Saturday, 9 February 2013

In Review: Beats & Pieces Big Band at Live at LICA

Beats & Pieces Big Band

Beats & Pieces Big Band at Live at LICA,
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University
Thursday, 7 February 2013, 7.30 pm
Reviewed by Henry Prince

Beats & Pieces style themselves in print as a Big Band. But I found myself wondering which of those two words carried the accent in speech. Are they a Big Band or a big band?

Their repertoire and musical style suggest that they are the former and are following the traditions laid down by predecessor bands like Stan Kenton’s. There were some wonderful musical examples of the big band tradition being adopted and, significantly, adapted by this group. Delightful solos early on from trumpet, flugel horn, trombone and saxophone. And later the brilliance of the individuals in the rhythm section - keyboard, string bass, lead guitar and drums - shone through.

This ensemble filled the hall with energy and creativity. Their biggest asset was their youth: a collection of early twenty-somethings, each of whom was stuffed full of musical ability, technically skilled and artistically able. The kind of people with the musical world at their feet. Who cares about awards and competitions they may have received or won: this lot could play!

The pieces were composed or arranged by band members themselves; principally by the musical director. Much of it was in standard big band style but occasionally we were surprised by the unexpected. A trumpet accompanied by a trombone, with other brass and reeds joining in one at a time. A beautifully minimalist section where the percussionist played some notes but left as many others to the aural imagination. Lead guitar and muted trumpets playing a figure in unison; a surprisingly interesting combination of sounds. And a measure of live electronic sampling somehow feeding magically into the performance toward its finale.

But the band’s stage presentation suggested that they are not a big band but rather a band that is large. Two-thirds of the space was allocated to the rhythm section. Was this the ‘band’? Two guitars, piano, bass and percussion? Or was it the modern equivalent of the Baroque continuo? The very first piece a passacaglia with ground bass?  Into the remaining space, they crammed the other 9 musicians; three each of saxophones, trombones and trumpets - making the ‘band’ large. Can it really be called a 'Big Band' with only 3 of each instrument? You need five reeds to play a proper ensemble and, more importantly, you need five trumpets to part the hair of the audience sitting on the front row. Three trumpets cannot get that done, although the back row of Beats & Pieces had a serious attempt at doing it in the first piece after the interval.

Whichever is the case, this big band ensured that the audience got its money’s worth. The musical director even provided us with a visual rendition of the music (you know, like flames or bars on the screen of an mp3 player) - a sort of mute Mick Jagger without his tambourine,  the band comprising not 14 but 13 players plus a dancer much of the time.

I would like to have heard the piano player more, either on the fancy grand or the battered digital. What we heard was superb but he clearly had more to give. And I missed the ensemble playing of a proper big band lineup of saxophones - and, frankly, longed to feel my hair being parted. But this young band of musicians cannot be criticised for adapting the traditions of jazz. That is what the development of jazz has always done and adaptation of what has gone before is, in itself, a tradition.

I hope no one read the programme notes to decide whether to attend this concert in the Great Hall; endless awards and acclaims for the band;  its players chosen from the ‘most exciting and in demand young musicians’; its musical director associated with a scheme funded by, among other bodies, the Arts Council. But nothing about the band’s music. That needed putting right.

What did the audience think? Clearly they loved it all.

H. Prince
Ticket Price £17.50 (concessions available).
For further information on the Live at LICA programme of events visit

Friday, 8 February 2013

Lancaster City Council to increase Council Tax by 2%, County maintains freeze

Lancaster City Council will increase its portion of Council Tax by 2% for 2013/14, helping to protect frontline services in the long term.

In real terms this mean households will pay an average (based on a Band D property) of an extra £3.84 a year – or 7p a week – to the city council from April 2013.

As 80% of the district's homes are in the lowest bands (A to C) the actual increase will be even lower than 7p a week for the majority of households.

Councillor Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The city council has frozen its council tax for the last two years to help all households in the short term and during this time we have focused on making big efficiency savings in a drive to protect frontline services.

“Unfortunately we have now reached the point where to maintain a freeze for another year would have an unacceptable impact on service provision.

“The outlook is incredibly bleak - Government funding will fall dramatically again over the next couple of years.  Our budget now stands at £5million less than it did three years ago and in 2014/15 we will have to make further savings of £1.2million and then £2.5million in 2015/16.

“We therefore need to do what we can now, to try and protect vital frontline services in the future and to do that a modest increase in Council Tax is necessary.”

While as the billing authority Lancaster City Council collects Council Tax, it only receives around 13% of the total bill to spend on its services.

Of the remaining the majority goes to Lancashire County Council (74%), with precepts from Lancashire Police Authority (9%) and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority (4%) making up the rest of the bill.

Lancashire County Council's Cabinet is, meanwhile, recommending a council tax freeze, for the fourth year running.

The county council accounts for the largest proportion of council tax bills as it is responsible for around 80% of local government spending, overseeing major services like schools, road maintenance and social care.

The proposed freeze will be put to a meeting of the full council for a decision on Thursday 21 February, when the county council's budget for 2013-14 will also be set.

Geoff Driver, Leader of the county council, said: "It continues to be a very tough period for the economy and we have made provision to freeze council tax again this year to avoid putting household budgets under any! extra pressure.

"The reductions in council funding from government led us to set a three-year budget back in February 2011 and, because we put a clear plan in place right through until March 2014, we have been able to plan for another freeze whilst protecting front line services.

"Over the course of the three years we'll have spent over £200m less on management and administration alone, as we seek to minimise the impact of any savings on front line services.

"County council staff are working hard to deliver the budget plan and, although it hasn't been easy for them either, they can already move into 2013-14 with certainty about what needs to be done."

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Appeal after Lancaster student assault

Police are appealing for witnesses after a 20-year-old student was assaulted in Lancaster city centre in the early hours of Friday 1st February.

The victim was stood with friends on Horseshoe Corner, Penny Street at around 3.15am when a man from another group punched him in the face causing him to sustain a fractured jaw.

DC David Winn said: “An investigation is underway but I would appeal to anybody that witnessed this assault to come forward and contact Lancashire Police on 101.”

The offender is described as being white, slim build, around 5ft10inches tall with ginger hair. He was wearing a blue chequered shirt and spoke with a local accent.

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.

Morecambe MP accuses Labour of "scare stories" over hospital cuts

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris has hit out at anti cuts campaigners who have raised concerns about the future of the Accident and Emergency Department at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, accusing them of scaremongering. He has also claimed the hospital is better off than it has ever under the Coalition government.

The Government's Health Minister also contributed to the debate, arguing "Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has had a very long and troubled history" and there was need for change.

Speaking on in a Westminster Hall debate about University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Mr Morris explained the local press has been awash with allegations about the future of both maternity and accident and emergency services.

"I am concerned not about services changing but about the scare stories surrounding the matter," he told MPs (apparently contradicting some of his comments in letters to constituents where he expressed concern at changes just two weeks ago). "I have a letter from the chief executive of the trust that confirms that it will not shut the A and E at Royal Lancaster infirmary.

"The Minister also has this letter, but I will quote from it:
'The A and E at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary serves the population of Lancaster and surrounding areas and treats in the region of 50,000 people each year. Whilst it would be wrong of me to second guess the future, I personally find it hard to imagine Lancaster not having emergency services. Let me be clear, we do not have any plans to shut the Accident and Emergency department in Lancaster.
'We are deeply concerned that these continual rumours are undermining confidence and frightening the public. We will continue to work with the public, staff and stakeholders to better understand the review of services to help allay these concerns.'
"Jackie Daniel, the CEO of the trust, is saying there that not only does she have no plans to close the A and E, but she cannot even imagine a scenario in which anyone would close it, not least because it serves 50,000 people a year," Mr Morris continued.

"However, a concerted Labour campaign has been mounted by local party members who actually work in the NHS to make people believe that the A and E is likely to close. The campaign involves press briefings, an online petition, a Facebook group and even people walking round the centre of Morecambe with clipboards inviting people to join.

"I want the e-petition removed from Directgov and have written to the Cabinet Secretary to ask for him to intervene," Mr Morris stated. "We cannot have this dishonest campaign fought through the Directgov e-petition platform. If the A and E is not under threat, it must be concluded that Labour is frightening people for its own political advantage, which is morally wrong.

"It is perhaps time to admit the truth," he insists. "The trust is getting better under this Government.," he argued. "A new and better management was brought in by the previous Secretary of State for Health. A new minor injuries unit was opened in my constituency by the Minister only a few weeks ago. A new health centre in Heysham, costing £20 million, was opened last year. We have four new wards just opened. All of that was paid for by the 2.8% increase in funding for the NHS."

Mr Morris chose not to make MPs aware that local news reports actually focused on rumours that the closure of A&E may be a matter of public consultation, the result of the Trust's need to make considerable financial savings in the face of funding cuts by government. So while the Trust may not have plans to close A&E, it is alleged it is a proposal that it will be consulting on in the near future.

Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw also contributed to the debate, suggesting that perhaps the Trust's large area should be examined, a propsal welcomed by Barrow's Labour MP John Woodcock.

"I suggest that we need to look at the fundamental geography, which might mean challenging the boundaries of the Morecambe Bay trust, if we are ever to get some balance between the demands of Furness, Kendal and Lancaster," said Mr Ollerenshaw.

Responding to the debate, the Health Minister Doctor Daniel Poulter said there was a need to ensure that in the future decisions about the Trust are made in a holistic way and in the best interests of patient safety.

"Such decisions are not just for the trust to make alone but must be made in conjunction with the local commissioners and the ambulance service, if we want to ensure patient safety," he commented.

"We know that the Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has had a very long and troubled history," he added. "We also know that it serves a very important purpose in looking after people throughout north Lancashire and Cumbria. My hon. Friend Eric Ollerenshaw made clearly the good point that the configuration of the trust geographically is challenging. We, as a group, are going to meet together to talk through some of these issues and the troubled history of the trust, to ensure that we can do our best to work through these issues.

"There have been problems in the past with the trust and local patients have not been treated properly, and they and their families have suffered," Dr Poulter acknowledged. "There have been long-standing concerns over local care quality issues. That may mean that we have to redesign the way that services are delivered; that may be an inevitable consequence of improving patient care in the long run.

"Nevertheless, the driver of this process must be delivering high-quality local health care within the envelope of providing improved patient care with better outcomes and safer care, for patients. However, the only way that we will achieve that is if all the commissioners are working collaboratively with the trust in a more integrated approach to care. The failure to do that is where things have gone wrong in the past, and that is what needs to change in the future."

• A Facebook page has been set up to gather support for the RLI:

ePetition against the removal of A&E, Maternity and Intensive Care units at Royal Lancaster Infirmary (1330 signatories so far) Petition (450 more signatories needed) 

Black ice warning for Lancashire

Lancashire County Council is warning drivers to watch out for black ice.

Changeable conditions over the past 48 hours have seen the county hit with a mixture of snow, sleet and rain which, combined with freezing temperatures, has increased the risk of black ice forming.

County Councillor Tim Ashton, Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "Our gritting crews have been working in shifts around the clock since 2.00pm on Monday when the current weather front came in.

"The changeable conditions have not made things easy which is why they've continued to patrol throughout to make sure we can deal with any problems as quickly as possible.

"I'd ask drivers to be particularly careful as black ice! has been a problem in some areas where roads that had been gritted several times over the previous hours turned instantly to sheet ice as rain and hail fell on freezing surfaces.

"We're expecting further wintry showers throughout Tuesday night along with freezing temperatures so our crews will again be working through to 7.30 in the morning.

"As always we'd ask people to be careful on the roads as even after being gritted and appearing to be clear they can remain icy in places."

Lancashire County Council has a fleet of 49 frontline gritters which can treat the 1,500 miles of the county council's priority road network within around four hours, but may take longer in severe conditions.

You can find information and advice on winter weather, including real-time gritting updates on Lancashire County Council's website which has links to forecasts and the council's Twitter and Facebook feeds which are updated every time the gritt! ers go out.

• For more information about travelling this winter visit, follow us on Twitter for news and updates at or Facebook (click on the winter tab).

Lancaster police hunt man who made inappropriate sexual remark to three-year-old

Lancaster police are appealing for information about the identity of a man who made an inappropriate sexual remark toward a three-year-old girl.

The incident took place around 4.15pm on 1st February, when a man approached a 24-year-old woman who was walking in company with her mother and three-year-old daughter on Chapel Street and made a sexual remark.

The man is described as white, aged in his mid-40s, around 6ft 2inches tall with strawberry blonde hair and a pot belly.  He was wearing a long sleeved khaki cotton jacket with stonewashed jeans and was carrying a khaki heavy fabric satchel over his shoulder.

PC Phil Salliss from Lancaster Police said: “I would appeal to anybody that recognises the description of this man or with any information about this offence to come forward and contact Lancashire Police on 101 quoting crime reference BA1300315.”

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

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

More deer killed by poachers, one stripped for its meat

Police are appealing for information after two deer were found dead on farmland in Carnforth and Arnside earlier this week.

This is the second known set of kills in the area in just over a month, after two Roe deer were found dead on New Year’s Day in a wood in Bolton-le-Sands (see news story)

On Friday 1st February, a Fallow Doe was found by a farmer dead in a field adjacent to Brackenthwaite Lane at Hale Moss, near Carnforth. The animal had been killed by poachers using dogs sometime overnight.

It's possible poachers used a high powered lamp to locate the animal in darkness. They have been known to do this to dazzle it before releasing trained dogs which attack the deer, chase it and eventually kill it.

In a separate incident, the remains of a Roe Buck, which is out of season at present, was found discarded next to a footpath in Back Wood, Cold Well Lane, on the outskirts of Arnside. The animal had been stripped of all its useable meat.

Police are appealing for any sightings of vehicles or people acting in a suspicious nature with lamping equipment and dogs to be reported immediately on 101 or 999.

Force Wildlife Crime Officer Mark Thomas said; “The deer killed in Carnforth must have suffered terribly during this callous attack.

“There have been other similar incidents last year near Carnforth where two deer were found by a dog walker having been shot with a crossbow-type weapon.

“We are urging members of the public, particularly those working or living in rural areas across the county to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to police. Please try and pass as much information as possible when doing so.

“The people responsible for these offences are clearly not professional deer stalkers and are causing unnecessary pain and suffering to wildlife around the county. They are also trespassing on private land and causing damage while conducting illegal activity.

“The culling of deer in Lancashire is required to control numbers and preserve habitat and woodland areas but it is controlled and is conducted by professional deer stalkers who are highly trained and insured to do so. No suffering is caused to the animals as they are trained marksmen who pride themselves on being professional in every way possible. The people who take deer in this illegal way using dogs are without a doubt not professionals but opportunists.

“We are determined to stamp out this illegal activity in Lancashire and are doing all we can to tackle it.

“I would also urge any butchers or restaurants in the local areas that if they have any offers of cheap venison to consider contacting the police and trading standards.”

Anybody with any information can contact police on 101 or 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.

M6 accident vicitim 'critical'

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a young man was seriously injured in a road traffic collision on the M6 northbound last night (Monday 4th February).

The collision took place at 7.10pm just prior to the exit slip at junction 29 when a 26-year-old man from Thornton Cleveleys, who was on his way home from work, was travelling in a silver BMW along lane three.

For reasons not known he has lost control of the car and mounted the kerb of the hard shoulder before rolling a number of times down the embankment before colliding with trees and coming to rest.

The man sustained serious head injuries and was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where he remains in a critical condition in intensive care. His parents are at his bedside.

An investigation is underway and police are appealing for any witnesses to contact them.

Sergeant Finn Quainton from the Force Road Policing Unit said: “I would appeal to anybody that witnessed this crash or saw the car being driven prior to the collision to come forward and contact Lancashire Police on 101.”

The motorway was closed for four hours between to allow collision investigation to take place.

Business Park thefts could be linked, say police

Police are appealing for information after a series of commercial burglaries on Lancaster Business Park last month.

Four units on the Caton Road industrial estate were broken into overnight between the 28th and 29th of January. In total, around £14,000 worth of goods, including laptops, mobile phones, watches and perfume were stolen.

Two of the offences took place at business premises on Mannin Way. One burglary was reported at Independent Contractor Services, where the offenders have used a blunt instrument to gain entry through a first floor fire door where they have carried out a methodical search before stealing an old Blackberry mobile phone in non-working order.

The offenders have also targeted  a business unit called Purely Creative, prising open a ground floor window and removed numerous boxes of Superdry watches, Clinique Happy perfume and Kate Moss summer perfume, together worth more than £9,000.

Two further offences took place when the offenders gained access to Persimmon House and selected a 2ft x 2ft green safe containing cash as well as four HP Laptops and two mobile phones.

Police are also investigating an attempted burglary at BT Directories Ltd, where the offenders have attempted to gauge open the front door lock without success.

“An investigation is underway and given the similarities and the timescales of the offences we believe the offences to be linked," said DC Tris Hardwick from Lancaster Reactive CID.

“I would appeal to anybody with any information about any of these burglaries to come forward and call Lancashire Police on 101.

“The weight and number of items taken would suggest a vehicle was used so I’d be keen to hear from anyone that saw a vehicle parked up in the area or anyone acting suspiciously.”

• 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.

In Review: The Xinowa Sej piano ensemble at Live at LICA

Xinowa Sej
'three pianos, six hands'
The Xinowa Sej piano ensemble at Live at LICA,
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University
Thursday 31st January 2013
Reviewed by Henry Prince

It was an evening of the kind of happy coincidences that put real joy in life. Three females radiant with youth who had known one another for 20 years (“we were introduced as babies”), three pianos (all Steinway grands) and an appreciative audience - all in the same place (the Great Hall at Lancaster University) at the same time. Not forgetting of course the programme, which included three-piano arrangements of Frank Proto’s “Carmen Fantasy”, Mozart’s Lodron concerto, Ravel’s “La Valse” and three tangos by Piazzolla, with a dash of Star Wars for an encore. And not just any three pianists. These hailed from Transylvania (the Romanian part but of Hungarian culture), Brussels (half Italian, half German) and Japan and they all met at the University of Arts in Berlin. Happy coincidences!

We learned that the group’s name was derived from selected letters of a favourite musician (“Rachmaninow”) plus the addition of the letter “X” (because it was the only one that fitted, apparently). Whatever the origin of its name, the ensemble thrilled the listeners. At first it seemed unlikely that the arrangements could truly justify the expense of three pianos. The Carmen Fantasy was enjoyable and full of fun but wasn't the scoring simply that for a single piano marked so that each player knew which bit was hers to play next? The slightly different styles of the performers (and perhaps the different timbres of the instruments?) certainly added to the enjoyment when a phrase was passed from one piano to the next and when two performers seemed to be playing pretty much the same notes in unison, the double tracking effect was interesting. But when the Ravel got into full swing after the interval, we all knew that all three pianos were at last working to full capacity.

There was even a game of musical chairs going on throughout the concert: no pianist played consecutive pieces at the same piano. This made it impossible to determine who the overall leader was and the only conclusion that could be drawn is that members of the ensemble exerted equal authority. It was pure joy to observe the organic functioning of the group. For a technical reason, the players rarely looked at one another. Yet the quality of ensemble playing seemed to imply the presence of an invisible conductor. (Conductors beware: this ensemble is living proof that your presence on the concert platform can only be by reason of your own vanity.) It was nearly all done by aural connection. (The rubato section of La Valse succeeded wonderfully.) Only very occasionally was eye contact necessary and when it was required, pianist 1 looked at pianist 2 who looked at pianist 3 and off they went.

This report would not be complete without reference to the staging of the Piazzolla Tangos, which began with a single performer on stage. She was casually joined in due course by a second performer with the two becoming three after a further suitable interval. Curiously, the third performer lowered her music stand. The reason for this became clear only later when she unexpectedly began to slap the strings with her hand.

Finally, the “technical reason” for the miserly eye contact of the players which made the brilliant ensemble playing even more remarkable was this: the players sat with their backs to one another! Against all logical expectation, it certainly seemed to work.

H. Prince

Tickets for the performance cost: Adults £17.50, Seniors, unemployed and disabled (essential companion free) £14.50, students and under 16s £7.
To book future events with LICA call the box office on 01524 594151 or visit

Monday, 4 February 2013

Council throws out Urban Splash Prom plans

Lancaster City Council’s planning committee has refused plans by Urban Splash for Morecambe’s Central Promenade area.

The plans were rejected due to doubts over whether Urban Splash could deliver the scheme given the current state of the economy, and the impact that an unfinished scheme could have upon the setting of the Midland Hotel, the conservation area and the Winter Gardens.

While the committee welcomed Urban Splash’s contribution to the continuing regeneration of the town, through the regeneration of the Midland Hotel, it was of the opinion that the scheme was no longer viable.

The committee heard that the development would be a “giant leap of faith” in the current climate.

While it had the potential to create the conditions for private investment that would assist with tackling the key problems that are holding back Morecambe’s regeneration, the gaps between the development’s phases were lengthy, and the applicant could not guarantee the timing of the development, or the end-uses that would occupy space within it.

This meant major uncertainty over  the delivery of the scheme and the desire to include leisure uses and quality open spaces as part of the redevelopment.

As a result the committee refused the application.

Councillor Keith Budden, chairman of Lancaster City Council’s planning committee, said: “Through the regeneration of the Midland Hotel Urban Splash have done an awful lot of good for Morecambe and there’s no doubt that we are better placed now to fulfil our ambitions for the town than 10 years ago.

“But a lot has changed in the period since the plans were first submitted and unless we can be certain that the development is viable the committee decided it could not be granted in its current form.

“We would be doing a disservice to the people of Morecambe if we were to agree a scheme which could lay unfinished and it is a chance we could not take.”

Urban Splash chairman Tom Bloxham, has said the firm will invest in other towns if residents continue to oppose the plans.

Online safety advice ahead of Safer Internet Day

Lancashire Constabulary is reminding internet users of the importance of staying safe online ahead of Safer Internet Day tomorrow (Tuesday 5th February).

It is the tenth year of the annual campaign, which is celebrated in over 65 countries to recognise the importance of the internet, how to get the most out of it and how to use it safely and responsibly.

This year’s theme is ‘Online rights and responsibilities’ and aims to promote the message ‘Connect with Respect’.

Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit has joined forces with Lancashire Safeguarding Children’s Board, Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Young Peoples Service for the campaign. To mark the event, each day, a series of themed online safety messages will be posted onto the Constabulary’s Facebook page and on Twitter @lancspolice.

Detective Superintendant Ian Critchley, Head of Public Protection, said: “For many people, the internet has become a big part of daily life and we would encourage people to use it and enjoy it but to do so safely.  This includes using different passwords for different sites and using secure sites that you know you can trust.

“It’s important to remember that people you meet online may not be who they claim to be.  Keep your personal information safe and don’t share details such as your address or date of birth and certainly don’t arrange to meet someone you have only ever met online.

“Unfortunately we have seen over recent years that the internet has become an ever increasing method by which offenders seek to meet, groom and then sexually exploit young people. As such we would also ask all parents, carers and teachers to ask ‘do you know what your child is doing on the internet and who they are talking to?’”

This year, the UK Safer Internet Centre is giving children and young people the opportunity to share their views about their online rights. Schools and those working with young people across the UK are being asked to help the UK Safer Internet Centre by encouraging children and young people to complete the Have your Say survey which can be found online at

• Advice for children of all ages, parents and teachers is available at or via  Further safety tips can be found on and information about Safer Internet Day is available at