Friday, 13 July 2012

Dukes goes 'Through the Pinhole' for witch-inspired exhibition

Pendle Hill 'Through the Pinhole' by Darren Andrews.
Pendle Hill 'Through the Pinhole' by Darren Andrews

A Lancaster photographer has retraced the steps taken by the Pendle Witches 400 years ago and captured the journey on pinhole cameras.

Darren Andrews has travelled from Pendle to Lancaster with his homemade cameras to take some unique images for his exhibition - Dark Corners of the Land - at The Dukes gallery from 15th July to 12th August.

“In this digital age I have gone back to basics," says Darren, "using cameras which are literally wooden boxes with a tiny hole in them instead of a lens.

"I still love film," he adds. "For me it beats digital every time, although obviously I use digital cameras for my commercial work.

The results of his work are intriguing: just looking at his picture of Pendle Hill in the exhibition, he's created an eerie vision of the land where events led to the infamous Witch Trials.

“It is a strange process using pinhole cameras as you don't really know what you have got until you are back in the darkroom," he reveals. "They have no viewfinders so you have to be pretty good at taking educated guesses and sometimes the ones which go wrong turn out to be the best photographs.

“The camera can be made out of almost any object as long as it has been made light tight. I have seen cameras made out of Pringle boxes, tins of Spam and shoeboxes.”

Darren has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. He has worked for national and local newspapers and magazines. He now specialises in freelance assignments, and has also exhibited his work in galleries nationwide including in London, with pictures in the Royal Photographic Society Archive.

Dark Corners of the Land also features a sound installation by arts collective Victor Noir and it coincides with the final performances of Sabbat, the theatre’s latest homegrown production about the Lancashire Witches.

Sabbat, which attempts to unravel the mysteries still surrounding the Lancashire witch trials and imagines the events leading up to the trial and execution of the witches in Lancaster, returns to The Dukes from 17th - 21st July. It opened at the Lancaster theatre in early June and has been on a national tour since then.

• The Dukes gallery is open from 10am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday. Please call the box office on 01524 598500 to check opening times if you’re making a special journey as occasionally the space is closed to the public.

For more information about Dark Corners of the Land and the people behind it, visit or

To book tickets for Sabbat, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit For more information and regular updates on the production, visit

• 'Pendle Hill Through the Pinhole' image copyright Darren Andrews.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

In Review: EyeSee - Leanna Davies Exhibition at the Dukes

'EyeSee': a solo exhibition by: Leanna Davies
at: The Dukes Gallery, Lancaster
2 to 13 July 2012

A solo exhibition by Leanna Davies consisting of eight paintings undertaken using coloured fibre tip pens.  The works are all of approximately A3 size, framed and mounted at eye level around three walls of the gallery.

22 year-old Leanna Davis is a final year student at Lancaster's Beaumont College and she and members of her family have suffered from eye problems.  In this exhibition Leanna created a piece of artwork to portray the difference eye care can make to people's lives, and this aim accounts for the rather clever title of this exhibition.  Despite the artist's use of a linear medium (fibre pens), the overwhelming impression was of multiple blocks of varied colours, giving an impression of great freedom and vibrancy. In a minority of paintings the colours were somewhat muted, in others they were very bright and vivid.  One can speculate that this contrast was an attempt to demonstrate the difference that can be made by successful eye care.

Two of the artworks featured large figures in the foreground drawn in a semi-abstract, childlike fashion.  This proved very effective in conveying an impression of a life force and a real presence.

One of the artworks was a collage including photographs of the artist.  Another seemed to be a self portrait, again drawn in a childlike, primitive style, perhaps symbolising a new beginning following a triumph over adversity.

The different art works did not have titles and there were no explanations of the motivation of each painting.  This may have been deliberate, to emphasise the unity of the exhibition and to discourage the analysis of the work on a piecemeal basis.  Either way this did not detract from the appreciation of the work.   Sheets of paper was available for the viewer to record impressions of the work.

In its entirety the exhibition proved to be very uplifting with the individual works complementing each other, leaving the observer with a feeling of optimism.  This may reflect the optimism of the artist herself that her work has progressed her chosen charity. A printout of the artwork was used to raise funds for the international charity 'Sightsavers'. She has also produced a film for Sightsavers which can be seen on YouTube (

The Dukes Gallery, Moor Lane Lancaster, LA1 1QE, is open from 10am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday. Entrance is free. Please call the box office on 01524 598500 to check opening times if you’re making a special journey as occasionally the space is closed to the public.

Peter Clarke for Virtual-Lancaster

Cannabis seized during Morecambe drugs raid

Two tubs of cannabis bush were amongst items seized during a drugs raid in Morecambe.

Officers executed a drugs warrant at an address on Rosebery Avenue at around 3.30pm on Tuesday. They seized an industrial press and various items of drugs preparation paraphernalia from the basement of the address, along with two tile adhesive tubs full of cannabis bush.

A 21-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of possessing cannabis and cocaine with intent to supply and a 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of cocaine. Both have been released on bail pending further inquiries.

“The raid was carried out as part of an ongoing operation in the town to crack down on crime," commented Sergeant Dylan Hrynkow of Morecambe police. "We know that drug addictions can lead to other crimes being committed in order to fund a habit and so we are committed to tackling those who deal drugs in our communities.

“We rely on residents to provide us with information about those who they believe are selling drugs and would encourage people to come forward with their suspicions and concerns.”

Storey Creative Industries Centre decision "called in"

A decision that Lancaster City Council should directly manage the Storey Creative Industries Centre has been called-in for scrutiny.

The city council’s Cabinet discussed the future of the SCIC, which is currently managed by a private company, earlier this month and agreed to support its use as a creative industries centre but under the council's direct management and control.

The decision was taken after the SCIC failed to meet the terms of a loan which was granted to it in February 2012.
However, the decision has now been called-in for scrutiny and the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee will investigate the issue at a specially arranged meeting on Tuesday 17th July at Lancaster Town Hall.

Members of the committee will consider the Cabinet report along with any additional information which has become available since the decision was taken.

The call in, made by Conservative councillors, argues the decision is unclear as to the actions that have been delegated to the chief executive and that "openness was lacking" in that the public report was not published until after the Cabinet meeting had finished.

It's also argued the stated aim of the decision to take control of the running of the Centre is unclear and does not appear to have been set out unambiguously in the decision taken by cabinet.

"The aim ignores the financial implications of the preliminary actions decided upon, and potential future costs. The aim to be achieved by the decision is to resolve the future use of the Storey Institute building following the failure of the company to achieve profitability and at the same time to protect as far as practicable the interests of the sub tenants with businesses in the building, while also protecting the financial interests of local taxpayers."

The call-in will seek to question the decision takers in order to make a recommendation to Cabinet (or Council) to clarify and modify the instruction given to the Chief Executive, so that the Cabinet decision leads to effective support of the Creative Industry businesses that are presently subtenants of the building while also protecting the public purse.

These reasons are public - but it is anticipated that the public will be excluded from most of the call in process to enable questions to be raised on the exempt report to Cabinet.

The meeting will start at 7.00pm, or after the conclusion of the scheduled meeting of the Budget and Performance Panel.

Members of the committee will have the opportunity to question the decision makers, make recommendations and potentially ask Cabinet to reconsider the decision.

Other options available are to refer the matter to full council who, after debate, can accept Cabinet's decision or refer it back to Cabinet for reconsideration.

Alternatively the committee can decide to take no action, in which case the decision will be implemented.

Dangerous dog seized in Bolton-le-Sands

Police have seized a dog from a Bolton-le-Sands house following the execution of a dangerous dogs warrant.

Officers attended the address on Alpine View on Tuesday, after learning that the dog was being kept at the property.

Any dog can be a danger to the public, but certain types of dogs are banned in the UK. A banned dog can be seized by police even if it isn’t acting in a dangerous manner.

The dog – which is believed to be a pit bull terrier type dog, one of four banned breeds in the UK - will now be kept in kennels while checks are made.

“There is a risk that people who ignore the fact that certain breeds are banned will also ignore their responsibilities when it comes to looking after their pet," said Sergeant Dylan Hrynkow of Morecambe police, "and training it correctly so that it does not pose a threat to members of the public, either through injury or intimidation.

“The dog will be examined to determine what type it is. If it is not a banned breed of dog then it will be returned to its owner. If it is banned dog, officers will investigate the circumstances around the dog and owner and a decision will be made regarding what offences have been committed and whether to prosecute the owner in either criminal or civil courts.

“If it can be shown that the dog is not a danger to the public, then the courts can place it on the government's Index of Exempted Dogs. The owner may be able to keep their dog, dependent on the courts decision, and a list of compulsory stringent conditions will be imposed - including keeping it muzzled and on a lead when in public and having it neutered.”

He added: “It is very important that dog owners take responsibility for their pets – banned type or not - and that they train them and care for them so that they are not a threat to other animals or people. Where we can see that an owner is willing and able to meet their responsibilities, costs and conditions, we will work with them to have their animal returned.

“However, Lancashire Police will not tolerate the keeping of illegal dogs for criminal purposes, whether that be intimidation of others or where they cause a danger to others, and we will continue to target those that keep these types of animals.”

Appeal after mobility scooters are damaged in Morecambe

Police have issued CCTV images of two youths they want to speak with after two mobility scooters were damaged in Morecambe in May.

The first offence took place between 6th and 7th of May on Station Road when a mobility scooter, which was parked inside a secure area of a housing block, had its ignition damaged.

The second offence took place on 6th May when the offenders gained access to a residential car park at the Queens Square flats on Station Road and stole a mobility scooter, causing damage to it before abandoning it on nearby street.

PC Iain Arnott from Morecambe Police said: “I would appeal to anybody that recognises the two males in the CCTV images to come forward.

“Officers have recovered the second mobility scooter back to Morecambe Police station for forensic examination. However, the scooter has a damaged steering column and wires exposed so will need to be repaired before it can be used again by its rightful owner.

“Criminal damage is not acceptable and I would ask anyone with any information to call Lancashire Police on 101.”

In Review: 'Low' and Nat Johnson at Lancaster Library

Low and Nat Johnson at Lancaster Library, 9 July 2012
Review by Marion Dawson for Virtual-Lancaster

There are lots of jokes about Minnesota's 'quiet' indie rock band, Low (  One is, apparently, that their fans are 'just a bunch of librarians'.  This isn't the first time I've heard such a joke at a Get it loud in libraries gig.  We laugh politely and wait for them to play another amazing song.

If you've not been to a Get it Loud in Libraries gig yet, where have you been?  Libraries are a great place to experience music, especially good music, and GiLiL have a knack for selecting the best – usually just before it 'hits the big time', as they point out in their excellent website.  There's no spilt beer, no leary men, and you can bring your kids too, if you want.  Bonus.  And, unlike the last gig I went to (Bruce Springsteen at the Manchester City 'Etihad' Stadium), you actually, like, have a chance of being able to see the band.

Nat Johnson
This is pretty exciting for me tonight, since I've seen Low (who are a little more long in the tooth than GiLiL's usual fare) a few times, but never in such a small venue.  We start though with Sheffield's Nat Johnson, who is also excited about supporting her heroes, and visibly nervous.  It would have been nice to hear her belt her gentle acoustic songs out a little more confidently (she usually performs with backing band The Figureheads).  But it's a pleasant opener none-the-less.

For 20 years, Low have been playing beautiful, solemn, somewhat ethereal rock music with a minimum of instrumentation and fuss.  It's hard to describe in words, maybe because their music evokes such an emotional experience.  Critics resort to name-tags like 'slowcore' and 'quietcore' (both of which, predictably, the band reject).

Low are not actually that quiet.  At least they haven't been since around 1999, when I started listening to them.  'Minimal' would be a better word - for the band comprises just one electric guitar, bass 2 drums and 2 cymbals.  But the library this evening is an ocean of pleasant, elegiac and overwhelming noise, which stuns most of the audience into awed silence.

Apparently people used to talk over Low's early gigs.  Not anymore.  The audience tonight, who range from mid-20s to 50s, are rapt, unwilling to miss a single note or perfectly timed silence (The silences in Low's songs are just as important as the noisy bits).  It would not feel appropriate to whoop, yet some of us do manage to dance.

Low can also be angry.  It seeps out in the quiet malevolence of songs like 'Murderer' and 'Violent past' from the 'Drums and Guns' album, and in their intermittent discordant moments.  This sonic / emotional juxtaposition – and the skill with which it is executed - is what makes Low such an extraordinary band.  It can also be heard in Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's vocals: his all fiery, masculine bluster; hers exact and harmonious.  

Perhaps it is the sense of a shadowy pent up rage lying just below the surface which gives Low's more delicate and joyful moments their edge ('Nightingale', 'I'm nothing but heart').  If all beauty is fragile and temporary (as Low have surely learned in 20 years of gigging) then we must hold on all the more tightly.  Before one song, Sparhawk jokes that he needs to 'prepare himself for desperation'.  Chuckling, I realise we are not so much a room of librarians as rock and roll depressives.

Low themselves are no teenage angst miserablists.  They've earned the right (and the age) to be taken more seriously than that.  Although their music is secular, there is an echo at times of near-religious fervor.  It may make sense at this juncture to note that core members Parker and Sparhawk are both practicing Mormons and have been married for over 20 years.  They're deadly serious.

And also professionals.  There's not a note or a pause out of place in this performance (which is just as well, because everyone is holding their breaths).
So I wait until the final notes to dash to the toilet queue, where I spot the oddly incongruous sight of Low trying vainly to get into their dressing room (a library meeting room), for which they have lost or been given the wrong code.

It takes the fans just a few minutes to realise this and, with nowhere to run to, the band are forced to pose for cheesy photos.  Although this whole scene strikes me as odd, rather like meeting Barry White at the 24 hour garage, or Diana Ross in Home Bargains, it's good to see the band don't take themselves too seriously.

• Tickets for the show cost £17.50.  For photos and details of upcoming Get it Loud in Libraries gigs, see: or call into Lancaster Library in Market Square / New Street.

Third Fringe Festival date for 'Rom Com' local girl

Local actress Lizzy Mace and Juliette Burton in Rom Com Con
Clearly a glutton for punishment, local actress Lizzy Mace is taking a touring show which enjoyed breakthrough success at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival back to Scotland's capital next month.

Rom Com Con asks its audience: have you ever watched a romantic comedy and wondered "Could that actually happen in real life?" Lizzy and Juliette Burton have. And what's more, they've decided to find out.

They've been touring the show for some time now, inviting theatre goers to join them as they try talking to coma patients (While You Were Sleeping), standing on street corners (Pretty Woman) and going on a date with a guy whose paddling pool they used to play in (Bridget Jones's Diary) - all in an attempt to find The One.

Do the rom coms hold the key to finding true love? Or are they all just one big con?

Actress Lizzy Mace. Photo: John Cannon
"We had such a successful run with Rom Com Con that we have decided to take it back again this year," Lizzie told virtual-lancaster, "in a re-worked and re-written form, along with a totally new show, Heartbreak Hotel, a cathartic comedy chat show where we will be inviting guests from across the Fringe to come in and share their take on heartbreak, heartache and the heartwarming moments that make it all worthwhile."

As one of the breakthrough shows at Edinburgh Fringe 2011, playing for three weeks at Medina, Lothian Street, Rom Com Con was a big success, attracting huge audiences. There was standing-room only for 18 out of 19 performances and even with extra chairs added, they regularly packed 100 people into their 60-seat venue, with many choosing to stand when there were no seats left.

The show gained great reviews, interest from international and national festivals, tour managers and TV companies and Lizzie tells us the show is being enjoyed by a wide range of people, both men and women, young and old.

"Even a stag party of 12 lads loved it," she reveals. "We had unanimously positive reactions from audience members saying that they’d been given hope, confidence and felt uplifted."

Both Rom Com Con and Heartbreak Hotel will be getting road tested in London before the Fringe, as part of a pre-Fringe Festival comedy marathon at The Bedford in Balham, at the end of this month.

Lizzy Mace studied at Cambridge and went on to train in acting at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Following her performance as Mrs Smith in The Bald Prima Donna at the New Players’ Theatre, she was invited to take part in The Sitcom Trials at Leicester Square Theatre. She has previously played to sell-out audiences with comedy sketch groups Moulin Exes, Messrs Comedy and improvisers The Amazing Spectacles and is now building an impressive list of stand-up gigs for a new comic.

Since making her debut on the London open-mic circuit in January this year she has already performed spots at the Adelaide Fringe and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Juliette Burton. Photo: Helen Bartlett
Lizzy and Juliette met as actor-members of the Cambridge scriptwriting forum, WRiTEON! and began writing together at a stand-up comedy workshop in 2010. Lizzy's solo show, Crush, co-written by Juliette, was well-received by reviewers and audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.

Since discovering a shared love of all-things-confused, and a shared confusion of all-things-love, a light-hearted romp through the rom coms was the natural choice for their first offering as a double-act.

In September 2011, Rom Com Con was invited to take part in the Scipmylo Festival in Shoreditch. In October 2011 Mace and Burton teamed up with two other award-winning Edinburgh acts to present “Fresh From The Fringe” at the Etcetera Theatre, Camden.

Mace and Burton are now working on a screenplay of the play with an established film producer, with further announcements regarding this development coming soon.

At Brighton Fringe 2012, Mace and Burton won an Argus Angel award for excellence and were 'Top Nominees' for Best Comedy at The Latest Festival Awards.

Heartbreak Hotel, the girls new show, is intended as a "cathartic comedy chat show" exploring heartbreak, heartache and those heart-warming moments that make relationships all worthwhile.

Heartbreak Hotel guests will be asked to contribute advice for getting over heartbreak to a special guestbook, which at the end of the run will be auctioned off in aid of the mental health charity, Mind.

- Performances:

London: July 27th. 6.30pm - Rom Com Con, 7.45pm - Heartbreak Hotel at The Ballroom at The Bedford in Balham, London. Tickets Free
Box Office: 0208 682 8940

Edinburgh: August 2012
- 1.15 pm for Rom Com Con at Canon's Gait Inn, Edinburgh from August 4th to 26th (not Tuesdays). Tickets Free
- 7.30 pm for Heartbreak Hotel at Buffs Club, West Register Street, Edinburgh from August 4th to 25th (not Tuesdays). Tickets Free

• More about the show at:

• Follow Mace and Burton on Twitter: @MaceAndBurton

Celebrating Diversity: Lancaster's Global Link highlights 'Scapegoating'

Young and old celebrated the diversity of Lancaster and Morecambe at an event organised by Global Link at the Ashton Memorial
Young and old celebrated the diversity of Lancaster and Morecambe at an event organised by Global Link at the Ashton Memorial recently, to raise awarenes of 'scapegoating' the practice of cultures to blame minorities for all society's ills.

Young people from Ripley St. Thomas High School, and older people from the Friendship Centre attended an event organised by Global Link development education centre at the Ashton Memorial. The participants shared food, learnt about the history of migration into the Lancaster area, and went through the ‘Witch Hunts: then and Now’ exhibition, housed at the Ashton Memorial until November (apart from when it is in schools).

Young and old celebrated the diversity of Lancaster and Morecambe at an event organised by Global Link at the Ashton Memorial
They used the exhibition as a stimulus for a joint philosophical enquiry into why it is that humans in all societies at different types feel the need to scapegoat others.

Anthony Finnerty from Global Link said, ‘Scapegoating – or blaming the vulnerable or ‘different’ – for society’s ills is a human instinct. The exhibition explores this theme in Lancaster 1612, Nigeria 2012, and the UK in 2012, and was an ideal stimulus for a philosophical enquiry exploring diversity and community cohesion'.

The event was the culmination of an Awards for All Lottery-funded project which trained community workers in the ‘Philosophical Enquiry’ methodology, and which ran ‘philosophical enquiries’ with a number of diverse groups. The enquiries explored issues relating to diversity, migration and community cohesion.

Celia Gardner from the Friendship Centre who attended the event said, 'I enjoyed talking about things that you think about but don't always talk about.'

Joy Robinson from the Friendship Centre said, "I enjoyed the 'Witch Hunts: then and Now' and the ensuing discussion, particularly the connections between 1612 and 2012."

- For more about the work of the Lancaster-based Global Link visit:


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Free bike coding event at Knott End library

Cyclists can get their bikes marked with a special crime prevention code at a free event at Knott End library next weekend.

The local neighbourhood police team will be marking owner’s postcodes on to cycles so that there is more chance of them being identified and returned if they are ever stolen.

The event will take place from 10.00am – 12 noon on Saturday 21st July at Knott End’s Lancaster Road library.

PCSO Emma Brown, Knott End neighbourhood police team, said: “This is the fourth year running we have held such an event at a Wyre library and we usually get a lot of people coming along to have their bikes coded.

“We would also encourage cyclists to take a few simple crime prevention measures, like using a chain through the wheels and frame of their bike, so that they can help us keep incidents of bicycle thefts low.”

Appeal for Victims of Internet Fraud

Detectives in Halifax are appealing for victims of internet fraud to come forward. They would like to speak to anyone who has tried to buy a vehicle from BCAV Solutions Ltd who were based in Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge.

It's believed there are victims across the country who have paid over money to this business but failed to receive the vehicle they were buying.

The company was declared bankrupt in 2011 and following a long and protracted investigation two people connected to it were arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud. The two men - a 35 year old from Littleborough, Greater Manchester and a 42 year old from Rochdale will appear before Calderdale Magistrates next week.

• Anyone who believes they have been a victim of this company should contact DS Ross Wadsworth at Halifax CID on 101.

Online shoppers warned about electronic money voucher fraudsters

Shoppers making on-line purchases are being warned not to fall victim to fraudsters demanding electronic money vouchers as payment.

Electronic money vouchers, such as those from Ukash, are widely used by those who do not have, or want to use, bank or credit cards, but who wish to make purchases on-line.

A number on the voucher must be given to a vendor when making a purchase in order for the funds to be transferred – but fraudsters are conning shoppers into handing over this information and then failing to send out goods.

DC Tony McClements, of Lancashire Constabulary’s economic crime unit, said: “Over the last 12 months we have seen an increase in the number of frauds where victims have intended using Ukash vouchers to purchase goods and services online.

“Ukash is a reputable company and the voucher is as good as cash, but it needs to be looked after in the same way. The voucher code should only be given to legitimate vendors and Ukash vouchers should only be used on websites that are listed on the company’s website.”

The Ukash website - - contains a list of recognised vendors, along with tips on how to avoid scams.

Anyone who believes they have been targeted by on-line fraudsters should report it to in the first instance. If they realise that they have been scammed they can also contact Ukash directly via their customer services and an attempt can be made to block the voucher code before it is used.

Eric Morecambe statue creator to launch new Tern Trail leaflet

Image: Wikipedia, taken by George2001hi.
The creator of Morecambe's famous Eric Morecambe statue Graham Ibbeson will be joining Lancaster City Council this month to launch a brand new leaflet which takes visitors on an exciting coastal trail of the town's unique collection of artwork along Morecambe Promenade.

Known as the Tern Project, the artwork was inspired by the bird life of Morecambe Bay and includes bird bollards, a magpie hop scotch, moon walk and star map, a word search and a 300 metre poem path known as the Flock of Words.

The free full colour leaflet aims to provide visitors with an informative at-a-glance guide along the trail taking in the famous Eric Morecambe statue along the way.

The launch event will take place at 11am on Friday 20th July at Morecambe Visitor Information Centre (VIC), Marine Road Central, Morecambe.

Graham Ibbeson, internationally recognised artist and creator of bronze sculptures in towns and cities across Britain will be available at the launch to sign copies of his new book, written with John Threlkeld titled Graham Ibbeson, The People's Sculptor: Bronze, Clay and Life

The book is a fascinating history of Graham's early life in a small mining village and his increasing interest in art and sculpture.

Everyone is welcome to come along to the event to pick up a leaflet and meet the creator of the Eric Morecambe statue as well as sample a tasty range of Lancashire refreshments.

Following the book signing, Graham will be moving across to the Midland Hotel where he is hosting a small one-day-only exhibition of some of his sculptures including the original model of the Eric Morecambe statue, produced in 1993.

Much of Graham's work has revolved around childhood. His early years figure in much of his amusing fibre glass work and characters such as Eric Morecambe are based on Graham and his cousin, Paul. His own humour responds to the distant sounds of boyhood and in a way this book is a celebration of childhood and laughter. It also traces the setbacks and triumphs of an artist who was born in a mining village and who produced a national icon, the Eric Morecambe statue, which, it's argued, helped to turn the economic tide in the Lancashire resort of Morecambe.

The book outlines the stories behind other notable public statues, including Laurel and Hardy, Les Dawson, Dickie Bird and Cary Grant, re-telling the life and times of the "people's sculptor", a man whose craftsmanship has left an elegant and permanent mark on more than 30 of Britain's townscapes.

Sabbat returns to The Dukes

Nisa Cole (Jennet Device) and Robert Calvert (Roger Nowell)
in a scene from Sabbat. Photo courtesy The Dukes
The Dukes acclaimed Lancashire Witches drama – Sabbat – returns to Lancaster next week for its final performances after playing to thousands of people on tour.

Sabbat imagines the events leading up to the trial and execution of the Pendle Witches and asks how many lives were destroyed by laws born out of fear?

All four of the cast, including Lancaster’s own Christine Mackie, have received critical acclaim for their performances in this powerful drama.
Since its opening run at the Lancaster theatre, Sabbat has been performed in venues across the country including an historic house and London’s only permanent theatre in the round.

Touring is a rarity for The Dukes and The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond is the closest to London any Dukes show has been presented.

Along with the four-strong cast, a team including a stage manager, assistant stage manager and senior technician, have been on the road throughout June and July.

And each of the four venues – Hoghton Tower near Preston;  The New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme;  The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Surrey; and The Muni Theatre, Colne - has posed different challenges.

It’s been months in the planning but touring Sabbat has been a special experience for all those involved: “We’re used to being the theatre that welcomes touring companies so we’ve enjoyed seeing it from the other side,” said John Newman-Holden, Dukes production and operations manager.

And touring Sabbat has enabled the story of the Lancashire Witch Trials  – which took place in Lancaster 400 years ago this August – to reach many people who knew little or nothing about them.

• Catch up with Sabbat  at The Dukes from 17th - 21st July. To book tickets, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit For more information and regular updates on the production, visit

CancerCare prepares for annual Cross Bay Challenge

Photo: CancerCare via
Local charity CancerCare is getting ready for next month's half marathon across Morecambe Bay, the only race in the world to cross a tidal area – and there will also be a separate event on the same course for walkers.

Despite being run mainly on the flat, the Cross Bay Challenge certainly lives up to its title as runners battle sand and sea through the numerous water channels running down from the Lake District hills, crossing county borders from Cumbria to Lancashire. The race sees entries from runners from all over the world and has been voted one of the UK’s favourite half-marathons.

For those who prefer to take in the beauty of their surroundings at a calmer pace, there is also a shorter six mile walk starting at 11.30am from Silverdale and is open to all. It proves popular with families and friends of the half marathon runners as it offers the opportunity to experience the incredible scenery of the bay and the Lake District peaks, finishing in the same place as the half marathon in time to cheer to runners across the finish line.

If you want to be running or strolling across the sands in August don't leave it too late to sign up. 

• The race begins at 1.45 pm from Cark Airfield on Sunday 12th August 2012. (pre-registration is needed).  

• Registration for the half-marathon: £26  (affiliated runners) or £28 (unaffiliated)

• Registration for the walk: £10 if you pre-register and £15 if you register on the day (Cost includes transport and refreshments)

• All proceeds to CancerCare, your local cancer support service. Register at or call: 01524 381820

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lancaster Comedy Club offers pre 'Fringe' specials

Rob Rouse
August's Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the big comedy industry showcase as hundreds of comedians from across the globe stage shows with the hope of gaining future live and TV work. A consequence of this is lucky punters can catch preview shows in July at Lancaster Comedy Club at bargain prices, as comedians hone the final punchlines to perfection.

As usual, the the Club has secured some of the best in the business with comics such as Canada's Tom Stade, Radio 4's Mitch Benn, and  Stand Up For The Weeks Andrew Lawrence all appearing in the next few weeks.

The previews start this coming weekend on Sunday 15th July with Rob Rouse, who is currently appearing on ITV's  Mad Mad Mad World on Saturday nights for the next few weeks. Rob's new show - Life Sentences - features Rob's honest, frank, seriously funny stand-up. A father for the second time, to a baby girl, Rob is now a radical feminist - but this is not a show about men vs women, more humanity vs insanity.

Also on the bill is LCC favourite Steve Gribbin with his new offering 'Viva Gribbostania', in which he declares unilateral independence from the UK. A scathing look at all the trappings of nationhood, from flags to anthems, armies to currency, poet laureates to border control, national myths to Eurovision.
Sunday 22nd July sees Joe Lycett and Caimh McDonnell at the Club. Some Lycett Hot Multi-award-winning comedian Lycett previews his highly anticipated debut to the Fringe.

Charmingly funny, Joe is 'One of the strongest emerging comedy talents we've seen in a long time' says TimeOut. BBC New Comedy Award finalist 2011 and Chortle Best Newcomer 2010 the Guardian describes him as 'imaginative and cheekily subversive comedy ... entertainingly mischievous. You'll probably have seen him on E4's Show and Tell and 8 Out of 10 Cats.

Irish comedian Caimh McDonnell is the Bafta nominee and writer on Sarah Millican Television Programme who will be offering a whistle-stop tour of his own social ineptitudes. If small talk is your kryptonite, then this is the show for you!  Caimh was never a big fan of humanity and that was before they started throwing up on his doorstep.

• The Comdey Club is at The Borough, 3 Dalton Sq, Lancaster LA1 1PP. Shows start at 8.00pm. Tel: 01524 64170. Admission is £9 on the door (if tickets left)  or £7 in advance (up until 4pm on the day of the show). Meal deals are available for only £12 Online booking and further info and line ups  at

Future Comedy Club Events

Monday 23rd July: Tom Stade and Mitch Benn

Sun 5th August: Brian Damage and Krysstal, Sam Gore, Nick Wallis, MC Phil Ellis

Sun 12th August: Pierre Hollins, Bethany Black, Eddie North, MC Rich Wall

Sun 19th August: Junior Simpson, Allysson Smith, Andrew Stanley, MC Rob Riley

Sun 26th August: Paul B Edwards, Danny Pensive, Mick Bryant, MC Ray Bradshaw

Sun 16th September: Carey Marx, Chris Henry, Tim Jones, MC Andrew Ryan

Sun 23rd September: Gary Delaney, Cole Parker, Jess Fostekew, MC Andrew Ryan

Morecambe crime crack down begins

Officers are stepping up patrols as part of the latest push to crack down on crime in Morecambe.

Operation Mercury is aimed at reducing all crime across the resort but will have a particular emphasis on vehicle crime, metal theft and violent crime.

Officers from the town’s policing teams will be joined by their road policing and mounted colleagues as they go out on patrol in order to provide a high visibility presence in hot spot areas.

A number of tactics will be used to target offenders, while also increasing residents’ awareness of how they themselves can help prevent crime from occurring in the first place.

Inspector Jim Edmonds, Morecambe police, said: “At this time last year, reports of crime were very low and we are striving to keep them that way. We want residents to feel confident that we are aiming to reduce crime in the town, while catching those who do offend and bringing them to justice.

“As always we would ask for residents’ help in this matter; firstly, by taking a few simple crime prevention measures like making sure they lock their doors and windows and, secondly, by reporting anything suspicious to us.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.

Police renew appeal for information after arson attack on Heysham High

Police are appealing for information after a fire was deliberately started in the grounds of  Heysham High School last month.

The incident happened on Tuesday 12th June between 1.20 1.30 in the morning when five waste bins spread out in different locations around the school grounds were set alight.

One of the fires spread to the entrance of the sports centre, causing extensive damage.

PCSO Chris Dyson said, “I would appeal for anyone with information about this incident to come forward and contact Morecambe police.

“This is a mindless act that has caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and those people responsible need to be caught and brought to justice.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Morecambe police on 101.

• 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.

Have your say on plans to improve Morecambe's Regent Park

Locals are to be asked for their views on proposed changes to Regent Park at an event to be held next Saturday (14th July).

Lancaster City Council, which owns the park, and Lancashire County Council's environmental projects team, have joined forces with The Friends of Regent Park to transform this once-popular park back into a vibrant open space for use by all.

Following recent consultation in which people were asked to complete questionnaires and feedback forms, The Friends of Regent Park have been working hard to reflect the wishes of the community in a new plan.

The proposed new-look Regent Park would see the removal of one of the three bowling greens to make way for a bigger play area, community seating areas, improved landscaping, an all weather sports pitch, and two multi-use games areas.

• To see the proposed changes and have your say on the design, come and meet The Friends of Regent Park this Saturday, 14th July 2012, from noon until  5.00pm at the West End Festival in Regent Park, Regent Road, Morecambe.

Freeman's Wood: the fight continues

Campaigners seeking to stop Freeman's Wood from being bulldozed are stepping up their campaign.

There was outrage earlier in the year when developers fenced off previously public accessible land near the Marsh (see news story) and began to destroy trees and and other fauna, breaking Council Tree Preservation Orders and potentially exposing buried asbestos on the site.

Since then, two plans by separate developers for extensive development for the area, one for Freeman's Wood and environs, the other affecting Coronation Field by the Satnam Group, have been revealed.

Lancastrians  reacted angrily to the news that the Wood near the Lune Industrial Estate - long open to the public and popular with walkers, bikers and bird watchers - had been fenced off by  landowners The Property Trust, a Bermuda-based company headed by a Hong Kong businessman, who have lodged an objection against the TPO.

Lancaster City Council's Cabinet recently discussed the proposals and their impact on the Council's own Local Plan. Previously, planners were intending to lump Freeman's Wood and Coronation Field together in a way that would allow potential developers SATNAM to propose a project that would potentially mean that they could build houses on Coronation Field and then create a new playing field on the Freeman's Wood land.

Since that meeting it seems that things have changed and the good news appears to be that  Coronation Field and adjoining Council woodland has been taken out of the potential development area. However, campaigners warn that the decision is still not totally crystal clear but they will have time to be completely sure about it before the next Full Council meeting on 18th July.

"We need to read the document very thoroughly and maybe add a sentence to finally seal the situation up," local councillor Jon Barry told virtual-lancaster. "The good news is that we seem to have political agreement from Labour cabinet members (and, we suspect, from other political parties) on the need to protect Coronation Field so, as it stands, there doesn't seem to be a need for any lobbying at the moment."

Councillor Barry tells us Satnam will be 'consulting' over their proposals in the autumn.

Once the planning situation has been dealt with, then the Friends of Freeman's Wood and Coronation Field group will need to consider what it wants to do next.

"Our intention is that the group will now be working to bring Freeman's Wood into public or community ownership," Jon tells us. "A big ask - but we're going to give it a go."

Over 40 Town Green forms have now been collected and 60 footpath forms (the campaigners are claiming three footpaths across the Freeman's Wood site). These applications should be formally submitted to the County Council by the end of the summer.

• The Friends of Freeman's Wood and Coronation Field will be meeting at the Marsh Community Centre Sunday 15th July at 6.00pm

Monday, 9 July 2012

Local Young People's Arts Fund Launched

Shaun Ferguson,
Double Joy pupils
and their
silk hanging
Young people in the Lancaster District are being invited to apply to the Nat Merriman Fund for up to £300, which they can use to experience the arts.

The fund was established in memory of Nat Merriman, a young man who passionately believed in the value of creative and performing arts in the lives of young people, who sadly died in 1994 aged 15.

Nat was born and brought up in Lancaster, attending Dallas Road School and Morecambe High School. He was actively involved in the local arts scene through organisations such as The Dukes where he found people with enthusiasm and initiative to match his own. His energy was enormous; he wrote poetry, prose and drama.

The fund aims to enable young people to widen their experience and appreciation of the creative and performing arts. It makes grants up to a maximum of £300 to individuals or groups, as long as the money is not used to fund any form of education that should be provided by a local education authority. 

Applicants must be aged between 11 and 25 years old and live in the Lancaster District.

The money can be used to fund young people to do work experience at arts festivals, residencies abroad for arts projects and much more - what will you do?

The fund has recently enabled Shaun Ferguson from Lancaster to do arts projects at an orphanage in Kenya.

Shaun went with a group from Lancaster and District YMCA to visit Double Joy Children’s Farm, a home and school for children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya that was set up by a woman from Lancaster called Mary Hinde in 1994. At Double Joy, Shaun’s art projects included producing a silk painted patchwork banner and a stencil/mural project for the hospital ward. 

Shaun said “I had known about the children of Double Joy Children’s Farm for many years. I had seen photos, read letters, and taken part in fundraising events, but I had never been. Throughout my stay at Double Joy I ran arts and crafts activities, and I also taught basic maths and English. This has really helped me professionally develop my role as a teaching assistant and has broadened my knowledge extensively. I would like to thank the Nat Merriman fund for their donation towards my trip.”

Rose Beatrice Atieno, a social worker at the Double Joy Children’s Farm, said "Shaun Ferguson was wonderful and full of encouragement to the children. He did art with classes of two to four children every afternoon, which was most remarkable for us to see."

Lou Andrews, a youth worker and leader of the group, said “The aim of the trip was to deliver an arts project to the children, involving us making a patchwork silk painted wall hanging, to make a short promotional film for the orphanage and to play games and sporting activities. We aim to take a further small group over to volunteer in 2013.”

“We have achieved much through participating in this project. We have raised awareness of AIDS and HIV, of child poverty and child slavery. We have mobilised groups of young people, supporting their ideas for fundraising and enabling them to make a real difference to the lives of other children and we have made an amazing piece of art and a film which continues to support the charity. We continue to fund raise for the charity today.”

The Nat Merriman Fund is administered by Lancaster District CVS, a charity that is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and which also administers the Galbraith Trust and Community Grants for local community groups.

• If you would like to apply for funding or know someone that might, see the website If you would like to make a donation to the Nat Merriman Fund to enable more young people to experience the arts, please contact Lancaster District CVS by calling (01524) 555900.

M6 re-opens after death at Junction 31

Three lanes of the M6 northbound have now reopened, It is anticipated that the fourth lane will reopen at around 6.00pm.

Officers are now trying to identify the man who died, believed to be in his late 40’s and from the Preston area.

Once the investigation has been completed a file will be prepared and passed to the coroner.

M6 southbound re-opened after motorway tragedy

The southbound carriage way has now reopened after the death of a man on the M6 near Junction 31. Traffic is busy and moving slowly because, police tells us, motorists are "rubbernecking".

Sergeant Jon Allwright said, “We are still dealing with this incident and accident investigation work is taking place on the northbound carriageway. We hope to get the road open in the next two hours but we would urge people to avoid the area if possible.

“The southbound carriageway is open and traffic is moving but moving slowly. This is because motorists are rubbernecking which is slowing the flow of the traffic down considerably.

"Rubbernecking is dangerous and those travelling on the Southbound carriageway need to concentrate on the road in front of them and not looking across to the scene of the incident.”

We can also confirm that the man who died was on the motorway carriageway and did not jump from a overhead bridge.

M6 closed after man hit by car

The M6 has been closed in both directions after a man has been hit by a car on the northbound carriageway just after junction 31 at around 1.30pm. Sadly, the man has died.

The motorway will remain closed whilst the body is removed and accident investigation work is carried out. Traffic is busy in the area and we would advise motorists to avoid the area.

This is all we have on this incident at the moment but for more information check the Lancashire Police twitter feed:

Greenspace groups set to gather in Lancaster

Do you help maintain a green area that is accessible to the public? Then you are invited to a free half day conference for Greenspace groups. 

The conference will be 9.30-2.00 on Saturday 22nd September 2012, at the Friends Meeting House, Lancaster, to discuss the following:
  • To share best practice
  • To discuss common problems and issues e.g volunteer recruitment.
  • To explore ways of sharing resources eg expertise
  • To gain ideas and inspiration from what others have done
  • To improve our mutual understanding and working relationship with the City Council and other land owners
  • To Identify opportunities to enhance the district further
  • To give Lancaster City and County Councils an opportunity to learn from our greenspace groups
  • To celebrate the achievements of our voluntary groups in enhancing green spaces in the district.
Many public parks have a greenspace volunteer group; there are also 'Friends of...' groups in cemeteries, woodlands, church grounds, village halls and community centres. Other groups cover a wider area, enhancing wildlife habitat or volunteering on different sites and there are at least 32 such groups in the Lancaster district.

The organisers have brought together some speakers with extensive experience who have battled with many of the same issues that many Greenspace groups have. These include Andy Goldring, CEO of the Permaculture Association, and David Redmore who is leading the design process for Ryelands Park in Lancaster, and Regents Park in Morecambe.

There will also be representatives from Lancaster City Council and award-winning voluntary groups in the district on hand.

• To register your place, please complete the on-line survey at: There are only 45 conference places available so we will need to limit places to two or three per group. Committee members will be given priority over general volunteers,

This conference is organised by Lancaster Green Spaces, registered charity no 1046701. Our Objects are: The preservation, enhancement and maintenance of public areas and amenities in the City of Lancaster for the benefit of the public.

Three arrested following Scorton drugs raid

Police have seized white powder, cannabis and drugs paraphernalia following a drugs raid in Scorton over the weekend.

Neighbourhood police officers, accompanied by a support unit, swooped on an address on The Square in the normally quiet village near Garstang at around 7.00pm on Friday evening. After finding quantities of white powder inside the property, searches were also carried out at two other addresses and amphetamine and cannabis were seized.

A 22-year-old man from Scorton and a two men aged 27 and 28 from Preston were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of cocaine. They have been released on bail pending further inquiries.

“We hope that the seizure of this powder has prevented a large amount of drugs from making their way onto the streets of our local neighbourhoods," commented PC Dave Kerfoot from Wyre neighbourhood police team. "We have been carrying out reassurance patrols in the local area to inform residents about the action we have been taking to tackle drugs and drug dealing.

“Everyone has a part to play when it comes to removing illegal drugs from our communities and we would ask anyone with information to come forward and tell us.”

McGuinness battles hard for more Championship points

Picture: Glynne Lewis

Morecambe's John McGuinness battled hard on Sunday to pick up two more points at the latest round of the Metzeler National Superstock 1000cc Championship. Held at the Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire, the Padgetts Honda ace overcame being pushed wide on the opening lap to end the shortened race in 14th place.

After wet weather seriously affected Friday's schedule, John continued his recent short circuit form in qualifying on Saturday when weather conditions were a lot more favourable. Ending the two sessions in eighth place, John lined up on the second row of the grid for Sunday's 14-lap race and a good start saw him go into the first corner in a strong sixth place.

However, the next two corners saw him get pushed wide after a couple of over-zealous overtaking attempts from some of his fellow competitors and he completed the first lap back in 15th place. With lap times between the field extremely close, moving forward proved difficult although a safety car period allowed the pack to bunch back up. Moving up to 14th, John was looking to climb further still in the final third of the race but his hopes were dashed when the race was stopped due to an incident with five laps of the race still to run.

The results were taken at the end of the ninth lap and a slightly disappointed John later commented; "14th wasn't what I hoped for today. Oulton's one of my favourite circuits, as well as being my local one, so having placed so well in qualifying, I was looking for more of the same in the race. A top ten result was the least the team and I deserved this weekend and after making a really good start, I was confident of challenging the top six.

"No sooner had I gone into the first corner though, I was being pushed wide and that put me off line for the next section down the Avenue and into Cascades. There were some really desperate moves being pulled out there and it was a battle just to stay on track and although I regrouped, by that time I was mired deep in the pack. It's such a tough class that it's hard to fight your way back from that but I kept going and if it wasn't for the red flag, I'm sure I would have been knocking on the door of the top ten.

"Like I say, it's not what any of us wanted but we'll come back stronger at Brands next time out. It's another of my favourite circuits so I'll be firmly aiming at the top six once more."

John flew out to Oschersleben, Germany immediately after Oulton for a test session with the Honda TT Legends World Endurance team in preparation for the forthcoming World Championship rounds both there and at Suzuka, Japan. His next meeting though will be the next round of the Superstock series at Brands Hatch on 20th-22nd July.

Report by Phil Wain

Have you got the bottle to recycle?

Lancaster City Council is encouraging everyone in the district to recycle all their plastic bottles.

In the UK, 15 million plastic bottles are used every day, but less than 50 per cent of these are recycled, and so, to raise awareness about the plight of the plastic bottle, the council has launched a competition.

All you have to do is guess the number of plastic bottles that have been squashed into a recycling box, for your chance to win one of two fantastic prizes. Up for grabs are a Kindle or an iPod shuffle.

You can either enter the competition online by visiting where you can also find out more about plastic bottle recycling and other recycling services or come along to the last of three roadshows which is taking place this Wednesday (11th July) between 10am and 4pm in Market Square, Lancaster.

Deadline for entries is Friday 20th July.

All types of plastic bottle can be recycled in your kerbside recycling box – not just drinks bottles, but also shampoo and shower gel, sauces, cleaning products, and many other types of plastic bottle. It doesn’t matter what shape or colour it is, if it’s plastic and it’s a bottle – it can be recycled.

Recycled plastic bottles can be turned into all sorts of every day objects, such as fencing, benches and even fleeces. In fact it only takes 25 two litre bottles to make one adult sized fleece.

Residents in the Lancaster district are currently unable to recycle any other types of plastic such as yogurt pots, food trays, tubs and carrier bags. Lancaster City Council is working with the waste treatment plant where recycled materials are taken and hopes to be able to provide further plastic recycling facilities in the future.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Arguments ahead over fate of Storey

Blamire: "It is important that the council continues
to support the vision for the Storey Creative
Industries Centre."
Lancaster City Council discussed the future of Lancaster's troubled Storey Creative Industries Centre in Lancaster at a Cabinet meeting last week - but the decision to place the building under the Council's direct control has not been welcomed by all councillors.

The Council's move follows reports that tenants in the building were quitting in the face of rent rises - and now problems over a loan made to the Centre have brought further crisis.

In September 2008, the city council approved the provision of financial support of more than £133,000 to SCIC Limited over a three year period,  in recognition that it would be difficult for the company to break even over this period of time but that the company expected to move into surplus by its fourth year of operation.

However, in December last year it became apparent that this was not the case when SCIC Limited requested a loan from the council for £90,000, to be paid back over a three year period. This request for financial assistance was approved after taking into consideration various factors including the impact on the building’s tenants.

Since then, the city council has not only been talking to SCIC Limited about the future for the building, but has been monitoring it on meeting the loan conditions. It has now become clear that these have not been met and, as a result, Cabinet agreed last week to support the Storey Institute being used as a creative industries centre - but under the council's direct management and control.

The decision has been criticized by the Conservatives, who have proposed a motion for Full Council on 18th July arguing it is "wrong".

virtual-lancaster also understands that the Conservatives are preparing a "call-in" that will mean the decision may be referred to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. If it is allowed to proceed - and takes place before the Council meeting - the need for a debate on the motion at Council may be avoided.

"It is important that the council continues to support the vision for the Storey Creative Industries Centre and uses its experience in running and managing facilities to help build a strong and viable operation," argues Councillor Eileen Blamire, Leader of the Council.

"At the same time it is recognised that the SCIC Board, which is fully supportive of working in partnership with the council, could help bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm for creative industries to the centre and therefore there is still a role for it to play in providing valuable development support and advice."

“Through the new arrangements, the aim is to secure a brighter future for the Storey and its tenants , so it can continue to provide a centre of expertise and knowledge hub for the creative industries sector."

• For background information and the options considered, please see the public report at