield ceremony

Time for Robin or (Robyn) Hood
to make a stand?
Lancashire's High Sheriff will officially mark the beginning of his year in office with a
traditional shield hanging ceremony at Lancaster Castle.

While we're told the ceremony is steeped in more than 100 years of history and tradition, here at virtual-lancaster we do wonder, however, just how much this shindig will cost at a time when the County Council is implementing swingeing spending cuts.

The event, which takes place next week, on Friday 10th June, will see Mr Peter Mileham, the new High Sheriff of Lancashire, hang his shield in the magnificent gothic setting of the Shire Hall.

Mr Mileham, current Deputy Lieutenant, will present his own shield to Mr Gordon Johnson, Deputy Lieutenant, the Constable of Lancaster Castle.

The shield, featuring a unique design will then be hung in the Shire Hall - alongside those of previous High Sheriffs.

This ceremony takes place amid a backdrop of colour and spectacular costume with a fanfare of music and trumpets.

"I'm honoured to represent the courts and local government as the High Sheriff of Lancashire," said Peter Mileham, High Sheriff of Lancashire. "This ceremony goes back around a hundred years and it is great to be hanging the latest shield and continuing an important tradition.

"I will also be delighted to greet other important civic leaders at the event."

With the County Council recently announcing swingeing cuts, we wonder, though, if Robin Hood will be on hand to question the cost of the ceremony?

Ashton Memorial steps closed after mystery damage

Photo: Ant Mercer
The main external staircase leading up to the Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park, Lancaster, is to be temporarily closed to the public, to enable maintenance works to take place.

Damage to the steps was reported last month and Lancaster City Council immediately restricted access - but the cause of the damage has yet to be identified. They said then that they had commissioned some experts who would be surveying the steps to determine the cause.

In a statement, the Council told virtual-lancaster the Ashton Memorial was opened in 1909 and, like any building of its age, needs to be carefully maintained.
The works will require a number of steps at the lower section of the staircase to be removed. An inspection to assess the condition of the upper section of steps will also be carried out in the next few days as part of the works.

Until the inspections and works are complete, access to the steps will be closed to the public.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Six arrested in morning raids on Ryelands and Vale

Six people have been arrested in a series of raids carried out this morning as part of a robbery investigation.

Warrants were executed by support unit officers at properties on the Ryelands and Vale estates, Lancaster, at around 8.30am.

The men, aged 18, 19, 22, 24, 25 and 26, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery.

It follows an incident in Heysham on 22nd May when mobile phones and a large quantity of cash were stolen during a robbery at an address in Robin Crescent (see news story).

Members of the local neighbourhood police team have been carrying out reassurance work in the community following the raids.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Car accident victim’s property stolen in burglary

Police are appealing for information after the belongings of a man who is recovering from a coma in hospital were stolen during a burglary in Lancaster.

Sometime overnight on Friday 3rd June, somebody broke into a first floor flat on Hala Road and ransacked the premises. At the time, the 34-year-old owner of the property was staying with her 19-year-old son in hospital after he had recently woken from a  coma following a near fatal road traffic collision.

A chain similar to the on stolen
The offender or offenders stole a computer games console as well as several games. A number of items of jewellery belonging to the teenager were also taken.

Of particular note was a valuable, 26 inch, thick, gold chain, with oval and round links, with a pattern on alternate links.

DC Paul Donnelly said: “This is a dreadful crime, made all the more despicable given the circumstances surrounding it.

“I would appeal to anybody who may have noticed anything suspicious on the evening in question to contact police.

“I would also like to speak with anybody who may have any information that may lead to the recovery of the property.”

The 19 year old was involved in a collision on Ashton Road, Lancaster in April and suffered serious head and back injuries. He was initially taken to Royal Lancaster Infirmary before being transferred to Royal Preston Hospital where he remained in a coma for a time. He has since regained consciousness and is now talking, but is said to have life changing injures.

• Anybody with any information is asked to contact police on 01524 63333 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Go Fishing - with the police

Young anglers can reel in prizes by taking part in a police fishing competition in Carnforth next month.

Junior angling matches, organised by Lancashire Police, give youngsters the opportunity to receive free fishing tuition and then put it into competitive practice.

The next event will take place on Saturday 30th July at Borwick Waters, Borwick, Carnforth. Fishing will begin at 10.00am, with the prize giving at 2pm. Anglers aged between five and 18 are invited to take part, although only 60 places are available.

Entry and accompanying tuition is free and limited equipment will also be available for novices. Entry forms can be obtained from Lancaster, Morecambe or Carnforth police station front counters – the closing date is July 15.

Certificates and medals will be given to all those who take part.

The events are organised and run by PC John Bassinder and PC Kath Bromilow. The officers spend all year raising funds so that they can put these events on free of charge for the benefit of the local community. They have received help from Bardon Aggregates, Jerry’s Fishing at Morecambe and Carnforth Rotary Club.

The events are held in partnership with the Environment Agency, which provides staff to tutor novice anglers.

“The event will give novice anglers the chance to learn a new skill and those who are more experienced the chance to show off what they can do," said PC Bromilow. It is important to encourage youngsters to get involved in constructive activities so that they have something proactive to occupy their time.”

Monday, 6 June 2011

Tickets go on sale for summer theatre in Williamson Park

Lancaster's Williamson Park is providing the backdrop this summer for two top quality outdoor theatre productions by award winning Illyria Theatre Company.

The first play will take place on Friday 24th June when Illyria will perform William Shakespeare’s comedy classic ‘Twelfth Night’ on a stage exactly the same as those used by medieval touring troupes.

Illyria return to the park on Saturday 27th August with the Roald Dahl classic, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'.

Both plays will take place in the park's natural amphitheatre, The Dell and seating is provided.
Pack your cushions and sun-cream (or waterproofs and a hot toddy!) and join the troupe of travelling players for two delightful performances which are suitable for all ages.

Acclaimed in the press, Illyria tours the highest quality open air theatre to the most prestigious and stunning locations throughout the UK and regularly receives excellent reviews.  The company has a deservedly unparalleled reputation for the clarity and authenticity of its unique Shakespearean style.

Illyria achieves the seemingly impossible by performing each play in the open-air, uncut and with only five actors, a handful of props and no scenery. "We believe this is exactly how Shakespeare’s own company toured, combining artistic integrity with financial efficiency," they say. "We know of no other theatre company performing Shakespeare which currently works to this model."
• Both performances start at 7.30pm.  The gates will be open 30 minutes prior to the start time.  Tickets cost £12 adults, £8 concessions/under 16s, £35 family (two adults and two children). The Pavilion Café will be open for refreshments during the interval.

• Tickets for both performances are on sale now from Williamson Park (01524 33318), in person at Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres or on-line at 

Sweet sixteen for McGuinness with Superbike victory at 2011 TT

John McGuinness made it Isle of Man TT win number 16 on Saturday when he took a superb victory in the six-lap Superbike race, the opening event of the 2011 festival.

Riding the Honda TT Legends Superbike machine, the Morecambe man was embroiled in an early tussle with fellow Honda rider Bruce Anstey in the first two laps but when the Kiwi went out on lap 3, John was able to control the race from the front with his eventual winning margin being a commanding 56 seconds.

Starting at number 1, John set off at a scorching pace and by Glen Helen on the opening lap, he was leading, albeit by just one second. Anstey was matching him mile for mile though and at the end of the first lap, John's speed of 130.786mph saw his lead stand at just one second.

Second time around and the duo were scorching round the Mountain Course and although John increased his speed to 131.199mph, Anstey lapped slightly quicker to lead at one third race distance by just under a second. However, a superb pit stop saw John leave the pits back in the lead by some 12 seconds, an advantage that remained until later in the lap when Anstey was forced to retire. That meant John now had a lead of 20 seconds over new second placed man Guy Martin.

For the remainder of the race, John was able to control affairs from the head of the field, his gap over Martin staying constant but when the Suzuki retired on the fifth lap, John was over a minute clear of his nearest rival and able to fully enjoy the race. With the Honda Superbike running faultlessly, John could ease off slightly in the closing stages and he crossed the line for his 16th TT win and 30th podium, 56 seconds ahead of fellow Honda rider Cameron Donald.

"I'm speechless really," enthused a delighted John after the race. "It's unbelievable to be sitting here now with another Superbike win to my name, for some reason I never thought I'd do it. Bruce was pushing really hard at the beginning and I dropped back a bit as I was a bit tense and blowing a bit whilst my arms were also pumping up a bit.

"I had a real good go on the second lap and only just stopped in time when I came in to the pits so probably made up a bit of time there but the pit stop was terrific and the boys did an awesome job on both occasions. They're people who I trust and who have been with me a long time and that gave me a bit of breathing space whilst Bruce going out soon after obviously helped.

"Going off at number 1 and riding for essentially a new team created a bit of pressure and I was definitely nervous today but as the race wore on I felt stronger and stronger so all the riding in World Endurance has definitely paid off.

"Seeing such a huge crowd out there cheering me on was a really special feeling and I want to thank them and also let my good mate Stuart Easton know that win's for him."

John is back out in action on today at the TT, on board the Padgetts Honda's in the Superstock and Supersport races.

Report by Philip Wain; Picture by Mark 'Wally' Walters

Lancastrians bank on keeping the NHS public

Lancaster was buzzing on Saturday as campaigners of Keep Our NHS Public were joined by groups from Lancaster and Morecambe Against the Cuts and UK Uncut Lancaster all eager to stand up for a publicly owned NHS.

Campaigners protested inside and outside the publicly owned banks in the town to highlight the fact that the banks are still raking in huge profits and paying very little tax at a time when NHS Trusts are abolishing hundreds of posts, leaving job vacancies unfilled and allowing waiting times to lengthen.

They also occupied the Lancaster branch of HSBC, turning it into an A&E ward for half an hour. HSBC is diverting millions of pounds of NHS money from NHS private finance initiative (PFI) schemes into a Guernsey-based offshore investment firm that it set up, according to BBC reports, to create a legal tax loophole.

The HICL company – previously HSBC Infrastructure Company Limited – made over £38m profit from its 33 PFI schemes in just six months last year, and paid £100,000 in UK tax – less than 1 per cent of the profits.

The campaign group told virtual-lancaster the public were hugely supportive with 239 petition cards signed to send to local MPs and a massive 1500 leaflets given out.

As the campaign continues in protest at the government's plans, there will be a special 'Question Time' style debate on the NHS at the end of the month at the University of Cumbria. Titled 'NHS-Going, going, gone?', speakers will be Eric Ollernshaw OBE, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Dr David Wrigley from Keep our NHS Public and others.

The event takes place on 30th June - the same day as the planned National Strike - at 7.30pm in the Hugh Pollaard Lecture Theatre, University of Cumbria Lancaster Campus.

• Please e-mail to register and submit your questions to the panel.

• Keep our NHS Public campaign:

'As You Like It' Competition Winners

Photo courtesy the Globe Theatre
The lucky winners of our recent competition to win tickets to 'As You Like It' in Williamson Park were Kate Newey from Portland Street, Lancaster and James Palmer from Cleveleys Avenue.

Each win a pair of tickets for a performance of their choice to see the world renowned Globe Theatre's production of  Shakespeare’s great romantic comedy 'As You Like It' in the beautiful grounds of Williamson Park, Lancaster.

Both correctly guessed the name of the forest in the play (the Forest of Arden). Congratulations to them both and better luck next time to the other entrants - and our thanks to Lancaster City Council for the prizes.

In the play, Rosalind, the daughter of a banished duke, falls in love with Orlando at a wrestling match, but her uncle, jealous of her popularity, banishes her from court. Disguised as a boy, she seeks out her father and his friends in the Forest of Arden. Here she meets Orlando again and, under the guise of a young man, counsels him the art of love.

The Globe’s actors will be following the experience of Elizabethan players, taking all the equipment they need and adapting the play to a wealth of glorious venues including the Williamson Park's natural amphitheatre 'The Dell'. So, pack your picnic rug and sun-cream (or waterproofs and a hot toddy!) and join the troupe of travelling players!

'As You Like It' -- a two-and-a-half hour performance and suitable for all ages -- runs from Thursday, June 9 until Sunday 12th June. Evening performances (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) start at 7.30pm. The final performance (Sunday matinee) starts at 3.00 pm.

• Tickets for 'As You Like It' cost £17.50 adults and £12 children - available from Williamson Park (01524 33318), in person at Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres or on-line at

• For more information visit

• More about Shakespeare's Globe at