Saturday, 6 July 2013

Snapped: Croix du Nord occupy Lancaster Castle

Ancient and modern armed forces were out in force at a weekend of activities at Lancaster Castle 29th - 30th June - and Alan Phillips was there to snap Lancaster-based Saxon and Norman re-enactment group Croix du Nord occupying the castle courtyard for a Medieval village recreation with displays of weapons, cookery, medicines and even a mock slave auction!

• More about events at Lancaster Castle: and on Facebook:

More of Alan's photos on the virtual-lancaster tumblr

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Police issue ecstasy warning

Police are issuing a warning about a type of ecstasy tablet after two men from South Ribble were taken to hospital.

It is believed that they had taken a green tablet, thought to be a type of ecstasy. The incident took place on Friday 28th June when both men were out socialising and they were taken to the Royal Preston Hospital. Both have since been released.

Over the past month, eight people across Britain have died as a result of taking similar described tablets and detectives in Lancashire are warning people not to experiment with the drug.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Ashton from Lancashire Police said, “Whilst the police and the Health Protection Agency cannot directly link the deaths across the country to the incident here in Lancashire, there is a clear danger to taking illicit drugs.

“We are warning people who are looking to buy or who are taking these drugs to consider the significant consequences as it could end up in death.

“An investigation is underway to establish the source of these tablets and those who are supplying them. We would appeal to anyone with information to come forward and contact us.

“Alternatively people can contact Crimestoppers anonymously. No personal details are taken and information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.”

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

"Scribble Orchestra" Pays Tribute To Lakes Holocaust Survivors

A newly developed Holocaust Survivor exhibition centre in Windermere launches with an afternoon of songs and music on 12 July 2013 in the gardens of Windermere Library.

The afternoon is dedicated to "The Boys" - the child Holocaust Survivors who came to the Lakes in 1945. All are welcome to attend this free gathering tha tstarts at 12.45pm and ends at 3.00pm.

A specially commissioned piece called The Butterfly Suite will be performed by Cumbrian children and will reach out to all children living in the shadow of hatred and intolerance.

The Lake District Holocaust Project is based inWindermere Library and has reopened after renovations. It now is presenting an enlarged permanent exhibition and seperate gallery for touring exhibitions and

The permanent exhibition "From Auschwitz to Ambleside" tells the remarkable story of the three hundred Jewish child Holocaust Survivors who came to the Lake District in 1945, and the community who welcomed them on the now "lost" village of Calgarth Estate near Windermere village.

Bob Obuchowski, one of the Jewish children who came to Windermere in 1945 says: "We came from the hell of the concentration camps to paradise - Windermere. Those first days of food, real beds with bedclothes and the great kindness we were shown, made us feel like human beings again. It's a time I will never forget.

"I am so thankful that this exhibition tells the story of our arrival to the UK and our rehabilitation and ensures that we and our experiences are never forgotten".

"This is an incredibly moving and exciting moment for us all at The Lake District Holocaust Project," says Trevor Avery, Director of Cumbrian charity Another Space and organiser of The Lake District Holocaust Project. "The project moves up another gear entirely after extraordinary developments over the past few years.

"The Butterfly Suite performance is a special day with children at the heart of the activity and event, just as the arrival of child Holocaust Survivors so many years ago changed the Lake District's relationship to the Holocaust forever."

The afternoon of songs and music organised by Andy Halsey and the charity Musiclinks supported by Arts Council England North West, Lakeland Disability Support, Cumbria Community Foundation, Frieda Scott Trust and Our Big Gig. (This will also be part of the national "Our Big Gig" music in the community post-Olympics initiative).

Amongst those performing will be the acclaimed Scribble Orchestra and Choir made up of children from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances including children in mainstream education and those with disabilities and those with special educational needs.

The schools involved include St Oswalds Primary School, Burneside, St Cuthberts Primary School, Windermere, The Lakes Secondary School, Sandgate School, Kendal, and Whinfell School, Kendal. The Riversiders Group in Kendal are also involved, as is community artist Nicki Smith, running art workshops in all the schools.

• The Lake District Holocaust Project is open Mon - Fri 10am - 4.00pm (Closed all day Wednesday) and Sat 10am - 1pm. Out of hours opening can be arranged by prior arrangement. Please call or email to check for opening details during Bank Holidays.

• The Lake District Holocaust project is being developed in partnership between Another Space, an education charity, and Cumbria County Council Libraries. Support has also been welcomed from South Lakes District Council, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England North West, Heritage Lottery Fund, Awards for All, Madeline Mabey Trust, Big Lottery Fund.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Time to take in the Merry Men!

Here's some fab production pictures from The Dukes' latest outdoor show Robin Hood, which opens on Friday in Williamson Park and runs until 10th August!

For tickets priced £7-£22, phone 01524 598500 or visit:

A scene from The Dukes outdoor walkabout  production of Robin Hood which runs in Lancaster's Williamson Park from 5th July - 10th August

Scarlet (Lauren Silver), Robin Hood (Noel White) and Marion (Loren O'Dair)

The Sheriff (Ruth D'Silva)

Lancaster University puts FAITH in new smartphone apps

Members of the public are being asked to use their smart phones to comment on roadworks and flooding in a pilot project created at Lancaster University, to improve feedback to local councils.
The aim is to improve trust between the public, contractors and local authorities and so reduce costs and improve efficiency.

The two iPhone mobile phone apps – StreetSmart and Flooder – will also help in the prioritisation of maintenance work. The two apps are being trialled in the Redcar and Bristol areas and will be free to download for iPhone users.

The apps have been developed by Lancaster University, InTouch Ltd and Carillion plc as part of a research project called FAITH which aims to use the latest developments in computing to improve the delivery of contracted services.

"This is a tremendously exciting project," enthuses Professor Nigel Davies from the School of Computing and Communications at the University, "that aims to understand how to bring together the public, councils and contractors to help collectively maintain the UK's infrastructure more effectively and efficiently. The project is highly innovative in its focus on using technology to support trust between collaborators."

The FAITH project is funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency.

Researchers on FAITH have designed software that fits in with existing systems for issuing and monitoring work in order to provide evidence of trustworthiness. This will deliver substantial benefits and cost savings to businesses and public bodies, and increased trust in local authority services and so is also likely to improve their relationship with the public.

Highways maintenance - mending potholes, clearing drains, carrying out repairs - is characterised by a complex set of workflows and data exchanges with significant levels of mistrust, both between the stakeholders the council, contractors and the public - and collectively in the data provided by the systems they use.

• If you are interested in downloading an app contact

• MySociety already offers a terrific FixMyStreet web site enabling users to quickly report problems:

Youngsters encouraged to clean up Ryelands

Lancaster's youth are being urged to get involved in a litter pick tomorrow, (4th July) when it's hoped they'lljoin the neighbourhood policing team to help clean up their community in the Ryelands area.

The litter pick has been organised by McDonalds, Cedar House School and Ryelands and will start at 9.45am with everyone meeting on Ryelands car park before moving on to Dee Road play park and the Croasdale area.

There will be certificates given out and a meal at McDonalds afterwards where a couple of prizes will be awarded for the most rubbish collected.

Lancaster City Council are providing high visibility vests and equipment.

 “This is a great opportunity for people living in the Ryelands area to get to know other local people and to take pride in their community," feels PCSO Cath Elliott.

"I really want to thank all the organisations that have given in support in arranging this and I just really want to encourage people to come along and get involved and together we can really make a difference.”

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Bring Your Wellies for an Open Day at an Apiary

Have you ever wondered about the lives of bees and what goes on inside a beehive?

Accompanied by experienced beekeepers, Lancaster's Beekepers are offering a free, unique opportunity to visit their Apiary next month, to learn about the life and work of honey bees, look at their environment, the kinds of plants they need and explore inside their world.

All are welcome and there is no charge - although donations are welcome. There will be bookable 'Bee Tours' for which numbers are strictly limited to 20 people per Tour.  The Tours enable you to see inside a hive and to hang out with the bees. 

Prior booking for the tours, taking place on Sunday 4th August, is essential and all children under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Protective clothing will be provided for the Bee Tours but each participant must bring their own pair of wellies!

• For further information go to Booking on: 01524811978

Help your community and volunteer

Do you have an hour to spare which could be used to help others?

Three special events taking place in July will help anyone looking to find out more about the wide range of volunteering opportunities available in the Lancaster district.

Volunteering is a great way to not only help the community but also to meet new people.

There are also no age limits – current volunteers range from 16 to 86 - so there is something for everyone. The list of opportunities is enormous: administration, animal care, befriending, catering, litter picking, conservation work, community centres, counselling, festivals and events, DIY, driving, education, fund-raising, gardening, homelessness, to name but a few.

Three roadshows will be taking place to offer more information on local volunteering opportunities.

Events will be held from 10am to 2pm on:

Tuesday 9th July - Arndale Centre, Morecambe
Wednesday 10th July – near the town centre cenotaph, Carnforth
Thursday 11th July – Market Square, Lancaster

Representatives from the Lancaster District Volunteering Centre, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council Volunteering Hub, Lancashire Fire and Rescue and Lancashire Constabulary will be on hand to answer any questions and link potential volunteers to suitable opportunities.

Jack Meredith-Elsworth, from Morecambe, regularly volunteers at many of the district’s festivals.

“Seeing Lancaster and Morecambe with thousands flooding in, enjoying the weather and making the most of the area actually gives me some fulfilment," she says.

“It's worth other people getting involved and volunteering. It's a chance for them to take ownership and the best place to gain experience and knowledge, especially if it's a line of work they are interested in. As a younger person, volunteering has offered me so much, and has led to me doing many things and I'd advise people to do the same!”

Coun Jon Barry, Cabinet member with responsibility for the voluntary sector, added: "Volunteers are the lifeblood of many local organisations and without them many services would simply not be able to function.

"Volunteering is a great way to take pride in our community and I would encourage anyone with some spare time to attend these events to find out more."

Monday, 1 July 2013

Dine in - at Lancaster Castle

You can take an enthralling peek into Lancaster Castle’s fascinating history - and enjoy a delicious meal - at a special tour and dinner package on Friday 5th July.

The castle’s popular tours, run by Lancashire County Council Museums Service, offer an intriguing insight into the significant role the castle has played in the country’s crime and punishment heritage.

At 5.00 and 6.15pm this Friday, entertaining and informative guides will take visitors on a journey of discovery, describing the 1,000 year history of the magnificent and varied castle buildings from Roman origins, through centuries of use as a place of incarceration and criminal justice. Tours visit the main courtyard, chapel yard, the ground floor of C-wing (the former female penitentiary), the Shire Hall, the Crown Court, the Drop Room, the Grand Jury Room, Hadrian's Tower and the Old Cells. Tours will last approximately 75 minutes.

If you want to take the tour on its own, it’s £8 (adult); £6.50 (concessions and children) and £20 (family) and there’s no need to pre-book.

To enjoy a dinner and tour, it’s £18 (tour plus two course meal) or £23 (three courses) and you can book in advance (optional) by ringing the Nice @ The Castle cafe on (01524) 848525. Children’s tour and meal deals are £10 for two courses £12 for three.

• For more information about the tour, call 01524 64998
The tours, as well as the tour/meal deal, will then run every Friday in July and August.

Police warn students again as thieves target their accommodation

Lancaster police are again warning students in the City to be vigilant and extra cautious following a spate of thieves targeting student accommodation.

Over the weekend there have been four incidents reported, in two of those incidents the offenders made their way in via insecure doors.

The burglaries all happened overnight in the Lancaster City Centre and Galgate areas between 28th June and the early hours of this morning (1st July)

Cash was taken along with a laptop, Xbox 360 console and games, jewellery and credit cards.

This is not the first time this year that students have been warned about making sure their accommodation is secure at night or when they leave it. Back in April, three quarters of burglaries were on student homes.

Inspector Nigel Parkinson said: “When somebody breaks into your home and steals your things it can leave you feeling extremely vulnerable and nervous. Students are an easy target because they have all the latest expensive technology but often leave their properties insecure, which was the case in 2 of these incidents.

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 or cash in empty properties for a long amount of time.”

Family still hopes for the best for missing Lancaster man lost at sea

Although the family of Matthew Wootton are pleading for the yacht search off New Zealand to go on, hopes seem to be fading for the environmentalist and the crew of the schooner Nina, some three weeks after it disappeared.

Wootton was on board the famous 85-year-old schooner sailing from the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, to Newcastle on the New South Wales mid-north coast - but the yacht has not been heard from since early June, and The Guardian reports New Zealand search and rescue services are scouring the area for any sign of the missing schooner or its crew.

Above: Matt talks about the global water crisis, and drinks Guinea Pig Poo Water 

A Green party activist, Matthew worked at Lancaster's Folly arts centre before it closed and has been travelling for about three and a half years – mostly in the Americas – and Australia was to be his last stop before heading home, according to his family.

His YouTube and Flickr accounts chart his journey and concerns for the future of our planet. His last public Facebook post is a photograph of him off New Zealand, presumably taken by a fellow crew member of the missing Nina.

His last twitter post reads, simply: "This is going to be awesome" as he prepared to set sail.

Sail World reports that the hope now is that if the Nina has sunk, then some may be aboard a life raft.

Wootton's sister Lara told the Daily Mail her brother was "very environmentally aware" and travelled by boat or public transport when possible.

"He has been staying with local people in all the places he's been and is interested in learning about different cultures."

Before his travels and work at the folly, Matthew worked as a Media Officer for the national Green Party, helping re-brand the organisation, and for TravelSmart Preston.

His travels to the Americas began in New York in January 2010, followed by travel by bus down through Central America and crossing by sail boat into South America. Brought up as a classical musician, his interests include photography, writing, music, people and learning more about this amazing world. A busy writer, he has worked on projects such as the Daily Planet blog and on global and green issues, and the Green Words Workshop project for reframing and popularising progressive politics.

The Register reports that one of the shining lights of the world of Unix, retired professor Evi Nemeth, is also among the group missing at sea near New Zealand who include Captain David Dyche, captain, his wife Rosemary, their son David, Matthew and others who are yet to be named.

virtual-lancaster extends its sympathies to family and friends of Matthew at this worrying time.

Appeal following fatal collision in Lancaster

Police are appealing for witnesses after an 83-year-old woman died following a road traffic collision in Glasson Dock.

Around 1.20pm on Tuesday 25th June, a Honda Civic was involved in a head on collision with a Case Loading Shovel on School Lane.

The driver of the Honda, Renee Garth from Glasson Dock, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Case Loading Shovel, a 36-year-old man from Lancaster, was uninjured.

Sergeant Steve Wignall said: “If anybody witnessed this collision but hasn’t already spoken to police then I would ask that they make contact with us.

“I would also like to speak with anybody who was in the area at the time and thinks they may have seen either vehicle being driven prior to the collision.”

• 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.

Lancaster CoHousing's Forgebank project reaches final of Passivhaus Awards

Forgebank, a pioneering Lancashire eco development from Lancaster Cohousing, has been shortlisted for a national building award.

Forgebank consists of 41 homes by the banks of the River Lune at Halton and is one of three developments shortlisted in the social housing project category of the UK Passsivhaus Awards 2013, which will be judged this week.

Passivhaus is a highly energy efficient building design pioneered in Germany. Passivhaus homes achieve this efficiency in three ways: making use of solar gain from south facing windows, not losing heat by being super insulated and airtight, and through a heat recovery ventilation system.

Forgebank is the largest certified Passivhaus development in the UK and research done by Sheffield and Leeds Metropolitan universities show that the completed houses perform exceptionally well in terms of energy saving, as well as being places people enjoy living.

“After living in a Victorian house for the last 20 years, I thought cold draughts were a fact of life but our new Passivhaus has none!,” said resident Huw Johnson. " Everybody who walks in asks us if we have our heating on as it feels so warm - we don't. This is seriously impressive technology we're living in."

His neighbour, Dr Jan Maskell, agrees: “It has exceeded all my expectations with regard to comfort, warmth and air quality. The utility bills are exceptionally low and the systems are easy to use. From my personal experience I would have no hesitation recommending these Passivehaus designs to others ''

The development is about more than sustainable living. Cohousing, which originated in Denmark, is about creating a community and the Forgebank design encourages social interaction between neighbours with a pedestrian street, common house, children's room, communal laundry and guest rooms.

“The most significant thing is going beyond the Passivhaus criteria and embellishing the project to make it a wonderful place to live,” said Andrew Yeats, from Eco Arc Architects near Kendal, who designed the project with Lancaster Cohousing.

The result is a neighbourhood based upon ecological values, where it is very easy to live a low carbon, sustainable lifestyle in comfort.

Film maker and cohousing resident, Frances Bowen, has made a video about Passivhaus construction filmed in Forgebank.

• For more information about Lancaster Cohousing or to find out about living there, go to

In Review: Haffner Orchestra at Ashton Hall,

In Review: Haffner Orchestra at Ashton Hall, Lancaster, Saturday, 19th June 2013
Reviewed by Henry Prince

The audience almost filled the town hall on Saturday night. Many will have dragged themselves away from Wimbledon coverage to hear the Haffner Orchestra in its final concert of the season. Two hours later, they were congratulating themselves on their choice of entertainment for the evening, the spectacle of Serena looking for another ‘double bagel’ win over some hapless opponent having been replaced with the exquisite sounds of Bartok, Holst, Hummel and Beethoven played by this exceptional group of amateur musicians.

As a patron of this orchestra, I have come to expect a Haffner evening to be educational. On this occasion, I learned both from the programme notes and from the value-added pre-concert talk by the evening’s trumpet soloist.

The soloist Peter Lawrence (originally from Barrow-in-Furness) has lived with his family in the north eastern Bavarian town of Hof for 20 years. He told us that there were many more orchestras in Germany than in the UK and that many British and American musicians live in Germany precisely because of the greater availability of work.

Although he had been asked by the Haffner to perform the popular Haydn trumpet concerto, he had requested that he be allowed to perform the less-well-known Hummel concerto, a work that, unlike the Haydn, which was the standard work for every trumpet audition, he had not played and heard to death over the years. The audience loved his choice.

Listeners unfamiliar with the use of sonata form in a classical concerto may well have wondered why the soloist was simply standing around on the stage for the first few minutes of the piece but that question will have been quickly forgotten once the orchestral rendition of the exposition was out of the way. Lawrence’s infectious enthusiasm for music and obvious delight in performance promoted a very warm reception of his contribution to the evening’s enjoyment. We were so carried away by his playing that we forgot to watch out for his employment of the unusual fourth valve on his instrument or to wonder how close modern E-flat major tonality sounds to the composition’s original key of E major, which in Hummel’s day over 200 years ago was significantly flatter than today’s standard orchestral pitch.

One would have thought that the Hummel trumpet concerto gave pleasure enough for one concert. It was a bonus then that the whole of the second half was given over to Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony. Always a hugely popular work, this amateur group took it on wholeheartedly and showed off their considerable playing skills in every department. Everyone did exactly what he or she was supposed to do as we arrived in the countryside and were escorted past the babbling brook towards the peasants’ festival. Lots of nice woodwind, brass and inner strings work. Then came the storm...

Holy Moses! What a storm! Roll over Beethoven! If the lights in the Ashton Hall had so much as flickered, many of us would have dived under our seats for self-preservation. Every piece of orchestral kit was brought into play for what seemed like ages and it was genuinely a time for joining the shepherds in thanksgiving when the programmatic clouds parted and we at last heard the musical rainbow.

There are plenty of places to hide musically in a storm. There are fewer hiding places when most instruments are propped on laps while rests are being counted, as was the case at the beginning of the Holst tone poem ‘Egdon Heath’. The opening bars (the LSO under Britten) are not difficult but they are nevertheless exposed and the breath the basses took before playing them was not quite deep enough. A case of nerves taking over - always an occupational hazard for the amateur orchestral player. When the motif was later reprised, they played it fine.

The piece is extraordinarily beautiful. Holst himself regarded it as “possibly his finest achievement”, according to the programme notes. And very demanding! It contains countless opportunities for musical failure but this orchestra converted those time and again into opportunities to demonstrate just how good they are. I am sure many of us would have liked to have heard the piece played again.

The evening’s opening piece was Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances. Composed in 1915 for piano and two years later transcribed by the composer for orchestra, these seven Transylvanian tunes were delightfully and competently played.

It was nice to see the much-loved Natalia Luis-Bassa once again waving the baton. As we all know, an orchestra needs someone to organise everybody and ensure that all perform in the same way. Natalia does that well. I hope one day soon she will find a solution to the occasional tendency of the lowest strings to play just behind the beat and just below the tonal centre of a note. My bet remains that all they need is a hug. It must be difficult for back row players to avoid feeling isolated when they are at such a large physical distance from the conductor. The metaphorical distance is even greater when the players see only her profile.

H. Prince

Artist website:

Concert Programme:
Bartok: Rumanian Folk Dances
Holst: Egdon Heath (Homage to Hardy)
Hummel: Trumpet Concerto in E flat major
Beethoven: Symphony No.6 in F major ‘Pastoral’

Tickets were priced:  Adults £12.50, Concessions £11.50, 18 and under free

Next Haffner Concert: Saturday 16 November 2013