Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Really Heavy Greatcoat Review of the Year 2013

The Really Heavy Greatcoat by myself and Lancaster-based artist Nick Miller was published fairly regularly for about 20 years in alternative Lancaster print titles such as On The Beat and Off the Beat and online on virtual-lancaster.net.

The strip's last regular appearance in print was in the now defunct Comics International.

When last seen in a regular strip, Kevin, the current owner of the Greatcoat - a talking garment with transcendentally dimensional pockets - was a student. He was clearly not postgraduate material so Nick and I reckon he's in a bedsit in Skerton, Lancaster somewhere, eking out a life on benefits...

If anyone ever offered to pay us to write it, it might still be running today - but Nick still creates an annual Review of the Year, bless him!

Happy New Year!

• More by Nick Miller at: http://teamsputnikblog.blogspot.com

Greatcoat Review of the Year 2012

Greatcoat Review of the Year 2011

Greatcoat Review of the Year 2010

Greatcoat Review of the Year 2009

Greatcoat Review of the Year 2008
More Really Heavy Greatcoats on the original downthetubes web site

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Police investigate Morecambe match disorder

Police are appealing for information after some disorder at the Morecambe vs Fleetwood derby match on Boxing Day, in which stewards were assaulted.

Disorder broke out as around 15 people challenged club stewards on the Bay Radio stand, which resulted in a number of stewards being assaulted. The disorder then continued as those involved left the stand.

Four people have been arrested so far as part of the on-going investigation but officers are looking to identify others that were involved.

Chief Inspector Ian Sewart said, “The behaviour of those concerned was unacceptable and we will continue to make enquiries to trace all of those involved.

“The vast majority of those who attended the fixture behaved responsibly and it is entirely regrettable that a small number chose to act in this mindless fashion.

“I have set up a team of officers to investigate what occurred and bring to justice those found to have committed offences.

“We are currently examining a number of CCTV images and I am confident we will be able to identify all of those involved.

“All four men arrested were from the Fleetwood area and have been bailed pending further enquires.

“We are currently in liaison with Fleetwood Football Club to identify those outstanding and it is highly likely more arrests will follow.

“I would urge anyone who witnessed what happened or to anyone who was involved to get in touch with the enquiry team.”

The investigation is continuing and anyone with any information about those involved should contact police 101.

Appeal after meat stolen from Pilling hotel

Police are appealing for information after over £700 of meat was stolen from an outbuilding at a Pilling hotel.

The theft occurred sometime between 3.00 and 9.00pm on the 23rd December when someone stole a large quantity of meat from a storage freezer inside an insecure outbuilding in the grounds of Springfield House Hotel on Wheel Lane.

The items taken include, turkey crowns, shoulders of lamb and lamb shanks, duck fillets, pork, bacon, gammon and geese. The people responsible also helped themselves to cheese and a crate of lager.

PC Robert Tugman said, “If anyone noticed any suspicious activity in the area then we would urge them to contact police.

“It is likely the offenders could have tried to sell on the meat in the street, in pubs or from possible from the back of a vehicle. Members of the public being offered such items for sale are urged to contact police on 101 with as much information as possible.”

Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org



Wednesday, 25 December 2013

BBC Comedy Award winner Steve Bugeja at Lancaster Comedy Club

This Sunday 29th December sees the freshly crowned BBC New Comedy Award winner Steve Bugeja at The Borourgh in Dalton Square for a great Lancaster Comedy Club night out, alongside Dan Nightingale, Jonathon Elston and MC David Longley.

Into the New Year, we're told tickets are selling very fast indeed for Sunday 5th January with Ivan Brackenbury's Hospital Radio Roadshow and Ian D. Montfort.This shouldn't be great surprise for anyone who has seen either act here before!

2014 at the Comedy Club is shaping up a storm, with acts including Drop The Dead Donkey's Nick Revell and The Now Show's Mitch Benn as well as old favourites such as Seymour Mace, Paul McCaffrey, Chris McCausland and Daliso Chaponda.

• To book for Sunday or to see details of all the Comedy Club acts for the next few months visit www.lancastercomedy.co.uk as well as biogs and video clips of the acts. Or, simply ring 01524 64170

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Police launch appeal for missing Morecambe girl

Police are appealing for information about a teenage girl missing from her home in Morecambe.

Alice Leigh Ryan, 14, was last seen at her home address on Euston Road around 8.15pm on Saturday 21st December.

PC Jo Clement said: “Alice has been missing for a number of days now and given her age we are obviously concerned for her welfare and her family want her home for Christmas.

“I would appeal to anybody that thinks they have seen Alice since Saturday or knows of her current whereabouts to contact police. I would also appeal directly to Alice to let us know she is okay.”

Alice is described as being 4 feet 4 inches tall, slim build with shoulder length dark brown or dyed black hair. She was last seen wearing black trousers and a black hooded top.

Police believe Alice is still in the Morecambe or Lancaster area. Anyone with information about her possible whereabouts should contact Lancashire Police on 101.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Moorlands Hotel set to become flats?

Moorlands Hotel, Freehold, Lancaster

Updated: To the dismay of many (but, clearly, not enough to keep it open) the Moorlands Hotel in Lancaster's Freehold closed a few months ago and was sold to Mister Capitol Holdings by owners Mitchells. MCH plan to turn it into flats.

If that company name rings a bell, it should – because Mister Capitol Holdings is the same company that bought and began work on the Duke of Lancaster on China Street earlier this year.

As we reported in the summer, Lancaster City Council quickly called a halt to the conversion work and began a planning enforcement investigation after it became clear that Mister Capital Holdings, who are based in St. Leonards Gate, had begun work converting the former public house into flats without securing planning permission.

Planning permission was then made on 5th July to gain Listed Building Consent for various alterations including "replacement windows, doors, gates and works to ceilings, courtyard and elevations and the blocking up an existing doorway" to the main building, which the Council granted.

On 13th December, a new application, which is "Pending Consideration", was made on the Duke of Lancaster -
Listed Building consent for works to facilitate the change of use of former stable block, within site curtilage of vacant public house to form 4 no. student apartments.

Work is in progress at the property, presumably in keeping with the planning permission granted in July and not in connection with work for which planning permission has not been granted.

Duke of Lancaster, China Street
It seems odd to us that any company would begin work on a major conversion without securing the relevant planning permissions. So it seems strange that we are receiving reports from locals that windows at the Moorlands have been whitewashed in the past few days and building rubble has been spotted in the back yard.

There is, as yet, no planning application on the Council's web site for the building for change of use. Several locals have expressed concern at the proposed change of use, pointing to issues over car parking in the area for such a large development.

Commenting, a City Council spokesperson told us: "A planning application has been lodged for a change of use to the Moorlands Hotel from a public house to student accommodation. The application is currently invalid and the applicant has been made aware of the steps that are required to formally validate the application.

"Once the application has been validated, for reference, the number will be 13/01301/FUL."

We have been unable to contact anyone at Mister Capital Holdings for comment at this point.

While it's sad to see the demise of two local pubs and their loss as hostelries, Mitchells still owns over 40 public house in the Lancaster and Morecambe area, so let's hope they stay as they are in 2014...

Mitchells Pubs in the Lancaster and Morecambe area

All the very best of the season from the virtual-lancaster team!

School Dances Into The Dukes

A scene from Alice Through The Looking Glass which will be performed at The Dukes on 11th January 2014.
The only state school in the country thought to have tackled a full-length ballet will make its professional debut at The Dukes in January.

A talented team from Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale will present a unique version of Alice Through The Looking Glass at the Lancaster theatre on January 11.

The two-hour performance which features 35 dancers, including 18-year-old Kate Threlfall as Alice, and a 12-piece orchestra has been directed by Jasper Marriott, a former member of the Lancaster-based Ludus Dance touring company.

“I directed our first full length contemporary ballet in 2011 which was a version of Nutcracker. I loved the process so I knew I wanted to keep making large scale ballets,” said Jasper.

But producing a full length ballet at a secondary school isn’t without its challenges.

The project is created from scratch with completely original content including the score which was composed by Jen Hartley, the school’s head of music, over the summer.

The ballet has taken eight months to be produced while ensuring a minimal impact on teaching and learning at the school.

“For Alice, I wanted the whole project to be original in terms of story, choreography and music,” said Jasper who has taught at QES for nine years.

“We staged the ballet at QES for six performances in December, which is typical of a major school production, but due to the uniqueness of the project and the amazing response to our previous full length dance show, I wanted to bring this production to a larger audience, not just the those with links to the school.

“I feel the work is strong enough for a regular mainstream audience. The Dukes seemed the ideal venue to stage this production and offers a hugely exciting opportunity for our dancers,” said Jasper. 

• On 11th January 2014, there will be two performances of the ballet, at 2pm and 7.30pm. The show is recommended for anyone aged 4 plus.

• To book tickets priced £8/£6 concessions, ring The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Evofit appeal after woman sexually assaulted in Lancaster

Police have released an Evofit of an Eastern European man police need to speak with after a woman was sexually assaulted in Lancaster this week.


The offence took place sometime between 2.00am and 3.00am on Monday 16th December when the 25-year-old victim was approached by a man as she walked home along St Peters Road after a night out.


As the woman walked along the path that cuts between St Peters Road and Moor Lane the man asked the victim for a cigarette before grabbing the victim around her hips and pushing her to the floor before sexually touching her over her clothing.


The victim has screamed and managed to fight off her attacker. Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward.    


DC Rachel Killinger from Lancaster Public Protection Unit said: “This was obviously a very distressing incident for the victim but fortunately she was not hurt. I would appeal to anybody that recognises this man or with any information that could assist us with our investigation to contact us on 101.


“I would reassure people that police patrols have been increased in the area and we are doing all we can to find the man responsible.”


The offender is described as being between 25 and 32 years old with short blonde hair, dark eyes and a pointed nose. He was wearing a grey baggy hoody and spoke with an Eastern European accent.



Friday, 20 December 2013

Teenage pair sentenced for two burglaries in Morecambe

An 18-year-old man from Morecambe and a 17-year-old boy were today sentenced for committing two burglaries on one street in Morecambe.
Daniel Bell, 18, of Princes Crescent, Morecambe, was sentenced to two years’ detention in a youth offenders’ institution at Preston Crown Court having previously pleaded guilty of one count of dwelling burglary and one count of non-dwelling burglary relating to a shed break-in.

The 17-year-old boy was sentenced to a twelve month supervision order and 240 hours of unpaid work having previously pleaded guilty to two counts of handling stolen goods for his part in both offences.

The offences took place sometime between the night of Saturday 14 September and the morning of Sunday 15th September when Bell and the 17-year-old boy broke into a property on Hest Bank Road, Morecambe, stealing cash, a purse and the 98-year-old victim’s engagement ring from her bedside table as she slept. The engagement ring had particular sentimental value to the victim as it was given to her by her late husband in 1943.

The shed break-in was carried out at an address also on Hest Bank Road, Morecambe, during the same time period, stealing electrical tool equipment.

DC Sarah Houghton of Lancaster CID said “I am pleased to report we recovered the ring and returned it to the victim. The disparity of the two offences shows the clear disregard Bell and his accomplice had for who may be the victims of their offences, and, on this occasion, one of them was a 98-year-old lady.

“I welcome the custodial sentence given to Bell today, and hope it provides some solace for the victims.

“Although dwelling burglaries are low in Lancashire, there have been a number of burglaries into sheds, garages and outbuildings, often targeting electrical equipment, tools and high value bikes, around Lancaster and Morecambe in recent months. We would encourage homeowners to use strong locks and security lights on their sheds and outbuildings, and ensure the hinges and locking mechanisms on all doors are in good order.”

The sentencing comes as Lancashire Constabulary come to the end of Operation Julius, targeting criminals and detecting burglaries across the county.

It will run until the end of this month and will see officers using a range of overt and covert tactics including visits to Lancashire’s top 30 burglary suspects, executing warrants and high-visibility police patrols.

Consultation begins on proposed cuts to local evening and Sunday bus services

Eric Ollerenshaw
Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw has raised concerns about Lancashire County Council's proposal to make massive cuts to evening and Sunday bus services in the House of Commons.

The Labour-run County Council, which is consulting on the plan, says it will save £3.8m over the next two years by withdrawing subsidies which enable the services to operate, which Mr Ollerenshaw says will affect most of the villages and outlying council estates in the Lancaster area.

Bus services to Freehold, the Ridge the Marsh and Vale estates in Lancaster and Skerton, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth, Hest Bank Railway Station (yes, this is ironic, isn't it?), Bolton-le-Sands and Overton are among those that would be lost if the plan goes ahead.

Perhaps forgetting it was a previous Tory government that privatised bus services, he suggested a serious review of the need to maintain vital bus services for rural and difficult-to-reach areas was overdue.

Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of Sate for Transport, acknowledged Mr Ollerenshaw had made a vaild point.

"The truth is that, while we have seen a huge amount of growth in the railways, more people are using buses every single day, particularly in rural areas and rural communities, which rely on bus services," he says. "My honorable Friend raises important issues and his ideas certainly merit further consideration."

Announcing the proposal which would affect 72 services from May if approved, the County Council, which is now consulting on the idea, says it would focus on "maintaining daytime services" and invest more in Dial-A-Ride community transport.

The consultation comes as national charity Campaign for Better Transport warned that bus cuts across the country are hitting “critical levels”.

"In some parts of the country, cuts to bus services are now reaching critical levels," says the campaign group. "Our new research shows how entire networks of bus services are at risk of collapse. The report Buses in crisis reveals 47 per cent of local authorities reducing their support for buses for 2013 with a number threatening to remove all support in the next financial year.

"If Government doesn’t take action to help support buses we will see whole networks disappear."

Cuts vital as government funding cuts bite

The proposals are just part of the County Council's budget proposals for 2014 to save  £300m over the next four years due to central government funding cuts.

Four-fifths of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies such as Stagecoach on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20 per cent are not commercially viable and are currently subsidised by some £8 million annually by the county council. The proposal suggests that subsides be withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from 18th May 2014, but would continue to 103 bus services which operate during the day.

However, each subsidy would be reviewed on a case by case basis when its current contract expires to ensure it remains sustainable.

Any withdrawals will take place during the middle of 2014 so for the meantime all these services are continuing to run as normal.

"This proposal would maintain the bulk of that spending," argues  County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, "while saving £1.8m next year and £2m a year after that, by focusing on subsidising routes during the day when they are most used by people going about their business."

"I'm fully aware that the withdrawal of any bus service would have an impact upon the people who use it," he added.

"These are proposals at this stage and no decision will be taken without carefully considering the results of this consultation."
Despite the proposal to cut subsidies, the County Council hopes to soften the blow with an additional £500,000 investment in community transport such as dial-a-ride services.

“We would never have chosen to be in this financial situation," Mr Fillis told the Lancashire Evening Post, "but we have to find ways to drastically reduce our budget.

"Our first priority is to safeguard the most vulnerable members of society, but to achieve this we have to look at everything we do.”

• The consultation period ends on 10 January with the 2014 budget decided at a full County Council meeting on 20 February. The county council would like to hear any comments you may have on the proposals that have been put forward: www3.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/consultation/responses/response.asp?ID=225

Campaign for Better Transport "Save Our Buses" Camapign 

View the Campaign for Better Transport's interactive bus cuts map which makes transparent the extent of the problem of local authority funding cuts to buses. This map is a crowd sourcing project, which means the CBT are asking you to help us track bus cuts 

County Council documents on affected services (PDF links)


Local MPs accused of sending seasonal message of ill-will and bad cheer

Councillor Chris Coates
Lancaster Green Councillor Chris Coates has condemned local MPs for voting not to investigate the increased use of food banks in the UK.

Eric Ollerenshaw
As we reported yesterday, both local MPs Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris voted against a proposal on 18th December in the House of Commons that called on the Government to publish the results of research into the use of food banks that it had promised to make public in the summer and for action to be taken to reduce dependency on food handouts.

"The message that this sends to people struggling to make ends meet is that our local MPs don't care about you," feels Councillor Coates. "To turn away from those in need at this time of year is unbelievable.

David Morris
"The number of people using food banks is on the increase across the country driven by things like the bedroom tax, low wages and rising energy and food prices," he continued. "It is a basic human right that people should have sufficient food and that they should not go hungry. We should spare a thought for those who are going to struggle to have any sort of Christmas at all this year.”

The call on the government to do something about the rising use of food banks follows on from calls earlier in the year by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, that the UK government was “Shirking its responsibilities.”.

The number of people using foodbanks provided by the Trussell Trust has increased from 41,000 in 2010 to more than 500,000 since April this year

• Read the debate in Hansard: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131218/debtext/131218-0003.htm#13121855000003

Local Food Banks

Olive Branch Food Bank
1 Westbourne Road, Lancaster LA1 5DB
Tel: 01524 555715 Mobile: http://www.the-olivebranch.org.uk

Morecambe Bay Foodbank
The G.Y.M. Methodist Church, Green Street, Morecambe LA4 5HN
Tel: 07591 763 130

• Trussell Trust Food Bank network map
if you want to donate, volunteer or seek help - http://www.trusselltrust.org/map. You can also send cheques payable to “The Trussell Trust” to: The Trussell Trust, Unit 10, Ashfield Trading Estate, Salisbury SP2 7HL

To donate to the Mirror's Food Bank appeal visit justgiving.com/Mirror-Foodbank-Appeal
Alternatively you can donate by calling 01722 580 208 between 9.30am and 5pm or text FBOX99 £1 or £2, £3, £4, £5, £10 to 70070 e.g: text “FBOX99 £5” to 70070

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Local MPs support government block on a full House of Commons Hunger Debate

Eric Ollerenshaw
Local MPs Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris voted with the government against a proposal calling on the Government for a full Parliamentary Debate on hunger in the UK and investigate the increased use of food banks in the UK yesterday.

The vote came after nearly 150,000 people signed a change.org/foodbanks petition started by Oxfam and Child Poverty Action group campaigner, mother Jack Monroe, backed by the Mirror newsaper, the Unite union and The Trussell Trust calling for an inquiry into the growing dependence on food aid.

Labour leader Ed Miliband called for a House of Common Opposition Day debate on the plight of Britain's poorest famillies - but Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs banded together to defeat Labour’s motion for a full Parliamentary Debate by 294 votes to 251, a majority of 43.

The Mirror newspaper reports Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith refused to answer for the Government, leaving it to his deputy, North West MP Esther McVey, who sparked fury by claiming it was a good thing that more people were turning to food banks.
David Morris
Government ministers from the responsible departments – including Iain Duncan Smith – left the debate after just an hour of the crucial Commons debate.

The Mirror claims the debate saw a depressing lack of concern from some Tory MPs about the plight of hungry families forced to rely on food banks, with some laughing and jeering as Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart told of shocking scenes at her local Tesco in Slough as people battled over cut-price fruit and vegetables, desperate to snap up discounted items.

Senior Labour politicians later described the Tories’ callous reaction as “shameful” and “a total disgrace”, while the Trussell Trust, the nation’s largest provider of food banks, said it was “disappointed” by the attitude of those who jeered.

Duncan Smith's deputy, Tory Wirral MP Esther McVey, claimed that food bank use was a good thing, saying it was a positive "that people are reaching out to support other people.

“In the UK it is right that more people are going to food banks because as times are tough, we are all having to pay back this £1.5 trillion debt personally.

"We are all trying to live within our means, change gear and make sure that we pay back all our debt." the minister, who receives a three-figure salary and has claimed some £170,000 in expense this year, claimed.

The Mirror reports Labour veteran Sir Gerald Kaufman her speech as the “nastiest” he had heard in his 43 years as an MP.

Food banks give a minimum of three days’ emergency food to people facing crisis in the UK. The Trussell Trust runs the Morecambe Bay Food Bank, based at the G.Y.M. Methodist Church in Green Street, Morecambe. The Olive Branch runs the Food Bank in Westbourne Road, Lancaster.

People are referred by care professionals though a voucher system to ensure only genuine cases receive help. Vouchers are also held by Jobcentre Plus for emergency distribution.

Each food bank is run in partnership with a local church or community. All food is donated by the public.

The Mirror and Sunday Mirror’s Christmas Appeal for the Trussell Trust has revealed that 60,000 people in the UK will go hungry over Christmas – 20,000 of them children. The Trust has already fed more than 500,000 people just since April.

" This Christmas, my son and I will have food on the table," says Jack Monroe, who was forced to turn to food banks in the past to get by.  "But 60,000 others won’t. It’s not just the festive season – 350,000 people received three-days emergency food from foodbanks between April and September this year. Yet supposedly the economy is recovering, and banker’s bonuses are back?

"Please join me by signing this petition calling for a Parliamentary Debate. Make politicians confront what is happening. We need to stop turning a blind eye."

You can still sign Jack Monroe's petition here

• Read the debate in Hansard: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131218/debtext/131218-0003.htm#13121855000003  

The 296 MPs who voted against the motion are listed here

• Read the Mirror's report and watch video from the debate: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/food-banks-debate-video-iain-2941100#ixzz2nw4hVTwy

Local Food Banks

Olive Branch Food Bank
1 Westbourne Road, Lancaster LA1 5DB
Tel: 01524 555715 Mobile: http://www.the-olivebranch.org.uk

Morecambe Bay Foodbank
The G.Y.M. Methodist Church, Green Street, Morecambe LA4 5HN
Tel: 07591 763 130

• Trussell Trust Food Bank  network map if you want to donate, volunteer or seek help - http://www.trusselltrust.org/map. You can also send cheques payable to “The Trussell Trust” to: The Trussell Trust, Unit 10, Ashfield Trading Estate, Salisbury SP2 7HL.

To donate to the Mirror's Food Bank appeal visit justgiving.com/Mirror-Foodbank-Appeal .
Alternatively you can donate by calling 01722 580 208 between 9.30am and 5pm or text FBOX99 £1 or £2, £3, £4, £5, £10 to 70070 e.g: text “FBOX99 £5” to 70070

Crook O' Lune bridge to reopen tomorrow

The east pedestrian and cycleway bridge at the Crook O' Lune will reopen tomorrow (Friday 20th December) after a restoration costing around £1million was completed by Lancashire County Council.

Extensive work on the listed structure began in March to replace the timber deck, repoint masonry and repaint ironwork after an inspection had unearthed problems with the timber beams supporting the deck.

The bridge, near the Crook O' Lune picnic site, links Caton with the River Lune Millennium Park. The area attracts 250,000 visitors a year and is popular among cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

More improvements are to be made nearby in January with the creation of a landscaped picnic area alongside the river beneath the bridge. Native trees such as oak and wild cherry will be planted, along with hawthorn and holly hedgerows and wildflowers. Benches in the style of railway sleepers will also be installed, as well as wooden sculptures of the otters which inhabit the Lune.

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning, and cultural services, said: "I'm sure that regular visitors, as well as the thousands of people who come each year from further afield, will appreciate the high quality and sympathetic restoration to this historic bridge.

"The Crook O' Lune is a beautiful part of Lancashire - the county council's major investment to improve the bridge and surrounds will support local tourism and ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the area.

"We're sorry for the inconvenience while the bridge has been closed, and thank people for their patience, but hope they'll agree that the result has been worth it."

Work was delayed for a number of weeks during the summer when nesting birds were discovered beneath the bridge deck. The blue tit and jackdaw chicks were given time to mature and fly the nest before progress resumed.

Traffic management will be removed from the Caton Lune Bridge on Low Road, which has been in place to allow pedestrians to cross alongside traffic while the pedestrian bridge was closed. Workers will return in January to remove scaffolding and the site compound.

The restoration was carried out by Rochdale-based contractor Casey.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Applications open for Lancashire Police Audit Committee positions

Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner and the Constabulary's Chief Constable are looking to recruit independent members for their Joint Audit Committee.

A new chair for the Audit Committee was successfully recruited earlier this year, and now Clive Grunshaw and Steve Finnigan are seeking to appoint four members to serve on the committee.

The people appointed will help play a vital role in ensuring public money is spent wisely and proper controls are in place for the two organisations, which have a net budget of more than £260 million.

As committee members, they will be expected to ensure the committee provides advice and support to the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable to ensure governance arrangements are adequate and sound across both organisations. The committee's role includes ensuring there are correct governance, risk, internal control and financial arrangements in place.

Applicants will need to demonstrate they have the correct skills and experience to take on this role, and will be paid a daily rate for attending meetings in line with the Home Office Tribunal Rates. The committee meets at least four times a year.

• An information pack with further details and an application form can be requested by emailing sophie.carter@lancashire.pnn.police.uk. The closing date for applications is 10th January 2014, with interviews scheduled to be held on Wednesday, February 5.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Appeal after hit and run in Morecambe

Police are appealing for information after a collision in Morecambe yesterday (Monday 16th December)

At around 4.30pm, there was a collision on Green Street where a man was hit by a car which failed to stop at the scene.

The man suffered serious leg injuries and was taken through to Royal Lancaster Infirmary where he is still receiving treatment.

The vehicle, believed to be a white car, hit the man then made off from the scene down Townley Street.

The road was closed until around 7.20pm for accident investigation to take place

Officers are investigating the circumstances of the collision and the events leading up to it and are appealing to anyone with any information to contact them.

If anyone witnessed the collision or has any information that could be of assistance, please contact police on 101 quoting log number LC-20131216-0853.

Lancaster City Council gets homes funding boost from government despite scheme criticisms

Lancaster City Council is to get £2,450,288 from government as a "New Homes Bonus", despite criticism of the schemne from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee in October.

The Government estimates that 232,000 extra households will need homes each year to 2033 but in 2012 only 115,600 new homes were built in England. The New Homes Bonus incentive is designed to reward councils and communities for helping to build more homes. It match funds the additional council tax raised for new homes and empty properties brought back into use for six years – with extra funding for new affordable homes.

The government says councils across the country have made the most of this additional funding to ensure their communities directly see the benefits of growth in their areas.

However, the Labour Party has criticised the policy, saying it disproportionately favours wealthier areas –  and an Inside Housing survey of every English council last summer found six in 10 local authorities are stockpiling new homes bonus cash rather than spending it on specific projects.

Despite the concerns, councils countrywide are due to receive a £16.5 million bonus next year for enabling nearly 9,500 new homes to be built in the county, the government has announced.

Across England, councils have received over £2 billion through the New Homes Bonus since it was set up in 2011/12 for helping to provide 550,000 more homes.

The allocation for 2014/15 means Lancashire will have received £36.7 million over a four year period for helping to provide 9,490 newly-built homes and conversions, and bringing 2,781 empty homes back into use. These figures also include 3,013 affordable homes.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has published details of the latest New Homes Bonus payments being made to England’s 353 councils, in recognition of their contribution to building new homes. Official figures last week from the Official for National Statistics showed that housing construction has risen to its highest levels since 2007.

Under the New Homes Bonus, councils have been rewarded for helping to provide 550,000 newly-built homes and conversions and bringing 93,000 empty homes back into use. This total includes over 160,000 affordable homes.

Mr Hopkins said these payments are finally giving communities a reason to say yes to new sustainable development – with councils free to spend the money as they see fit to benefit the local area, including freezing council tax.

“Top-down Regional Strategies and eco-towns failed hardworking families who aspired to own their own home, and built nothing but resentment," argues Kris Hopkin.

“In stark contrast, councils have received over £2 billion for their part in getting Britain building, and leading to housing construction reaching its highest levels for seven years.

“And they are free to spend the money any way they like to benefit their local communities – whether that’s supporting frontline services, providing new facilities or freezing council tax.”

Communities Minister Stephen Williams also welcomed the number of empty homes being brought back into productive use. “The Government is doing everything possible to tackle the problem of empty homes and urban blight," he said, "and the New Homes Bonus is a shot in the arm for councils tackling the problem of abandoned homes and urban blight locally.

“The number of long term empty homes has already fallen by 93,000 and we are now going further, giving councils the incentive to bring people, shops and jobs back to once abandoned areas, and to provide extra affordable homes we so badly need.”

In October, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee published its 29th Report on New Homes Bonus, and argued there was no credible data to show New Homes Bonus is working.

“The New Homes Bonus was introduced as a financial incentive for local authorities to encourage the building of new homes, commented the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

“The scheme is funded from existing local authority grants. £7.5 billion will have been redistributed between councils by 2018-19, so there is a lot of money at stake. It is clearly vital that the incentives work and the Government achieves its aim.

“It is therefore disappointing that after more than two years of the scheme being up and running, no evaluation is in place and no credible data is available to show whether the scheme is working or not.

“So far the areas which have gained most money tend to be the areas where housing need is lowest. The areas that have lost most tend to be those where needs are greatest.

“The Department has yet to demonstrate whether the New Homes Bonus works. Is it helping to create more new homes than would have been built anyway? Is it the best way for Government to use its limited resources to create more homes where they are needed most?

"Its planned evaluation of the Bonus scheme is now urgent.” 

• A full list of provisional allocations of New Homes Bonus for the 2014-15 financial year can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/increasing-the-number-of-available-homes/supporting-pages/new-homes-bonus

Friday, 13 December 2013

Stephen Shield sentenced to 12 months for sexual offences

A former canon at Lancaster's Catholic Cathedral, Stephen Shield, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after he was convicted of three historic sexual offences.

He has been put on the sex offenders register for 10 years.

Shield, 53, of Balmoral Road, Lancaster, was found guilty last month of three counts of indecent assault following a trial at Preston Crown Court and was sentenced earlier today.

The three historic allegations related to one male victim aged between 17-24 years. The offences were committed between 1985 and 1992.

The Bishop of Lancaster, the Right Reverend Michael G Campbell, has described the case as a "tragic episode.

"Those directly involved in this case should know of my heartfelt prayer for each of them and those affected by this heart-breaking affair."

BBC News reports that during his sentencing Judge Anthony Russell QC said it was clear that from his evidence that the victim of the assault felt unable to resist you because of Shield's position as a priest and your authority over him.

"I am in no doubt that his experiences of those indecent assaults had had a profound effect upon him," he said.

During the trial, the victim said Shield abused him under the table at a dinner party in Preston where other priests were among the guests.

Detective Sergeant Alex Gornall, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit, said: “I am pleased with today’s sentence.

“The victim in this case had lived with the knowledge of Mr Shield’s offending for a long period of time; this has had a significant impact upon him and I just hope that this provides some sort of closure and that he can move on with the rest of his life. It was a difficult decision for the victim to come forward and I am please that he felt confident enough in the Constabulary to help bring this man to justice.

“The fact that these convictions come a long time after they were committed shows that we will always take any allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously and will investigate them thoroughly no matter how long ago they happened.

“I would encourage people with any information about sexual abuse or who has been a victim of sexual abuse to come forward and report their concerns confident in the knowledge it will be investigated appropriately and with sensitivity.”

The BBC also reports that Shield continues to maintain his innocence over the two presbytery assaults. A petition of support containing 240 signatures from former parishioners in Lancaster was also handed in, which stated Shield was "an excellent priest" who had served them well.

Changes to council services and opening times this Christmas

There will be a number of changes to the availability of Lancaster City Council services and facilities this Christmas.

Closure of public buildings

Lancaster and Morecambe town halls and the council's housing office on Cable Street, Lancaster will close for Christmas at 3pm on Christmas Eve and re-open at 9.00am (until 5.00pm) on Monday 30th December. 

On New Year's Eve, these buildings will close to members of the public at 3.00pm and re-open at 9.00am on Thursday 2nd January.

Christmas refuse and recycling collections
There will be changes to refuse and recycling collections over the Christmas and New Year period.

The changes will begin Saturday 21st December to Saturday 4th January 2014.
Normal collection day:           Will be collected on:

Monday December 23               Saturday 21 December
Tuesday December 24              Monday December 23
Wednesday December 25         Tuesday December 24
Thursday December 26             Friday December 27
Friday December 27                 Saturday December 28
Monday December 30               Monday December 30
Tuesday December 31              Tuesday December 31
Wednesday January 01             Thursday January 02
Thursday January 02                 Friday January 03
Friday January 03                     Saturday January 04

Recycle as much as possible this festive season. Most of the additional waste generated at Christmas can be recycled including glass, cans, plastic bottles, cardboard, Christmas cards and wrapping paper, and not forgetting your food waste.

Lancaster City Council will always collect extra recyclables put out for collection.  Additional paper, card, cans and plastic bottles can be put out in separate, clearly labelled carrier bags, but please ensure all glass is inside a recycling box.

If you have misplaced your collection calendar please visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/bins 

Real Christmas trees can be recycled by cutting them down to fit into your green wheelie bin or by taking them to Keer Bridge or Salt Ayre Household Waste Recycling Centres.  Alternatively, St John’s Hospice will once again be collecting recycling Christmas trees during the weekend of January 11 and 12, in exchange for a minimum donation of £5 to the charity.  Collections must be booked in advance.  For more information visit www.sjhospice.org.uk or telephone 01524 382538.

Extra Charter Markets

There will be slight changes to the opening times of Lancaster's Charter Market during the festive period.

As the market's normal Wednesday opening days will fall on Christmas and New Year's Day when the market will be closed, extra markets have been arranged.

These will take place on Christmas Eve (Tuesday, 24th December) and there will be a small market on Thursday 2nd January from 9.00am - 4.00pm.

• For information on the opening times of the council's markets, sport and leisure facilities including Williamson Park visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/christmas-opening

Government confirms funding for Heysham to M6 Link Road

Work will begin in earnest in the New Year on the Heysham to M6 Link Road after the government confirmed funding for the scheme.

The Department for Transport has finalised its £111m contribution towards the road today, a route which which will link the Heysham Peninsula to the M6 motorway, marking the start of a new era for economic growth and improved transport.

It allows Lancashire County Council to enter into a contract with Costain and get underway with construction in early January 2014.

County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "The link road supports our aspiration to build a strong economic infrastructure throughout Lancashire.

"Around 3,000 people are due to be employed during construction of the road, and up to 100 local unemployed people will receive training and jobs during construction.

"I recently visited the depot and 90 per cent of the staff employed on site lived in an LA postcode area.

"The road also provides excellent value for money in terms of considerable benefits for local traffic, businesses and employment," he claims, "while acting as a catalyst for wider economic growth. A study has predicted that every £1 invested in the link road will earn £4.40 for the economy.

"The link road has long been one of our top priority transport schemes, and I'm very pleased we now have everything in place to move ahead with building it.

"For a scheme that was first conceived before I was born I would like to thank all those people who have work so hard on this project, they are a credit to their community and the county council. I have been proud to sign the approvals for the scheme."

The Council says the link road will provide better access to Morecambe and industrial areas which include the Port of Heysham and the Heysham power stations.

Costain recently began constructing an area to accommodate staff, offices and equipment needed to build the link road at an army camp on Halton Road leased from the Ministry of Defence.

Terms have been negotiated with Costain that gives an estimated construction cost of £124.5m. Lancashire County Council will fund the remainder following the DfT's £111m contribution and fund the preparation costs of £5.7m.

• Lancashire County Council has redesigned the website for the project to make it easy for you to stay up to date throughout construction. Search for Heysham Link at www.lancashire.gov.uk

Thursday, 12 December 2013

County consults on latest round of Bus Cuts; Dial-A-Ride gets boost

Carnforth Connect Service
(withdrawn in 2012)
Due to budget pressures Lancashire County Council is proposing to reduce overall support for buses to focus on maintaining services during the daytime and ensure the county's most vulnerable people can access public transport.

People are being asked for their views on plans to save £3.8m over two years which would see funding withdrawn for evening and Sunday services that currently receive council subsidies to allow them to operate.

The proposals are being consulted on as part of the council's budget for 2014, as it confronts an unprecedented financial challenge, needing to save £300m over the next four years due to central government cuts. The county council's budget will be decided at a meeting of the Full Council on 20 February 2014.

In addition, the council proposes to invest a further £500,000 in dial-a-ride services to ensure community transport providers have the capacity to cater for those most in need.

80% of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20% are not commercially viable and are currently subsidised by around £8m from the county council each year.

The proposal would see subsides withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from 18 May 2014.

Subsidies would continue to 103 bus services which operate during the day, but each would be reviewed on a case by case basis when its current contract expires to ensure it remains sustainable.

County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We would never have chosen to be in this financial situation but have to find ways to drastically reduce our budget due to cuts imposed by central government.

"Our first priority is to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our society but to achieve this we have to look at everything we do and propose some difficult solutions.

"The county council spends around £8m each year subsidising bus travel. This proposal would maintain the bulk of that spending, while saving £1.8m next year and £2m a year after that, by focusing on subsidising routes during the day, when they are most used by people going about their business - getting to work or medical appointments and doing their shopping.

"We have also proposed an additional £500,000 investment in community transport such as dial-a-ride services to ensure that support is focused on those with the greatest need and where the public transport network is particularly limited.

"I'm fully aware that the withdrawal of any bus service would have an impact upon the people who use it. These are proposals at this stage and no decision will be taken without carefully considering the results of this consultation."

No future support for abandoned commercial routes
Another proposal which features as part of the consultation is a change to the council's policy on public transport. Currently the council considers whether it can step in to support a service when a commercial bus company withdraws a route – usually because it is not considered profitable. The new policy would make it clear the council could not do this in future.

You can view the consultation documents and the full list of services affected at
and respond on the website.
You can also email responses to lcc.bus.services@lancashire.gov.uk
or by post to Bus and Supported Transport Manager, Lancashire County Council, Room D3, PO Box 100, County Hall, Preston, PR1 0LD.
The closing date for responses is Friday 10 January 2014.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Local Cinema Round-up for 11th to 19 December 2013 by Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, official film links and reviews.

New releases this period include the much awaited second installment of Tolkien's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (12A). In addition there is humour with Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (15) and a tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela with Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (12A).

The seasonal spirit is evident with the screening of Free Birds, Frozen, Saving Santa, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!, Arthur Christmas, Elf, Ghost Stories at Christmas and the classic White Christmas. However there remains an excellent selection of films without a Christmas theme including Philomena, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Carrie and One Chance.


Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Director: Adam McKay
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Adam McKay, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell
San Diego's newsman Ron Burgundy returns for the sequel to the original 2004 Anchorman movie. The film is set in the 80s at the GNN 24 hour news network. We find Rob little changed; egomanical, blunt and as idiosyncratic as ever and the action again has a strong element of the surreal. The film has a few cringe-worthy moments but is a real 'laugh out loud' comedy that is a worthy successor to the original movie.

Free Birds
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Owen Wilson, Keith David, Colm Meaney, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler
Two turkeys (as in birds, not films), Reggie and Jake, use a time machine to attend the first Thanksgiving meal in an attempt to get turkey removed from subsequent thanks-giving dinners. Reggie is from a free-range turkey farm and he realises why turkeys are being fattened!  Jake has the vision of commandeering the time machine in an attempt to change history. The film has some romantic interest with Reggie falling for Jenny, a turkey he meets during the adventure. In all the plot of this animation seems a little over complicated and the film contains some rude humour that may not be appropriate for the very young. In all an entertaining movie but one that is not destined to become a classic.

Director: Chris Buck
Certificate PG
Cast includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk, Jonathan Groff
This Disney musical animation is loosely based on the fairy tale 'The Snow Queen'. The queen has condemned a kingdom to eternal winter. It is up to Anna (her sister) and loner Kristoff to undertake an epic journey to find the Snow Queen and convince her to lift the icy spell. This is a magical movie destined to become a classic. It will appeal to families and children of all ages and makes an ideal movie for Christmas.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Ryan Stone (Bullock) a medical engineer and seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) are on a shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope. However during a routine space walk, disaster strikes as the shuttle is destroyed by impact from space debris and Stone tumbles free in space. The film follows Stone's plight as she battles to survive. Bullock gives a superlative performance in this spectacularly shot movie. However the interest of the film is not the impressive special effects but rather the exploration of human frailty in adversity.

Director: Stephen Frears
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
A quaint and charming film based on the book 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' by Martin Sixsmith. Dench plays Philomena, an Irish woman who had her baby taken from her for adoption in the USA whilst she was forced to live in a convent after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Much later in life she enlists the help of Sixsmith to try to discover the whereabouts of her lost son. Coogan produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay. He plays Sixsmith, the journalist who has fallen out of favour. Both Dench and Coogan give superb performances in this funny and heartwarming if a little sentimental film. Well worth seeing.

Saving Mr. Banks
Director: John Lee Hancock
Certificate PG
Cast Includes Emma Thompson, Bradley Whitford, Colin Farrell, Tom Hanks
A film exploring the tribulations as Walt Disney battled to make the musical 'Mary Poppins'. Disney promised his daughters that he would make a film of the book, but the author, Mrs Travers, proved to be difficult to work with and had very fixed ideas regarding the interpretation of her work. She hated the sentimentalization of her book and the use of animation. She only gave grudging approval as she needed the money. This film is more sentimental than accurate, and includes numerous flashbacks regarding Traver's rather troubled life. Acting is great and the friction between Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) makes for compelling viewing.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Director: Peter Jackson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage
In this second installment of The Hobbit, we find Bilbo Baggins and his group of comrades continuing in their journey to the Lonely Mountain in order to extract gold from the dragon Smaug whilst being pursued by an army of Orcs. This film is a splendid action adventure, more so than the first of the trilogy. It is imaginative, with plenty of special effects and a block buster feel about it. However it again puts action above developing the characters of the protagonists. A great Christmas movie that will leave you anticipating the concluding film in the trilogy.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Director: Francis Lawrence
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
The Hunger Games started as an extremely successful trilogy by Suzanne Collins. For this reviewer, the first Hunger Games excursion into film felt a little clunky. However Catching Fire has got everything right and is a first rate movie. Katniss Everdeen was the winner in the 74th Hunger Games tournament and as victor she and Peeta Mellark must undertake a victors' tour of the districts. However rebellion is 'in the air' and the ruler, President Snow, sees Katniss as a potential threat to the status quo. He plots to discredit and kill her by involving her in a new Hunger Games along with old winners. Now the participants need to defeat President Snow - but avoid killing each other. This is a dark, tense, thrilling and very enjoyable movie.

Thor: The Dark World
Director: Alan Taylor
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings Thor must combat an ancient, pervasive and powerful enemy, led by Malekith, to save the earth and all the realms. Much of the action is played out in Asgard and the interaction between Thor and Loki provides a major part of the film. However there is plenty of action and a strong vein of humour. In all a film that is very entertaining and does not take itself too seriously.

Director: David Soren
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Peña
A DreamWorks animation in which Turbo is a snail obsessed with racing cars who dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500 race. His hopes start to look more realistic when an accident with a car engine provides him with a magical turn of speed. The animation is expertly done. The snails have cute believable personalities and the whole has a real 'feelgood' factor of an underdog following his dreams. The film follows the DreamWorks hit animation 'The Croods' and whilst it is extremely enjoyable, it lacks twists and subplots that make for a really memorable movie.

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up and reviews.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Lancashire Rural Community Rallies Following B4RN Broadband Equipment Theft

Volunteers working to bring a high speed broadband project to rural Lancashire have rallied to keep the project on course after a robbery of vital equipment needed to lay cables.

On the night pf 4th December 2013, equipment was stolen from a locked trailer belonging to the Broadband for the Rural North community broadband project. The trailer was parked at Fleets Farm, Gressingham near Lancaster as work was being carried out in that area.

Thieves cut the padlock and took a number of items including a compressor, a generator, a transformer and a fibre optic cable blowing machine. The police were called the following morning and are dealing with the matter.

(Planet equipment seems to be flavour of the month for thieves - we've heard the M6 Link site at Halton has also been targetted).

B4RN is fully insured for all operatives and equipment, however the theft of this equipment was likely to cause delays to work whilst replacements were sourced. B4RN volunteers are making a real push to get as many people as possible connected before Christmas so this was a particularly disheartening blow.

Fortunately these delays have been eliminated as the community have pulled together in response and loaned money to B4RN so the equipment can be replaced quickly. In addition, one of B4RN’s main suppliers, Emtelle, have supplied replacement equipment on a loan basis. This will allow work to continue as planned which will ensure the community, which desperately needs the connectivity, receives it with the minimum of delay.

Clearly this is a disappointment to the B4RN community. However in the spirit they have already demonstrated in providing one of the most rural parts of the UK with one of the fastest connections in the world, they have shown great resilience and once again pulled together robustly in support of their project because they are determined that this will not be a setback.

The B4RN community asks that if anyone has information on this theft then please contact PC Ben Hanley PC3962 at Lancaster Police Station on 01524 596608 quoting Crime Reference BA1303993.

B4RN is a community broadband project which is deploying a state of the art, fibre optic broadband connection to the rural communities long before most of the urban areas. Rural Lancashire plans to be a world leader in “hyperfast”. B4RN is providing a 100% fibre optic broadband connection, capable of delivering 1Gbs (1000Mbs) both upload and download.

• Web: www.B4RN.org.uk • Twitter: @dig2agig • Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/B4RN-rural-broadband/105319176241916

Girl, 14, assaulted in Morecambe

Police are appealing for information after a 14 year old girl was assaulted and had money stolen in Morecambe.

Around 9.45pm on Monday 2nd December the teenager was walking along Queen Street when she passed a group of teenagers.

As she reached the Premier Shop she was pushed to the floor from behind and was then scratched and kicked before having money and her bus pass stolen.

The only descriptions the young girl was able to give of the people involved was of a white girl aged 14-16, wearing a short, pink skirt and a white boy, also aged 14-16, wearing light grey Voi jeans with black pockets and black Nike Blazer trainers.

PC Matt Entwistle said: “This was a nasty, unprovoked assault by a group of teenagers on a lone 14 year old girl. She suffered cuts and bruising and has been left shaken by what’s happened.

“If anybody was in the area around the time of the assault and thinks they may have seen this particular group of teenagers then I would urge them to contact police.

“The two descriptions the young girl was able to provide highlight quite distinctive clothing and if anybody thinks they can identify these people from the descriptions given then I would ask them to come forward.”

• Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Review: Simόn Bolívar String Quartet at Live at LICA

Simόn Bolívar String Quartet
Simόn Bolívar String Quartet at Live at LICA
Thursday, 5 December 2013
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University,

Reviewed by Sally Ryde

I feared these four musicians would be too young to deliver the exquisite musical experience that only a chamber music ensemble of many years standing can do. I also feared that because the quartet is carved out of Venezuela’s Simόn Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, part of the renowned El Sistema family, its members would be constantly in flux as individuals reached adult age and moved on.

I was pleasantly surprised therefore to learn that the Simόn Bolívar is no longer a youth orchestra (all the kids grew up) and, further, that the orchestra’s string section leaders who comprise the Simόn Bolívar String Quartet have made music together all their lives.

Boy, did it show! It was like a musical octopus: four pairs of arms controlled by a single brain. Young players with bags of enthusiasm and experience - it really doesn't get any better than that.

The first piece of the evening was written by a 17-year-old Felix Mendelssohn who, according to the programme note, already had two string symphonies and his overture to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ behind him. Remarkable! As someone said recently, only if one is a music critic might one believe that he or she must find clever words to describe music. The rest of us can simply enjoy the moment!

The enjoyment we experienced in that Mendelssohn ‘moment’ was enormous. I loved it all but was particularly drawn to the fugal middle section of the slow movement, the theme of which appears again near the end of the finale.

Unfortunately, the final five or more seconds of silence that should have brought the Mendelssohn to a close had to be abandoned by the performers because of the insistence of one or two listeners to ignore the clear indication from the players that despite the fact that they were no longer making any sounds, the piece was not yet finished. Such a shame that some people fail to appreciate that music is a mix of both sounds and silences and that the latter, including their durations, are just as important as the sounds.

Curiously, the lights went up in the Great Hall as the performers took a short break before the second work. This caused enough confusion for a few people to get up and head for the bar. When the quartet suddenly returned to the platform, however, there followed some nimble-footed scrambling as those who had been misled quickly returned to their places.

Their agility was well-rewarded with the performance of the wonderful Shostakovich String Quartet No.8, possibly the best loved of his works for this combination of instruments. Composed in 1960 at a location near Dresden and dedicated to the victims of fascism and war, it is based heavily on the four notes B, C, D and E-flat which notes in the German notation system are known as H, C, D, and Es. Arranged in the order D Es C H, the spoken names of these notes (D S C H) spell out the first part of the German transliteration of the composer’s name (Dimitri Schostakovich).

The DSCH theme recurs throughout the work’s five movements, the first of which sets the motif out in fugal form at the very start. Hauntingly beautiful, its subsequent reappearances in a variety of guises were all ‘moments to be enjoyed’, not analysed with a scholarly pen.

Those of us who would readily have sat through a repeat of the Shostakovich thought that the final item, the Brahms quartet, fine though it was, could have been placed earlier in the programme so that the sounds of Shostakovich would remain fresh in the mind for the journey home.

Incidentally, had it not been for an error in the programme notes (mistakenly giving the name ‘Görlitz’ rather than ‘Gohrisch’ to the place near Dresden in which Shostakovich had been staying), I might not have recalled the similarity between the DSCH motto and a recurring figure in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, composed 20 years earlier in the Nazi prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz. Indeed such is the kinship of the tonalities of the two pieces that the opening bars of the first movement of the Shostakovich can be played simultaneously against the beginning of the fifth movement of the Messiaen with little or no sense of inappropriate dissonance.

S. Ryde

Artists’ recording website:

Concert Programme:
Mendelssohn: String Quartet in A minor, Op.13
Shostakovich: String Quartet No.8 in C minor, Op.110
Brahms: String Quartet No.2 in A minor, Op.51

Tickets were priced (web advance):  Adults £21.50, Concessions £18.50, Young person/student £7.50

Future musical events at Live at LICA: Live at LICA ‘What’s On

Monday, 9 December 2013

Morecambe man imprisoned for robbery and burglaries in hometown

Paul Moss
Paul Moss,  a 42-year-old man from Morecambe was today imprisoned for a total of four years and nine months for a robbery on an 84-year-old woman, trespassing with intent to steal and handling stolen goods.

Moss, from Morecambe, but of no fixed address, was sentenced to three years and nine months’ imprisonment at Preston Crown Court having pleaded guilty of committing a robbery.

Moss was also then imprisoned for a further eight months having pleaded guilty to trespassing into a dwelling with the intent of committing a burglary, and another four months’ imprisonment having pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods. The sentences are to be served consecutively, meaning Moss was sentenced to a total of four years and nine months’ imprisonment.

The first offence took place on Sunday 18th August of this year when Moss assaulted an 84-year-old woman on Pedder Street, Morecambe, stealing her purse and the money it contained. The second offence took place on Tuesday 30th July when Moss entered an address on Queen Street, Morecambe, with the intention of committing a burglary. Finally, the third offence took place on Thursday 25th July of this year when Moss handled copper piping that had been stolen from an address on Deansgate, Morecambe.

DC David Bell of Lancaster CID said “Moss has committed a number of offences in a short period of time, all of which have caused distress to his victims, and so, we welcome the custodial sentences that have been handed down to him today.

“In particular, to target an 84-year-old victim going about her shopping is utterly disgraceful, and Moss should be ashamed of himself.

“That is not to take away from the other two offences," he continued. "The theft of the copper piping from the address on Deansgate caused significant water damage to the property and distress to the victim. Hopefully, the sentence given to Moss today will give them some redress.”

The sentencing comes as Lancashire Constabulary are running Operation Julius, targeting criminals and detecting burglaries across the county.

It will continue to run until the end of December, and will see officers using a range of overt and covert tactics including visits to Lancashire’s top 30 burglary suspects, executing warrants and high-visibility police patrols.