Friday, 2 December 2011

University of Cumbria’s financial plan ahead of schedule

The University of Cumbria Board met this week and approved the financial statements for the 2010/11 financial year which sees the university’s financial plan ahead of schedule and its Vice Chancellor bullish about the future of the institution.

Building on last year's surplus the university has again achieved an operating surplus of £6.6m and an overall surplus after exceptional items of £9.4m.

This follows the completion of a number of cost saving measures including prudent management of budgets within various departments, restructuring of faculties and services as well as streamlining management systems and processes. The ambition of the plan is to ensure the university continues to operate in surplus year on year while starting to invest in estate and IT to enhance student and staff facilities and technology supporting the university as it moves forward with its strategic ambitions over the next phase of development.

“The financial plan that was put in place gave us a solid platform to invest in our future," notes Vice Chancellor Professor Strike. "There are still many challenges ahead with the changes in the fee regime for 2012/13 however I believe that the University of Cumbria is in good place to face these new challenges and continue to build on the successful turnaround of the last 18 months.

"Despite the significant financial challenges and major change programme to support the turnaround of the financial performance, our staff have continued to focus on our core business," he added. "As we witnessed at our graduation ceremonies last week our students continue to deliver great achievements that build on our national and international reputation.

"Interest in studying at the University of Cumbria continues to be high, this year's National Student Survey saw us improve student satisfaction in almost all categories compared to last year's results and our reputation for delivering high quality degree programmes has been acknowledged through our latest Ofsted reports and Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education assessment.

"With such good foundations to build on, and working together, I am confident that the University of Cumbria will go from strength to strength whilst maintaining the student experience, the quality of our academic programmes and continuing to meet the needs of the communities which we serve."

• The full set of the financial statements can be found at:

Eat out safely this Christmas - look before you book!

Lancaster City Council is encouraging everyone making plans for festive gatherings to check the hygiene rating score of your restaurant, hotel or pub.

With Christmas fast approaching, plans are being made for celebrations with family, friends and work colleagues and the council advises that when checking out the menu it’s wise to check out the food hygiene rating as well.

Good food hygiene is getting easier to spot these days since the recent introduction of the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Restaurants, pubs, hotels, (as well as cafes, takeaways and other places that sell or serve food) are now being rated from 0 - 5 on their hygiene standards when a food hygiene inspection is carried out by Lancaster City Council.

It’s easy to check out the ratings by looking them up online at:

Christmas party goers can also look out for the distinctive green and black stickers that businesses are encouraged to display at their outlets to tell their customers the rating they were given.

“When dining out, you’ll choose to go to a place where you like the food and you know you’ll have a good time," says Coun Karen Leytham, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health. "It makes sense to look before you book and check out the food hygiene rating as well.

"Nobody wants to have their Christmas festivities ruined and as far as food hygiene ratings go there’s safety in numbers - so it’s good to know.”

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is not, the Council is keen to point out, a guide to food quality. When the business is inspected by Lancaster City Council, the food safety officer will look at how well the business is meeting the law on food hygiene. This includes how hygienically the food is handled in preparation, cooking, cooling and storage; the condition and structure of the building including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, equipment etc, and how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.

Any business should be able to achieve the top rating of ‘5’. If not, local authority food safety officers will explain to the person who owns or manages the business if improvements need to be made; what they are and how they can achieve a higher rating.

• As the Scheme is still relatively new, not all food businesses will have a rating yet and will therefore not be listed on the website:

M6 Junction roadworks

The Highways Agency has been in touch to advise that there will be a full night time closure of the southbound exit slip at Junction 33 of the M6 between Fleetwood and Lancaster while permanent barriers are installed.

The closure will be in operation from 8.00pm on Saturday 10th December until 6.00am on Sunday 11th December.

There will be a fully signed diversion in place during that time.

Animal Christmas Fair this weekend in Morecambe

If you don't already know, Animal Care's Christmas Fair will be on Sunday 4th December at the Platform, Morecambe between 11.30 to 3.30.

If you can get along and support their efforts to rehome and help animals abandonned through no fault of their own, the charity would be very grateful.

Monies raised will help keep Ant (above) and sister Amy fed, who came to Animal Care last July, when they were just a couple of months old. Sadly, they did find a new home and left the sanctuary for a couple of weeks but had to return as their new family no longer wanted them!

"Since they have come back no one has shown any interest in them which is such a shame as they really are a couple of complete and utter cutie-pies," say Animal Care. "They are very friendly and love getting lots of cuddles from anyone they meet and they are also very playful and love chasing around after their toys.

"Ant is probably the most forward of the two and Amy is a little shyer, but not much! They would make a great addition to almost any family and they are keeping their little paws tightly crossed that their new family finds them very soon so they can finally know what it's like to have a special place to call home."

And of course there are dogs like Jack Russell Terrier Freddie, a really friendly little lad who is desperate to feel loved and wanted again. He loves getting lots of attention and cuddles from anyone he meets.

"He's fine around other dogs but we don't know how he is around cats," say Animal Care. "He's not happy around young and noisy children so we will only rehome to a family with kids over the age of 15 who understand that he doesn't like to be teased.

"All Freddie, who does need to lose some weight, wants is a relaxed and chilled out life in a quiet home with a family who will love and care for him always."

Could you be the family for him?

• If you're interested in having a stall at the event, or could bake cake for them to sell at the fair, or if you can help in any way, please ring 01524 65495 and ask for Faye or Linda or email

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Reindeer at Old Holly Farm

The award-winning Old Holly Farm on the A6 toward Garstang has three reindeer on show this December.

Originally from Lapland, two of the reindeer and a yearling, above, are helping keep children enthralled along with the Farm's other animals - calves, chicks, rabbits and more.

"We are helping them get their strength up for an important jobs on Christmas Eve," a spokesperson revealed. "They will be back from the 27th December for a week before they go home!"

The reindeer will be at the Farm until 6th January 2011. There is a 50p admission charge to see them. Old Holly Farm is easy to find, on the main A6 road, just 2 miles north of Garstang. Travelling from the north, leave the M6 at junction 33, taking the A6 signposted for Garstang, about 5 miles from the junction you will see a sign a petrol garage, then a brown sign for Old Holly Farm - both on the left. Take the next road immediately on the right, which is called Cabus Nook Lane, the farm is immediately on the left.

Car parking for Old Holly Farm visitors is via the second farm entrance and is clearly signposted. Please be aware that the A6 has a speed limit of 50mph so you will need to slow in order to turn safely.

Web site:

Christmas drink and drug driving crackdown begins

Lancashire Constabulary’s Christmas drink and drug driving campaign gets underway today (Thursday 1 December).

The festive crackdown will see high-profile enforcement activity taking place across the county throughout the month of December, including checkpoints at key locations where officers will administer drink and drugs tests.

“We want people to enjoy the festive season but to remember the consequences of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs," said Supterintendent Peter O’Dwyer.

“Statistics show that around one in six fatal collisions in Lancashire involve either drink or drugs or both and this is simply not acceptable.

“The consequences of drink driving are high," he added. "If you drive at twice the legal alcohol limit you are at least 30 times more likely to cause a road crash than a driver who hasn’t been drinking, potentially resulting in serious injury or death.

“A conviction could also mean that you lose your job, home, family and friends. The consequences can be absolutely devastating.

“The only safe option is not to drive if you plan to drink.”

Tim Ashton, Lancashire County Council's Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We work very hard to reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads but all that effort counts for nothing if individuals make the decision to drink and drive.

"Drink driving can result in serious or even fatal collisions and you won't just ruin Christmas for you and your family – your actions could have serious long term consequences for yourself and others. Even a conviction could make a big difference to your life.

"If you think for just one second about what could happen, the decision whether to drink and drive is very easy – it's a risk that's simply not worth taking."

The number of people caught drink and drug driving continues to fall in Lancashire, with two per cent of the 10,006 people tested during last year’s Christmas campaign failing or refusing a test.

“Whilst the figures suggest that there are now less people getting behind the wheel after drinking, one person driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is too many," says Superinendent Dwyer.

“Our message is simple – do not drink and drive and do not take drugs and drive.”

Police are also urging revellers to take care during the party season and have issued the following advice:

  • If you are going out and drinking, plan how you are going to get home and stick to that plan
  • Try to keep to busy well-lit areas, don't take short cuts and walk away from bushes and buildings
  • Where possible, don't walk alone after dark. Take someone you know with you.
  • Always walk facing oncoming traffic
  • To avoid delay, have your keys ready when you are approaching your car or home.
  • Never accept lifts from strangers
  • When telephoning for a taxi, ask for the driver's name and check this when they arrive

The campaign will run until Sunday 1st January 2012.

• If you would like to report someone who you suspect of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contact the police on 0845 1 25 35 45

ASBO bans man from Lancaster city centre

Benjamin Lunn
26-year-old Benjamin Lunn has been given an ASBO banning him from Lancaster’s shops following a campaign of harassment against workers in the city’s stores.

Lunn, who lives in Briery Street, was given the anti-social behaviour order after magistrates heard how he had subjected shop staff to persistent abuse and threats while he was trying to shoplift.

The city centre neighbourhood police team presented evidence to show that Lunn would intimidate workers by glaring at shop assistants and also making verbal threats or approaching them while they were with their children out of work.

Lunn and his girlfriend Shallane Forsythe – who was given a similar ASBO in October (see news story) - also followed young female workers home once they had finished their shifts in a bid to scare them.

The anti-social behaviour order, which will run for two years, prevents Lunn from entering stores in Lancaster, including Sainsbury’s and the Kingsway retail park, at any time. It also prevents him from behaving, or making others behave, in a way which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person.

PC Emma Gornall, Lancaster city centre neighbourhood policing team, said: “Lunn and Forsythe have been an intimidating presence when they have gone into the city’s stores, glaring at staff, shouting abuse at them and even threatening them.

"The shop staff have just been trying to go about their work, and they should be able to do so while feeling safe in their work place.

“We are committed to making sure the city is not blighted by the type of behaviour exhibited by this pair and will continue to use tactics such as ASBOs to rid our community of such nuisance.”

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Occupy Lancaster invites public to first General Assembly

Following on from today's TUC Day of Action, an Occupy Lancaster Camp has been set up in Lancaster's Dalton Square. The first Lancaster General Assembly has been called for 6pm on Thursday 1 December at the camp and all are invited.

At 8pm there were just three tents and a communal shelter erected there. About 10 people were gathered talking and eating, with two more arriving and setting up a fourth tent in the short time I was there. They expect others to come and spend some time at the camp as the word travels.

Asked what they hoped for from the General Assembly tomorrow, a man calling himself John Constantine told me he was hoping for honest and straightforward discussions on local, national and global issues. He wanted people to come and talk about their present circumstances, to talk from their own experiences. 'We start with ourselves and our own situations, and organise ourselves from there, from what we know to be real', he said. 'That's the essence of grassroots organisation - it builds organically from the real needs and interests of local people. We need to be able to hear each other without being deafened by spin.'

Riki Price told me she was hoping that local groups, organisations, churches and businesses representing the wide interests of the 99% would become involved.

Will Taylor, a student, told Virtual-Lancaster 'I am angry and scared by the future that is being laid down for me. At the same time I'm inspired by the idea of reclaiming our public spaces and reusing them in a radical way that challenges the status quo.'

Lancaster Police have already visited the camp earlier this evening and appeared satisfied that it posed no threat to public safety. Their central station is just across the road and the Duty Inspector has been over in person to remind the campers that they can call on the police for protection or assistance at any time.

A Free Shop has already been laid out, and anyone can come and leave good things they don't need and look for things they do.

In the meantime, the camp is rather chilly and short on seating. At least one yurt with heating is urgently needed and some camping chairs and tables would be useful. On the plus side, there seemed to be plenty of hot drinks and food, blankets, bonhomie, cosy lighting and warm enthusiasm. And, as one or two joked, if it gets really cold, there's always the market building, a space we pay top dollar for and don't make enough use of, or even the Town Hall....

1500 March in Lancaster as N30 strike closes public services

Libraries, schools and government buildings closed their doors today as thousands of Public Sector workers took a day of strike action against government cuts to jobs, pensions and services. The day after the coalition's plan for economic growth was demonstrated to be instead a blueprint for shrinkage, with the gap between rich and poor growing exponentially, 1500 Lancastrians took to the streets in the biggest march and rally yet seen in the city's history. Over 30 unions nationally took part in the strike action.

The rally was scheduled to end in Market Square - but it quickly became obvious that the march was simply too huge to fit through the shopping centre and instead it had to rally for speeches in Dalton Square. It was extraordinarily noisy with vuvuzuelas and powered horns, whistles, drummers literally jumping the entire route, a hectic brass section and a mighty soundsystem. A sensitively-delivered trumpet solo of 'We shall overcome', deserves a special mention.

From the closed Town Hall entrance overlooking the square, speakers accused the coalition government of trying to turn private sector workers against public sector workers. They said that because the government had let private sector pensions be stolen, it was expecting its victims to support theft from the public sector workers too. Because you've been robbed, they told the rally, that doesn't make you want to stick up for the robbers' right to steal from others too.

They believed that if the public sector would fight for pensions rights for all, then the private sector workers would be empowered. Only a minority of workers in the private sector have any representatives to fight for their rights and protect them from personal victimisation if they should seriously object to how they are treated. As a result, millions have no plan they can trust for security beyond retirement and are quite knowingly facing dependency on welfare benefits and public services to meet their future needs. It is their only safety net in the retirement and old age we all hope to thrive in.

Speakers and leaflets detailed how public sector pension schemes have been managed sustainably, unlike the private schemes that were and are systematically raided by employers and shareholders, and employee contribution levels have been high. Thousands of public sector workers on low pay now face increased contributions, not to make their pension funds sustainable, but to feed the black hole of the government's economic policy. In practice this has meant that wherever the Con-Dem coalition government finds funds that can't be protected from them, they will drain them. At the same time they shrink from regulating the capital of the rich as they hound us from one 'crisis' to the next.

Legally, an industrial action must be about an employment issue, and the issue named and argued in this case is that of Pensions Justice, as many banners declared. But most of the people on the march saw pensions as just the tip of an iceberg of unfairness in austerity measures piled up against the most vulnerable in society. UK unemployment numbers are creeping towards 3 million, with a generation of young talent and energy being thrown onto the scrapheap to fester unvalued and undeveloped towards an inconceivably insecure future. Whilst David Cameron waxes plump and sleek and glib, services to the elderly have long passed crisis point, with fresh scandals and tragedies being reported daily.

Security in old age after a lifetime of contributing to your community and your society is a fundamental part of the social compact by which we all tolerate living and working together, as is care when we are sick, food, shelter and protection from vilainy. Capitalism, as practised today, is driving this social compact headlong into a brick wall. The richest show no intention of living and working with us. They have become remote and adversarial, superficially polarising into the charitable and the predatory.

A real economy is built on the value of its trade goods and skills. A healthily functioning society is built on its capacity to offer both challenge and security to its members while they create its wealth. Our society seems only to offer protection to its financial middlemen, each financial institution with its finger on the scales tipping the wealth away from its creators. Each with its private interests and its lobbyists embedded in our government. Each contributing to a global financial smokescreen of credit and debt that overthrows elected governments for government by bankers and policy made in boardrooms.

The bottom tenth of earners saw their pay creep up just 0.1% between 2010 and 2011 while the top tenth saw their pay grow 18 times faster.

Contrary to what you might read in the Murdoch press or see on daytime TV, the UK is the world's 6th leading manufacturer. We work harder than anywhere else in Europe, for long hours, with tough conditions. We have so much productivity and enterprise people come from all over the world to participate in it. Even our pensioners are active and busy running our charities, trusts and voluntary services, a crucial role in keeping our society vital, considerate and safe. The UK economy would be more than sustainable if taxation was applied as the spirit of the law requires. Instead giant corporations route their revenue offshore, and the rich illegally negotiate miniscule tax levels, awarding themselves millions in bonuses, selling off national assets at discount rates to each other and 'bail' each other out with ordinary people's money.

This article is written in balance to the regular attacks in national media on:
disabled adults, children and elderly,
unemployed people,
young adults,
pregnant women,
public sector workers,
one-parent families,
trades union members and their representatives,
people who would like to become trades union members or their representatives,
elderly people,
retired people,
people approaching retirement,
people who don't want to work for no pay,
middle class people,
poor people,
common people,
single people living alone,
single people living communally,
people who pay rent,
foreign people,
sick people,
people who care for people who can't survive alone,
people who work in emergency services,
people who didn't go to public school,
people who don't have lobbyists,
people who pay rates,
people who claim benefits,
people with pension plans,
people without pension plans,
people who use the NHS,
people who work for the NHS,
people who don't have time to be forever shopping around and reading small print,
people who try to stick up for themselves,
people who can't stick up for themselves,
people who live in the North of England and
people who don't see building new roads as the answer to every question.

This is a vast constituency. One might call it the 99%.

Virtual-Lancaster has received a late report that there are tents in Dalton Square and an Occupy Lancaster action is now in operation. Your pictures are welcome.
Find out more at Lancaster & Morecambe Against the Cuts on facebook.

Public Service Workers Day of Action N30

N30 is the name for the nationwide day of action called by Public Service unions striking for pensions justice and to defend public services. Twenty six unions have ballotted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action that day and over two million public sector workers are set to go on strike.

Thousands of local teachers, university lecturers, hospital workers, civil servants and other local public service workers will be joining the strike. It will be the most widespread industrial action in over 80 years and your great-grandchildren may ask you about it one day, so bring your camera.

In the morning there will be peaceful pickets, in many cases including children, outside public services - that means schools, hospitals, government buildings and so on. Many private services and businesses (ie travel companies) rely on public sector workers (ie passport officers) to function - or to caretake their employees' children so please be patient if there are difficulties or delays. Witnessing mass industrial action - and its outcomes - has educational value for young people too.

It's advisable to think ahead and plan your business so you don't have to cross picket lines for skeleton staffed services, unless in desperate need. Check ahead if you have important appointments on the day to make sure that they can still be met.

Lancaster TUC are inviting local people (and visitors too) to join what they plan to be a carnival day of celebration of public services. There will be music, entertainment, speeches, a street parade and much more. Parents, schoolchildren, pensioners, students and many more will also join the rally.

All are welcome to come and join in to mark this historic day of peaceful and family friendly protest. This will be a positive celebration of the vital role of public services in Lancaster and those who work in them.

The day's schedule runs as follows:

• 8am onwards - Coffee morning & breakfast on the picket line - peaceful picket meetings outside many workplaces. Bring your breakfast, warm shoes and placards and join in.

• 11am - all assemble in Dalton Square, Lancaster, outside the Town Hall. Practice a few chants.

• 11.30am March begins around Lancaster City Centre.

• 12.30 Rally in Market Square. Speeches, music, balloons, facepainting, street theatre.

• 1pm - 'one voice at 1pm'. Join together to make some noise - with millions of others across the UK at the same time! Bring drums, whistles, and a hearty voice!

Then there will be more music and mixing.

Thieves rob CancerCare again, steal leafblower

(Updated 4/12/11) Thieves have again targetted local charity CancerCare, stealing a leaf blower from its grounds on Slyne Road.

Police have issued CCTV images of a man they want to speak with after the petrol-powered leaf blower was stolen from the grounds of the Lancaster hospice at around 11.15am on Tuesday 22nd November.

A man is believed to have entered CancerCare's grounds on foot and picked up the leaf blower which has been left unattended in the grounds before returning to a waiting white transit van.

The CCTV shows a male being dropped off inside the grounds, the man walking around and the fourth running out.

The leaf blower is a STIHL BR600 and is worth approximately £580.

“This is a despicable theft," said PC Ben Hanley from Lancaster Police. "I would urge people to take a close look at the stills and if anyone recognises the man in the image or has any information that could assist with our investigation please contact Lancaster Police on 08451 25 35 45.”

This is not the first time CancerCare has been hit by thieves. In May, police appealed for information after a series of thefts in Lancaster - including a summer house from the grounds of the much-loved local charity.

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

In Review: The BFG

Robert Pickavance is The BFG
at The Dukes

While Roald Dahl's children's novel The Big Friendly Giant is full of witty wordplay and dialogue which transfers well to the stage, it would also seem to pose a range of theatrical challenges: how will they do the giants? how will the dreams be shown? how is little Sophie transported? will she really ride in the BFG's ear? what about breakfast with the Queen?

Sophie doesn't ride in the BFG's ear, but The BFG is nevertheless very cleverly theatricalised, and all credit to adapter David Wood and to the direction of Joe Sumsion and Associate Director Louie Ingham here.

Sophie is played by Rachel Drazek, but is also an identically-dressed puppet which Drazek deftly operates and voices. So when Sophie is with the BFG, we focus on the puppet; when she is with the human-sized Queen, we see Drazek herself. We also see her as a moving cut-out figure when the Heads of the Army and Airforce are watching the capture of the giants Childchewer, Bloodbottler, Fleshlumpeater and Bonecrucher on screen.

Similarly, the BFG is played as a very gentle giant by Robert Pickavance, but he also appears as a large face in the window of the Queen's bedroom, and in the form of a huge puppet during breakfast with the Queen. These different representations add to the interest of the production.

Sophie (Rachel Drasek) discovers The Queen in The BFG

The audience could not have been more appreciative. Perhaps around the age most attractive to flesh-eating giants, they created a sea of black and blue and red sweatshirts, Before the performance started they were noisy; when the first act opened there were screams and shouts, and when the second act opened these doubled in volume. But during the acts there was complete silence - except for the audience participation. Dahl's novel does not allow for the Heads of the Army and Navy to be evidently and completely oblivious to the BFG looming above them, but theatre does - and the audience was not slow with 'He's behind you!!!!'. Neither does it allow us to see the several absurd positions the BFG adopts prior to whizzpopping (if you don't understand, read the book) - but again theatre does, and the audience loved it. And theatre can show the dreams - not just tell us about them - and the dancing of the 'teachers' (Mark Pearce, Amanda Bellamy) was a delight.

There is a lot more of a very positive nature that could be said about this production: the appearance of Fleshlumpeater et al., the 'gracious' performance of the Queen (Amanda Bellamy), Louisa Eyo's performance of Mary the Maid; and breakfast with the Queen, during which there are no words and we can simply watch the butler, Mr Tibbs' (Richard Hand) super-efficient but stiff-upper-lip attempts to serve the BFG with sausages and coffee. When it came to the curtain call, it was hard to believe that there had only been six actors on stage throughout.

I had three small reservations - the puppet Sophie only has a single, serious expression (but perhaps expecting more is expecting too much); the association of particular dreams with different music before the BFG caught them didn't seem to work, and the ending seemed a little flat. But these are minor, and probably personal to this reviewer. This is an ambitious, imaginative, well-acted and very coherent production, which definitely hit the spot with this morning's large and very young audience. A great choice for a holiday show.

Jane Sunderland

• The BFG runs until Saturday 7th January 2012. Tickets £5.00 - £16.50.
Wednesday 30th November 30 - 10.30 a.m., 2.00 pm; then various times in including 10.30 am and 2.00 pm.
More info:
The Dukes is at Moor Lane, Lancaster LA1 1QE. Box Office 01524 598500

• See also

Meet the cast of The BFG

Christmas crafts at The Dukes

There’s a chance to pick up some unusual Christmas presents at The Dukes latest arts and crafts fair – Handmade -  on Saturday 10th December.

Locally crafted items from across the county are on sale from 12 noon-4pm  in the gallery.

And after browsing the stalls, why not spend a little time in The Dukes café bar where you can enjoy a drink and cake or even a light lunch.

• Handmade fairs are held regularly at The Dukes in Lancaster. If you would be interested in having a stall in the future, please contact or download an application from

Moorgate, John Harper on Robert Gillow's Folk Bill

Local ceildh band Moorgate

Three more live folk events have just been announced at the Robert Gillow, a pub still in search of a new landlord. Here's the details, which include an appearances by ace local ceildh band Moorgate and the ever-wonderful John Harper...

Thursday 1s December: Moorgate 
Moorgate comprises Simon Booth playing melodeon and harmonica; Richard Robinson playing clarinet; and Tony Cooke on guitar. All three have been playing folk dance music for years (with The Ran Tan Band, Free Reed Band, Shake A Leg, One Foot In The Gutter, Slur et al.) so this is one belting-good ceilidh band! The music comes from all over Great Britain and other parts of Europe and has strong melodies, subtle harmonies and traditional dance rhythms.
• More about Moorgate at

Thursday 8th December: John Harper 
Another welcome visit from this exceptionally talented guitarist and singer. John Harper is a regular Lancaster entertainer who always dazzles everyone with his powerful renditions of British and American contemporary songs, his own compositions and traditional folksong. Music to make you sing and reaffirm that the best live music is to be heard here!
• More about John Harper at

Thursday 15th December: Final Session 
To end the year the Gillow's folk night team  are inviting all local folk musicians to join them for a session. "The last time this happened at the Gillow was in August, when Pat Simmons led us in celebration of his 65th birthday," we're told. "on the 15th, we'll just play because we enjoy it - and celebrate traditional folk tunes.

"Please bring an instrument and join in. Happy Christmas. Happy New Year. Keep music live!"

• The Robert Gillow is at 64 Market Street, Lancaster, LA1 1HP. Tel: 01524 36092. Official web site:

Local Police Cadets fund raiser announced for Brain Research Trust

The late Detective Inspector Glen Oldham and his wife, Audrey

Teenage police cadets will be running a charity market stall in Lancaster on Saturday, to raise money in memory of a Lancaster officer.

44-year-old Detective Inspector Glen Oldham, who headed Lancaster’s CID team and who had been with the force for over 24 years, collapsed on holiday last year, after suffering a fatal brain stem haemorrhage.

His wife Audrey, who also works for Lancashire Constabulary, fellow colleagues and friends have been carrying out a number of activities in order to raise money for Brain Research Trust, a charity that funds research into neurological conditions and diseases.

The latest fundraising event will see members of the volunteer police cadet force running a stall selling homemade craft items and raffle tickets in Lancaster city centre, outside the library on Market Walk, between 9am – 3.00pm on Saturday 3rd December.

Crime prevention advice will also be on offer and the cadets will be handing out free protective jingle bells for purses and bags, whilst working alongside Help Direct.

“Glen was a much loved friend and colleague and he was dedicated to making Lancaster a safer place," says PC Kath Bromilow, who helps run the cadet scheme. "He was also a very healthy person, which shows that this kind of thing can happen to even the fittest of people, and is the reason why we have chosen to raise money for the Brain Research Trust in his name.”

The cadets are 16 – 19-year-olds who live or attend school in the Carnforth, Garstang, Lancaster or Morecambe areas and are undertaking a 38-week course, which enables them to experience the full spectrum of policing within Lancashire , while carrying out fundraising challenges to the benefit of local causes. They also undertake many projects aimed at breaking down barriers between the police, young people and the wider community, while working towards gaining a BTEC qualification.

Monday, 28 November 2011

North West HIV care figure concerns

The number of people being treated for HIV in the North West region reached 6,332 in 2010  according to Health Protection Agency figures published today ahead of World AIDS Day on Thursday.

The HPA’s annual ‘HIV in the UK’ report reveals that the North West has the second largest number of people accessing HIV care behind London with an increase of 6.4% from 5.950 people in 2009. The 40 – 44 year old group is the age group with the most people accessing care (1,233).

The report confirms that men who have sex with men remain the group most at risk of acquiring HIV infection in the UK, with this group accounting for 50% of people accessing care in the NW (3,186 out of 6,332).

In 2010, as reported to end of June 2011, there were 508 new HIV diagnoses. The 2010 figure represents a 22% increase on the 418 new diagnoses in 2001. The North West reported the lowest numerical increase and the second lowest (after London) proportional increase from 2001. The overall UK increase since 2001 was 29%.

Figures for 2010 are likely to rise as further reports are received. In 2010, an estimated 44% of newly diagnosed individuals acquired their infection heterosexually and 23% were of black African ethnicity (UK average 31%). 51% acquired their infection through sex between men and were of white ethnicity (UK average 37%). The North West has the second highest proportion (highest being Northern Ireland) of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men of white ethnicity.

Dr Roberto Vivancos, HPA North West’s sexual health lead, said: “HIV is avoidable. It’s important for people to practise safer sex for their own protection and out of respect for their partner. This is especially important advice for people in new relationships and for anyone who has casual sex.”

Dr Valerie Delpech, Consultant Epidemiologist and Head of HIV Surveillance at the HPA, said: “HIV is an infection that nowadays can be treated and those diagnosed promptly can expect to experience similar life expectancy to an individual without the infection. However, we are very concerned that a large number of people in the UK are unaware of their HIV status and are diagnosed late.

“We want to see increased access to HIV testing in clinical settings, with tests being offered to new registrants at GPs and hospital general admissions in areas of the country where rates of HIV infection are high. We are also urging sexual health clinics to ensure that HIV testing is offered as part of a universal sexual health screen at every new attendance."

North West HIV Data Figures

• Download the New Diagnoses Table: New HIV Diagnoses North West 2011 Part 1 (PDF)

Contact the Lancaster & Morecambe confidential HIV support services on 079 2534 3139.

Contact the Lancaster & Morecambe GUM Sexual Health Clinics on 0845 0590 015.

World Aids Day Karaoke - Sing if you're glad to be fundraising

On Thursday 1 December at 8pm the Dule of Lancaster is holding a Karaoke Night in aid of World Aids Day. Expect showstopping talent - and possibly a little torment - as the real muscle of the City's vocal talent takes to the stage to either knock your socks off - or sinuously unroll them.

The spotlight has gone away from the issue of HIV/AIDS in the UK, possibly reflecting a growing belief within the UK that the illness poses little threat to or from those who take responsible precautions. Huge advances have been made and life expectancies are growing all the time.

However Robert Mee, who is the new HIV Support Worker for the area told us: "A particular problem in the North West is that people put off getting tested. Like cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed, the sooner you can start treatment that will prevent it developing into something life-threatening. Unfortunately people are dying who could still be living positive lives and looking forward to many more active years if they had been tested and diagnosed and started their treatment earlier.

Virtual-Lancaster phoned the Lancaster GUM (Sexual Health) Clinic and discovered that you can now get an appointment for a test within 48 hours of calling, for any STD. (In the case of HIV it takes two weeks after the test for the results to come back.) A very friendly woman told us that many people come for 'peace of mind' checks, and they are welcome.

The rise in HIV cases, and particularly deaths, among the UK heterosexual population may be largely blamed on late diagnoses, as many hets, particularly the younger ones, see the risk from unprotected sex as negligible.

Robert told us that the organisation he works for in Lancaster, 'Positive Living Lancashire' which is part of Body Positive North West, offers confidential advice, reliable information and support locally on HIV-related matters. Robert offers an understanding and well-informed ear to your concerns and where there's a need he can also link you up with specialist one-to-one counselling, the support group, benefits and services advice etc, and support you in your next steps. You can contact Robert Mee by phoning 079 2534 3139.

Services locally have clearly improved considerably over recent years, as have the prospects for local people who are diagnosed with HIV - early diagnosis and treatment means that thousands of people are living healthy positive lives decades later. So there's plenty to sing for!

The party season is beginning and the reminder is there - party responsibly, take care of yourself and others. (And if in doubt, don't funk out, phone the nice people at the GUM clinic on 0845 0590 015 and they will see you right.)

And get yourself down to the Thursday Night Karaoke and Wold Aids Day Fundraiser at the very friendly Duke of Lancaster for what will surely be one of its most brilliant nights!

Council prepares for Wednesday's strike

Lancaster City Council is re-arranging waste and recycling collection services arrangements for Wednesday, when a number of public sector unions nationally are taking strike action over proposed pension reforms.

The industrial action will  have an impact on most Lancaster City Council services, but arrangements are in place to ensure emergency services are maintained.

Lancaster City Council has announced arrangements for waste collection as a result of this planned industrial action.

Those customers who would normally have their refuse and recycling collected on that Wednesday will receive a leaflet, which will be posted through their letterbox, detailing alternative arrangements that have been put in place.

Grey wheelie bins and recycling boxes will not be emptied on 30th November and residents should not leave them out for collection on this day.

The next collection from grey bins and recycling boxes will be on Wednesday 14th December 2011.  Additional side waste which has been accrued as a result of grey bins not being collected can be placed alongside grey bins for collection on this day.

Green bins and food waste caddies will also not be collected on Wednesday, but arrangements are in place to collect them the next day, Thursday 1st December.

• For up-to-date information about all affected services please visit or call 01524 582491.

Who’s taking you home tonight? Taxi safety advice at Christmas

As the festive season approaches, Lancaster City Council is reminding revellers to consider their personal safety when using taxis.

Many people will be using taxis to get home after a night out with friends or an office party – but is the vehicle you’re getting in licensed?

If it’s not, then the person behind the wheel won’t have undergone the necessary stringent tests that all licensed taxi drivers and their vehicles have to go through.

All drivers that are licensed by Lancaster City Council have undergone a Criminal Records Bureau check to ensure that they are 'fit and proper persons' to be transporting members of the public.

In addition, all vehicles licensed in Lancaster were recently inspected to ensure that they were safe and roadworthy.
Unlicensed taxis haven’t gone through these stringent tests and should therefore not be used.

Coun John Harrison, Chairman of the council's Licensing Regulatory Committee said: “Thankfully reports of illegal trading are rare but do happen on occasion so we’re asking people to stay safe and always double check that the taxi they are using is properly licensed.

“The council recently inspected all of the taxis it licences to ensure that they were roadworthy and free of defects.  All in all the quality was very high and only very minor defects were noted, which means that passengers can have confidence in the vehicle they are travelling in.

“Unlicensed taxis haven’t undergone these checks and won’t be insured in the event of an accident.”

How to spot a licensed taxi
Hackney Carriages are authorised to ply for hire on the streets or pick up passengers from designated taxi ranks. Passengers are advised to check for the following:

  • A blue and white licence plate is affixed to the rear of the vehicle showing the make, model, registration, expiry date and seating capacity in black characters.
  • Roof sign
  • Blue Council door signs with the wording ‘Lancaster City Council
  • Hackney Carriage’  in white characters, together with the plate number
  • That the driver is displaying his/her identity badge issued by Lancaster City Council. The badge will show a photograph of the driver, together with the holder’s name, licence number and expiry date.

Private Hire Vehicles are not authorised or insured to pick up passengers unless a prior booking has been made with the company operating the vehicle. Having pre-booked the private hire vehicle passengers are advised to check for the following before getting into a vehicle:
  • A green licence plate is affixed to the rear of the vehicle showing the make, model, registration, expiry date and seating capacity in black characters.  A smaller plate will be attached to the front of the vehicle showing the vehicle registration number and the taxi licence number.
  • Door signs in yellow with the wording `Lancaster City Council Private Hire Pre-Booked Journeys only’ in black characters
  • That the driver is displaying his/her identity badge issued by Lancaster City Council. The badge will show a photograph of the driver, together with the holder’s name, licence number and expiry date.

• Any complaints about a vehicle or driver should be made to Lancaster City Council’s Licensing Office, Lancaster Town Hall, Lancaster LA1 1PJ or by telephoning on 01524 582033 or emailing

Lancaster lights up for Christmas

The old town hall building, home to the City Museum and King's Own Regimental Museum was illuminated and the city centre's Christmas tree and festive lights were switched on last week. Photo courtesy Lancaster City Council

Lancaster’s old town hall in Market Square will be shining bright in time for Christmas following the switch on of its new lights at this year's launch of late night shopping last Thursday.

At dusk each evening, three of the new building lights will shine down over the face of the building and can be programmed to produce various colours and effects. For the majority of the time this illumination will be white but colours will be used to mark particular dates and events throughout the year including Christmas.

The new lighting is part of the Lancaster Square Routes initiative to help rejuvenate the historic city centre of Lancaster by investing in high quality streets and spaces to strengthen the city’s position as a quality destination for residents and visitors.

The first phase of works to the square itself is taking a break for the Christmas trading period and will start again and be completed in the New Year.

To date, new surfacing is partly in place at the eastern end and the fountain has been removed with a temporary surface in the footprint of the proposed platform area. Repairs have also been undertaken to the stonework of the old town hall.

Re-surfacing of the western end of Market Square will take place in the new year together with improved street lighting.  A second phase of works to deliver the platform area and further improvements is subject to funding.

• For more information on Market Square and Lancaster Square Routes please visit