Friday, 13 June 2014

Police broaden hunt for 'Parklife' suspect

A man who was seriously assaulted at the Parklife Festival in Mancester has sadly died and police have broadened their search for a man they would like to question.

At around 9.15pm on Saturday 7th June 2014, 26-year-old Robert Hart and his girlfriend were in front of the Festival's main stage when he was attacked by an unknown man. 

Robert was punched to the ground unconscious and was given CPR at the scene by two off-duty medical personnel.

He sadly died yesterday in hospital.

The offender is described as a mixed race male, aged in his late 20's and around 6ft 1 tall. He has a muscular build and short, dark hair which was shaved at the sides. He was also wearing shorts and a blue, bomber-style jacket with the letter 'A' in white on the front.

Police have also issued an efit.

Detective Inspector Richard Eales: "Our immediate thoughts go out to Robert's family and loved ones. We currently have specially trained officers with them to help through this terrible time.

"We are still in the early stages of this investigation, however several witnesses have assisted us with vital information concerning the description of the offender. We believe a confrontation took place following an inflatable doll hitting Robert's girlfriend.

"We are aware other assaults took place in the park that evening , but I am specifically appealing for witnesses who recall seeing the inflatable doll and the attack on Robert immediately thereafter.

"I am keen for those witnesses to come forward and other persons nearby who may have mobile phone footage of the attack or captured an image of the person responsible.

"Finally, if you are the man responsible or were with him that evening, please come forward."

• Anyone with information can contact the incident room direct on 0161 85 69283 or email the incident room on with any relevant footage.

• Alternatively you can call police on 101 or independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Butterfly on a wheel: Benjamin Oliver brings 'Oxyopia' Exhibition to the Aston Memorial

'The Death of Butterbrain'
part of the 'Oxyopia' Exhibition by Benjamin Oliver

Running until the 26th July, Lancaster based artist and filmmaker Benjamin Oliver brings you a collection of his latest works under the OXYOPIA banner at the landmark Ashton Memorial Gallery, in Lancaster's Williamson Park.

In this, his first ever solo exhibition, Oliver presents a series of artworks that trace a specific understanding the artist has of oxyopia. 'Oxyopia' is defined as: “an extremely heightened acuteness of the eyesight, resulting from increased sensibility of the retina”. Oliver relates this to an environment where paint combines with light and sound to create a systematically womb-like and immersive experience.

First, there are the paintings. Framed in faded Victorian splendour, they are large and imposing, progressive graphical artworks. Butterflies, insects, animal and human forms are fused together in playful and surreal landscapes.

In the centre of the hall stands a pedestal with instructions... Follow these to be faced with an animatronic butterfly flying in a jar and the sudden realisation that by following the instructions .... well, you will find out.
You can see some of the Oxyopia works on Oliver's website at

Around the balcony, spinning cardboard circles reveal projections of continually adapting animations on the domed walls. A huge centre screen displays a great, three dimensional butterfly caught in an endless loop. Projectors strobe, images float and spin. Professor Brainstorm may have a few patents-pending on some of the technology used here but the effect is solid.

Oliver backs up his old-school techniques:

“It has to be seen to be believed! I developed the spinning cardboard animation technique VJ-ing in nightclubs, back in Leeds in the 90’s. The cardboard blocks out light from the projectors at exactly 16 frames per second, creating one of the most visually mystifying, yet beautifully simple effects that I’ve still never seen bettered. It is a super-cool, high-octane illusion that will leave one scratching one’s head.”

The finishing touch is provided by Electronica artist and producer, Rob Antony:

Antony says:

“The music has been custom-made to adapt to the shape of the hall. We recorded a lot of the sounds you will hear in Morecambe Bay, Lancaster town centre and Williamson Park. We then played them back inside the dome and recorded the results. I later added synthesisers and beats. It gives me great pleasure hear it come together like this in the gallery.”

The audio is delivered using a seven-speaker Dolby surround system, adding another sensory, immersive dimension to the art.

Entry is free and the exhibition runs until the 26th July.

For more about the exhibition and Benjamin Oliver's work visit and

Chris Bonington takes on Bowland Tower Charity Abseil

As part of Lancaster University’s 50th anniversary celebrations its Chancellor, the pioneering mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, will step off the top of landmark Bowland Tower on campus to raise money for five very different charities on Sunday 22 June between 10am and 4pm.  Engaging the resourcefulness he's famous for, he'll be bouncing down by a rope, as his climbing is a lot fancier than his flying.

He will be joined by 70 thrill seekers, both staff and students, who have all bought tickets to share the experience and raise money for charity.

The event is being run by abseiling experts, Langdale-based Highpoint Mountain Guides, who will provide help and guidance to all participants.

Sir Chris is expected to make two descents of the 14-storey tower, one at noon and the other at 2pm, and everyone is welcome to come and spectate.

Sir Chris, who will celebrate his 80th birthday this August, will be retiring as Chancellor later this year (to be replaced by former Health Secretary Alan Milburn). Bonington  is an outstanding mountaineer, having led the expeditions that made the first ascents of the South Face of Annapurna and the South West Face of Everest. He realised a dream in 1985 when he reached the summit of Everest.

“I’m really looking forward to abseiling down the Bowland Tower for charity,” said Sir Chris. “It might not be quite as high as The Shard which I abseiled down a couple of years ago for Outward Bound but it will seem quite enough for anyone doing it on the 22nd and it will be very special for me in this, my final year, as Chancellor and knowing it’s very much in the tradition of our wonderful University since the Mountaineering Club abseiled it regularly a few years back.

“It is also very fitting to make the abseil to celebrate our 50th Anniversary.

“For all who go for it - the view from the top is fantastic - much more beautiful than the one from the top of The Shard.”

The abseil will raise funds for the Student Hardship Fund, which supports students from less privileged backgrounds, Ageing Research, Food Security, who help to improve food security for some of the world’s most vulnerable societies, St John’s Hospice in Lancaster and the Dukes Theatre’s ‘MAKE Project’, which provides creative opportunities for young people.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 11th to 19th June by Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

We find four films on release this period. There is a period drama with Belle (12A); Comedy/Drama with The Fault in our Stars (12A); animation with How to Train your Dragon 2 (PG) and horror with Oculus (15).

It seems likely that his period will be the last chance to catch either A Million Ways to Die in the West or Bad Neighbours. However we do find the return of the excellent Muppets Most Wanted.

If you are looking for culture there is Opera with Benvenuto Cellini and theatre with Driving Miss Daisy; A Small Family Business and Henry IV part II.

For something a little out of the ordinary the Dukes are screening the documentary Symphony of the Soil, a look at soil and its relationship to life on earth.


22 Jump Street
Director: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Jonah Hill, Peter Stormare, Channing Tatum, Amber Stevens, Ice Cube
The movie finds Police officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) working undercover at a local college to investigate supply of an illegal drug. Actually the movie is a deliberate re-hash of the earlier '21 Jump Street', but this still makes it a zany comedy with humour ranging from slapstick thought parody to the surreal. Well rated and very enjoyable.

Bad Neighbours
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Seth Rogen, Jake Johnson, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne
Released as 'Neighbors' outside the UK, this is a comedy about Mac Radner (Rogen), his wife Kelly (Byrne) and young baby and the disruption they face when a college fraternity led by Teddy (Efron) moves in next door. Initially relations between the neighbours are not too bad but increasingly the frat boys work to ruin their family life and the Radner's give as good as they get. The film is a bawdy comedy as the tit-for-tat acts of sabotage escalate to hilarious (and possibly offensive) effect. One of the better Frat house comedies.

Director: Amma Asante
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emily Watson. Sarah Gadon, Matthew Goode, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid
Inspired by a painting and set in England in the eighteenth century, Belle tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Mbatha-Raw), an illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral John Lindsay (Goode), She and her cousin are raised by Lord Mansfield (Wilkinson) and his wife (Watson) where both girls are groomed for marriage. Lord Mansfield comes to finds himself presiding over a slavery case whereas Belle becomes attracted to the aspiring lawyer John Davinier (Reid) who awakens her social conscience. The movie benefits from a very strong performance from Mbatha-Raw and it addresses issues of slavery and social inequality via the medium of a period romance. A fine, enjoyable and serious film.

Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Jonas Armstrong, Bill Paxton
In the near future aliens attack the earth and Major Cage (Cruise) is killed in battle. However he becomes enveloped in a time loop in which he repeatedly re-lives the combat and his death. However he learns more with each incarnation and increasingly becomes a more formidable solider. The film is based on the novel 'All you Need is Kill' by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and it is difficult to write a review that does not refer to 'Groundhog Day'. However the movie in not without moments of dark comedy that adds to the entertainment.

Director: Gareth Edwards
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche
Godzilla rises again with an excellent cast and plenty of special effects as cities are destroyed. Joe Brody (Cranston) is a physicist who investigates the events at a Japanese nuclear facility where Godzilla is accidentally released. It is his soldier son Ford (Taylor-johnson) who battles the beast as it stalks San Francisco. There is some excellent performances, especially from Cranston and the director tells the story from a human viewpoint. Indeed we don't get a good glimpse of the monster till the latter half of the film. A spectacular disaster movie and one of the best re-telling of the story of Godzilla.

Director: Robert Stromberg
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Angelina Jolie, Miranda Richardson, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley
In part a re-telling of the tale of sleeping beauty but from the point of view of the villain of the story, Maleficent (Jolie). Maleficent was driven to evil following an act of betrayal which cost her the ability to fly. She battles to save her shadowy forest kingdom and plots revenge by placing a curse on the infant Aurora (Fanning), daughter to the king. Aurora herself becomes caught in the conflict between forest and human kingdoms. This is a rather dark fantasy for a Disney film, but a great tale with powerful characters and impressive special effect.

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: Mike Flanagan
Certificate: 15
Cast includes Karen Gillan, Rory Cochrane, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff
A son (Thwaites) murders his parents and spends ten years in custody. On his release, he wants to put the past behind. However his sister Kaylie (Gillan) is convinced the key to their parents death lies in a malevolent antique mirror which used to hang in their parents home. She discovers the mirror has a sinister history and tracks it down with a view to studying it. However the mirror starts to work its evil again. The story of the family history with the mirror is told in flashbacks with action alternating between past and present. In this way the suspense builds well as the ghostly visions start to predominate giving an atmospheric horror movie.

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 it 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.

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage
The film starts in the year 2023 where a war has resulted in the near destruction of all mutants. Trask (Dinklage), leader of Trask Industries, had developed robot soldiers that can destroy mutants under the Sentinel Program. The mutants send Wolverine (Jackman) back to the year 1973 in order to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from killing Trask as it was this death that resulted in the creation of the Sentinel Program. This is a fine movie worthy of the X-Men franchise that will not disappoint.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Electoral registration system is changing this summer

The biggest shake-up to the electoral registration system in nearly 100 years will take place over the summer – and Lancaster City Council is urging everyone to take action when they receive a letter about the change.

All residents in the Lancaster district will receive a letter through the post telling them about the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (IER).

This will replace the old Victorian system where the “head of household” registered everyone living in a property. Now, each individual will be responsible for registering themselves.

Many residents will automatically move onto the new electoral register. However, some will need to take action to join or remain on it, which they will now also be able to do for the first time by registering quickly and easily online.

With both a General Election and local elections taking place next year, it’s vitally important that people take action and read the letter to ensure they remain on the electoral register.

Lancaster City Council’s chief executive, Mark Cullinan, said: “It is extremely important that people register to vote and, in doing so, ensure their voice is heard.

"Look out for the letter as it will tell you if you have been automatically transferred to the new register or not. If you have not been transferred, you will need to provide some additional information and the letter will tell you exactly what you need to do.”

• For more information visit  

Monday, 9 June 2014

Lancashire Sinfonietta closes its doors after 17 years after funding slashed

Orchestra image: Tim Cross (
Lancashire Sinfonietta, the county's only professional chamber orchestra, has announced the closure of the company after seventeen successful years of performance for the people of Lancashire.

The closure comes after Lancashire County Council - looking to save some £300 million form its budget as a result of government funding cuts slashed its funding by 80 per cent, a reduction of its grant to a point which means keeping the orchestra going is no longer sustainable.

Lancashire Sinfonietta was established by Lancashire County Council in 1996  to deliver great music to local communities in the county and has been funded largely by a grant from the County Council since. Many of the players were homegrown and recruited from national orchestras such as the HallĂ© orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Among the top international artists who have performed with the orchestra are Alfie Boe, Kathryn Stott, Aled Jones and Amanda Roocroft. The Sinfonietta also recorded CDs and pioneered highly acclaimed education programmes for families and young children which were performed in schools and childrens’ centres.

For many years a County Council managed operation, recently, at the County Council’s request, it was formed into a private company with charitable status. But upon the formation of the company in 2013 the County Council then announced an 80 per cent cut in grant with an expectation that the orchestra should find funding from other sources. The council gave £144,000 to the orchestra in 2012 but after it applied for £96,500 in 2013 it was given £28,591.

Given the short notice the new board of the orchestra found this to be impossible.

“This is a very sad time for the orchestra, its fine players and the many enthusiastic fans who have made up its audiences over the years," commented Malcolm Brown, the Chair of the orchestra. "In particular it will be a huge loss to the schools, families and children who are increasingly denied exposure to music by the erosion of government support for the arts."

Defending its decision to reduce the orchestra's funding, the County Council told the BBC it had "supported the orchestra for a long time" and worked with them "over an extended period" to help it establish itself as a private company.

"This allowed Sinfonietta to bid for funding from a range of bodies, including ourselves and the Arts Council, on an equal footing with other arts organisations," a spokesperson claimed.
"Had we been given more time by the County Council we might have been able to plan for other ways of funding the orchestra," counters Mr Brown. "As it is, we have no choice but to close the orchestra. 
"This will leave a big hole in the cultural and educational landscape of Lancashire.”

The orchestra, which is a member of the Association of British Orchestras has performed to critical acclaim and produced high quality recordings. It is particularly proud of its Sound Playground and Mini-Mozart programmes which it developed for families and under 5s with Arts Council support. As part of its legacy the Sinfonietta has enabled the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society to continue and sustain its Young Composer of the North West Competition.

Since its creation the orchestra has performed to thousands of people in libraries, churches, community centres and town halls and performed for the Queen on her visit to Preston and in front of Princess Alexandra at a Princes Trust gala. The orchestra was Orchestra in Residence at Lancaster University where they established a young composer of the North West competition which has proved to be hugely successful in launching young artists careers.

"Whilst we continue to support the arts, the County Council is facing unprecedented cuts from central government," said a Council spokesperson, "and has taken more than £200 million from its budget from 2011 to 2014 and has to save a further £300 million over the next four years."
• Lancashire Sinfionetta:

Lancaster City Council joins fight against Campylobacter for Food Safety Week

A quarter of a million people in the UK could be struck down by Campylobacter this year, three times the capacity of the London 2012 Olympic stadium.

The fight against Campylobacter will be at the centre of this year’s Food Safety Week (16-22 June), an annual campaign run by the Food Standard’s Agency in conjunction with local authorities.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. You can’t see it, smell it or even taste it on food, but if it affects you, you won’t forget it. At its worst, it can kill you.

The FSA is spearheading a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Farmers and producers will be asked to work harder to reduce the amount of bacteria on their raw poultry. Consumers will be able see the latest data and be the judges of any progress, or lack of progress, that they make.

Local authorities, all the major supermarkets and key partners will be working together to make sure people know how to stay safe. During Food Safety Week, officers from the Food Safety Team at Lancaster City Council will be visiting sheltered accommodation to provide advice to residents about how to avoid getting Campylobacter.

Councillor Karen Leytham, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, said:  “Campylobacter is a serious problem and it is important that the council plays its part in making sure that people know to handle and cook food safely for themselves and for their families. 

"We’re proud to be keeping people in the Lancaster district safe and well by being part of this campaign to spread the word – and not the germs.”

• For advice on handling poultry safely see  

Eric Morecambe Statue honoured by TripAdvisor

One of the UK’s most photographed statues has been honoured with a prestigious award from the world’s largest travel website.

The Eric Morecambe Statue in Morecambe has been awarded a 2014 Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor signifying that it has consistently earned outstanding feedback from TripAdvisor travellers.

The prestigious award is based on the quality of reviews and the opinions it has earned on the website over the past year.

Coun Ron Sands, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism, said:  “This is fantastic news for Morecambe and proof that no trip to the town is complete without seeing its larger-than-life Eric Morecambe statue.

"Thanks must go to all those involved in keeping the statue and the surrounding gardens in tip top condition for people to enjoy all year round."

It's another bonus for the North West from TripAdvisor: in May, Windermere was revealed as the UK town where visitors are most likely to find a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner.