Friday, 4 July 2014

StoreyG2 takes on Freeman's Wood debacle as an artistic project

One of the many protest signs at Freeman's Wood

The Storey Gallery organisation has changed its name to StoreyG2, to reflect the fact that has not been running exhibitions in the Gallery at the Storey, which is also known as the Storey Gallery, since its funding from the Arts Council was cut in 2012.

StoreyG2 has now shifted its focus to concentrate on projects in public spaces. Its current project is called 'Landed (Freeman's Wood)', and is funded by Arts Council England, Lancaster City Council, and Lancashire County Council.

John Angus of Storey G2 tells us: "Over the past several decades, place-making has become a common pursuit of both urban planning and public art. This activity has generally focussed on improvement of design and access. We aim to extend this work by raising awareness of the ownership of land, and its effects on places and on people’s lives."

'Landed' will explore the issue of land-ownership and its significance for people and places. It is centred on a plot of land between the River Lune and Willow Lane in Lancaster, known as Freeman’s Wood, 'where the interests of the local community have collided with those of global capital.'  The project will run throughout this year, with artworks from commissioned artists Layla Curtis, Goldin and Senneby, and Sans Facon expected in early 2015. More artworks will be commissioned from local artists, we hear.  You can read more about the project here.

Freeman's Wood
Originally the area was a private landfill site for the Williamson linoleum factory on St George's Quay, during a period somewhere between the 1840s, when the factory was established, and 1930. Once the site was full, it was given a covering of earth and planted with trees to stabilise the ground. James Williamson died in 1930 and local legend has it that he had given the area over to the local community for recreational use prior to that. It has many mature trees now. The wood has been used by local people for walking and recreation for generations and they have regarded it as common land, but ugly, high, steel fencing was installed around it in 2012, resulting in trapped deer, public unrest and reports in the local press.

At that time tree felling took place to erect the fence and within the site in open breach of the Council's Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).  The developers' appeal against the TPOs was not upheld (see previous news: Freeman's Wood - TPO upheld at Appeal Hearing).

Global links
The land is owned by property investment company The Property Trust in association with their partners, development consultants Satnam. The Property Trust Group is headed by PT Holdings Ltd, a company registered in Bermuda with a huge number of subsidiaries worldwide. The director of the UK development company for the site is Punjab-born Kuldip Singh Dhillon, a polo-playing friend of Prince Charles, (who affectionately knows him as 'Sooty'.)  His son Satnam plays polo with Prince Harry. This patch of land has direct links to global economic, political, and social networks.

Land Ownership
Land ownership is a hidden area of UK social and economic structure. It is a primary source of money, power, and influence. In the UK just 0.6 per cent of the British people own 69 per cent of the land. When it comes to land ownership, Britain today is a more unequal country than Brazil - in Europe only Spain has a more unequal distribution of land ownership than the UK, a legacy of the fascist Franco regime.

John explains: "The project will focus on this particular plot of land as an illustrative example through which the abstract topic of land ownership can be addressed. Storey Gallery / Storey G2 is commissioning artists to lead an investigation of this plot, to research and explore land-ownership and its social effects, and to produce art works which communicate and stimulate thought about these issues.

"We will collect local people’s stories of the past, and their wishes for the future. We will seek out people who have used this land – the dog walkers, footballers, cyclists, den-builders, nature watchers, etc. We have already received interest from local residents, artists, and community groups. We also plan to reach a global audience via the internet."

You can find out more about the project at

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Local Community Radio project granted broadcasting license

Following a decision earlier this week by the Ofcom Licencing Board, Proper Community Media (Lancaster) Ltd are pleased to announce that they have been granted a 5 year FM radio broadcast licence which will see the return of community radio to the district.

Beyond Radio has been streaming internet radio at since Diversity FM ceased broadcasting in 2012 and aims to build on the success of Diversity FM. Since then, former employees of Diversity FM, Duncan Moore and Chris Brookbanks, together with former board members of another North West community radio station have been working to bring back the community resource to the Lancaster & Morecambe area.

Speaking about the licence award Duncan said, “We are ecstatic at the prospect of community radio being accessible once again to the people of the district. It’s been a long process and a lot of hard work but the feedback from Ofcom was very good, they saw some great community value in our proposal and our track record with Diversity FM stood us in very good stead.” 

One of the aspects Ofcom commented on was the obvious community backing for the project which was demonstrated by the numerous letters and e-mails received in support of the application.

Duncan said, “The support we received from local people and organisations has been crucial to the success of the application and we can’t thank our supporters enough. Not only those who took time to write but those local musicians, writers, poets and performers who gave their time and the audiences who attended our events to help us fundraise for the application fee, it was a real community effort.”

Beyond Radio, whilst administered by not for profit group Proper Community Media (Lancaster) Ltd, will be a real community project run entirely on a voluntary basis. There will be no employees and no shareholders; all funds raised will go directly to run the station and benefit those it engages with.

The whole idea of Beyond Radio is to be more than just a radio station.” Duncan said.  “In very much the same way that Diversity FM engaged with people in order to give them new skills and experiences, increase self-esteem and helped many into improved employment opportunities, that’s the ambition for Beyond Radio, to go beyond the norm for a radio station. 

"Yes, we’ll have a great mix of music and spoken word content directly relevant to our local listeners, but we’ll also be working directly with people and organisations from all over our district with the aim of improving our community and the life chances of individuals. Soon we’ll be recruiting volunteers for on air and support roles to help us achieve these aims.”

Beyond Radio is keen to partner with other community groups and organisations, where there is an obvious community benefit in partnership working and where the station can act as a new route for delivering information and advice quickly.

A launch date hasn’t as yet been announced as there is still much work to do in preparation. However, the station is broadcasting over the internet already and listeners can tune in by going to You can also join in the conversation on the Beyond Radio facebook page.

The station does need to raise funds in order to fully launch, but the financial model agreed by Ofcom is achievable. It is hoped that public support through small scale regular donations, crowdfunding, performance event revenue and grant income, together with advertising and sponsorship deals, will bring Beyond Radio to air in a few months time. Anyone wishing to support the station through its Team 2OO monthly donation scheme or any  business or organisation interested in sponsoring the station should contact

Over 5,000 objections to Cuadrilla's fracking site application. Cuadrilla applies for second test site

Roseacre residents express their views on fracking

Over 5,000 objections have been lodged with Lancashire County Council against Cuadrilla's application to drill at a proposed site on agricultural land at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton in Fylde, about 20 miles south of Lancaster.  You can read more about these proposals in our previous story here.

How to object
Updated 4/7/14. The County Council has just announced that the closing date for objections at Preston New Road is extended until 19 September 2014. You can lodge your own objections online on the Council's website at LCC/2014/0096 or very quickly sign a pre-filled objection (which you can also edit) at the Friends of the Earth website (click here).

Cuadrilla's equally important Environment Agency radioactivity licensing permit applications remain open to objections until 5 August and you have your say on that by clicking here. These are in addition to its applications to the County Council and are for licensing for its use of highly toxic chemicals where there is a risk of pollution to groundwater (as they did at Preesall), and managing its toxic waste.

A national government public consultation on Underground Drilling Access rights - ie the right to drill under private property without the landowner's consent closes on 15 August. Click here to view it and have your say.

New Applications for Roseacre Woods
Cuadrilla's application for a similar test drilling site at Roseacre Wood, about 5 miles from Little Plumpton has now been made public and can be viewed on the County Council website, where you can also submit your views (click here). The closing date is 19 September 2014. You can also very quickly sign a pre-filled objection (which you can also edit) at the Friends of the Earth website (click here).

The Roseacre Awareness Group ( is just one of the dozens of anti-fracking groups that have formed throughout the region to raise awareness in local communities about the plans and enable local people to have their say. But is anyone listening?

New underground drilling legislation
Opposition to the fracking plans is widespread, but the Coalition Government is committed to supporting this extreme energy industry at any cost. It has rushed through a new Infrastructure Act with a clause to enable fracking companies to drill under private land and homes without the owners' consent.  Cuadrilla threatened to pull out unless this privilege was granted. Cuadrilla chairman Lord John Brown is the Coalition Cabinet's Chief Energy Advisor, from which position he enjoys a great deal more influence than Lancashire residents in the 'desolate north'.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, told the Times that the requirement to seek landowner’s permission was ‘ridiculous’.  You can respond via the government's consultation (click here).

Cuadrilla's application is backed by an 'Environmental Impact Assessment' by 'independent' consultants Arup Associates, whose website pitch tells us that they 'take sustainability beyond green'. It's possible that their landscape preferences are influenced by their time spent collaborating on major construction projects in oil-rich Middle Eastern desert states.

Arup numbers among its prestigious projects the King Abdullah Sports City in Saudi Arabia and the Doha City Stadium in Qatar. Another major client is Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.  His newspaper The Sun has been a strong supporter of fracking as has its US counterpart, the New York Times.

Arup conclude that the natural, rural character of the Fylde area and its communities can be maintained throughout the proposed activities of the shale gas extraction industry in the area. This would be a unique achievement in the global history of an industry that has left behind it a well-documented trail of toxic pollution, seismic instability, birth defects, lung damage, chronic sickness, ghost towns, unsustainable toxic waste storage solutions, unrealised return projections, state corruption and cover-ups and bankrupt cleanup provision dumped at the doorsteps of traumatised communities.

Widespread opposition
Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner told the Lancashire Evening Post that: “People in Lancashire and across the UK are sending a clear message that Cuadrilla’s fracking plans are strongly opposed on environmental and community impact grounds.  

"The applications to frack multiple wells in the Fylde are of national interest as the area is nationally important for food production and wildlife protection, and what happens here will affect the future of the fracking industry across the country.”

What do our local parliamentary candidates say?
Local MP Eric Ollerenshaw has told Virtual Lancaster that he supports the development of the shale gas and oil extraction industries in the North and believes it can be adequately regulated to prevent harm to local communities and their land, water, air and transport infrastructure. This is despite a series of licensing breaches by Cuadrilla which do not appear to be acknowledged in any of their applications and which have not met with any sanction. He also told us about the Underground Drilling Access public consultation, which is helpful as no-one else has mentioned it to us.

Labour parliamentary candidate Cat Smith told VL "As with any planning application the wishes of the local community should be taken into account. Personally I have yet to be convinced by the case for fracking, on economic or environmental grounds. I know many local people are concerned about contamination of the water table, earth tremors and our over reliance on fossil fuels which are all valid concerns and ones which we need honest answers to."

Green party candidate Gina Dowding has clearly stated her opposition to fossil fuel extraction. In May the Green party published a new report on the region’s renewable energy capacity and its potential for the region's future – “Energy in the North West - Bringing about a low-carbon, affordable energy future”.  The report sets out the region’s potential to be a leader in green energy, creating thousands of much-needed jobs.

Labour candidate seeks to abolish letting fees

Cat Smith, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, has backed Labour plans for a better deal for those renting their homes privately.

In an Opposition Day debate in the House of Commons forced by Labour in June, Labour called on the Government to stand up for 'generation rent' by backing Labour’s reform plans in a vote in Parliament. However it was always a long shot to expect a government of millionaires to empathise with the plight of less pampered tenants.

Ms Smith promised that "the next Labour government will act to ban letting agents’ fees for tenants, and will legislate to make three year tenancies with predictable rents the standard in the private rented sector to give people who rent the certainty they need."

Letting fees from local property letting agencies can cost a prospective tenant in the region of £300 before they can obtain a contract, in addition to deposits. Competing applicants for rental properties must pay heavy fees for credit checks, which even when they are passed, may not result in a contract.

It's a very costly and stressful gamble, when tenants also face moving expenses and the threat of homelessness. It means that the greater a household's need, the more heavily they are exposed to risk from predatory commercial practices.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Council services affected by as unions get set to protest at cuts and 'poverty pay' on 10th July

A number of public sector unions nationally have elected to take strike action on Thursday 10th July, expected to be the largest day of strike action for two years, in a protest against austerity measures and low pay rises for public sector workers.

Teachers, civil servants, firefighters (who announced their strike decision earlier today) - members of the NUT, PCS, Unison, Unite and the GMB are among those set to take part in the mass strike, the largest co-ordinated action since the collapse of the pension’s dispute two years ago.

Local government employees, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, voted overwhelmingly on Monday against the government's ‘insulting’ one per cent pay offer and the union's local government staff will now join up to two million council workers and teaching staff in taking strike action

Unite’s members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland voted by 68 per cent to take strike action and by 79 per cent to take industrial action short of a strike after enduring four years of cuts in real terms.

There will be an impact on all of Lancaster City Council services, including:

• Waste and recycling collections
There will be a reduced capacity to collect waste and recycling. Householders should leave their bins and boxes out for collection as normal and they will be collected if possible.
If bins/boxes have not been collected by the end of the day please take them back in and they will be collected on Thursday July 24 along with any additional side waste.
Other environmental services such as street cleansing will also not be in operation.

• Customer Services
All three Customer Service Centres at Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls and Council Housing Reception in Cable Street will be closed.
Customer service telephone lines will be open, but a reduced service is likely to be in operation. Depending on the nature of the enquiry there may be a delay in providing a response. If you experience difficulties contacting the council, and your call is not urgent, please wait until the following day

• Council Venues
It is anticipated, although it cannot be guaranteed, that Williamson Park, Salt Ayre Sports Centre, Happy Mount Park, the Visitor Information Centres and The Storey will be open as usual.

“Our members have endured four years of pay cuts in real terms and they have now voted overwhelmingly to strike on 10 July to drive home the message to ministers that ‘poverty pay’ in local government must end," said Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said:  of the action.

“The depth of feeling on the pay issue is reinforced by the fact that local government unions, GMB and Unison, and members of the National Union of Teachers are all taking action on 10 July.

“Poverty pay is widespread across local councils – household bills continue to soar, but our members’ buying power is constantly being eroded. The national minimum wage will soon overtake local government pay scales; members are choosing between heating and eating.

“For too long the council workers have been targeted to bear the brunt of the austerity measures that have been imposed by millionaire cabinet ministers since 2010.

“The aim is to get the employers back around the table to negotiate a fair deal for those who deliver vital local government services, from social care to refuse collection, on a daily basis.”

Unite is seeking a £1-an-hour increase in pay for the local council workforce which has 400,000 employees earning below £15,000 a year and a million earning less than £21,000. Unite did not ballot its members in Scotland where the devolved administration has agreed to pay the ‘living wage’ to all council staff, currently £7.65 an hour and £8.80 in London.

Across the country, Unite has about 70,000 members in local government carrying out such jobs as refuse collection, street cleaning, maintenance of council property, traffic enforcement, school support and care services, and grave digging.

UNISON leader Dave Prentis admitted that taking strike action is "not easy for members or the union" but added: "UNISON members - along with GMB and Unite - have decided that 'enough is enough' and that strike action is necessary to make the employers see sense."

• For up-to-date information about affected services please or call 01524 582491. Arrangements are in place to ensure emergency services are maintained.

Local Cinema Round-Up for 2nd to 10th July 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 have two new releases during this period; the comedy Tammy (15) and science fiction with the fourth installment in the transformers franchise Transformers: Age of Extinction (12A).

We have lost the film 3 Days to Kill and it is likely this week will be the last chance to catch X-Men: Days of Future Past. However we see the return of Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return and The Other Woman.

High culture is represented by the opera Don Giovanni. Also there is a showing of Polanski's classic Venus in Fur.


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.

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: 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.

Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
Director: Ben Kellett
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Brendan O'Carroll
Agnes Brown (O'Carroll) is a market trader who finds her livelihood under threat from a property developer. Supported by her family she embarks on a crusade to save her stall. This is a movie adaption of the well known and much loved BBC comedy and the film was extremely successful in its opening weekend. This is a very capable comedy that captures the spirit of the TV series.

Director: Ben Falcone
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd
In one awful day Tammy (McCarthy) has been fired from her job, crashed her car and discovered her husbands fondness for a neighbour. She needs to escape and thus joins her grandmother Pearl (Sarandon) in a trip to see the Niagara Falls. McCarthy plays the working class slob Tammy to perfection and her grandmother lusts after men and drink. Hence the film is a road movie with all the ingredients of a first class comedy. However the elements do not quite come together and the film does not achieve its full potential.

The Fault in our Stars
Director: Josh Boone
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Nat Wolff, Mike Birbiglia, Willem Dafoe
A romance between Hazel (Woodley) and Gus (Elgort), teenagers who have just months to live when they meet at a cancer support group. The movie is based on the best selling novel by John Green and it is predominantly aimed at a young adult audience. With an excellent dialogue the film is a very moving love story that could easily leave you in tears.

The Other Woman
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Upton
Carley (Diaz) discovers that her boyfriend Mark (Coster-Waldau) is in fact married. She accidentally meets his wife they become friends, subsequently discovering Mark is also undertaking a third affair with Amber (Upton). The three women plot their revenge. This is a rather lightweight comedy, and a little light on laughs. Mildly amusing.

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, 1 July 2014

Review: Haffner Orchestra

Haffner Orchestra
Saturday, 28 June 2014
in Ashton Hall, Lancaster

Reviewed by Henry Prince

Natalia Luis-Bassa
It was much-loved Natalia’s final appearance as principal conductor and Musical Director of the Haffner. The decade-long vast improvement in the orchestra’s collective musicianship and skills has been widely linked directly to her decade-long association with this group. In the opinion of this patron of the orchestra, there can be little doubt that her infectious enthusiasm has played its part in what has clearly been an amazing line of progress in recent years. As was said in public tribute at the close of Saturday’s concert, the orchestra had hoped to be lucky enough to retain Ms Luis-Bassa’s services for five years and had in fact been doubly fortunate to keep her for twice that long.

What a great way to go! Berlioz, Mozart and especially Brahms, whose second symphony received pride of place as the final work of the evening. Rich with frequently changing tempi and dynamics, the Brahms gave every opportunity for the orchestra to show off how much it has developed under Ms Luis-Bassa’s baton since 2004. It was clear that the players felt secure and in good hands and the performance was pretty much as perfect as could ever be hoped for by a bunch of part-time musicians. I thought the whole piece was played magnificently!

I particularly enjoyed the horns and woodwinds at the outset of the first movement and the theme for cellos and violas shortly thereafter. I also loved the woodwinds with pizzicato cello accompaniment at the beginning of the third movement. The last movement was appropriately ‘con spirito’ but controlled throughout.

The programme began with Berlioz’s King Lear Overture. The challenging unison opening was tricky to settle into but once this was behind them, the orchestra produced some truly delightful and relaxed rubato playing with minimal but effective direction from the stick. Certainly a daring choice to start an amateur orchestral concert but successful nonetheless with the ensemble building and carrying forward the confidence it would need for the programme to follow.

Marianne Thorsen’s rendition of Mozart’s second violin concerto was splendid and the audience got the opportunity to hear a good Stradivarius played exceptionally well. (The soloist told the pre-concert talk gathering that some of these old Cremonese instruments do not in fact live up to their billings.) Unfortunately, the performance of the Mozart was somewhat spoiled, for me, by the overabundance of lower strings. Somehow I don’t think an army of four double basses and six or seven cellos was quite what the composer had in mind when he scored this nimble chamber work.

Marianne Thorsen
Two of the concerto cadenzas deserve special note. The one in the second movement stood out as quite remarkable for its delicacy and spell-binding pianissimo—capturing 100% of the audience’s attention: a packed house so quiet that it was difficult to believe that so many human beings could be so silent all at once.

The other cadenza of special note came at the end of the first movement. Why was it so special? Because it coincided with the quiet chiming of 8 pm by the Town Hall clock situated directly above the concert hall. The pitch of the chime was exactly the dominant of the movement’s key and gave the impression of a sympathetically resonating harmonic on an open string elsewhere in the orchestra. A very curious occurrence that would have been a disaster had the chime sounded at any other pitch!

Farewell, Natalia!
No announcement of a replacement Musical Director has yet been published. Hopefully, the orchestra will be able to engage someone with the potential to be equally as effective as Natalia has been. Might someone with a local connection to Lancaster be available and willing to take on the role?

H. Prince

Orchestra’s website:
Artist’s website:

Concert Programme:
Berlioz: Overture King Lear
Mozart: Violin Concerto No.4
Brahms: Symphony No.2

Tickets were priced:  Adults £13, Concessions £12, 18 and under free

Next Haffner concert: Saturday, 15 November 2014, Great Hall, Lancaster University