Friday, 26 April 2013

Dance the weekend away at Morecambe Live Weekender

Preston-born Donna Wylde
Treat yourself to a feast of musical entertainment over the May Bank Holiday weekend (Saturday 4 – Sunday 5 May) when Morecambe Live Weekender comes to the Platform.

Morecambe Live Weekender promises to provide a whole host of free daytime entertainment throughout the weekend featuring great talent from local bands and singers. 

The programme of entertainment includes the Paul Hayes Collection, Phoenix Down, Molly Wilson, Remedy Project, Preston's Donna Wylde - plus supporting artists and dancing with G's Angels.

The Morecambe Live Weekender continues on through Saturday night with a ticketed evening event featuring tribute band Only One Direction, supported by local girl group, Dalton.

Free daytime events take place each day outside the Platform from 12.00pm until 5.00pm featuring Ali the Clown, Captain Jack Sparrow and Galloways’ Choir, plus a bouncy castle and slides.

The evening events take place inside the Platform on the Saturday and Sunday starting at 7.30pm.  Tickets cost £10 per night and are available from the Visitor Information Centres at Lancaster and Morecambe. You can also buy tickets over the phone on 01524 582803 and online at   

• For more information visit For more events, concerts and shows taking place at The Platform see the latest brochure at

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Government questions investment in the arts - more trouble ahead for local organisations?

The Dukes' upcoming Robin Hood is publicly funded - how much more money will it bring into the local area when it opens?

Despite delivering a report on the economic value of the Arts to the local area two years ago, there could be further testing times ahead for local organisations such as The Dukes.

In her first keynote address to the sector at the British Musuem last week, Culture Secretary Maria Miller's first keynote address called on the sector to help her make the economic case for investing in the arts.

“Today I want to argue that culture does not simply have a role to play in bringing about a return to growth," she said. "Rather, it should be central to these efforts.

“Understanding the economic potential which the arts and culture offer both directly and indirectly is essential. The arts are not an add-on; they are fundamental to our success as a nation.”

Culture Secretary Maria Miller
At the event at the British Museum in London, the culture secretary said she was already making the economic case for investment in arts and culture to the Treasury, ahead of the next spending review, but called on the sector to help her “hammer home the value of culture to our economy”.

And although she acknowledged that the economic case for culture was not the only one that has to be made, Miller said that leaders in the cultural sector had to have the confidence to go beyond intrinsic benefits such as education and wellbeing, and “more directly point out how [they] can directly add to the bottom line”.

She pointed to philanthropy as a crucial part of the government’s longer-term strategy to fund the arts as well as “international opportunities” that will benefit Britain.

"Similarly we must look to develop the commercial opportunities that exist within the cultural sector," Miller added. "[...] entrepreneurial endeavour doesn’t come at the price of cultural excellence."

And she dismissed protecting the budget for arts and culture: “Faced with a crippling budget deficit, there are big choices to be made at both a national and a local level, few of which are easy, or palatable… Some in the sector say that arts funding should be treated as a special case. [But] culture cannot be seen in isolation at a time of unprecedented economic challenge.”

While a spokesperson local arts organisations told virtual-lancaster they will not be making joint comment on the keynote, they have already banded together to promote the work being done across the district through the Lancaster Arts City initiative delivered by the Lancaster Arts Partnership.

LAC is a collection of professional arts organisations from across the district, including The Dukes, Grand Theatre, More Music, Ludus Dance, Live at LICA, Litfest, Green Close Studios, The Platform and Storey Gallery, that have joined forces to promote Lancaster as an exciting cultural destination.

Lancaster Arts City signposts the professional performances, exhibitions and events taking place on our doorstep, and celebrates the fantastic cluster of arts organisations in the area. To launch the brand we have also come up with two exciting new initiatives: First Fridays and a free mobile ‘what’s on’ app for Android and Apple devices.

Formed in 2009, the Lancaster Arts Partnership is a consortium of companies working together to champion and promote the strategic development of excellent arts activities in Lancaster District, and has delivered its own report on the economic value of the arts to the area in 2011 (Word document).

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England, which funds much of our local arts, made the following statement in response to Maria Miller's speech.

"We welcome the Secretary of State's acknowledgment, on behalf of the Government, that public funding of arts and culture is essential in providing seed corn investment to help attract private money," he said. "As well as arts and culture's crucial contribution to our quality of life, this is also an industry that delivers real economic value for our country. Research that we will publish in the coming days will demonstrate that, in return for less than one tenth of one per cent of government funding, arts and culture provides half a per cent of all employment in England and is one of its top 15 export products.

"As the Secretary of State says, we do need to make the economic case. And while doing so, we won't forget that it is not all about money. Every civilised society in man's history has felt the need to express and enjoy itself through music, through performance, storytelling or visual works of art. We are no different and the other vital return on the government's investment is that it enables this need to be met for many, not for the few."

Also responding the the speech, Sir Nicholas Hynter, director of the National Theatre told the Daily Telegraph: "According to a report published this week by Nesta (formerly the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), the creative economy employs 2.5 million people in this country and makes up 10 per cent of the overall economy. Growth in employment in the creative sector runs at about four times the average.

"Let’s not imagine that the Government isn’t aware of the importance of this. It spends around £210 million a year on tax relief to the film industry. And more recently it decided to extend a tax credit to the video games industry, a major feather in the cap for the arts minister, Ed Vaizey. Tax foregone by the Treasury is the same as money spent by the DCMS – it is all public money.

"So the Government is content to spend taxpayers’ money. But without an overall policy for the creative economy, it risks being spent piecemeal and ineffectively – here a tax break, there some money for skills development, here some money for arts and museums – and doesn’t link up with the education system or tax policy.

Also speaking at the event, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: “The culture sector is the most effective and efficient, and in economic terms it’s the best run in the world.”

He added that, in her discussions with the Treasury, Miller could “argue with confidence that the sector is uniquely well run”.

Also at the address, Ed Vaizey, culture minister, said the publication of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's cultural plan is “imminent”. No further details are available at present.

• Lancaster Arts City:

• Lancaster Arts Partnership: The economic value of the arts to Lancaster and Morecambe (2011 report, word document)

Click here to read Maria Miller's full speech

See reaction to the speech on Twitter under hashtag #culturematters

Local MMR vaccination plans to be developed as North West measles cases increase

A national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers has been announced today by Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health.

With cases on the rise in the North West, the aim of the programme is to prevent measles outbreaks by vaccinating as many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year olds as possible in time for the next school year.

New figures published today by Public Health England show high numbers of confirmed measles cases in England in the first three months of 2013, reaching 587 by end of March, following a record annual high of almost 2,000 cases in 2012.

Cases are distributed across England, with the highest totals in the North West and North East where there have been outbreaks of the disease.

In line with trends across the country, the number of cases of measles has continued to rise in Cumbria and Lancashire. During the first three months of 2013, 80 cases were confirmed following a total of 159 cases in 2012.

Experts believe the rise in measles cases can be mostly attributed to the proportion of unprotected 10-16 year olds, who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread. After many years of low vaccination uptake, measles became re-established in 2007.

The catch-up programme announced today sets out a national framework within which local teams in Cumbria and Lancashire, (made up of NHS Lancashire and NHS Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, working alongside Directors of Public Health in Local Government and supported by the Cumbria & Lancashire PHE Centre), will produce tailored local plans to identify and give MMR to un-vaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year olds through GPs and/or school programmes.

Dr Jane Rossini, PHE Cumbria & Lancashire Centre Director, said: “Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so it is very disappointing that cases have recently increased in the Cumbria & Lancashire area. The catch-up programme set out today recommends an approach to specifically target those young people most at risk.  Those who have not been vaccinated should urgently seek at least one dose of MMR vaccination which will give them 95 per cent protection against measles.  A second dose is then needed to provide almost complete protection.

“The only way to prevent measles outbreaks is to ensure good uptake of the MMR across all age groups, and that when cases are reported, immediate public health action is taken to protect vulnerable individuals as soon as possible. Measles is not a mild illness - it is very unpleasant and can lead to serious complications as we have seen with more than 100 children in England being hospitalised so far this year.

“It is never too late to get vaccinated against measles. Parents of unvaccinated children, teenagers and young adults who have missed out on MMR should urgently arrange to be vaccinated by their GP. If you are unsure whether you or your child has had two doses of the vaccine, speak to your GP who will have a record.”

• To support the national programme, a new Facebook page has been launched ( in conjunction with NHS Choices

•  More information on the MMR catch-up programme is available on the PHE website: 

• For more information on measles and MMR, please visit: or 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Latest news on Lancashire scams is just a click away

Hundreds of people are getting up-to-the-minute advice about the latest scams and fake products from Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Facebook page.

It features a character called Scambuster Stan, whose job is to alert his followers to the consequences of buying fake goods, particularly the risks posed by the growing and often less-regulated marketplace of the internet.

More than 500 people have now 'liked' Scambuster Stan at and helped to spread warnings about the latest online dangers.

Stan has recently posted breaking news on the horsemeat scandal and advice on timeshare deals and holiday clubs, payday loans, high-street shops in administration, spotting fake luxury products online, and how to avoid annoying texts, emails and phone calls from marketing companies.

Students warned: lock up your valuables

Lancaster police are warning students to keep their homes secure following a recent rise in the number of burglaries at student accommodation.

Over the last 23 days there’s been a 90 percent increase in the number of homes being targeted in the City - and three quarters of properties targeted were insecure student accommodation.

Laptops are one of the most popular items targeted by opportunist thieves, who will quickly take advantage of unlocked or insecure doors, or open windows.

“When somebody breaks into your home and steals your things it can leave you feeling extremely vulnerable and nervous," notes Detective Inspector Simon Dent. "Students are sometimes an easy target because they have all the latest expensive technology but often leave their properties insecure.

"Lancashire Constabulary is determined to keep people’s homes safe and we want to let thieves know that this will not be tolerated.

"I would urge all students in Lancaster to keep your property safe and secure at all times. As the weather is starting to get warmer take extra care to make sure that windows and doors are locked whenever you leave the house.

Many students will be heading home soon for the summer and I would urge them not to leave expensive items in empty properties for a long amount of time.”

To report a burglary please contact Lancashire Police on 101 or you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

New Hondas vandalized in Morecambe

Police  are appealing for witnesses after 19 brand new cars were damaged at a paint and body clinic in Morecambe.

Sometime between Sunday 14 April and Tuesday 16th April, somebody gained entry to the body shop attached to the Honda garage on the Northgate White Lund Industrial estate.

Once inside, the offender used a sharp instrument to damage the brand new cars causing £20,000 worth of damage.

PCSO John Brayshaw said: “We’re not exactly sure when the compound was targeted, we just know it was sometime between Sunday 14 April and Tuesday 16 April. If anyone saw anybody acting suspiciously during this time then I would urge them to come forward.
“The offenders are believed to have gained entry to the body shop from the cycle track which runs behind it.

“This is mindless vandalism and whoever is responsible for this has caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and they should be held to account. If anybody has any information at all about this incident then please contact police.”

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.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Have your say on Lancaster University’s future strategy

Lancaster University has 12,000 students, more than 2,500 staff and plays an important role in the success of the city.

Professor Mark E. Smith, the Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, has issued an invitation to a public consultation on the future strategy of Lancaster University 2014 -2020.

The event is free but anyone who wants to come must book a place. It will be held at The Storey, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster, on Tuesday 14th May from 6pm to 8.00pm. Refreshments will be provided.

• Register your place at or call 01524 592096.

M6 closed between Junction 32 and 33 after two vehicle crash

The M6 southbound between junctions 33 and 32 is currently closed following a two vehicle collision and is expected to remain closed for at least an hour.

Drivers are asked to avoid the area where possible.

Police were called around 9.10am following a collision between a Toyota and a VW Polo.

The two drivers, a man and a woman, have been taken to Royal Preston Hospital. One was airlifted to hospital (the extent of injuries is unknown at this time).

Councillors back Altham Meadows as NHS Lancashire plans to refocus dementia care

Altham Meadow, Morecambe. Image: Google

(Updated 14:32:: City Councillors have backed local concerns at the proposed closure of Morecambe's Altham Meadows Dementia Centre, supporting a Labour Party motion at last week's council meeting.

The debate was prompted by a recently-announced decision from Lancashire Care Foundation Trust to shut the Westgate-based centre and refocus dementia care Lancashire into just one single unit.

Councillors supported a motion which argues the closure of the site and subsequent shifting of Lancashire’s dementia care away from the area will have a devastating effect on dementia patients and their loved ones in the Lancaster and Morecambe district.

Councillor Ian Pattison, who brought the motion to Lancaster City Council, said, “There is a huge amount of concern locally over the proposed shifting of dementia services from our district. We believe it will make the lives of those suffering with dementia and their loved ones much more difficult.

"It was good to have the unanimous support of the entire council on this issue. Let’s just hope those with the power to do something on this decision take notice of what residents are saying.”

The Chief Executive of Lancaster City Council will now write to Lancashire Care Foundation Trust and North Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group to express deep concern at the proposed closure.

"A relocation... would remove a lifeline for many residents in Lancaster and Morecambe," feels Councillor David Whittaker. "There is increasing demand for dementia care and other mental health conditions in our area.

"We are seeing more younger people requiring dementia care and medical intervention - it is not just a matter for older persons anymore.

"Various discussions in regard to the Health Service have taken place in recent months and this is an issue of paramount importance because it will affect an increasing number of local people.

"Dementia services need to be modernised and we need to do more to measure up to the requirements of a changing generation living with dementia," he agreed. "However moving this vital service to a less accessible location endangers the viability of person-centred care for both the user and those who care for them".

The proposed closure of Altham Meadows follows a consultation earlier in the year by the Trust, which offered two options for addressing demementia community and inpatient services. The first proposed a single site in Blackpool with extensive community services. The second suggested two sites in Blackpool and Blackburn with reduced community services.

There are currently 17,607 people aged 65 and over in Lancashire with dementia and at least 317 people with dementia in Lancashire under the age of 65. Numbers are expected to increase to 25,611 (by 2025), a projected increase of nearly 50%.

In the Lancaster area alone, there were an estimated 456 new cases of dementia in 2012, with 14 admissions to specialist dementia beds. The estimated dementia prevalence in our area is estimated at 1985 people.

NHS Lancashire argues evidence shows there is a clear reduction in the need for specialist dementia inpatient beds.

Following the consultation the Blackpool option was selected by more respondents than a dual centre refocus, but most Clinical Commissioning Groups  and Councils expressed a view that the dementia beds should be located in a place more central to Lancashire and not in Blackpool.

The NHS Lancashire Board approved the development of specialist dementia services, but recognised that an alternative site for the development of the dementia inpatient unit needed to be considered. CCGs and Councils, in partnership with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, are now undertaking an appraisal of options for the site of the single specialist dementia unit.

"CCG and Local Authority commissioners need to develop solutions to the access and travel issues and ensure that these are put in place at an appropriate level to meet need before the dementia inpatient unit is open," said the Board in a press statement. "The Board also stated that CCG and Local Authority commissioners need to work with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust to address the other critical issues and concerns raised during the consultation, with particular regard to supporting people and families living with dementia across the whole care pathway and ensuring appropriate access to memory assessment services."

The Morecambe Visitor report in its 17th April 2013 edition noting local concerns over the closure states that a spokesman for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has said of Altham Meadows: “The recent dementia consultation confirmed that the preferred option was a single site 30 bed dementia unit.

“Altham Meadows is not a suitable option for a single site and will close.”

A number of cuts to health services in our area are being hotly debated. In February, the  North Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group began a consultation, conducted by independent researchers with some community groups, voluntary organisations, NHS staff, clinicians and members of the public to ask them about their views on local health services around the Morecambe Bay area.

One of the aims of changes to healthcare provision would seem to be to ensure that where services are relocated, although distance and travel conditions must be taken into consideration, the NHS will endeavour to ensure that your journey time should not exceed 60 minutes (40 minutes if you are travelling for haemodialysis or cancer treatment).

Local author asks "The Burning Question"

The Burning Question is…a bold new book, written by an honorary research fellow at Lancaster University, which seeks to challenge the world’s attitude to burning fuel - and will have its official launch this week.

Mike Berners-Lee, who also runs award-winning, climate change business ‘Small World Consulting’ from the Lancaster Environment Centre, has co-penned the book,  published last week, with Guardian journalist Duncan Clark.

An official launch will be hosted by Environment Centre on Friday 26th April. Mike will give a short presentation about the book and there will be time for questions and discussion. Refreshments will be provided.

With testimonials from a high-ranking collection of experts including former Vice President of the United States Al Gore (“fascinating, important and highly recommended”), Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit (“Terrific”) and The Last Generation author Fred Pearce (“Brilliant”), the book has already achieved its fair share of praise and kudos.

Despite all efforts to save energy and create more fuel efficiency, carbon emissions are still soaring sky high, warn the authors, and, so far, green warriors at all levels, have failed to reduce global warming, or even make a noticeable dent in our emissions curve.

The Burning Question argues that the only way to tackle this is to demand that the world leaves its abundance of fossil fuel-rich reserves, worth trillions of dollars, in the ground.

It then takes a feet-on-the-ground look at this as a possibility, examines the barriers, and then explores, in real terms, the potential side effects.

Would the carbon bubble burst with a bang? Would the economy sink? Would oil giants crash?

Or could it be a smooth transition to a green future?

 “This transition will only happen if the world wakes up,” argues author Mike Berners Lee, who lives in Kendal. “The book is written in a way that broadens people’s understanding and then gets right to the heart of the big issues on climate change.

“We hope people will gain a proper understanding of what’s going on and that big concepts, not widely and properly understood, will be brought to light.

“We want readers to feel this ‘tells it like it is’, doesn’t shy away from the problem and that, despite all this, there are still grounds for hope.”

And to that end, the book concludes with a realistic call to action which focuses on what we can all do as individuals – the ripple effect.

“With a big global issue such as this, the problem is what individuals can actually do?” adds Mike. “We are all so critical.

 Why are we so asleep about this? It’s perceived as an abstract problem of the future. We have been receptive to sabotage of the truth. We now need to pursue what’s true.

“Here we are trying to present some joined up thinking – science, politics, technology, psychology, sociology and behavioural activity.”

The book, which also examines some of the myths surrounding climate change and so-called energy efficiency, was a year in the making.

It follows hot on the heels of Mike’s first highly acclaimed green bestseller How Bad Are Bananas? which examined the carbon footprint in detail.

• The paperback book is available, priced £9.99, from Amazon and good bookshops now

• Please let Helen Boulton ( know if you would like to attend the launch event. 

TEDx speakers event comes to Lancaster University

Members of the public are invited to nominate a speaker for the first ever TEDx event at Lancaster University on 18th June.

TED ( is a world renowned nonprofit organisation devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ and previous speakers have included Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates and several Nobel Laureates.

TEDx is designed to provide TED at a local level, with the event coordinated independently. Speakers can be from the local community as well as from the university but they should be experienced public speakers. The theme is “Discovery: The journey so far”, whether scientific, personal, historical, geographic, social and or of any other nature.

Nominations for speakers are open until Friday 26th April. The event, organised by students, will be recorded and streamed live and promoted by TED through their website and social media which reaches a potential audience of millions.

There's more information here on the Lancaster University web site

• Nomination Form:

Cycle campaigners call for improved A6 cycle lanes, cycling in pedestrianised areas

Local Cycle Campaign group Dynamo has been campaigning for safer cycling in Lancaster and District since 1995, and is asking local cyclists for new ideas to help decide its priorities for campaigning for the coming year.

"There have been many improvements since 1995," says group sokespewrson Dick Follows, "including cycle-lanes, shared-use-paths, advanced stop-lines, improved bike-parking and the recent 20 mph speed limits to protect both cyclists and pedestrians. Everyday improvements which we often just take for granted."

One high priority campaign on Dynamo's agenda is to have good quality cycle lanes installed on both sides of the A6 between Lancaster city centre and Lancaster University.

"Wide and continuous cycle lanes would make the A6 both safer and less congested, not only for cyclists, but for all road users," Dick argues. "This already congested arterial road is set to go critical with traffic overload when the proposed business park, supermarket and housing estates are built in the future.

"Dynamo is in contact with Lancaster County Council's highways authority, Lancaster City Council, the engineering consultants and local MPs over A6 sustainability, and we seek support from local cyclists and concerned drivers."

As well as their A6 campaign, Dynamo is currently campaigning on three other issues - all of which other road and pavement users will have their own views on.

"Firstly, we have proposed the shared use of various areas of the city centre with pedestrians, out of peak hours," says Dick. "This has been shown to be a success on Church Street and would mark a further step forward in establishing considerate shared use, and of course benefit cycle commuters.

"Secondly, we are encouraging concerned citizens to support the police in the enforcement of the highly popular 20mph speed limits that operate in most of our residential streets.

"Thirdly, Dynamo opposes the widespread and illegal parking that we so often see in cycle lanes.

"There have been so many improvements in cycling provision over recent years, helped by the six years that Lancaster was a national Cycling Demonstration Town," says Dick. "With your help, Dynamo aims to build on this momentum for the greater safety and enjoyment of all."

Dynamo is holding a cycling promotion event on Monday 29th April 2013 at 7.00 p.m., upstairs at The Gregson, Moor Lane , Lancaster. Everyone who wishes to help develop safer local cycling on a more widespread cycle network, or are just interested, are welcome to come along. A friendly welcome and cake awaits all.

• Campaign Dynamo blog: 
• Twitter: