Friday, 25 April 2014

European Parliamentary Elections: North West candidates confirmed

The full list of candidates for the forthcoming European Parliamentary Elections has been published and the candidates are listed below.

Eleven political parties will contest the elections on Thursday 22nd May to choose the North West of England’s eight Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Full details about the election can be found at

At the same time, electors in the University and Scotforth West wards for Lancaster City Council will be choosing new councillors in two by-elections. There will also be a by-election to elect a new councillor for Morecambe Town Council in the Westgate ward

Candidates for the by-elections can be found by following the links to the local elections at

The candidates for Westgate Ward of Morecambe Town Council are Alan Biddulph (Labour); Terry Ingle (Morecambe Bay Indpendents); and Steven Ogden (UK Independence Party)

View the Morecambe Town Council Westgate ward candidates (PDF)

The candidates for the Scotforth West Ward of Lancaster City Council are Phil Dunster (Liberal Democrats); Colin Hartley (Labour); Steve Metcalfe (Trade Union and Socialists Against the Cuts); Abi Mills (Green Party); and Janet Walton (Conservative)

View Scotforth West ward candidates (PDF)

The candidates for the University Ward of Lancaster City Council are Daniel Aldred (Conservative); Jack Filmore (Green Party); Stuart Langhorn (Independent); James Leyshon (Labour); and Oliver Mountjoy (Liberal Democrats)

View University ward candidates (PDF)

Voters go to the polls on Thursday 22nd May but people will not be able to vote unless they have ensured they are on the electoral register by Tuesday 6th May.

Anyone who is on the electoral register can choose to register to vote by post. Applications for a postal vote in the forthcoming elections must be received by 5pm on Wednesday 7th May.

Anyone who is not registered can visit to download a registration form.

Alternatively, or if they need to update their details (for example if they have changed address or changed surname through marriage since registering) or check whether they are on the register, they should contact Lancaster City Council’s elections hotline on 01524 582905. Registration is a quick and easy process

European Election Candidates

You can now view The Statement of Parties and Individual Candidates Nominated for the North West Region for the upcoming European Parliamentary Election. The following registered registered parties and individual candidates have been and stand nominated:

PartyParty List
 An Independence from Europe
  1. Helen Bashford
  2. Gill Kearney
  3. Pauline Penny
  4. Kay Bashford
  5. Faye Raw
  6. Lorna Markovitch
  7. Jennie Ransome
  8. Jill Stockdale
 British National Party
 Re-elect Nick Griffin
  1. Nick Griffin
  2. Dawn Charlton
  3. Clive Jefferson
  4. Eddy O'Sullivan
  5. Simon Darby
  6. Kay Pollitt
  7. Derek Adams
  8. David O'Loughlin
 Conservative Party
 For real change in Europe
  1. Jacqueline Foster
  2. Sajjad Karim
  3. Kevin Beaty
  4. Deborah Dunleavy
  5. Joseph Barker-Willis
  6. Daniel Hamilton
  7. Chris Whiteside
  8. James Walsh

 English Democrats
 Putting England First!
  1. Stephen Morris
  2. Paul Rimmer
  3. Derek Bullock
  4. Paul Whitelegg
  5. Steven McEllenborough
  6. Laurence Depares
  7. Valerie Morris
  8. Anthony Backhouse
 Green Party
  1. Peter Andrew Cranie
  2. Gina Dowding
  3. Laura Bannister
  4. Jillian Barbara Perry
  5. John Anthony Knight
  6. Ulrike Zeshan
  7. Lewis Coyne
  8. Jake Laurence Welsh
 Labour Party
  1. Theresa Griffin
  2. Afzal Khan
  3. Julie Ward
  4. Wajid Khan
  5. Angeliki Stogia
  6. Steve Carter
  7. Pascale Lamb
  8. Nick Parnell
 Liberal Democrats
  1. Chris Davies
  2. Helen Foster-Grime
  3. Jo Crotty
  4. Qassim Afzal
  5. Jane Brophy
  6. Sue McGuire
  7. Gordon Lishman
  8. Neil Christian
 Yes to Workers' Rights
  1. Roger Bannister
  2. George Waterhouse
  3. Jacqueline Grunsell
  4. John Metcalfe
  5. George Tapp
  6. Mark Rowe
  7. James Healy
  8. Kevin Morrison
 Pirate Party UK
 The Pirate Party UK
  1. Maria Aretoulaki
  2. George Walkden
  3. Jack Allnutt

 Socialist Equality Party
 Join the fight for social equality!
  1. Chris Marsden
  2. Julie Hyland
  3. Robert Skelton
  4. Lucy Warren
  5. Mark Dowson
  6. Ajitha Gunaratne
  7. Danny Dickinson
  8. Joe Heffer
 UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  1. Paul Andrew Nuttall
  2. Louise Bours
  3. Steven Marcus Woolfe
  4. Shneur Zalman Odze
  5. Lee William Slaughter
  6. Simon John Noble
  7. Peter Johnston Harper
  8. John Brian Stanyer

Man indecently exposes himself to teenage girl in Morecambe

Police are appealing for information after a man on a bicycle indecently exposed himself to a 15-year-old girl as she walked home in Morecambe.

The incident took place around 10pm on Wednesday 2 April when a man riding his bicycle rode past the girl on Balmoral Road, Morecambe, and exposed his penis to her before also using sexually offensive language.

The man is described as being white, around 170cm tall, of slim build, and 16-18 years old, although he may be slightly older. He was wearing small rectangular glasses, blue jeans and a red waterproof jacket which had a reflective stripe across the middle, and was riding a blue bicycle with black handlebars.

DS Martin Foley said; “This is a serious offence against a young girl and she was understandably left very distressed.

We think that the same man may have committed similar offences around Morecambe recently. Therefore, we would ask everyone to take a good look at the image of the man we have released, and appeal to anybody that may have witnessed this incident or who may have any information about the man responsible to contact the Police.” 

Anyone with information can contact Police on 101 quoting log number LC-20140402-1477.

Society’s fixation with children’s weight can be counterproductive, Lancaster University researcher warns

Dr Garrath Williams
A preoccupation with obesity could harm children’s overall health and wellbeing, claim researchers.

Childhood Obesity: Ethical and Policy Issues argues that the stigmatisation of childhood obesity may worsen health problems and that increasing obesity rates are far from the only social concern.

Co-author Dr Garrath Williams from Lancaster University explains, “Obesity is the most visible indication of more widespread health problems - low levels of physical fitness, poor diet, metabolic syndrome - that are found in many children, even those who may be ‘normal weight’ or underweight.”

The book argues that childhood obesity should not be our only focus, nor addressed in isolation.

“We need to look at the wider determinants of health - not just obesity or even diet”, says Dr Williams. “We need to think about other social priorities - such as sustainability, equality, safety, and children’s freedom - and find ways to address these priorities alongside one another.”

One of the main challenges is the stigma attached to obesity, say the authors. This contributes to many behaviours that can worsen children’s health outcomes, such as a reluctance to exercise or seek medical assistance and the adoption of dangerous, possibly counterproductive weight loss methods.

Dr Williams is one of 17 lead partners in the European Union-funded I.Family - Determinants of eating behaviour in European children, adolescents and their parents which began in March 2012 and runs until February 2017. Coordinated by Wolfgang Ahrens at Bremen University, this major collaborative project investigates the determinants of dietary and health-related behaviours in a large cohort of European families. Lancaster University is responsible for ethical aspects, policy implications and stakeholder involvement, and Dr Williams sits on the project Steering Committee both as a chair and co-chair.

I.Family follows an earlier project, IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of dietary-and lifestyle-induced health effects in children and infants), funded by the EU under Framework 6 from 2007-2012. This was an epidemiological and intervention project on childhood obesity, involving over 16,000 children across Europe. Dr Williams led the Lancaster team involved in this project - their contribution focussed on the ethical and public policy dimensions of the study and its findings. 

• Childhood obesity: ethical and policy issues by Kristin Voigt, Stuart G. Nicholls, and Garrath Williams, has been published by Oxford University

Appeal for information after man wounded in glass attack, Morecambe

Bottle Attack Suspect
CCTV image

Police are appealing for information after a man was attacked and stabbed in the face with a broken beer bottle at a taxi rank in Morecambe.

At approximately 4:10am on Saturday 5 April, a 26-year-old man was standing at a taxi rank on Queen Street, Morecambe, with a group of other people. While there, two men carrying beer bottles walked past who got into a verbal altercation with the group at the taxi rank.

Bottle Attack Suspect
CCTV image
One of the men then smashed the beer bottle he was carrying and has pushed it into the face of the victim, causing a number of cuts to the victim’s face and neck, which required stitches. The offender and his friend then fled the scene.

The offender is described as a bald white man, 168cm tall, and of a fat build. He identified himself being from Manchester and spoke with a Mancunian accent. At the time of the offence, he was wearing dark trousers and possibly a white top.

Detective Constable Sarah Jackson said, “This was a nasty attack, which has left the victim with some very serious injuries to his face and neck.

“Fortunately, CCTV cameras have picked up the offender, but we have not been able to identify him yet.

Bottle Attack Suspect
CCTV image
“Therefore, we would appeal for anyone who was on Queen Street in Morecambe at the time and witnessed this disgraceful attack, or anyone with any information that could help us identify the man to come forward.”

Anyone with information can contact Police on 101 or DC Sarah Jackson directly by e-mailing, quoting log number LC-20140405-0262.

Alternatively, information can be passed on anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers 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.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Public Meeting Monday on plans to share our GP records.

Care about sharing your medical records? A Public Meeting, organised by Lancaster University, will be held at Lancaster Town Hall next Monday 28 April at 6.45pm to find out more about government proposals to upload your GP records for wider access.

Organisers believe that it's important that people should have the opportunity to find out about what is planned for their medical data and to consider their options.

Confirmed speakers (so far) are:

Dr David Wrigley, a local GP;
Mr Phil Booth,;
Dr Garrath Williams, Senior Lecturer, Lancaster University.  

The event is free to attend but the organisers would appreciate your registering beforehand at their eventbrite page. Doors open at 6.15pm for a 6.45pm start.

To learn more about and the issues at stake, you can follow the links below:

Luneside East housing plans set back pending review. Public meeting called

St George's Walk at Luneside East:
The draft planning layout

Lancaster City Council have told us today that they have postponed consideration of the application by Persimmon Homes for a 170-house residential development at Luneside East, pending 'significant amendments'.

Local residents living adjacent to the Luneside East redevelopment site are strongly opposed to specific aspects of the plans and so frustrated at the lack of public consultation, that they have called a public meeting and invited Persimmon Homes to attend along with City Councillors and landowners, Luneside East Ltd. However Persimmon have now declined the invitation (see their full response below).

The public meeting is open to everyone and will be held on Thursday 1st May at 6.30pm at the Friends Meeting House, Meeting House Lane, LA1 1TX.

Council statement
Andrew Dobson, the Council's Chief Officer for Regeneration and Planning, told Virtual-Lancaster:

"We understand that this meeting has been called in the belief that the city council’s Planning Committee will be making a decision on the application on Tuesday May 6.  This is incorrect. 

"The current position is that the city council has made Persimmon Homes aware of a number of matters that will require further amendment before the application can be considered. 

"If significant amendments to the scheme are received, then the council will ensure that local residents are consulted for their views again.  

"There is therefore currently no scheduled date for reporting the planning application to the Planning Committee."

Removal of landmark 
Residents claim that the proposed plans deviate quite markedly from previous plans seen by residents, and controversially include the removal of trees and the old railway embankment bordering Long Marsh Lane. A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was placed on the trees on the embankment on April 3rd, although this can be overturned if planning permission is granted.
(See previous story: Luneside East Planning Application breaks promises, residents claim)

Wrong road
There are also concerns over vehicular access to Long Marsh Lane. In all the original plans, cars were intended to access the site via St.George’s Quay, with only cycle and pedestrian access onto Long Marsh Lane. Persimmon’s proposal would see over 12% of the proposed properties with direct access from their driveways onto this narrow lane.

Residents point out that it will be physically impossible to access these driveways due to the narrow nature of the lane, not to mention the increased traffic that these vehicles would generate on a lane currently used more by pedestrians and cyclists than motorists.

The residents’ view is echoed by Lancashire County Council Highways in their consultation response which recommends that the application should be refused.

The brief
The Lancaster City Council’s website heralds Luneside East as:

“a new quarter of the city with a mix of housing, commercial space, high quality open spaces and walking and cycling routes. The development aims to be a landmark in urban regeneration and high quality design and be an exemplar of sustainable development”.

Plans too vague
Such a development would certainly be an asset. However statutory consultees have complained that the submitted plans are too vague and open to be acceptable. The County Highways Department have recommended in their consultation response that the application should be refused, stating:

"In view of the number of outstanding issues pertinent to the application - yet to be addressed, I must ask that planning permission is refused on the grounds that the consequences of a lack of information would be construed as being detrimental to highway safety and residential amenity should the application be granted planning approval."

A place to live?
Sarah Robinson, Urban Design Officer for Lancaster City Council in her response to the Persimmon Homes application stated that:

"The applicant also fails to consider how the Luneside East development fits together as a whole”. She added, "It seems that the applicant has only considered the site in plan format and not what it would look like in reality." and that, “No consideration has been given to creating a sense of place, using the streetscape to create a place and connect to the surrounding area”

Consultation canned
Local resident Julia Russell explains her disappointment with the proposed plan:

“After 16 years of consultation regarding the site and the local community was, on the whole, supportive of the plans previously put forward to develop the brownfield site. This new plan is drastically different from those we were shown even as recently as March 2013. We had always been promised that the old railway embankment and the trees would be retained as part of green spaces on the site. These trees are visible from all across this side of Lancaster, offer visual pleasure to local residents and if retained would only serve to enhance the site. 

"Persimmon’s plan is for 170 houses with none of the public green spaces or children’s park area we were promised. This is not high quality urban regeneration, it is simply suburban sprawl.”

Persimmon Response
Andy Pepper, Planning and Strategic Manager at Persimmon Homes Lancashire said:

"Managing Director Mark Cook and I will be attending a small meeting at Lancaster Town Hall on Monday (April 28) along with Guy Illingworth, director of land owner Luneside East Limited, some community representatives and council officers.

“We were invited to the public meeting on May 1, but it was felt that as our application is still under consideration by Lancaster City Council our attendance would not necessarily be productive.

“We will continue to work with officers to ensure that our proposals receive their support and of course residents are still able to comment on the application in the usual way via representations to the city council.”

You can view the application documents on Lancaster City Council's Planning Portal at 13/01200/REM, which states that the City Council is 'no longer accepting comments from the public on this application.'
(Update: We hear you can email comments directly to the council at or stating that you are commenting on application 13/01200/REM)

A petition at has been started to save the trees and oppose the planning application and already has nearly 600 signatures.

Persimmon's online publicity for the development can be seen at, which helpfully informs prospective buyers that  '....nearby Ryelands Park and Quay Meadows provide welcome green spaces....'

Local Cinema Round-Up for 23rd April to 1st May 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.

 This period sees a couple of new releases: animation with a retelling of the story of Tarzan (PG) and action-adventure with Pompeii (12A).

This period could easily be the last chance for a while to catch Astronaut, Rio 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Quiet Ones. However there is a welcome return of 12 Years a Slave, which is showing for one night only at the Vue.

For an alternative program, we recommend Vikings Live from The British Museum; Royal Opera House Live: A Winters Tale and RSC Encore: Richard II all three showing for one night only. Also of interest is Kiss the Water a portrait of the world famous creator of flies for salmon fishing showing at the Dukes.


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 slavemaster 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.

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.

Pompeii Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Emily Browning
The year is 79AD and the backdrop of the movie is the epic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Mile (Harington), a gladiator strives to save the love of his life Cassia (Browning) who is betrothed to Corvus (Sutherland) a corrupt Roman Senator. This is a film that is hard not to like as it 'ticks all the boxes' portraying poor boy/rich girl romance with action combat set in a disaster movie incorporating spectacular special effects.

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 Love Punch
Director: Joel Hopkins
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Pierce Brosnan, Emma Thompson, Tuppence Middleton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie
Richard and Kate (Brosnan and Thompson) are a divorced couple who hit financial hard times as Richard is facing bankruptcy as a result of a corporation wiping out his company's pension fund. Vincent, the villainous boss of the corporation, has used these proceeds to buy a diamond necklace for his own bride. Richard and Kate, along with friends Jerry and Penelope (Spall and Imrie) decide to get revenge by stealing the necklace and using this to replenish the retirement fund. This is a comedy with big name stars set in an exotic location. The humour seems a little contrived at times but in all it works well to make a genuinely funny and entertaining 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.

Director: Wally Pfister
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Paul Bettany
Dr Will Caster (Depp), a brilliant scientist in the field of researching artificial intelligence, is creating a sentient computer called PINN. However anti-technology extremists embark on a series of of attacks against the artificial intelligence community and Dr Caster is one of the casualties. In order to survive he digitises and loads his consciousness into the computer. Here he starts a quest for knowledge and for power that seems unstoppable. The film is well produced and visually appealing. However the characters come across as rather wooden and the topics examined in this film have already been explored in earlier science fiction movies.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Police hunt Scale Hall burglar who robbed elderly woman

Police are appealing for information after an elderly woman had her purse snatched from her home in Scale Hall, Lancaster.

Around 3.00pm on Wednesday 16th April, a man approached the house on Cleveleys Avenue, and has knocked on the front door. The 81-year-old female victim, did not answer the door, but did try to get a view of the man through the window of her front room. While she did this, the offender went to the rear of the house and entered the kitchen via the back door. He then removed the victim’s purse from her handbag before leaving and walking back down the driveway onto the street.

The victim discovered her purse, which contained money, a number of debit and credit cards and a key, was missing around ninety minutes later.

Sadly, the victim was then taken ill two days later on Friday 18th April and passed away later that day.

The offender is described as a white man of slim build and around 175 cm tall. He has short, dark brown hair and, at the time of the offence, was clean-shaven and was wearing a dark grey sweater and dark trousers. The offender was also seen to drive away in a white van.

DI Simon Dent of Lancaster CID said; “This is a tragic case where the victim has then passed away a couple of days later.

“We would appeal for any information anyone may have regarding the burglary, the man the victim described or the vehicle she described he had driven off in.

“Although the victim has described a white van, we are keeping an open mind to any visiting vehicles that were on Cleveleys Avenue at the time, and would welcome any information people may have that could help us catch this man.”

Anyone with information can contact Lancaster Police, quoting log number LC-20140416-0911

Lancaster 's Past recalled in new Dukes exhibition

St. Annes Church, Moor Lane, circa 1950 - now The Dukes.
Take a stroll down Memory Lane on your next visit to The Dukes gallery in Lancaster.

To coincide with its latest homegrown play – The Life And Times Of Mitchell & Kenyon – The Dukes is also hosting an exhibition of photographs of Lancaster and Morecambe from yesteryear.

The Life And Times Of Lancaster & Morecambe, which runs until 11th May, is a fascinating collection of old photographs from The Dukes own archive, Lancaster City Museum, the Library Service, Lancaster Civic Society and Lancaster-based photographer Johnny Bean.

Some of the photographs on display date back to the time when Lancashire filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon were plying their pioneering trade throughout the country including in Lancaster and Morecambe.

They show Williamson Park when the Ashton Memorial was still being built, Morecambe Promenade, the old railway station at Green Ayre and even the stocks at Slyne.

Many of the other images were taken within living memory and show different areas of Lancaster and Morecambe in the 1960s and 1970s.

Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to write down any memories evoked by the photos in a book available in the gallery.

One section of the exhibition focuses on The Dukes building itself from the days when it was still St Anne’s Church in the 1950s through the 1970s when it was developed into a theatre and up to the present day.

• The Life And Times Of Lancaster & Morecambe exhibition is open during normal Dukes opening hours. If you are making a special trip to see it, please call the Box Office as sometimes the gallery is used for other activities.

The Life And Times Of Mitchell & Kenyon runs at The Dukes until May 10. For tickets, ring the Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit

• If you're a fan of old Lancaster on Facebook, check out the Lancaster Past and Present Facebook group, which now has over 5000 members

Canal Trust Boat Waterwitch launches season of free trips

All aboard the Waterwitch

The Lancaster Canal Trust's boat Waterwitch has begun a new season of free canal boat trips from Crooklands Bridge, which is about 5 miles south of Kendal off the A65 (see map).

The first boat trip of the season, with a full compliment of passengers, got underway at 11am on Easter Sunday morning in warm sunshine.

Journeying to the coal yard wharf they turned and headed north, passing baby moorhens that scattered into the reeds, hiding until Waterwitch cruised slowly by.

Busy parents
Meanwhile, other early canal users near Seven Milestone bridge, a little further down the canal, were about their business - a proud mum and dad duck, with 15 baby ducks that could have only just hatched. What a delightful sight! (It will certainly interest the hungry heron.)

The Lancaster canal offers a new and close-up view with such wonderful spring displays of wildlife. This wonderful world of nature is not to be missed and is a credit to the Lancaster Canal Trust's work in maintaining the rich environmental legacy of this man-made feature.

Waterwitch sails from Crooklands Stables every Sunday and Bank Holliday until October. Trips leave roughly every 40 minutes from 11am to (ish). You can find out more about the trips at

If you fancy paying for a longer trip on the canal, award-winning Lancaster Canal Boats also offer a tempting range of afternoon and evening cruises with all the comforts in their luxury canal boat Kingfisher from Lancaster (opposite the Waterwitch Pub) and from Barton Grange (near Garstang). You can find out more about these at:

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Disability Online support group helps hundreds - on a shoestring

Disability Online

Disability Online, the local voluntary organisation which receives no government funding or grants for the work they do, have managed to survive their second year running entirely on small donations from individuals.

In the past twelve months alone they have helped a total of 203 people receive correct benefit awards – this total does not reflect the total number of clients that they have helped however.

The benefit awards are broken down into the following categories:

  • Employment Support Allowance: 159
  • Disability Living Allowance: 18
  • Personal Independence Payment: 6
  • Attendance Allowance: 5
  • Carers Allowance: 6
  • Housing Benefit: 9

Disability Online has helped administer a staggering 96 appeals in the past year. Appeals are often undertaken when the Department for Work and Pensions have the view that the client is not entitled to a specific benefit or have lowered a client’s benefit based upon the outcomes of medicals undertaken by the controversial outgoing assessment provider Atos.

Disability Online then step in and help the client with the paperwork and represent them at the appeal should it go to court. Of those 96 appeals, 55% of those were successful - the remaining 45% were either withdrawn or lost. An appeal could be withdrawn should there not be enough evidence to guarantee a success or if there is a risk of a further reduction in benefits if it was a review appeal.

Based in the Lighthouse Centre in Morecambe, Disability Online is one of two in the district’s only DPO (Disabled Person’s Organisation) that is fully run by people with disabilities on a day-to-day basis. There are no paid staff - it is entirely run by an enthusiastic and committed group of volunteers, meaning that operating costs are kept to a minimum. Disability Online has 4 volunteer advisors and 2 volunteer administrators.

Since its inception in 2012 Disability Online has won a National Diversity Award and has gone from strength to strength.  The philosophy of the volunteers who give up so much of their own time to help vulnerable people cope with a demanding and complex bureaucracy is that it should be the right of the Disabled person to choose who serves them; not the local funding bodies.

You can find out more about Disability Online at Tel: 07411 038108.
You can also follow Disability Online on Twitter @Disabilitynet.

Friends of Greaves Park campaigner to fight Scotforth by-election for Greens

Abi Mills and Natalie Bennett. Image: Lancaster Green Party
The Green Party has selected Scotforth resident Abi Mills as its candidate in the upcoming Scotforth West local council by-election. Abi was a main force behind getting funding for the Play Area in Greaves Park and has lived in Scotforth West since 1996.

“I am delighted to be standing for the Greens," she said. "There is lots that needs doing in the area to improve it – such as cleaner streets and a better footpath link across Greaves Park to Bowerham school. I would really like to be elected onto the City Council to be able to expand the work I have already been doing.”

Abi is married with three children, who all attend local schools, and has lived in Scotforth West since 1996. She currently runs her own business as a Childminder and as a mentor for students studying for their Early Years Teaching Status at Lancaster University. She is also the Co-ordinator of the Friends of Greaves Park.

Chris Coates, Green City Councillor for Scotforth West, said: “Abi is well known in the community and would make a brilliant councillor for the area. We are facing a number of challenges in Scotforth at the moment. Not least the proposals being supported by the Labour Party to build up to 8000 new houses on green fields to the South of the Ward.”

The by-election will take place on 22nd May, the same day as the European elections.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Register to vote by 6 May or miss elections

Time is running out to make sure that you are registered to vote in time for the European elections on Thursday 22 May. In Lancaster there will also be City Council by-elections for two seats that have come vacant, in the University Ward and Scotforth West (see previous news: ('Councillors quit, by elections announced'). Morecambe Town Council will be holding a by-election in Westgate ward.

The deadline for applications to be included on the Register of Electors in time for these election is Tuesday May 6. Anyone registering after this time will not be able to vote in the elections for the European Parliament.

You cannot register to vote online, but you can download an electoral registration form from the Lancaster City Council website (don't worry if it looks a bit out-of-date).  The form must be returned to the Electoral Registration Officer at Lancaster Town Hall (see full address on form) by 6 May. If you would like to be sent a registration form by post, or are not sure whether you are registered to vote, call the elections helpline on 01524 582905.

You can’t vote if you’re not registered and you won’t be automatically registered by paying council tax. This is particularly important for anyone who has recently moved home – if they do not register at their new address they risk falling off the electoral register.

The deadline for registering for a postal vote is 5pm on Wednesday May 7. For an application form to vote by post email giving your name and address, or telephone the elections helpline on 01524 582905, to have one posted out to you.

For help and advice call the elections helpline on 01524 582905 or visit

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lancaster librarian's account of journey from couch to triathlon ironman wins award

Lancaster University Librarian and author Andy Holgate has won the Best Book award at the 2014 Running Awards for his book “Can’t Swim, Can’t Ride, Can’t Run.”

Andy’s book about his journey from – as he says - overweight couch potato to competing in Ironman triathlons beat off stiff competition from eleven other finalists to take the award which was voted for by the public. The awards took place at a gala reception in London.

“I’m absolutely delighted and somewhat shocked to win this award.” Said Andy. “I’m never likely to win a race, so thanks to all that voted for me.”

His book "Can't Swim, Can't Ride, Can't Run: My Triathlon Journey from Common Man to Ironman" follows his attempts to complete an Ironman triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon.

He weighed 18 stone when he began training and could not even swim.  But since his first triathlon in 2006, he has run, swum and cycled thousands of miles and competed in events all over the world.

Andy said: “When I first went to the swimming pool, I splashed about and swam like a rock but thanks to a good book, some sage advice and intense practice, I completed my first race several weeks later.

“I fell in love with cycling despite my lack of balance, an aversion to hills, not knowing how to fix a puncture and being adamant that tight Lycra was a look that didn’t work on me”.

You can find out more about Andy, his story and his book at and on his facebook page.