Friday, 11 April 2014

An Elegant And Entertaining Edwardian Evening At The Dukes

Edwardian elegance and entertainment are promised when The Dukes stages a Northern night like no other on 25th April.

The Lancaster theatre will take on a distinct music hall feel for a Charity Gala Performance of The Life And Times Of Mitchell & Kenyon when guests will be encouraged to dress to impress.

Edwardian host for the night is local actor, Nick Camm who will welcome guests into The Dukes Café Bar which will be decked out to suit the era and where free fizz will be on offer.

Blackpool entertainer Fran Lee will perform a variety of well known music hall songs in the bar before guests are invited to see The Dukes latest homegrown production about Blackburn film pioneers, Mitchell & Kenyon.

The play, which opens on 19th April, is full of songs, laughter and original films from the Edwardian era which gave ordinary folk their 15 minutes of fame on the big screen.

After the Gala Night show, guests will be encouraged to join a  singsong around the piano and pose for pictures Edwardian style.

Also during the evening, Dukes patron James Mackie will speak about how the financial support of Friends, Patrons and Guardians of the theatre – which is a registered charity - an help safeguard its future.

Tickets for the Gala Night are £30 including a ticket to the show, fizz, nibbles and plenty of late night entertainment.

• For more information and to book, call The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Luneside East Developer responds to local complaints. Council issues TPOs

Persimmon Homes have responded to local residents' complaints about their recent planning application for Luneside East (see previous news: Luneside East Planning Application breaks promises, residents claim). Residents had complained that the plans include removal of part of the old railway embankment and its trees, and also an access route via Long Marsh Lane, although they had received assurances from the Council that such changes would not be part of any development.

Persimmon's public relations company Connect PR have today
forwarded the following statement to Virtual-Lancaster:
In a joint statement, Guy Illingworth, director of land owner Luneside East Limited, and Mark Cook, managing director of Persimmon Homes Lancashire, said: 
“Luneside East was identified as a key regeneration site more than 15 years ago with outline planning consent gained initially in 2001.
“We have worked extensively with the Planning Authority to form viable proposals that make full use of the site within the parameters of that outline approval. Following close consultation with the Assistant Head of Regeneration and Planning, we have now submitted a reserved matters application. 
“The proposal seeks to create 170 much-needed homes for local people, including 24 that are specifically designated as affordable.  
 “There will be direct access via Long Marsh Lane to a limited number of the properties, all with off-street parking. Safe cycle and pedestrian links only will be maintained through to the wider development, along with an innovatively-designed central area of public open space as advised by the Council. 
“We await the decision from Lancaster City Council and remain hopeful that the development can be brought forward in the near future.”
Coun Jon Barry told Virtual-Lancaster that, in light of the undertakings given by the City Council to residents during the consultation processes:

"The Council could have put steps in place - given that it previously owned the land - to ensure that the embankment was protected. For example, it could have kept hold of a ransom strip of land by the embankment or it could have put on a legal covenant about the embankment. Leaving 'protection' to the planning process is a very risky way of doing things. For example, even if the application is turned down, the developers could easily win on appeal."

We understand that the City Council has now placed Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) on the trees on the embankment. This means that they cannot be felled until the planning application has been considered. The TPO can, however, be changed by the results of the planning application.

Tree-felling in Freeman's Wood 2012
Since trees in nearby Freeman's wood were felled on land belonging to the Bermuda-based Property Trust Group, in association with their partners, development consultants Satnam, in open breach of the Council's Tree Preservation Orders (see previous news: Freeman's Wood - TPO upheld at Appeal Hearing) back in 2012, Luneside residents might be forgiven for doubting that an award of a TPO from the Council might offer any protection in reality.

Persimmon's' planning application 13/01200/REM is due to come before Lancaster City Council Planning Committee at Lancaster Town Hall at 10.30am on Tuesday 6 May.

Residents have started a petition at (you can see it here) to oppose the application.

See previous news: Luneside East Planning Application breaks promises, residents claim

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Live at LICA Art & Community Day on 10 May invites your ideas for a Fair

Live at LICA (Lancaster University's public arts programme) are hoping to hold a contemporary arts and crafts fair in the near future.

Does this sound of interest to you? If yes, then they’d very much like you to join them at their Art & Community Day (more about this below) on Saturday 10 May from 12 - 4pm in the Peter Scott Gallery in the Great Hall complex at Lancaster University, for a conversation about how best to approach it.

The fair could include artists, makers and writers wishing to sell or raise awareness for their paintings, sculpture, object d’art, furniture, screen prints, photographic work, fashion, textiles, jewellery, published material, writings, poetry, music or anything designed or handcrafted that could be relevant to a contemporary arts and crafts fair.

SO if you make or produce any of the above and would be interested in taking part in such a fair, to be held on campus at Lancaster University, then please get in touch by emailing as they'd love to hear from you.

You're invited to join in a conversation about how best such a fair could be organised together during the Community Arts Day,

You are also invited to show your work in this regard on Saturday May 10th itself.

To join the conversation and/or bring something along to Live at LICA's Community Arts Day to show (or perform) in relation to the fair then please get in touch by emailing

Live at LICA's OPEN Arts Project  6 - 10 May
The Community Arts Day will conclude LICA's 'OPEN' Project week which runs from Tuesday 6 - Saturday 10 May.

During the day there will also be workshops, talks about Art and the Community and a chance to meet one of Live at LICAs supported artists - Amy Sharrocks - to hear about her community focused project Museum of Water. Which water would you choose to keep for posterity? Amy will be taking your bottled donations for the Lancashire edition of her Museum featuring water given to her by members of the public.

Ellie Harrison and Roshana Rubin Mayhew will be presenting a preview exhibition of their upcoming project with Live at LICA, What is Left? Since 2012, Ellie and Roshana have been visiting members of the public in their own homes, around Lancaster and the broader region, to take photographs of them with, and to interview them about objects they have inherited from people who have died.

The Imitarium will also be exhibiting noir-in-a-box where three-dimensional hologram-like performers appear and compete for your vote.

TED-talker Hetain Patel will present a free preview of his first solo show 'American Boy' on Thursday 8 May at 7.30pm in the LICA Building on the Lancaster University campus.

American-born Ali Mathews will present 'SERVUS!' on Friday 9 May at the Scott Gallery. SERVUS! is a one-to-one performance experience for cash, in which the audience member is invited into a bespoke shoe-shine combined with an iPod-induced auditory hallucination. Depending on each participant’s price threshold, he / she might receive simply the soundtrack, the soundtrack and the shoe-shine or - for the thrillseekers - sustained eye contact with the performer for the duration of the shoe-shine. What is service worth to you?

You can book a free 1 to 1 performance by Ali lasting 15 minutes between 12noon and 4.15pm on Friday 9 May at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University. Just email

Events are free but are likely to be very popular so you are advised to book in advance at
where a full schedule for the ‘Art and Community’ Day and all the OPEN events that week will shortly be appearing.

Local Cinema Round-Up for 9th to 17th April 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.

We have three new releases during this period. Horror with The Quiet Ones (15); adventure with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (12A) and cartoon adventure with Khumba (U).

On the other hand we have lost 300: Rise of an Empire, The Book Thief and Need for Speed. However the films Epic and Mr. Peabody and Sherman are again being screened.

There are a number of excellent films currently being screened, including Science Fiction adventure with Divergent & Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Big screen drama with Noah and comedy with Muppets Most Wanted.

For alternative viewing pleasure the compelling Under the Skin can be recommended at the Dukes. They also have a one day viewing of 12 Years a Slave in case you have not yet caught this must see movie.


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 Nothup trying to maintain dignity amidst the violence of the movie. Very well shot and splendidly acted, this is the must see film for 2014.

Director: Neil Burger
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Kate Winslet, Theo James, Shailene Woodley
The movie is based on Veronica Roth's popular trilogy. Tris (Woodley) is a 16 year old girl living in Chicago after a war which wiped out most of civilisation. Society has been divided into different factions and as teens come of age they undergo tests to decide which faction will contain them. Yet Tris proves to be divergent, not fitting into any of the factions and divergent people are considered a threat to the status quo. She must work with the mysterious Four (James) to determine why being divergent is considered to be so dangerous. The movie is rather a slow starter. However the cast is full of talent, there is some nice dialogue and the film finishes with a tense climax. A must see movie if you have read and enjoyed Roth's books.

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 results 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.

Director: Chris Wedge
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Amanda Seyfried, Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell
An animation for all the family from the people who made Ice Age and Rio. Mary Katherine (MK), a young girl who has recently lost her mother, moves in with her scientist father. He is engaged in observing the tiny folk who live in a nearby forest, and MK finds herself transported into this miniature realm. Here she joins a team of comical characters to save the world. This film has excellent animation and introduces a number of particularly cute and funny characters. It is aimed at children and should not fail to entertain. However for this reviewer it did not quite live up the the Ice Age movies.

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' 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.

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.

Muppets Most Wanted
Director: James Bobin
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Eric Jacobson, Steve Whitmire
A long awaited sequel to 'The Muppets' in which the entire Muppet cast undertake a sell out world tour. However Constantine (a Kermit lookalike and major criminal) and his right hand man Dominic (Gervais) involve the Muppets in an international crime heist. The film is an upbeat Disney musical comedy that will appeal to all ages and generates plenty of laughs. An excellent film.

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins
A movie based on the biblical story of Noah and the flood, but it takes quite a bit of artistic license. Crowe and Watson as Noah and Ila respectively give excellent performances and this is epic movie which very much goes its own way. With stunning effects and some surreal sequences this is a very entertaining film.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Tony Revolori
An idiosyncratic movie telling the adventures of Gustav (Fiennes) the concierge at the Budapest hotel and his friend Zero Moustafa (Revolori). The film is full of madcap characters and is filmed in the classic Anderson style. Set in Europe between the wars, the film tells the story of the theft of a Renaissance painting and disputes over fortunes. The movie has a star-studded cast and much of the plot of interlocking stories is told in flashbacks. A fine comedy making this a must see movie.

The Quiet Ones
Director: John Pogue
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Sam Claflin, Erin Richards, Jared Harris, Olivia Cooke
A Hammer Horror film set in 1974. Professor Coupland (Harris), helped by a group of university students, relocates to a country estate in order to try an unorthodox cure for a mentally unstable woman Jane Harper (Cooke) with malignant alter ego Evey. The experiment is recorded by cameraman Brian McNeil (Claflin). This is a stylish movie with impressive visual effects. However the performances of the students are a little wooden and the film does not break any new ground. However in all a competent and gripping horror film.

Pointer Roundabout is Bee-Friended

We are informed that 'The level of muckiness is down
to the method used for shifting the turf
(using arms/hands or the fork)."

Work has started to create a bee-friendly 'meadow' on a Lancaster roundabout.

Hard-working volunteers from Incredible Edible Lancaster (pictured) have stripped the turf on Lancaster's Pointer Roundabout to prepare for seeding.

The work is being done by Incredible Edible Lancaster to create a pollinator-friendly annual 'pictorial meadow', replacing the more traditional bedding plant display. They're working with Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council on the project.

The roundabout on the A6, south of the city centre near the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, will be in full bloom by late June / early July.

Working with the Friends of Greaves Park, on the public green recreation area neighbouring the roundabout, volunteers will also create a 'mini meadow' to enhance the park for wildlife with pollinator-friendly meadows.

Their next workparty will be on Friday 25th April from 2 - 4pm at Greaves Park. They tell us:

"We have prepared the ground for the planting of mini-meadows for pollinators at the Pointer roundabout and at Greaves Park - now we will finally sow the wildflower seeds for a wonderful display and a great supply of nectar in the summer!  We will lightly hoe over the ground and then broadcast the seed, so if you'd like to be part of this fab project, come and join us, we'd love to see you there! Meet at Greaves Park playground (at the corner of the park nearest to the roundabout) at 2pm."

Viv White from Incredible Edible Lancaster said: "We're really pleased to be working with our local councils to enhance the environment for people and wildlife - pollinators are essential for food production and we are very happy to be doing our bit to improve local food security.

"Estimates suggest that about a third of our food only grows because bees pollinate those crop plants, so it's important that we do all that we can to help bees and other pollinators."

Last year volunteers planted 5,000 crocus bulbs on Pointer Roundabout, which are now in full bloom, providing a colourful early season display and a nectar source for bees and other pollinators.

The Incredibles will also be having a get together in the Nice Cafe/Bar at the Storey in Lancaster this Saturday 12 April from 2 - 4pm, for a social and to show and tell about all their natural food resilience projects. They have come a very long way in the last couple of years and now have a dozen projects on the go, including community gardens and orchards, forage walks and the forthcoming seed library.

They're also interested in hearing about about any new projects that people would like to start.

For more details about the project visit

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Obesity data: Large figures for Lancs

Excess weight data published earlier this year by Public Health England shows the percentage of adults in Cumbria & Lancashire who are overweight or obese, by local authority.

Excess weight data by local authority, 2012:
Cumbria & Lancashire% Excess weight95% LCI95% UCI
Blackburn with Darwen67.9%64.6%71.1%
For the full set of figures across the country see

This new data highlights for the first time the variation in the numbers of people who are overweight or obese across the country and in Cumbria & Lancashire, the range is from 64.7% to 72.1%, depending on the local authority. Even in the areas with lowest prevalence of people who are overweight and obese, levels are still high.

Overweight and obesity are complex issues and influenced by a variety of factors, including social and economic deprivation and age. The variation in levels of overweight and obesity across the area, and England as a whole, highlights the extent of the challenge faced by many local authorities.

On the positive side, as shown in previously published data from the Health Survey for England, the rate of increase in overweight and obese adults has slowed in recent years and in children, levels are stabilising. However, welcome though this is, given the health problems associated with being overweight or obese there are no grounds for complacency.

People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Excess weight can also affect self-esteem and mental health. Health problems associated with being overweight or obese cost the NHS over £5 billion each year.

Dr Jane Rossini, Cumbria & Lancashire Centre Director at Public Health England, said:
“Public Health England is committed to helping tackle the levels of people who are overweight and obese in Cumbria & Lancashire. With our local authorities and NHS partners we are looking at ways to reduce levels of excess weight in all our communities.”

“There is no silver bullet to reducing obesity. It is an issue that requires action at national, local, family and individual level. Local authorities are ideally placed to develop co-ordinated action across their departments, services and partner organisations to tackle overweight and obesity in the local population.”

Luneside East Planning Application breaks promises, residents claim

Aerial view of the site as shown in the application documents

Residents in the Long Marsh Lane areas of Lancaster are campaigning to hold the City Council to keeping a long-standing promise to the local community - and reject a planning application submitted recently by Luneside East developers  Persimmon Homes. This application, which can be viewed on Lancaster City Council's Planning Portal at 13/01200/REM, shows an intention to remove half of the former railway embankment bordering Long Marsh Lane, along with all of the trees that are currently on the embankment.

Residents claim that the the council made promises that this would not be permitted and have started a petition at (you can see it here) to oppose the application, which is due to come before Lancaster City Council Planning Committee at Lancaster Town hall at 10.30am on Tuesday 6 May.

Councillor Jon Barry explained why local people are so angry at Persimmon's plans:

“The City Council has undertaken a lot of consultation with local residents about Luneside East since the project started in around 1997. From numerous meetings, the two important demands from residents were that there should be no vehicular access from Long Marsh Lane and that the embankment between Long Marsh Lane and Luneside East should be retained. Both of these demands were agreed by the City Council and have formed the basis of approvals for the project by Cabinet and the Council’s Planning Policy committee.”

Local Long Marsh Lane resident Julia Russell said:

“It makes a mockery of the idea of public consultation that a plan which is so long approved can be changed so drastically at the last minute and without any further discussion with residents.”

“I and many other local residents were satisfied with the outcome of the many previous public consultation meetings we attended as, while wish to see this brownfield site developed, we also wanted the unique character of this area maintained with its mature trees and feeling of a quiet green oasis. When the site was being decontaminated using EU funding, we were again told that the embankment would be retained.”

Vincent Spratling was chair of the Long Marsh Lane Action Group in 1999 and still lives in Hasgill Court, next to the proposed development.

“I was not against the development in principle then and I am not now. Generally there was support for the scheme, but local people were unanimous on two points. Firstly we wanted all the railway embankment to be left completely alone, as it provides a valued green area and acts as a natural barrier against wind and the noise and pollution from Morecambe road. Secondly we did not want an access road from the development through to Long Marsh Lane, as this is unnecessary as access is already available through St George's quayside and Lune road.”

Residents and ward councillors have demanded an urgent meeting with Council officers to see if progress can be made towards saving the embankment. They are also monitoring the Council's adherence to the funding agreements it made to obtain funding from the European Union and the former North West Development Agency.

On behalf of the City Council, Coun Janice Hanson, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration told Virtual-Lancaster:

"The council has advised the developer about the community’s expectations in relation to the former railway embankment. Our recommendation was that Persimmon should undertake detailed community engagement before promoting a scheme which departed from the original ideas for the site.

"However, they have chosen not to do so and ultimately it will be for the Planning Committee to determine whether the changes, when compared to the original aspirations for the site, are so material and harmful that they justify withholding planning permission."

Plans to develop the area have been in the pipeline for 15 years now, and it remains to be seen whether the council will consider that reneging on undertakings given for good reasons will constitute 'material harm', or if, as Julia Russell put it: "a developer is being allowed free rein to maximise their profits and the local community's views on which the original plans were approved mean nothing."

Virtual-Lancaster has contacted Persimmon's Lancaster office off Caton Road, and we are hoping to receive their comments in due course.

Council asked to approve Freedom of the City for Cedric Robinson

Lancaster City councillors will be asked to approve granting the Queen’s Guide to the Sands, Cedric Robinson MBE, the Freedom of the City at a special meeting of Lancaster City Council later this month.

The Queen’s Guide to the Sands is a Royally appointed guide to assist the safe crossing of the sands of Morecambe Bay.

Cedric Robinson was appointed to the post in 1963, the 25th person to be appointed to the role.

Over the years he has led more than 500,000 people across the sands and despite being over 80 years old has no plans to retire from a job which still gives him so much pleasure.

Full Council will be asked to approve granting him the honour of Freedom of the City at a special meeting on 16th April at 2.00pm.

Subject to the approval of Council, the award will then be formally be presented at the Annual Council meeting on 9th May.

The mayor of Lancaster, Coun June Ashworth, recommended Mr Robinson should receive the award, the highest the city council can confer on an individual.

“Cedric has dedicated his life to be the Queen’s Guide to the Sands," she said. "His dedication and enthusiasm to guiding people across such a unique part of the British Isles has been unstinting, and in doing a job he loves he has helped to raised millions of pounds for charity. He does his job for no financial reward, but simply for his love of the Sands of Morecambe Bay.”

Monday, 7 April 2014

Easter Celebrations at St Patrick's

Easter is extra special this year for staff and pupils at St Patrick's Catholic Primary School in Heysham.

They've just had the results of their latest Ofsted inspection – and the school is officially 'Good'.

This means the Littledale Avenue primary has leapfrogged two grades from its previous rating – a rare achievement.

Headteacher Carol Hind said: "We're all immensely proud to be Good! We have worked so hard during the past two years to bring about improvements in all aspects of school life.

"I'd like to thank staff, governors, parents, pupils and the county council for their support. We are all delighted with this rating and are confident that we will continue to develop and provide hig! h-quality education for every child in our care."

The report praises the rapid progress that children make during their time at the school, and in particular the way the school's teaching methods encourage literacy skills and a love of reading.

The inspectors referred warmly to 'golden moments' at the school and said, 'A pupil in the reception class was so excited about his phonics work that he exclaimed, "I'm full of words today!" Similarly, an older pupil commented that "writing is my passion".'

Over half the school's pupils are from a Gypsy Roma/Traveller background and these pupils achieve better academic results and a higher attendance levels compared to these groups nationally.

The school's leadership and management are also praised. The headteacher, according to parents, staff and pupils, 'always puts children first', and inspectors add that 'clear direction, tenacious leadership and manageable policies ha! ve resulted in consistently good teaching.'

'Pupils from different backgrounds work and play harmoniously together and respect each other's feelings. They are friendly, sociable and good-humoured', the inspectors add.

• The full report is available here: