Thursday, 21 November 2013

Lancaster Mad Hatters' Week of Mental Health Awareness Events

Next week is Mad Hatters Week - a mental health awareness week happening in Lancaster from Monday 25th to Friday 29th November 2013.

The week is being organised by a coalition of local groups and individuals -and is particularly noteable in that it is user- and survivor-led, (which means they can call it what they like.) All the events are for adults aged 18+.

SHARP (Self Help Art and Recovery Project)  is a sub-group of the Gregson Community Association and is a user-led self-help organisation run by and for people who have experienced trauma and/or severe emotional / mental distress, based in Lancaster.

Lancaster District Peer Support is a recovery and well-being club for people with severe and enduring mental health problems.

The Hearing Voices Network supports anyone with these experiences seeking to understand, learn and grow from them in their own way.

The week kicks off on Monday 25th with a free screening of 'Waltz with Bashir' at 4.30pm at the Gregson Cinema. Based on a true story, the film is a quest into the missing pieces of director Ari Folman's memory of being part of the devastating Israeli invasion forces in the Lebanon War in the mid 80s. You can watch a trailer at The screening is followed by a Discussion (7-8pm).

Tuesday 26th November sees a Forum Theatre Workshop on 'working with powerlessness in life-situations' at the Gregson from 2.30pm - 5.30pm. All welcome  (over 18yrs)   No fee and no acting ability is needed (but a donation towards costs is appreciated) - You may turn up on the day, but to reserve a place or for more information, please email

The Film / discussion and Forum Theatre Workshops are organised by SHARP Surivor-Led Community Group.

Not part of Mad Hatter's Week but also happening on Wednesday 27th is a 'Consultation on the impact of Out of Area Mental Health Services' at Lancaster Town Hall Committee Room A from 10am to 1pm.   The Insight Network for mental health, on behalf of Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, are holding a series of focus groups to consider the impact of ‘out of area’ mental health services on service users and carers, whose involvement would be appreciated at this session. A sandwich lunch and refreshments will be provided.  Pre-registration is essential.  To book your place - or simply to convey your views if you aren't able to attend email: or  phone: Helen on 01253 362 140 or write to: The Insight Network, PO Box 295, Lytham St. Annes, FY8 9EX. Reasonable travel costs will be reimbursed.

On Wednesday 27th November everyone is invited to Trinity Community Centre on Middle Street in Lancaster (LA1 1JZ) for the Lancaster Mad Hatters Tea Party, Plus Craft fair, Open Day and Information Drop-In from 11am - 3pm, where you can find bargain Xmas gifts and enjoy refreshments. Representatives from Peer Support, SHARP, Hearing Voices Group and Lancaster & District Mental Health Service User Forum will be available too. All Welcome.

The Morecambe Mad Hatter's Tea Party is on Thursday 28th November at the United Reform Church, Sefton Road, Morecambe, LA3 IUG. Again it's from 11am-3pm and there will be a Craft fair, Open Day and Information Drop- In. All Welcome.

The Wednesday and Thursday Open Day events are organised by Peer Support.

Celebrate the Grand Finale of the week on Friday 29th November at the Mad Hatters Fundraising Cabaret! At the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster and featuring local guest musicians, with an open mic and music and poetry from survivors and service users. MC is Sheelagh Houlihan. Tickets on the door £4/£3 (concessions) in aid of SHARP and Peer Support.  Doors open at 8pm and there will be a prize for the Maddest Hat worn on the night!

For more information email or connect with the Mad Hatters on facebook at

Borough a winner in LESS Energy Awards

The Borough Pub
An old post office, a pub, a converted Mill, a park home, an apartment block and a Victorian family home all featured in the first LESS Energy Awards announced this week.

The LESS Energy Awards are being run by LESS ( in conjunction with Lancaster University's ‘Current’ project ( Lancaster University is a world leader in research into how households and organisations can save energy.

Award-Winners Hannah and Martin Horne, landlords at The Borough pub in Dalton Square, Lancaster, say the trick is to just get started on something, however small. Their realisation that they were throwing away lots of mineral water bottles led to them filtering and bottling their own water on site. Now they have solar thermal panels, recycle everything from napkins to chip fat oil, use local food and have got rid of energy guzzling light bulbs. “It makes good economic sense and it makes you feel good as well,” says Hannah.

Simon Gershon, whose company Green Door Lets won Greenest Landlord, believes in the importance of doing up old houses to provide modern comforts. “The average age of the UK’s housing stock is 80 years," he said. "So it makes sense from a carbon as well as comfort point of view to do them up. If you are renovating a property anyway it doesn’t cost much more. You then have a property that will give you much less trouble and happier tenants.”

Simon is currently renovating a 125 year old former post office in West Road, Lancaster, insulating the walls and roof, double glazing the old sash windows and installing rainwater harvesting, solar thermal panels and an energy efficient boiler.

Halton Mill, a refurbished engineering works, gained the top rating for its energy performance for its combination of energy saving refurbishment and renewable energy generation. “All our tenants love the fact that they can say they are based in a low carbon workspace,” said Dr Fiona Frank, director of Green Elephant which manages Halton Mill. “It makes a difference in today’s business environment.”

Steve Clarke spent years “nagging” the management committee of Cedar Manor, his apartment block, to do something about the lights in the communal areas which were on 24/7. “I’m a war baby and I can’t bear waste,” Steve said.

Tabby Middleton always wanted to insulate her Victorian Lancaster home to reduce her family’s carbon footprint for future generations. Now the family is feeling the benefits. Her oldest son’s asthma has improved dramatically and, by late October, she still hadn’t put the heating on.

Ronald Smith had one of the biggest challenges - to improve the energy efficiency of his park home. A combination of external and under floor insulation and double glazing has made it much more comfortable and cheaper to keep warm.

The award-winners all agreed that saving money was only part of the reward for improving the energy of efficiency of their home or business, and that feeling warmer, and good about themselves, were even more important.

“These are inspiring examples of what can be done to save energy and live more sustainably.” said Kevin Frea, Director of LESS. “We hope these stories will be an inspiration to others to make their homes and businesses warmer, more energy efficient and sustainable.”

Short films have been made of each of the winners by Forgebank Films. The films will be shown at a celebration meal and awards ceremony held at Halton Mill on 27 November.
Free tickets are still available at

LESS is a Community Interest Company set up to promote sustainable living. It currently runs projects in the areas of energy and local food growing and offers free advice on energy saving.  More information is available at or by contacting Kevin Frea on 07716 246672.

Review: Haffner Orchestra at the Great Hall

Haffner Orchestra Concert
Saturday 16 November 2013 
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University

Reviewed by Henry Prince

Concert Programme:
Bizet: Carmen Suite
Stravinsky: The Firebird
Dvořák: Symphony no. 9 (from the New World)

I used to play a game of judging which Haffner programme item had received the most rehearsal time. Years ago it was an easy game to win but now I can no longer tell. At least one other patron will agree. He has attended this amateur orchestra’s concerts from the beginning and declared publicly on Saturday night that its transformation since the early days in the Princess Margaretha Hall is truly remarkable.

As the evening’s guest conductor Justin Doyle said at the pre-concert talk, a traditional orchestral programme comprises “meat and two veg” (an overture, a concerto and a symphony). Saturday’s programme, in a sense, omitted the main course and moved straight to the desserts trolley, for we were allowed to savour three of the richest selections from the orchestral repertoire. It must have been particularly attractive to many in the audience because the Great Hall was full. I have never before seen it so packed.

As usual, the pre-concert talk was great value for money, costing as it did nothing. Mr Doyle gave a light-hearted lecture on the development of Western music from the early sacred music of Palestrina and secular music of the troubadours to the Classical symphony. Musical style followed the money. The Church provided a steady income to some composers while others worked in the service of the wealthy, who loved to entertain their guests with something new. The secular dances became musical forms for defining the structures of instrumental pieces and while Brahms was writing symphonies and concertos, Wagner was at the same time writing pieces in which instrumental themes were being accompanied, Baroque style, by voices telling a story rather than always the other way round. All good stuff and, I think, lapped up by the audience, which was perhaps three times the size of any pre-concert talk audience in my experience. Not sure why the attendance was so high but it was good to see nonetheless.

The first selection from the sweets trolley was Bizet’s Carmen Suite. It suited the orchestra to begin with the boisterous Overture and to press on into the Aragonaise without a break. No time for nerves to catch hold. Indeed the first chord was struck, unusually, the very moment the conductor’s foot touched the platform. The Aragonaise and Les Dragons d’Alcala in particular gave the excellent Haffner woodwinds a much deserved showcase for their skills. It was also a pleasure to see performers being allowed to get on with playing together without a stick being waved in their faces.

Second on the menu was the amazing Firebird. The ballet was first performed in Paris in 1910 where it attracted bravos and boos in equal intensity, so revolutionary was it in its time. The piece beautifully illustrates the comment in the pre-concert talk that although one cannot have melody without rhythm, the reverse is certainly possible. Many of the thrills in the Firebird are derived from Stravinsky’s complex rhythms, the successful performance of which depended on the delivery of a secure beat from the rostrum.

Before the beginning of the Firebird, the conductor called for a quick retune. I had not noticed any intonation problems and wondered whether this might be simply a clever approach to calming the players by keeping them busy between pieces. If so, it was certainly successful. With only a little lack of attention to the accuracy of pitch and rhythm, the low chromaticism of the opening bars could have degenerated into a muddy mess. In the event, it came off very well.

Nerves are the biggest liability for any amateur performers. There were just a few of those at the start of the largest cake, Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, but once the introduction was out of the way and the first subject of the opening movement was in full gallop, the remainder of the concert went beautifully. I was particularly captivated by the magical playing in the middle section of the second movement and loved the Scherzo, which I thought was executed superbly despite its difficulty. I was also enchanted and moved by the perfect rendition of the last two low-string chords of the Largo.

Finally, the Finale. The last movement of the Dvořák is tailor made for amateur orchestras. Packed with tunes and big sounds with lots and lots of full ensemble playing. The Haffner made the most of it and at the end there was a real sense of elation in the hall, both offstage and on. Everybody went home feeling good and making a mental note to check the date of the next Haffner concert in February.

H. Prince

Artist’s website:

Tickets were priced:  Adults £13, Concessions £12, 18 and under free

Next Haffner Concert: Saturday 15th February 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 20 - 28 November 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 and reviews.

New films during this period include the JFK assassination with Parkland and science fiction with much awaited The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who with Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor.

Still showing are the excellent films Philomena, Gravity and Thor: The Dark World. Also a couple of family favourites remain during this period The Smurfs 2 and Despicable Me 2.

A range of alternative movies include culture with Romeo and Juliet and music with Andre Rieu's Home for Christmas & One Direction: This is us. Also of note is the surreal comedy Prince Avalanche.


Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
A dramatisation of the 2009 hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates who kidnapped the Captain Phillips. This is a excellent must see thriller movie featuring superb acting. Characters are well developed and the film takes a sympathetic view of both pirates and the crew of the ship. In keeping with the subject the film has a documentary feel about it which makes for compelling viewing.

Despicable Me 2
Director: Pierre Coffin , Chris Renaud
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Steve Carell, Kirsten Wiig, Steve Coogan
A sequel to Despicable Me, which became the tenth biggest animation movie in US history. Gru, now retired, spends his time caring for his adopted children. He has turned good and is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to track down a criminal who has stolen a serum from a research facility. This is a great animation for both children and adults and, like last time, it is the Minions who provide the most entertainment. If you only get to see one film this week - this should be the one.

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: Peter Landsman
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Billy Bob Thornton
A re-telling of the 1963 assassination of J F Kennedy, with the drama set around the Dallas Parklands Hospital. The film is little quirky as it attempts to portray the assassination through the lives of ordinary people involved in this drama. A well made movie with good acting. It mixes newsreels with dramatic reconstruction. However this reviewer felt everyone was trying a little to hard to add a new spin to these well known and extensively documented events. Overall a fair movie.

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. Philomean (Dench) plays 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.

The Counsellor
Director: Ridley Scott
Certificate: 18
Cast Includes: Michael Fassbender,Brad Pitt,Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz
The screenplay is by Cormac McCarthy and the film follows the Counsellor, a man in love with Laura (Cruz) and employed defending drug dealers. He succumbs to greed and becomes involved in a drug deal on the Mexican boarder. However the deal goes very wrong and the Counsellor has to deal with some colourful and unpleasant characters. This is an original crime thriller with scenes of sexuality and gruesome violence which justifies its 18 category. The film is convoluted, unpredictable and generates an atmosphere of unease. However it is absorbing, very well acted and with its share of dark humour. A powerful must see movie.

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 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 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. Hence he plots to discredit and kill her by involving her in a new Hunger Games along with old winners. So the participants need to defeat President Snow as well as avoiding 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 is 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.

Appeal after hawk stolen from Morecambe

Police are appealing for the public’s help after a hawk was stolen from the rear yard of a house in Morecambe.

The theft took place sometime between 7am and 6.30pm on Monday 18th November on Euston Road after the victim fed his Harris hawk before going to work.

The hawk, named Tilly, is nine years old and was stolen from the bolted aviary in the yard. She has two bells on each leg and a ring on its left leg. It is worth in the region of £200.

PC Nicola Hayton said: “The owner of the bird was understandably upset when he returned home to find his hawk gone so I would appeal to anyone with any information about the whereabouts of the hawk or the persons responsible to contact Lancaster Police on 101.

“The offenders would have needed to scale a 2.5 metre wall to get into the yard as the gate was locked so I would also be keen to hear from anybody that witnessed any disturbance or saw anybody acting suspiciously in the area.”

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, 19 November 2013

Lancaster Co-Housing wins national self build award

Lancaster Co-housing at Halton
A 41 home highly sustainable cohousing project near Lancaster has won the self  build sector's top award for 2013. The Lancaster Cohousing scheme provides private homes with communal space and sits on the bank of the River Lune at Halton. It has taken seven years to deliver - with the initial group first coming together in 2004.

The Award (called the Murray Armor  Award after the acclaimed self  build author who died in 1998) is not so much about the look of the project as it is about the commitment and tenacity of the people who planned and constructed it. This is the first time the award has gone to a collective self or custom build project.

In 2009 the group managed to acquire a site that was then occupied by derelict industrial buildings. With help from its architects (Eco Arc) and its main contractors (Whittle Construction) it developed an overall design and construction began in 2011. The bulk of the work was completed earlier this year, and the majority of the residents have now moved in.

Funding was a particular challenge; between them the group managed to raise enough to purchase the site,
but then it had to borrow money to fund the construction work. Triodos  Bank  provided  a  £3.45m  facility  to  fund  the  building  work,  and,  as  each  member  of  the  group  has moved  in,  they  have  secured  a  mortgage  to  help  pay  off  the  loan.  

The  Rural  Carbon  Challenge  Fund  also provided £71,000 towards a district heating scheme, which is fuelled by local woodchip and solar thermal.

One  of  the  main  themes  of  the  project  is  its  certification  to  the  Passivhaus  energy  and  comfort  standard  -which means the homes are all super energy efficient.  To achieve this,  the walls, roofs and floors are super insulated, and the windows and doors are triple glazed.  Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery is used, and the homes are more than 10 times as air tight as required by the current Building Regulations.
There are also large photovoltaic installations on the south facing roofs, and there is a plan to link up to a new hydroelectric installation that will extract energy from the River. The result is that the homes are very cheap to run - annual energy bills are around £300 for a typical house.

“We wanted to create something that is very high specification, but that is al so possible to replicate so it will
inspire others to aim high and live more sustainably,” said Jon Sear, Lancaster Cohousing project manager.
“It was tough to do, and at moments it felt almost impossible, but we knew what we wanted to achieve and it is really satisfying to have got there.”

The project is run as a  cohousing community. Everyone has their own house or apartment, alongside shared
facilities which help reduce the  use of resources, as well as encouraging neighbourly living. A multi-functional common house is provided for a wide range of social activities  including communal meals, celebrations and a place to relax and chat to neighbours.

There is also a communal laundry (so the residents don’t need their own washing machine), and a communal
toolstore (so there are two shared lawn mowers, rather than 41). Two shared guest bedrooms mean the homes don't need to have a rarely used 'spare' bedroom.

The  award  was  judged  by  TV self builder  Tommy Walsh, with Charlie Luxton, presenter  of  BBC's  'Building  the  Dream'  TV programme, Ted Stevens - chair of the National Self Build Association and serial self builder and author David Snell.

NaSBA’s Ted Stevens said: “The  Lancaster  project  shows  just  what  can  be  achieved  by  a  group  of  dedicated  and  committed  people.  It proves that ‘the whole’ really is greater than ‘the sum of the parts’  –  not only have they created some very attractive homes for themselves, they’ve also built an incredibly vibrant and supportive community.

“In other parts of Europe a large number of projects like this are being built; we believe the Lancaster scheme is a beacon of best practice, and we hope to see many more similar projects come forward in the UK in the next few years.”

Police launch 'Operation Jingle Bells' to tackle Christmas shopping street crime

Operation Jingle Bells, Lancaster
Lancaster Police are urging people to remain vigilant as they launch a new operation in the city centre in the run-up to Christmas.

Operation Jingle Bells will see officers in the city giving away tiny bells, festively named 'Jingle Bells’, for shoppers to attach to their purses, handbags and wallets at the Christmas Lights switch-on in the city centre on Sunday 24th November. If thieves do try to snatch their belongings, shoppers will be alerted by the bells jingling and be able to take action.

With sneak thieves even targetting Lancaster Library users recently, it's all good advice to prevent crime.
As part of the operation, Lancaster Police will also be opening the community policing office at Lancaster bus station to the public for the next few weeks as Christmas approaches. In addition to providing visitors with Jingle Bells, officers will also be on hand to offer advice on how to stay safe over the Christmas and New Year period.

PC Chris Smith
PC Chris Smith, the Community Beat Manager for Lancaster city centre’s Dukes ward, said: “The city’s shops are at their busiest in the run-up to Christmas and I would like to remind people to be vigilant when shopping.
“Be wary of other shoppers who crowd you, keep your handbag and shopping bags closed and don't leave your purse or other valuables in view at any time.

“I would also encourage our residents to visit us at the community police office. As well as handing out Jingle Bells, my colleagues and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and show you the old police memorabilia we have in our mini museum on-site.”

In the run-up to Christmas, residents in Lancaster are urged to:

  • Never leave your bag unattended
  • Always make sure that your bags are securely shut
  • If your bag has a strap, wear it across your body with the openings facing inwards and hold it close to your body
  • Never put your bag on the floor to look at anything on the shelves or when trying on clothing in changing rooms
  • Only keep items in your bag that you need and leave other valuables in a safe place at home
  • If you do not have a bag, hold your purse or wallet close to your body, or carry it in a secure, concealed front pocket
  • Keep your cash card separate from your cheque book
  • Where possible, avoid carrying around large amounts of cash
  • Always remain aware of what is going on around you

Keep a note of the correct phone numbers to ring to report stolen cards and, if your purse or wallet is stolen, make sure you report it to your bank/card issuer immediately as thieves can use cards to buy items over the phone or internet.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Police continue to tackle burglary and stolen goods in the run up to Christmas

Police are reminding the public to remain vigilant to keep their homes secure from burglars.

The advice comes as part of Lancashire Constabulary’s Operation Julius campaign and the national In Focus: Burglary and Stolen Good initiative that runs from today (Monday 18th November) to Friday.

Nationally and here in Lancashire, there is typically a rise in burglaries in November and December as the nights draw in and people are buying Christmas presents in the run up to the festive period.

Superintendent Damian Darcy, the Constabulary lead for Operation Julius said: “We have already been running our local campaign aimed at combatting burglary in Lancashire since October and we are using the national In Focus campaign to remind the public how to beat the burglar with crime prevention tips to keep their homes safe.

“Traditionally burglaries go up in November and December, and despite the number of these incidents being low in Lancashire, it’s important that we target burglars whilst giving people and shops advice to avoid becoming victims.

“But that’s not the end of it.  We need the public to work with us by avoiding the temptation to buy cheaper goods and Christmas gifts that could have potentially been stolen.

“By purchasing these types of items, it fuel could more burglaries and most importantly, buying stolen goods is a criminal offence and the buyer could be liable for prosecution.”

During the ‘In Focus’ week, warrants will be executed at suspected burglars’ addresses and a burglary web chat will take place on the Lancashire Police Facebook page on Wednesday 20th November from 3.00 – 4.00pm, where Chief Inspector Derry Crorken will be answering questions on keeping your home safe.

Messages will also be tweeted from @lancspolice with the hashtags #infocus and #julius.

• If you would like to join in the web chat, 'like' the Facebook  Lancashire Police page