Thursday, 30 August 2012

Will Lancastrians rise to the Ageing Well Challenge?

Nearly a third of people in the North West lack the confidence to tackle the isolation of elderly people in their community, according to a new survey for innovation foundation Nesta.

Over half (59 per cent) would like to help with the issue but almost a third (29 per cent) do not have the confidence to do so.

The survey comes as Nesta and the government Cabinet Office begin to encourage organisations to submit ideas to the Ageing Well Challenge that bring people together in new ways to combat this pressing social concern.

Although 15 per cent of people in the North West are already trying to reduce the isolation of elderly people, 32 per cent of respondents said that they would like to help but don’t know how. A further 12 per cent said that they have ideas which they have not yet put into action.

“Tackling social isolation is enormously important in helping older people to maintain their quality of life," notes Emma Soames from Saga Magazine. "There must be some great ideas out there for tackling it and this is a great opportunity to make a brilliant idea happen.”

The Ageing Well challenge, which is run by Nesta’s Centre for Challenge Prizes and funded by the Cabinet Office, seeks ideas to reduce the isolation and increase the mobility of vulnerable older people, by creating new opportunities for people to give time, skills and resources.

“It is clear that communities have the ideas, skills and the passion to help reduce isolation in old age, but sometimes we all need motivation and help to get ideas off of the ground and a boost in confidence," feels Vicki Purewal, Head of the Centre for Challenge Prize at Nesta. "This is why we have launched the Ageing Well challenge prize."

Nesta is an independent charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life.

“Elderly isolation is a growing issue with research from organisations such as The Campaign to End Loneliness showing that elderly feel trapped and alone," Vicki continues. "We want people to submit new ideas that have the potential to reduce isolation and increase mobility of elderly by tapping into collective skills and resources of neighbours, family, peers, organisations and businesses.”

Nick Hurd, government Minister for Civil Society, has welcomed the project. “It’s very encouraging how many people would like to help reduce loneliness in our communities," he commented. "Through this Challenge Prize we are looking to support great new ideas that will make it easier for more people to get involved and make a positive difference.”

Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of people in the North West volunteered for community action projects in the last year, yet almost a third (32 per cent) plan to in the next year.

• The deadline to submit ideas to the Ageing Well challenge is 14th September 2012 and application is via

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Police appeal following indecent exposure in Lancaster

Police are appealing for information following an incident of indecent exposure in Lancaster and have released an Evofit.

The incident happened on Saturday 11th August at around 7.15pm on Bowerham Road close to the city centre.

The victim, a 21-year-old local woman, was walking down the road when a car approached her and asked her for directions to Bell Street. When she looked into the car, the man had his genitals exposed and was touching himself inappropriately.

PC Rebecca Rooke from Lancaster Police said, “I would appeal to anyone who saw the incident or who was in the area at the time and may have witnessed something to come forward and contact the police.

“I would also ask people to look at the Evofit and see if they recognise the man and if they do then they need to make contact with us.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Lancaster 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.

Catch Anna Karenina at The Dukes

Keira Knightly as Anna Karenina. Image © Focus Features
Be among the first people to see the latest big screen costume drama - Anna Karenina (12A) -  when it opens at Lancaster’s Dukes cinema on its UK release date, Friday 7th September.

This lavish and innovative adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel starring Keira Knightly and Jude Law will be screened at The Dukes until 20th September, three times daily during the first week.

And anyone booking in advance will be entered into a prize draw to win a Dukes Golden Ticket entitling the winner to a pair of Meal Deals courtesy of one of Lancaster’s most popular eateries, The Borough; a pair of Dukes Film Club memberships; plus drinks and snacks for two from The Dukes café-bar.

Anna Karenina has been adapted for the big screen by acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard and is directed by Atonement director, Joe Wright.

Set in late 19th Century Russian high society, the film tells the story of aristocrat Anna Karenina who enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.

Anna Karenina is also the chosen film for The Dukes next Movie Morning and Mini Movie.

Anyone attending the Movie Morning screening at 11.00am on 14th September is entitled to a free tea or coffee and a pastry with their cinema ticket. The Mini Movies screening at 11am on September 17 is exclusively for parents or guardians with babies under one-year-old.

• Tickets are priced £5.50(£4.50 concessions). To book, call The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit

Council Leader responds to Storey questions

Council Leader Eileen Blamire
As we reported in last week's e-newsletter, virtual-lancaster is trying to find out how the Council's £90,000 loan to failing company SCIC in December 2011 came to be authorised by the City Council's Chief Executive Mark Cullinan under emergency procedures.
(See Mr Cullinan's comments below, added 31/8/12)

We understand that the issue was raised by the Chief Executive in a question and answer session with selected councillors in mid-November, but no decision was taken at that session and we can find no reference to it in the minutes of any cabinet or council meeting until 1st February, when the full council was notified in the Leader's report that an emergency loan had in fact been made back in December. Cabinet met on 6th December 2011 and 17th January 2012 and the Full Council met on 14th December 2011.

Last week, we asked the Leader of the Council, Eileen Blamire, why this emergency decision was not discussed at the Cabinet or Council meetings in the intervening period.

Councillor Blamire has responded that:

"The decision was taken on December 20 2011.   There was only one meeting during that intervening period - Cabinet on 17 January - so there was no undue delay." 

virtual-lancaster also asked if the loan was made to this failing company with any conditions in place as to how the money was to be used or repaid?

Councillor Blamire told us:

"Yes there were conditions attached - the main part of the loan agreement is included in the public urgent business report that went to Council on 18 July."

The Council's had previously made a grant of more than £133,000 to SCIC (struggling even before the recession) over a three year period from September 2008, in the belief that the company would begin to break even by 2012.   As the £90,000 emergency loan made last December was intended to enable the failing company SCIC to meet costs vital to its survival, such as utility bills, we also asked if any additional measures were set in place to ensure that the loaned money would, in fact, be expended on those critical debts for which it was requested, and who was made responsible for overseeing this expenditure?

Councillor Blamire told us:

"As background, SCIC Ltd is a separate entity with an independent Board, which has full responsibility and accountability for  the company's performance and its financial management .  The Council is represented on that Board, but has no controlling interest.

"Specific arrangements were put in place as part of the loan agreement with SCIC. It was due to these arrangements that the financial difficulties were highlighted and confirmed. The Council initiated the default action, because it didn't get the required information through from the company.

"As a more general comment, the Council's aim in all this has been to support creative industries.  In doing so and as reported, it has provided financial support over a number of years to the company managing the creative industries centre.  It has known of the company's difficulties and has challenged that company over its performance and prospects.  The risks were well documented - even as far back as 2007 when it was decided to proceed with the Storey's redevelopment as a CIC.  The Council chose to accept the risks then, because it thought the benefits for creative industries outweighed those risks, and there was full awareness of the risks in granting the loan much more recently.  The decision to grant that loan wasn't straightforward though.  

"There were other complications attached to the VAT position for the building that could have exposed the Council to even greater financial risks - as well as all the difficulties and uncertainties for the sub-tenants and their customers, which we have seen in recent weeks. 

"The most important thing now is to work through the liquidation process and establish a clear way forward." 

virtual-lancaster understands meetings will be taking place shortly to discuss the matter further and what to do about the Tourist Information Centre, currently located in Lancaster Reference Library on New Street.

Update 21/8/12:
Virtual Lancaster also asked Mark Cullinan, Lancaster City Council's chief executive the following questions:

Can the CE comment on why the matter was not raised in any Cabinet or Council meeting during the period between  mid-November and February?

Can he clarify if the loan was made to this failing company with any conditions in place as to how the money was to be used or repaid?

Given that the council's previous oversight of this partner company had failed to avert this crisis, can he describe what additional measures were set in place to ensure that the loaned money would, in fact, be expended on those critical debts for which it was requested, and who was made responsible for this expenditure?

Mr Cullinan has replied as follows: 

"The reason why the decision to provide a loan to SCIC Ltd was taken under urgent business procedures is very simple.

"Important decisions such as this are only taken once all the necessary information is available and, in this case, this only became available after the meeting of Cabinet in December. The decision, however, could not be deferred to the next meeting of Cabinet due to the urgency of the situation.

"In such circumstances the council's constitution allows for an urgent decision to be made. 

"Although not a common occurrence, it is not unusual. Both the leader of the council and responsible Cabinet member were consulted and were in agreement with the decision, and the chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed that call-in should be waived.

"The decision was then reported to the next meeting of Council in February, as is required by the council's constitution. 

"Any implication that the correct procedures were not followed is incorrect."

Virtual-Lancaster has only the most tenuous grasp on what the correct procedures might be in such a case but the implication certainly appears to be that public money can in fact be loaned under these procedures to a long-failing company that has no visible means of repaying it.

Tenant companies occupying the Storey building on Meeting House Lane were hit by SCIC with a bill for £99,651 in additional charges just days after it received the City Council's emergency £90,000 'loan' which was intended to support these tenancies. Predictably, at this point some tenants felt forced to leave the building, with a resultant drop in its already inadequate income.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Treasures aplenty lined up at The Dukes

The Dukes, Lancaster, has a sparkling season of drama, comedy, music and dance lined up for its autumn/winter programme this year. The jewels in the crown of the forthcoming season will be their home produced Christmas show – Treasure Island – and the weeklong Afrovibes Festival in October. Here’s a round up of what’s to come…

Treasure Island, the classic tale by Robert Louis Stevenson, is given a modern twist by Coronation Street scriptwriter Debbie Oates for its run from 23rd November- 5th January.  A young Morecambe girl – Jem – is a 21st Century Jim Hawkins leaving her boring home to spend her Christmas seeking adventures on the high seas in a show where the audience will be even closer to the action than ever before.

Visitors to The Dukes will be transported to another far away land from 1st - 6th October when Afrovibes, a festival of the very best contemporary theatre, dance, music, film and spoken word from Southern Africa comes to town. The café bar will be transformed in to the Township Café serving authentic African food and drink and hosting a range of festival fringe events complementing the top quality entertainment in the Rake and the Round.

Another highlight of October will be the return of Northern Broadsides with A Government Inspector (9th - 13th October), a humorous tale of misdeeds, misadventure and mistaken identity set within a small Pennine town’s local authority.

Drama remains central to the theatre's programme this season from solo shows such as Miss Havisham’s Expectations (26th September) which celebrates Dickens bicentenary, and An Instinct For Kindness (24th October), the highly acclaimed show about assisted suicide; to the Shakespeare Schools Festival (5th November) which involves hundreds of young people from local schools.

 There’s comic relief aplenty too with a comedy season which kicks off on 21st September with Frisky and Mannish and includes appearances by Jo Caulfield (28th September); Tim Key (23rd October); and Mark Thomas (28th) with his new show, Bravo Figaro; Daniel Sloss (30th November) and Josie Long (2nd December).

Music heralds the start of the autumn/winter season this coming Saturday (1st September) when Liverpool-based Dead Belgian play the songs of Jacques Brel in their own playful and inventive way with support from Lancaster’s own Ottersgear. Other memorable musical moments will be provided by James Yorkston (14th September); Trio Libero (22nd September) and the ever-popular Wired In sessions on 17th and 19th September . The Dukes café-bar will also get your weekend off to a great  start this Autumn with free live music performed from 6.00pm every Friday.

For dance fans, the season offers Agnes & Walter: A Little Love Story (25th October), inspired by The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which set the Edinburgh Festival Fringe alight.

As always, Festive fun is guaranteed on 14th-15th December when The Dukes almost-famous Christmas Cabaret returns, this time on the big stage, but still starring Slightly Fat Features who’ve built up a cult following in Lancaster with their glittering variety spectaculars.

• To book tickets for any of the new season events, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit for full details and lisintgs.

Morecambe's Seaside Festival: Full Line-Up

The sky promises to be the limit when the Morecambe Seaside Festival flies back into the resort this coming weekend.

For the last weekend of the school holidays, expect spectacular aerial stunts from the Red Arrows, magical fireworks, top class music and more as this year's programme of Morecambe's Festivals by the Sea comes to a dramatic end.

On Saturday the arena stage will host a showcase of live music throughout the day performed by top local talent. Headlining the Saturday evening is a tribute to one of the country's biggest stars 'Adele'. Ami Barrett will take to the stage at 7.00pm to perform her Someone Like Adele show.

Saturday’s programme of entertainment ends with a magnificent firework display at 9.00pm, launched from the Stone Jetty against the stunning backdrop of Morecambe Bay.

And the weekend doesn’t end there.The Red Arrows are booked to perform an aerobatic display at noon on Sunday and a Spitfire, a legendary World War Two aircraft will also be paying a visit to the festival with air displays from 1.15pm.

"Despite the weather, this summer has been one to remember for us all, with the Olympic Torch relay being one of my personal highlights," says Councillor Ron Sands, Cabinet member for tourism at Lancaster City Council. "The Seaside Festival is the single biggest event of the Festivals by the Sea events programme and I'm looking forward to a weekend that will be fun for all the family.

"It's important to remember that our festivals are not just about attracting people to Morecambe on the day or weekend of the event itself - we are reaching out to a new generation which will fall in love with Morecambe and come back again and again for the rest of their lives.

"They're also an opportunity for our communities to come together and take pride in what we have to offer as a district."

Councillor June Ashworth, chairman of Morecambe Town Council's Festivals and Events Committee, added: "Morecambe Town Council is pleased to be working in partnership with Lancaster City Council by jointly funding the Seaside Festival again this year.

"The hugely popular Seaside Festival is a fantastic climax to Morecambe's summer season, and provides a real boost for tourism by attracting thousands of visitors.

"In addition, Morecambe Town Council has also financially supported 26 festivals and events taking place throughout 2012. Morecambe Council feels that this is important in bringing added value to the local economy, and providing summer entertainment for residents and visitors to the resort."

Over the festival weekend, the Platform will be hosting some special guests. Children will be able to enjoy two amazing shows and get up close with Bjorn the Polar Bear on the Saturday and Tiny the Dinosaur on Sunday.

There's also more live music on the outdoor stage at the Arena with local soul group Twenty Four Seven, Amy-Jo Clough and the Reggimentals.

On the Sunday, you can also enjoy live entertainment whilst picking up a bargain at Morecambe's Festival Market and an arts and craft fair at the Winter Gardens.

Traffic and travel

Anyone choosing to attend the event by private car via Morecambe Road should note that due to the large number of people expected to attend the event, traffic congestion is likely with the Shrimp Roundabout expected to be one of the area's most affected.

Local people are advised to use alternative modes of transport and walk, cycle or use public transport.

On leaving the festival, motorists heading back towards Lancaster should consider using the A6 as an alternative route.

Please note that road closures will be in place on the central Promenade Area from 6pm - 10pm on the Saturday (September 1) and from 10am - 6pm on the Sunday (2nd September).

Alternative routes will be signposted.

Programme of events

Saturday 1 September

Arena - main stage

12.30pm - Pantabulous
1.30pm - Katy Pickles
2.15pm - The Hustle
3pm - Amy-Jo Clough
4.15pm - Reggimentals
6pm - DJ set
7pm - Someone Like Adele
9pm - Firework spectacular

The Platform

1pm, 2.15pm, 3.30pm - Bjorn the Polar Bear show. It is advisable to buy tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

Sunday 2 September

Air displays

Noon - Red Arrows
1.15pm - Spitfire

Arena - main stage

12.30pm - Remix Pop Choir
1.15pm - Dalton
2.15pm - Lilygreen and McGuire
3.15pm - DHFive Band
4.30pm - Twenty Four Seven

The Platform

1pm, 2.15pm, 3.30pm - Tiny the friendly Dinosaur. It is advisable to buy tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

• Tickets for these shows cost £3 or £10 for a family of four and can be bought in advance at or in person at Morecambe Visitor Information Centre at the Platform building.

• For a full programme of events, visit or contact Morecambe and Lancaster Visitor Information Centres (tel. 01524 582808).

• For safety reasons, fireworks, sparklers or alcohol must not be brought to the festival. Refreshments will be available from a licensed bar area on-site on both days.

Curiouser and Curiouser: Dukes beams in Haddon play

(Updated) An award-winning novel adapted for the National Theatre stage will be screened live in to The Dukes cinema next week, on Thursday 6th September - and demand is so high the event is sold out and encore performances have been organised.

The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time is a richly theatrical exploration of the wonderfully touching and bleakly humorous novel by Mark Haddon.

Featuring Niamh Cusack, this play focuses on 15-year-old Christopher who comes under suspicion after he’s found standing by Mrs Shears’ dead dog who has been speared with a garden fork.

Mark Haddon’s novel was Whitbread Book of the Year in 2003, and has now sold over 2 million copies around the world. Marianne Elliott co-directed the globally successful stage production of War Horse for the National, for which she won a Tony Award in 2011. Simon Stephens, twice Best Foreign Playwright of the Year, is the author of many original plays and adaptations, including Harper Regan and On the Shore of the Wide World, both directed by Marianne Elliott at the National Theatre.

Now in its fourth season, National Theatre Live gives audiences a unique chance to see the best of British theatre broadcast live by satellite in to their local cinema.

The Dukes has been screening NT Live performances since they began and all have proved popular so advance booking is recommended.

The 6th September broadcast is now sold out but recorded encore screenings of this broadcast will be held on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th September. Information on which can be found here.

• Tickets cost  £13/£12(concessions). Seating is allocated and can be booked at The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or online at

Monday, 27 August 2012

Seaside Festival: Have fun, keep safe, say police

Visitors and residents enjoying the delights of Morecambe’s Seaside Festival are being given crime prevention advice to ensure a fantastic day out. 

The event takes place on 1st - 2nd September and thousands of people are expected to come to the unique event in order to see a variety of live music, fireworks and other exciting attractions.

While crime is low in Morecambe, large crowds can offer opportunistic thieves the chance to strike. Police are advising people to follow a few simple prevention measures to avoid becoming a victim of crime.

  • When parking your car remove valuables from display, lock the vehicle and tuck your wing mirrors in.

  • Carry valuables in a zipped up pocket in your bag. If your bag has a strap, wear it across your body with any flaps facing inwards. If you don’t have bag, carry items in an inside or front pocket of your clothing.

  • Don’t leave personal property, such as bags or mobile phones, unattended.

  • The town has plenty of cash points so you can nip for more money if needed – don’t carry large amounts of cash on you.

  • Making the most if the event may include having a few drinks. Remember that alcohol can impair your judgement and leave you susceptible to harm, so please drink responsibly. The prom and the beach are designated no-drinking zones and this will be enforced.

  • If you are in need of police assistance, approach one of the officers on duty. Alternatively you can contact police on 101 – in an emergency always dial 999.

Those not attending the festival are being reminded that the area will be very busy and there may be some traffic congestion – alternative routes should be sought to avoid the queues.

Inspector Jim Edmonds, Morecambe police, said: “We expect the seaside festival to be a fantastic two-day event for all those involved and that the vast majority of people will leave having had a really good time. Following these simple tips could prevent your day from being ruined and will also help us to ensure that crime remains low in Morecambe.”