Friday, 14 February 2014

Chancellor George Osborne visits Lancaster Brewery. Valentine's cancelled

The Visitor reports that Chancellor George Osborne was taken on a tour of Lancaster Brewery today, Friday, as part of a whistle stop visit to businesses in north Lancashire.

Back Office?
On the £300m of cuts to Lancashire County Council’s budget by 2016, he told the Morecambe Visitor: “As a country we have to make sure we live within our means.

“They need to think long and hard about cutting front line services if they’ve still got too much waste in their back offices.”

Nationwide Demonstration Against ATOS - Wednesday Noon at Mitre House

Thousands of white carnations were laid out in Parliament Square last September,
 representing the alleged 10,000 dead as a result of benefits cuts
after Work Capabilty Assessments carried out on contract by ATOS.
A peaceful demonstration has been organised to take place on Wednesday 19 February  from 12 midday to 3.30pm outside government contractor ATOS' Lancaster Assessment Centre at Mitre House, Church Street, Lancaster, LA1 1EQ.

All are invited to take part and show the hitherto unaccountable contractor, ATOS, that NO MORE DEATHS WILL BE ACCEPTED.  

The organisers claim that the government has farmed out assessing fitness to work to a private IT company in a drive to shift the disabled onto Jobseekers Allowance, in a pretence at tackling a crisis for which public spending bears no responsibility.  

In real life, this has meant chronically- and terminally-ill people who are obviously unfit for work being deprived of the means to survive, and being placed under intolerable stress and social rejection. Over 10,000 disabled or chronically / terminally ill people have died within weeks of being assessed as 'fit for work', and losing their welfare benefits.

The Lancaster demonstration is part of the coordinated nationwide ATOS National DEMO, outside every Assessment Centre in the UK against victimisation and scapegoating of disabled people and benefit claimants.  

The demo starts at midday and ends at 3.30pm.
See facebook event:

See also: Local services count the cost of ATOS / DWP failings

Police issue cold callers warning following bad weather

Police and Trading Standards are warning residents in areas of the county affected by the recent high winds to be wary of cold callers claiming work is needed to your homes.

Cold callers are those who arrive on people’s door stop without prior invitation. This may include tradesmen, and officers are advising that some may try to take advantage of the bad weather by saying work is needed to your roof, fencing or other parts of your home and then attempt to charge an excessive amount of money when very little is in fact wrong with your property.

PC Gillian Syer said: “Many residents, especially those who are elderly or vulnerable, find cold callers intimidating and can feel pressured into agreeing for work to be carried out or obliged to part with money.

“We would always advise residents not to carry out business on their doorstep with someone who has arrived unannounced. Go away, have a think about it, consider other quotes and look at references.”

County Councillor Janice Hanson, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for public protection, said: "Some disreputable traders will use incidents such as the recent stormy weather as an opportunity to pressure people into agreeing on the spot to having repairs carried out.

"Every year, Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service receives hundreds of complaints from people who have experienced problems with doorstep traders carrying out work on their homes. Often large sums of money have been handed over for work that is of poor quality, is not needed or is vastly overpriced.

"Our advice is always to say no to cold callers and never do business on the doorstep. Our Safe Trader Scheme can be contacted on 0303 333 1111, and can help you find a reputable trader if your property needs repairs."

Police have issued the following advice to help people avoid falling victim to bogus callers;

•           Be wary of unexpected callers
•           If you are not sure who is at the door, do not answer it
•           Look after older neighbours, relatives and friends; take notice if people are calling at their homes
•           Call the police immediately if you think something is wrong

Anyone with concerns about bogus traders in their neighbourhood can contact Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

For consumer advice or to report cold callers, you can also contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 040506.

Ethical Local Business brings resilience to communities, economic summit delegates told.

Ethical entrepreneurs and community organisations from the Lancaster region gathered at the University of Cumbria last week for a local economic summit, hosted by the university’s Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS).

Lancaster Ethical Small Traders Association (ESTA - has formed a new partnership with IFLAS aimed at helping the city’s enterprise community to network, develop new ideas and collaborate on sustainability projects.

ESTA chairman Michael Hallam told the 50 delegates:

“We live on a finite planet and we’re starting to see things folding in on themselves. Politicians and governments can’t do everything. It’s up to everyone to create a sustainable world and we need to empower communities to come up with their own sustainable initiatives.”

Delegates discussed ideas around the themes of encouraging lifelong learning, developing a strong community fabric, protecting the environment and creating a thriving local economy.

The University of Cumbria’s Professor Jem Bendell hopes the partnership with ESTA will help to bring the innovative work being done at IFLAS - including use of local currencies - to a wider audience.

He said: “Small business is the heartbeat of the community. The University of Cumbria has to engage in ways that make sense to the community. We hope our partnership with ESTA grows.”

Delegates were enthusiastic about the aims of the summit. Tony Haslam runs Banking on Carbon Ltd, a Lancaster firm working to create a local currency for Lancaster with the added benefit of helping users offset their carbon footprint.

He said: “I came to the summit to raise the profile of the REALM local currency ( . It’s really useful to connect with people who don’t know what we’re doing. There’s a lot going on in Lancaster, but we need to find ways of getting through to people.”

Delegate Ian Aspin owns a TV company and is currently a PhD student writing a book about creating shared values within communities.

He said: “What people here are doing, is looking at ways to create shared value and look at ways that we can work together. It starts at local level like this, but it’s completely scaleable.”

The next ESTA summit will take place at the University of Cumbria’s Lancaster campus during the summer.

For more information about the University of Cumbria’s Institute for Sustainable Leadership, visit

IFLAS is currently accepting applications for its Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership, which launches this summer.

Project XXX at DT3 lays bare the human in the machine

Laid Bare Theatre will be bringing their multimedia theatre show Project XXX to the Dukes DT3 Studio on Monday 24 February.  Project XXX has gone through two years of development, with writer/director Paul Hine and writer Kim Wiltshire working with young people across the North West to explore the real issues with internet pornography. Their aim is to explore social and political issues through exciting and dynamic theatre. You can read the project blog at

The play is a dark, romantic comedy: Amy, a teenage feminist blogger, decides it is time to prove that sex on the web is not just for men.  During a rainy summer in a northern seaside town, Amy decides to show that sexual choice is firmly in the hands of women by persuading her new love interest Callum to film her first time.

Meanwhile, Callum has his own issues to deal with, including a mother on the edge of a nervous breakdown and an obsession with a 'faded' porn star.

Project XXX explores the mainstreaming of internet pornography, the changing face of technology and its impact on human relationships and a young person’s burgeoning sense of self.

Kim Wiltshire said: ‘We are so excited to be taking the show out on tour – it has been an immensely eye-opening and educative process for us as writers on many levels, and we are passionate about bringing this issue to the fore through the use of theatre.’

Project XXX will be directed by Paul Hine who specialises in creating innovative multi-media theatre with performers and non-performers, producing work for The Royal Exchange Theatre, including ‘Waiting For The Baccy Man’ starring Sally Lindsey and ‘A View From Guide Bridge’ staring Ian Redford.

The show is suitable for ages 15+ and will be performed at 2pm and again at 7pm on Monday 24 February at DT3, The Dukes, Lancaster. Tickets for the show cost £8 / Concession £6 and are available from the Dukes box office, tel: 01524 598 500 and online (+£1 bf) at

Frontierland fun and music comes to the Nuffield Theatre, courtesy of More Music

The nationally acclaimed local community music and education charity More Music and Live at LICA are bringing a mini festival to Lancaster University's Nuffield Theatre later this month

Frontierland - the name inspired by Morecambe's former western-themed attraction - offers a lively, raucous, fun-time band on the street. Horns and drums will play original tunes mixed with popular melodies and ‘Bring Me Sunshine’.

Dancers waving massive coloured flags illustrating the landscape of Morecambe Bay will surround the band - the musical circus is coming to town.

Frontierland is produced by More Music, and co-commissioned by Live at LICA. The show is billed as ‘ Songs and tales from the edge’, representing the community’s diversity in a mini festival with a grand finale including:

  • Jazz Club: Hosted by virtuoso jazz clarinettist Matt Robinson and featuring the 45 players from local jazz bands Orbit and Off the Rails.
  • Stages Live: Hard hitting songs, beat box sounds, guitar rock and solo singing with Ash Murphy and young people who play at the Stages and Friday Night Project sessions at the Hothouse in Morecambe.
  • Chinese Ceilidh: Dance to a combination of sounds featuring the Long Walk Chinese Orchestra and the Hothouse Folk group with stories from Hong Kong performer Eric Ng. Special Guest on the magical Sheng (Chinese mouth organ) Yin Ng – Hong Kong Musician of the Year 2013.
  • The Big Sing: Artistic Director Pete Moser sings a set of songs from the More Music back catalogue with a sweet sounding chorus of singer - songs about Human Rights, the birds of Morecambe Bay and the Long Walk. The Musical Director is Pete Moser and the Dramaturg is Mark Whitelaw.

More Music is a community music and education charity based at the Hothouse in the West End of Morecambe. The organisation delivers workshops training, performances and festivals both in the UK and abroad.

“There are a number of journeys and threads in the show that develop throughout the evening," Pete Moser expalins, "and a sense of respect for humanity, of community joining together, of political justice and equality are mirrored by the score. The finale builds up to the orchestra and chorus telling the story of people working in the bay with aspirations for the future.

"The overall performance is a circus of music with its magical tricks and wonderful performers. Week by week we have been building up to this show - bringing together musicians and imagining the sounds we can make together.

"This is our community and we are now so excited to share the great music we can make with an audience. Come and join the party!”

 • Frontierland, Songs and tales from a town on the edge of the Bay, 8.00pm Friday 28th February 28th and Saturday 1st March 2014.For more information, visit the website at email or call 01524 831 997.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lancaster homeless plan to create prison theatre group

Lancaster University is helping homeless people fundraise for their own theatre group to tour prisons.

The aim to give inmates the message that change is possible as some of the homeless are themselves ex-offenders.

Sam Lang first took drugs at the age of 12 and spent 20 years in and out of prison before turning his life around with the help of the Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service.

A recovering addict, he played the lead role of “Ebenezer Dealer” in a version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, re-written by the homeless themselves.

“We’ve got to send the message that you don’t have to continue committing crime and taking drugs," he says. "A lot of people in prison don’t have hope but we can give them hope.”

He is part of a creative arts group based at LDHS which aims to raise £1,000 for a touring theatre group with the help of Lancaster University.

Theatre Studies student Emily Jones helped run the drama sessions with the homeless at the Dukes’ Theatre DT3.

She said: “It’s amazing to see the change some of the guys. Some of them are ex-offenders and recovering drug users but by the end of the 10 week sessions, they are dedicated and passionate and they have a reason to get up in the morning.”

Emily has also been involved in helping the homeless group learn how to make tie-dye socks.

These will be sold at the University’s outlet in St Nicholas Arcades, Campus in the City, from February 19-21.

Colin Farrah is another member of the homeless group who said drama had provided a lifeline.

“It gives more confidence to speak in front of a crowd and it’s made all the difference. “

Sam has now got a flat to live with the help of staff at LDHS.

“They give you something to focus on, something to commit to because I’d really struggle without support , but now I feel I’ve got some stability in my life. I’d like to write my life story because a lot of people in prison could relate to it.”

Local Cinema Round-Up for 12th to 20th February 2014 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.

 A host of new releases for this Valentine period. A love story with Endless Love (12A), action/adventure with The Monuments Men (12A), comedy with Cuban Fury (15) and family entertainment with The Lego Movie (U), Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy (U) & Barbie the Pearl Princess.

If you missed the award winning film Gravity starring Sandra Bullock, this is being shown for a couple of days at the Vue. However it looks like we are about to loose the movies I, Frankenstein & Lone Survivor.

The Dukes are continuing their excellent Gothic season with the international classic Suspiria. On the same night there is chance to catch a talk giving An Introduction to European Gothic


12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Category: 15
Cast Includes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson, Michael Fassbender
Set in the 1800s, New York black man Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is drugged, kidnapped and sold as a slave to a New Orleans Plantation. Here he works for slave-master Epps (Michael Fassbender) who is a sadist, dishing out sexual abuse. The film is based on an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, the script being co-written by Steve McQueen and John Ridley. This is one of the finest films about American Slavery. It is very visceral, with Northup trying to maintain dignity amidst the atmosphere of violence of the movie. Very well shot and splendidly acted, this is the must see film for 2014.

Dallas Buyers Club
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Griffin Dunne, Jared Leto
The movie is set in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Texan electrician and part-time cowboy Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is diagnosed as HIV positive and given 30 days to live. Ron finds there is no approved treatment for his condition and such is the hysteria over this disease he is ostracized by many in his circle of friends. He joins forces with a number of outcasts for form a buyers club in 1985 and undertakes a world wide search of unorthodox treatments for this condition. Potentially this could have been a depressing movie, but superb acting by McConaughey makes this an excellent film looking at the bigotry of this period. A strong film that must be seen.

Endless Love Director: Shana Feste
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde
All the classic ingredients of teen romance when privileged girl Jade meets handsome boy David but their parents try to keep them apart. David exacerbated the situation when a stupid prank resulted in the destruction of Jade's house. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Scott Spencer but struggles to capture the power of the original, leaving a film that does not really explore the characters of the lovers and fails to convince an audience.

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

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

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Ryan Stone (Bullock) a medical engineer and seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) are on a shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope. However during a routine space walk, disaster strikes as the shuttle is destroyed by impact from space debris and Stone tumbles free in space. The film follows Stone's plight as she battles to survive. Stone 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.

I, Frankenstein
Director: Stuart Beattie
Category: 12A
Cast Includes: Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto
The Frankenstein monster (Aaron Eckhart) has survived to the present day where he find himself the hero as he battles against daemons and gargoyles who quest after the secret of immortality. A rather lightweight movie owing little to Mary Shelly. However if you want to see lots of computer generated monsters battling each other in a quest to defeat humanity, this is the movie for you.

Lone Survivor
Director: Peter Berg
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
This film is based on the real life 'Operation Red Wing' undertaken in Afghanistan in 2005. Four navy SEALs are sent into combat and here they are ambushed. The film title gives away the fact that only one of the four men, Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg), survives the event. As a film this is a gritty action movie with a prolonged battle action, told from an American point of view. The characters of the soldiers are well developed, and they show great courage under fire during very harrowing war scenes. However this is not simply American propaganda. The film explores the cheapness of life in combat and 'tips its hat' to those Afghans who resisted the Taliban.

Mr Peabody & Sherman
Director: Rob Minkoff
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter
A DreamWorks comedy animation. Mr Peabody is a dog, but this does not stop him being an inventor, scientist, sportsman and general genius. Accompanied by his boy Sherman, the duo use their WABAC time machine in order to impress Sherman's friend Penny. However during their adventures meeting famous characters of history,they accidentally rip a hole in the Universe. As a result they must repair history in order to save the future. A great yarn and appealing family movie. There is little here to offend the youngest of children, and some of the jokes will entertain an older audience.

The Monuments Men
Director: George Clooney
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray
An action adventure based on the book 'The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History' by Robert Edsel. This tells the true story of a platoon comprising art historians and museum directors who were dispatched into World War II Germany to retrieve art works plundered by the Nazis. A very entertaining movie with a generous helping of high profile stars. Perhaps not a must-see film but still worth a visit to the cinema.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler
The story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Di Caprio) who rose from penny stocks to a life of affluence and corruption as he founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont. His life of drugs, sex and ruthless achievement led to his title of Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese had produced a hard hitting and fast moving film and Di Caprio's acting rises to the challenge of portraying Belfort. However after building up Belfort as a monster the film seems to say little about about the morality of this sort of life and thus ultimately does not come to any satisfactory resolution. Hence the movie seemed to lacked any real depth.

Met Office issues severe warning for wind

Flashback: The Really Heavy
Greatcoat, March 1994!
Lancashire County Council is alerting people to a 'red' warning issued by the Met Office for severe wind affecting the county today. 

According to Met Office advice, this could result in structures such as power lines being affected, trees being brought down, and damage to buildings. 

The council is gearing up to keep the county moving in the event that trees and other debris block roads and is asking people to consider the conditions before travelling. 

Met Office advice during severe wind includes: 

• Not to drive unless really necessary, and to travel in daylight hours if possible
• Not to touch any telephone or electrical wires that have been blown down or are still hanging
• Keep vehicles clear of buildings, trees, walls and fences
• Check on vulnerable neighbours

Highways teams have been put on standby to remove obstacles such as fallen trees and to temporarily close roads for safety if they are affected by debris. 

Any problems on the roads should be reported to Lancashire Highways on 0845 053 0011. 

If there is an immediate risk to life please call the police by dialling 999. 

For regular updates on the weather: 

• Check the Met Office Severe Weather Warnings 

• Follow the Met Office on Twitter 

• Like the Met Office on Facebook

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lancaster University kick starts 50th Anniversary celebration with Royal visit

Pro Chancellor Lord Liddle of Carlisle, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith, HRH Princess Alexandra, Chancellor Sir Christian Bonington, Lady Liddle and Professor Andrew Atherton Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Photo courtesy Lancaster University

A Royal visitor added a special touch to the official start of celebrations marking Lancaster University’s 50th Anniversary.

HRH Princess Alexandra, the University’s first Chancellor, was present at the 50th Anniversary Launch Dinner at the LICA building on campus last Thursday (6th February).

Since being appointed as Founding Chancellor in 1964, Princess Alexandra has observed with interest as Lancaster University has evolved from a small but passionate community of academics to an Institution of global significance.

Other guests at the private event included the current Chancellor Sir Christian Bonington, Pro- Chancellor Lord Liddle, former Pro-Chancellor and former diplomat Sir Christopher Audland, and Honorary Graduates actress Patricia Routledge and former England footballer Jimmy Armfield.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith said: “Our anniversary is much more than a chance to look back.  It is an opportunity to lay the foundations for our vision for the future and to raise our profile regionally, nationally and internationally.

“Our aspiration is to be a world-renowned University of genuine global significance, providing the highest quality research and teaching.  We will play our part in changing thinking on big global issues such as climate change, food security, ageing and cyber security.”

The anniversary celebrations, to run until March 2015, will encompass a host of exciting events across the globe.

Details of events, including those taking place around the official anniversary weekend of 13th and 14th September 2014, a series of Public Lectures, a Campus in the Community initiative and the traditional Roses contest with York in May, will be available on the University’s 50th anniversary website at  and will be updated throughout the year.

Morecambe's West End's Empty Shops - Good News and Bad News

The North West still has the most empty shop and leisure units in the country – and Morecambe's West End is among the worst performers.

The Business Desk reports that according to figures from the Local Data Company 17.3% of units in the region were empty, up from 17.1% in 2012 and well ahead of the national average of 12.2% (2012: 12.6).

Among the worst performing locations was Morecambe's West End, along with Bolton, Bootle, Church Street in Runcorn, Altrincham and Eccles.

But there is some light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps - Local Data Company also notes that Morecambe had reduced its shop vacancy rate from 30% in 2010 to 17.1%, the biggest improvement of any location.

The recently reported news that developer PlaceFirst has secured planning permission for a multi-million pound scheme to create 51 apartments and houses in Chatsworth Gardens, reported by The Visitor, will also no doubt help boost local business.

Lancaster City Council to increase Council Tax by around 2%

Council's finances "challenging", says its leader,
Eileen Blamire
Lancaster City Council will increase its portion of Council Tax by around 2% for 2014/15, helping to protect services in the short term.

In real terms this means households will pay an average (based on a Band D property) of an extra £3.91 or so a year – or 8p a week – to the city council from April 2014. As 80 per cent of the district's homes are in the lowest bands (A to C) the actual increase will be even lower than 8p a week for the majority of households.

Councillor Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The council’s financial position continues to be extremely challenging.

“The Government has already substantially cut the money it provides us to run our services and we expect to face further reductions in the future.

“By next February alone we have to address a budget shortfall of £2 million, and if we want to try and protect vital frontline services, 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. Excluding parishes, of the remaining bill, the majority goes to Lancashire County Council (73%), with precepts from Lancashire Police Authority (10%) and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority (4%) making up the rest.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Lancaster University launches "Streets of Mourning" Great War project

Historians from Lancaster University are inviting local people to help flesh out the stories of more than a thousand men from the city who died in World War One.
"Streets of Mourning," a unique map highlighting the homes of the dead, is being showcased in St Nicholas Arcades on February 12 as part of Campus in the City, where Lancaster University brings its research into the community.

The Lancaster War Memorial
Streets coloured red on the map suffered heavy casualties; these include Ullswater Road in Freehold with at least 17 dead, in Primrose, Clarence Street suffered 15 losses and Prospect Street 14 while Norfolk Street in Skerton also had 14. Many other streets had similar numbers of deaths.

Simply by clicking on their street, neighbourhood or school, people can find out the names and personal details of the casualties along with information about their next of kin.

Current schoolchildren can also find which former pupils from their school died in the conflict.

Schools such as Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Skerton School, Bowerham School and Cathedral Primary (formerly St Peter’s School) all suffered dozens of casualties among their old boys.

The interactive map is based on research by the Lancaster Military Heritage Group and materials held by Peter Donnelly of the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum, who is dressing in World War One uniform for the event on 12th February.

He worked closely with historians from Lancaster University like Professor Ian Gregory, who says the ‘Streets of Mourning’ maps will help people begin to understand the impact that the deaths of over 1,000 young men would have had on a town the size of Lancaster.

"We want people to tell any stories they may know of these people," he said, "because we need local knowledge. We also want to know how we can improve the website and how people want to use it.”

One ultimate aim is to create a walking tour of Lancaster in the First World War, to include some of the worst affected streets, with pictures and names of the dead in the window of each house affected by a loss.

Dr Corinna Peniston-Bird of Lancaster University said: “There were dozens of dead on some streets – fathers, sons and brothers – and the impact on the community must have been immense. Whole streets would have been in mourning.  We are interested not just in those who died but also in those who survived and had to live with that loss.”

• The free event , “Lancaster and the First World War: The King’s Own, Casualties and Westfield War Memorial Village then and now” will run throughout the week  from Wednesday 12 to Saturday 15th February 2014 from 10am to 5:30pm every day.

Review: Quartetto di Cremona at Live at LICA

Quartetto di Cremona at Live at LICA
Thursday, 6 February 2014
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University

Reviewed by Sally Ryde

Paganini, the first composer on the programme, wrote three string quartets but needn't have bothered, whereas the second composer, Fritz Kreisler, who wrote only one, should have bothered more.

Quartetto di Cremona
The performance of Kreisler’s solitary string quartet was the highlight of the evening for me. Composed in 1919, it is richly chromatic and very much reminded me of the film music of another Austrian, Franz Waxman, who would compose the score for Hitchcock’s ‘Rebecca’ (1940). The first movement (played here by Kreisler himself) certainly spirited me back to Manderley. Its dark and restless harmonies also brought to mind the late-Romantic work of a third fellow Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg - in particular, his ‘Verklärte Nacht’.

Interestingly, all three composers - Kreisler, Waxman and Schoenberg - found themselves in the 1930s in the midst of the mass migration of refugees seeking shelter from the social and political repercussions of the inter-war upheavals in Europe and a safer life on the other side of the Atlantic.

I think I might have preferred to take more time over pre-concert cake and coffee (more later!) than to have sat through the evening’s first item. Nicolo Paganini (born 1782) is reputed to have been the finest violin technician of his day but his first string quartet could be disparagingly described as “for solo violin accompanied by three other players”. Worse, the main artistic duty of the viola player was to add the 5th to the chord. I got the feeling that there might even be instructions now and again in the third movement like “embellish this line somewhat at this point to make it seem that I have given you a proper part to play”. No doubt my judgement is a little harsh but I did resort to mental stimulation through analysis of each movement’s musical form just to stay alert.

After the interval, we heard Schubert’s fine ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet. It is amazing to think how much that composer achieved in such a short life: dead and gone after only 31 years! The quartet takes its name from an earlier Schubert song, the theme of which forms the basis of the quartet’s familiar second movement (played here by the Alban Berg Quartet).

All four movements are a treat to listen to but the Quartetto di Cremona’s rendition of the finale was breath taking. Marked ‘presto’, it was surely taken much faster and the performance of the closing ‘prestissimo’ coda may well have set a world speed record! Not only did the players play perfectly together throughout the movement, they raised the risk bar considerably by ignoring the straightforward two in a bar compound time and introducing instead numerous hesitations and subtle changes in tempo that made me struggle to find the beat at times.

The vigour of the ensemble’s performance was not wasted on the audience, who were ecstatic and clamoured for more. Possibly, the players were by then too exhausted to play an encore. Or maybe they thought it better to leave alone what had clearly been a successful conclusion to the evening. Whatever the case, a lot of people will have been whistling Schubert on the way home and possibly late into the night.

I do have one gripe. The Live at LICA Café and Bar does an excellent deal on a slice of delicious cake and a cuppa for £3. If you manage to arrive half an hour or so before the commencement of a concert, you can enjoy reading the programme or visiting with friends in the relaxed and visually pleasant surroundings of the bar and foyer. But you can forget that if, as has been the case a couple of times this season and was the case this time, seats are not pre-allocated.

I love concerts set out ‘in the round’. But when seating is not pre-assigned, two things happen. First, the astute begin to form a queue half an hour before the concert, knowing that they must be near the front when the doors to the hall open if they are to have any chance of getting a decent seat. Second, the less shrewd, arriving to find that all the good seats have already been taken, are compelled by the beautifully symmetrical but inappropriate seating plan to accept one of the 60% of seats set out behind two or more players.

All this needs an urgent re-think. We want to enjoy not only the concert but also a relaxed pre-concert cake and coffee.

S. Ryde

Concert Programme:
Paganini: String Quartet No. 1 
Kreisler: String Quartet 
Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 'Death and the Maiden'

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

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