Friday, 28 February 2014

Eastham Street Hit and Run - Witness Appeal

Lancaster are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a woman was injured by a car that failed to stop at the scene in Lancaster.

 The collision took place at around 7.30pm on Tuesday evening on Eastham Street. The lady was getting out of her car after parking up on the road and as she opened her door to get out of the vehicle, a passing Ford KA hit the door of the vehicle, trapping her leg.

The driver did not stop at the scene and drove away down Prospect Street and onto Westham Street.

The lady attended Royal Lancaster Infirmary to be assessed for a minor leg injury.

PC John Stephenson said: “An investigation is underway into the circumstances of exactly what happened but I would appeal to anybody that witnessed this collision or for the driver of the car involved to contact police on 101.”

Heysham Vigil to highlight Government Nuclear Site Flood Risk (Climate Change) Assessment

Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant invaded by the sea. 

A public vigil is to be held at Heysham Nuclear Power station on Saturday, March 8th, from 12 noon until 1pm to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Fukishima nuclear disaster and to draw attention to government predictions about how climate change and associated sea level rises and storm surges could affect Heysham's nuclear power stations.

Local architect Mo Kelly will be taking levels to demonstrate how high sea levels may be in 2100. She will show how high a 5 metre storm surge would reach, making reference to the 18 metre high waves which recently overcame sea defences, damaging property and destroying railway lines on the south coast this winter.

Mo Kelly said, "When storms occurred this winter, we visited the power station, and were horrified to see that waves within Morecambe Bay were flooding the promenade that runs beside the 1.220m high flood defence wall on the perimeter of the power station.

"As responsible citizens, we must ask what will happen when sea levels rise, and there are storms, causing sea surges and waves that may breach or overcome the concrete flood defence wall ?"

According to the Government, as many as 12 of Britain's 19 civil nuclear sites are already at risk of flooding and coastal erosion because of climate change (Guardian, March 7th, 2012)

Nine of the sites,  including Heysham,  have been assessed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as being vulnerable now, while others are in danger from rising sea levels and storms in the future.

Experts suggest the main concern is of inundation causing nuclear waste leaks, with David Crichton, a flood specialist and honorary professor at the Hazard Centre at University College London noting that sea level rise, especially in the south-east of England, will mean some of these sites will be under water within the century, making the safe decommissioning of hazardous nuclear material on the contaminated site extremely digfficult and expensive - if not impossible.

According to the Defra report  the sites include all of the eight proposed for new nuclear power stations (including Heysham) around the coast, as well as numerous radioactive waste stores, operating reactors and defunct nuclear facilities. Two of the sites for the new stations – Sizewell in Suffolk and Hartlepool in County Durham, where there are also operating reactors – are said to have a current high risk of flooding.

Closed and running reactors at Dungeness, Kent, are also classed as currently at high risk. Another of the sites at risk is Hinkley Point in Somerset, where the first of the new nuclear stations is planned and where there are reactors in operation and being decommissioned.

Many of the sites date back to the 1950s and 1960s, and are unlikely to be fully decommissioned for many decades. Seven of those containing radioactive waste stores are judged to be at some risk of flooding now, with a further three at risk of erosion by the 2080s.

People wishing to travel together from Lancaster to participate in the Heysham vigil are invited to meet at the Lancaster Friends Meeting House next door to Lancaster Train Station at 10am on 8 March,  for briefing and refreshments.

Police appeal after arson attack on Lancaster flats

Lancaster detectives are appealing for information after a firebomb was thrown at a block of flats on Mainway.

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday 26th February 2014, someone threw an incendiary device at a window in a block of flats at Bridge House, Mainway.

The device – a plastic bottle - hit the window frame of the ground floor flat and ignited but did not go inside the property.

Police and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service attended and a small fire was extinguished. The occupants of the flat – a woman aged 53 and her son, age 25, were not injured by the fire, but the woman suffered a minor cut from flying glass caused by a brick which was thrown at the window before the petrol bomb.

Detectives have launched an investigation and officers making enquiries have obtained information that would indicate that the offenders have attacked the wrong premises.

DI Phil Jones, of Lancaster Police, said: “This is an extremely serious incident and it is only by chance that someone was not more seriously hurt or even killed. Had this device actually entered the living room as opposed to smashing on the window frame, more serious harm may have followed.

"The lady and her son who live there are understandably upset and disturbed by the incident and the information we have obtained would suggest that the offenders have in fact targeted the wrong premises.

“We are seeking the public’s assistance and would ask that if they were in the vicinity of Bridge House, Mainway, Lancaster at the time of the offence and they saw anyone that appeared to be lighting a fire or causing damage at the building to please come forward and let us know.”

• Anyone with information should Lancashire Police on 101 quoting Log ref 1405 of February 26th or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Review: A View from the Bridge - Lancaster Footlights

A View from the Bridge
The cast

Performed by Lancaster Footlights
directed by Carol Williamson
at The Grand Theatre,  St Leonardgate, Lancaster
Tuesday 18 to Saturday 22 February 2014 at 7.30pm.

A View From The Bridge, Arthur Miller’s 1955 play about a dysfunctional family living in Brooklyn, New York, tells the story of longshoreman (dock worker) Eddie Carbone and the arrival of his Sicilian cousins from across the Atlantic to make a new life for themselves and their families back home.  

The tale is straightforward enough: one of the boys falls in love with Eddie’s attractive and orphaned niece, Beatrice, and her guardian does not approve.  As the protagonists stand on their own honour, things only deteriorate.

Sounds like Greek Tragedy?  And so it is, in essence.  Miller’s tightly-written and elegiac dialogue follows the classical form to describe the everyday domestic and political situation of McCarthyite, witch-hunt, America after World War II.  

Lancaster Footlights, the Grand’s resident theatre company, turned in an excellent production of this masterpiece of understated action and nemesis.  Directed with a sure hand by Carol Williamson, the cast of nine main characters (with a number of smaller roles) delivered distinctive, strong performances.  Tom Ledsham was outstanding as the anti-hero Eddie and Peter Sampson was also a strong ‘Chorus’ as well as Eddie’s stoic attorney.  The casting was completely apposite.

American accents, difficult to deliver with fluency and ease, were spot-on.  The drama was played out on an effective, divided set, suitably claustrophobic and open on each of its two sides.  Costumes, props and atmosphere were wonderfully and consistently evocative of the period.  The ensemble playing was first-rate, as the momentum and excitement of the drama played itself out to its inevitable climax.  The varied pace of the emotional shifts was beautifully controlled as befits the tragic underlay of the play.

On the night we attended there was a party of pupils from Morecambe High School who were very well-behaved during the performance and contributed intelligently to the useful questions-and-answers session afterwards.  

Also remarkable was the extent to which Lancaster Footlights has involved actors from both Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria.  I have long been advocating this ‘town and gown’ co-operation, and it is a credit to all three organisations that the three bodies are working together with considerable success.

Copyright © Michael Nunn
28 February 2014

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

City centre traffic & parking changes cancelled pending consultation

Vehicles displaying precinct permits parked in New Street
at the second entrance to Lancaster Library
Photo courtesy of Robert Wade

Lancashire County Council has reviewed its decision to introduce a new traffic scheme in Lancaster next week.  The Experimental Traffic Regulation Order was originally due to be brought in on Monday 3 February. However, due to an administration error with the advertisement, the introduction of the scheme was put back to Monday 3 March 2014.  Now, in response to concerns raised by Blue Badge holders, the county council has decided not to bring in these plans and to carry out more in-depth consultation instead.

The county council will now form a consultation group made up of partner organisations, representatives from disabled people's groups and businesses, to discuss what form future traffic plans in the city centre will take. Details of the scheme will be finalised following the studies involving the consultation group.

Phil Barrett, director of Lancashire Highway Services, said:
"We are planning to bring in the new scheme as an experiment to help reduce traffic and improve the way parking is managed in the city centre.

"However the recent delay, due to an advertising error, meant we could take further account of concerns raised by Blue Badge users and local disabled groups. We've listened to what they've said and instead of bringing in the experimental traffic order, we're going to carry out a more in-depth consultation.

"There is no doubt that action needs to be taken so we can reduce traffic and make the best use of the space available throughout the city centre for the benefit of all, residents and visitors alike.

"We do need to look at the needs of disabled drivers and all our road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. We will be working closely with partner agencies over the next few months, before we decide which experimental scheme we put in place."

No traffic schemes will be introduced until the city centre improvements that are planned as part of the Square Routes project have been made.

Square Routes is a joint project run by Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council. A number of improvements and repairs are planned for the City Centre to maximise its permeability and attractiveness. With the Castle redevelopment on one side of the city centre and the proposed Canal Corridor development at the other it makes good sense that the streets and alleyways linking the two across the old centre of the City should be made welcoming, upbeat, attractive and accessible.

For a summary of the proposed works see earlier story:
"Latest stage of "Square Routes" project gets under way in March (and the horseshoe will be back!)"

Appeal after man seriously assaulted in Morecambe

Police are appealing for information after a man was seriously assaulted in Morecambe on Westminster Road at the weekend.

At around 5.30pm on Sunday evening (23rd February) the 27 year old victim was walking home from a relative’s house when a group of young teenagers began shouting insults at him. The victim responded verbally at which point the group ran and cycled off.

One of the group then went into a nearby house and came out with a chair which he then hit the victim with several times, causing the chair to break.

The victim was treated in hospital for cuts and bruises.

DC Stephen Craig said: “This is a very nasty assault and it is important that we are very keen to trace all of those involved – if anyone saw what happened or has any other information that they think could assist then I would urge them to contact us on 101.”

Information can be passed to police on 101 quoting log number LC-20140223-1046.

Local Cinema Round-Up for 26th Feburary to 6th March 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.  

There are three new releases during this period; the thriller Non-Stop (12A), comedy adventure with Ride Along (12A) and family animation with My Little Pony: Equestrian Girls (U).

This is a good period for family entertainment with seven films on offer, including the excellent Mr Peabody & Sherman, and Frozen. For connoisseurs of science fiction the award winning Gravity is still being screened along with RoboCop. If your interest is historical docu-drama try Mandela, The Monuments Men or the powerful 12 Years a Slave.

The Dukes continues with their Gothic Season with a showing of Epstein's silent version of the classic Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher.


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.

Cuban Fury
Director: James Griffiths
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Nick Frost, Ian McShane, Rashida Jones, Olivia Colman
A boy with natural talent and a potential career as a dancer has his confidence destroyed by a bully and so his life takes a turn for the worse. Many years later as an adult Bruce Garrett (Frost) must regain his skills with Salsa in order to win the love of the woman in his life. This is a British dance comedy with some very entertaining dance sequences, a mix of wacky characters and it serves up a the laughs. However in places is seems a little too silly and in all it could have been better. However a worthwhile and entertaining comedy.

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.

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.

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Liam Neeson, Nate Parker, Julianne Moore
Bill Marks (Neeson), an alcoholic and chain smoking air marshall on a flight from New York to London, receives a series of text messages demanding he get the government to transfer a large sum of cash to an offshore account else a passenger will be killed every twenty minutes. Yet the offshore account is in Mark's own name, making him the prime suspect. This is an excellent and enjoyable suspense drama, complete with air turbulence, scared stewardesses and the inevitable deaths on the airplane.

Ride Along
Director: Tim Story
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Ice Cube, Bruce McGill, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Tika Sumpter
Ben (Hart) is a security guard who wants to marry his sweetheart Angela (Sumpter). Yet to do so he must convince Angela's brother James (Cube), a cop in Atlanta that he is worthy. Hence Ben gets to spend a day riding along on the brothers shift whilst James is trying to catch a notorious criminal. The plot is not very convincing, but that is no great distraction from the film which is a really a buddy cop movie giving Hart the situations for his stand up humour. This is a fun movie, enjoyable and entertaining which benefits from not taking itself too seriously.

The Book Thief
Director: Brian Percival
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Roger Allam, Emily Watson
The film is based in World War II Germany and tells the story of Liesel (Nelisse) a young girl sent to live with a foster family after family problems. She copes by stealing books to read and this enables her to become close with her foster father and with Max, a Jewish boy hiding in their basement. The film does not make any comments on the horrors of Nazi Germany, it simply provides a backdrop for what is essentially a love story, and during the film we have Death providing the narration. The acting is acceptable but the characters are not totally believable.

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.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Sunday Assembly comes to Lancaster

The cultural phenomenon that is the Sunday Assembly is coming to Lancaster. In cities across the world, non-religious community groups are gathering (normally once a month) to hear short inspiring talks, sing secular songs together, drink tea and eat cake, and to build a community. 

The first Lancaster Sunday Assembly will take place at 11/00am, 16 March 2014 in the Gregson Community Centre on Moorgate. The topic, aptly, is ‘Beginnings’.

The Sunday Assembly motto is: Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More. 

Anyone is welcome. The Assemblies were set up originally by atheists looking for something ‘like a church’ and the content is purely secular (no references to god), but people of any religion can also come along. 

• To find out more, like our facebook page or call Ruth on 07887732547.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

ATOS retreats in the face of nationwide protests

Campaigners protest outside the Lancaster Assessment Centre at Mitre House
Local campaigners who staged a demonstration outside the ATOS assessment centre in Lancaster last Wednesday can claim a victory as the BBC confirmed on Friday that the French owned company is seeking an early exit from its contract with the Department of Work and Pensions.

As the Lancaster Guardian reported this week, students and local residents joined forces to participate in a nationally co-ordinated day of demonstrations against the company and the manner in which it has carried out its workplace assessments on disabled people which are alleged to have resulted in thousands of untimely deaths.

Local and national voluntary organisations have been overwhelmed by the need to attempt to alleviate suffering created by by the systematic and cyclic pressure to find employment placed on vulnerable disabled people in a system where medical evidence is disallowed and essential welfare benefits stopped.

(See previous story: 'Local services count the cost of ATOS / DWP failings').

ATOS have claimed, essentially, that they are merely following the DWP's orders and that it is the nature of the tests they have to conduct on behalf of the DWP which are at fault. The government has countered with accusations that standards at ATOS had declined unacceptably. However, the National Audit Office pointed out as early as 2012 that the DWP had failed to penalise the company for its poor performance.

Public opinion has turned strongly against the company and it claims that staff are being increasingly abused, with some having received death threats.

ATOS is clearly reluctant to continue being caught between, on the one hand, a government that can see see little profit or purpose in supporting those who become too infirm to work, other than as a rationale for creating lucrative public contracts for private 'Service Provider' companies that produce little more than meaningless paperwork and, on the other, the increasingly alienated communities they were elected to serve.