Friday, 15 August 2014

Naming Gaza's Dead Vigil and Medical Aid Fundraiser

A fundraising night of live music will  be held on 6 September at the Gregson to raise money for Medical Aid for Palestinians. You can also donate online at

Over the last few Saturdays visitors to Lancaster's Market Square will have seen local residents maintaining a protest against the mass bombings by Israel of Palestinian civilians trapped under years of siege in Gaza. On the 6th of August over 100 people from the Lancaster area met for a “Naming Gaza’s Dead” vigil in Dalton Square as a way of recognising the human identities of the mounting numbers of people who have died in Gaza.

Israel is a state that has, until now, always been strongly supported and aided  by the UK, and particularly by arms manufacturers BAE Systems, whose Leyland operations have a sister plant in Rokar in Israel. Barclays Bank is a heavy investor in arms supplies to Israel and in other occupation businesses.

At present the bombing has been halted by a very fragile ceasefire due to last another 4 days. A previous ceasefire agreement failed after just 2 hours when an armed Israeli patrol crossed into Palestinian territory on an unspecified mission and was intercepted and escaped in an exchange of fire. Israel subsequently bombed the area where they had been found, killing a number of people, including a member of the patrol who had been left behind. This soldier turned out to be from a British family who had migrated to fight for Israel.

It is hoped, for the sake of the thousands of wounded innocent civilians in Gaza and for all the civilians of Gaza and Israel, and indeed for the sanity of the world that the current ceasefire will hold better. A number of organisations worldwide have called for an end to the siege and bombing of Gaza and for a peaceful 2-state solution to be negotiated, although there is much less profit to be made by companies such as BAE and Barclays from peace than there is from war.

The vigil was a way of both marking and protesting the awful toll of death that has recently occurred in Gaza.
Participants hoped to appeal to people’s hearts by holding up a series of white fabric rolls, over 100m in length, onto which had been written the names of almost 600 of the Palestinian dead. A graphic representation may bring home to us just how many people have died than the numbers alone. However this represents less than one third of the total number killed – of whom almost 400 were children. Organisers tell us that the rate of slaughter of Palestinians by Israeli bombing has been so efficiently high that no-one has been able to keep up with the naming of the dead.

Israel has lost 3 civilian casualties to Hamas rocket fire in the current round of hostilities, one of whom was killed in a mortar attack while delivering sweets to front line soldiers during their ground invasion. The others were a Thai migrant agricultural worker and an Arab Bedouin who were in undefended areas.

So great was the response by Lancastrians to the call to join the vigil that the line of people stretched all the way through Dalton Square and a second section stood in front of the Town Hall.

Participants voiced their desire to stand in solidarity with the ordinary people of Gaza; to honour and give voice to civilians who have died and to humanize the numbers that have been reported to be rising daily in the news. Comments included:

I am here today because I feel that we need to connect, we need to come together .. having a presence is sending a message. My worst fear is that the people of Gaza feel abandoned and alone … I wish them to know that we’re here for them today” said Gilma Andrade

“I am here to ensure that the names of people who’ve been killed are put into the public sphere, partly because this country is funding the military capacity of Israel. So I think it’s important that we know what that money is going to” said Richard Twine

The organisers are also collecting donations towards the ongoing medical needs of some 9,000 people injured by the bombs and missiles. Many will be in need of medical treatment for years to come – long after the media have moved on and we have forgotten this latest round of attacks.

They said "whilst it was heartening to see how much Lancaster people care, there must be a just and lasting settlement in this situation and it will ONLY come about by talking - otherwise it’s just a matter of time before we watch this particularly painful horror unfold on our screens again".

One onlooker told Virtual-Lancaster: 'Although I previously took up Israeli citizenship I returned home to the UK 18 years ago as I could not settle in a state that was violently embracing an apartheid system. It is quite obvious to me that the goal of the Netanyahu's Likud government was then and is now the incremental eradication of Palestine and its people and the final establishment of a one-state solution. However there are a great many Israelis who oppose this violence and who struggle, within a heavily militarised regime, for a just peace at great personal cost. They would be deeply glad to see this event, although their media would never report it.'

To watch a short film of the vigil visit
Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so via ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ through their website at and can feel absolutely confident that this is a verified, reliable and effective way to help people in genuine need.

A fundraiser gig, jointly organised by Lancaster Palestine Solidarity Campaign and local musicians will be held on Sept 6th at the Gregson Centre. The evening of live music will raise money for Medical Aid for Palestinians.

"Naming Gaza's Dead" was part of a series of vigils and protests organised by the Lancaster branch of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign: They urge more local people to join and act together to bring a lasting solution to this untenable situation.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Police appeal for help to trace missing 46 year old Morecambe man

Missing: Jonny Heap from Morecambe

Updated, 15th August - Jonny has been found. Item retained for reporting reference.

Morecambe Police are growing increasingly concerned about the welfare of a 46 year old man who has gone missing from his home address.

Jonny Heap was last seen by his wife at Walton Avenue, Torrisholme, at around 6am on Tuesday 12 August.

He made contact with his work colleagues to say he would not be in work that day and sent a text message to his wife. He has not made contact with family or friends since.

He is described as a white male, 5ft 6 tall of a medium build with dark brown hair. He is believed to be wearing a grey hooded top, possibly a pair of shorts and navy blue trainers. He has a distinctive Manchester United tattoo and the name ‘Mel’ on his upper arms.

Officers believe that he may have been in the Blackpool area yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 13 August).

Sergeant Ian McVety of Morecambe Police, said: “We are growing increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of Jonny and would urge anyone who may have seen him or who knows where he might be, to get in touch.

“Please contact the police on 101 quoting log number 0937 of 12th August.”

Lancaster University team probes how words like “woof” help children learn language

Photo: Cindy Cornett-Seigle (NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

Words in the English language are structured to help children learn according to research led by Lancaster University.

Words like “woof” accurately represent the sound of a dog while sounds with similar meanings may have a similar structure eg the “sl” sound at the beginning of a word often has negative properties as in “slime, slur, slum, slug”.

Other patterns where words which sound similar have similar meanings include “sniff snout snuffle snot sneeze”, “bump hump lump rump mump” and “gleam glint glisten gloaming”.

An international team led by Professor Padraic Monaghan from the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University provides a comprehensive analysis of sound meaning structure using statistical techniques from biology and genetics for the first time.

The research, published in the Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B,  shows that the structure of the vocabulary in English helps both children and adults.

“Sounds relate to meaning for the words that children first encounter, addressing a critical question about how language is structured to aid learning," the Professor says.

“However, the later adult vocabulary is arbitrary, consistent with computational models of efficient language production and accurate language comprehension.”

The debate about whether the sound of words contains information about meaning has continued for over 2,300 years.

This issue lies at the foundation of modern linguistics and psychology of language, which has been brought into stark relief by recent studies of sound symbolism where words actually sound like their meaning.

Sound symbolism has been suggested to be prevalent in language and necessary for language acquisition by children.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 13th to 21st August 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.

There are four new releases being screened during this period. We have family animation with The Unbeatables (U); a disaster movie with Into the Storm (12A); comedy/romance with What If (15) and finally the welcome return of a horror movie with Deliver Us from Evil (15).

We have lost the films Meet the Firm, Revenge in Rio and The House of Magic. Also it seems likely that the following movies will soon cease to be screened Step Up: All In, Earth to Echo, Postman Pat: the Movie, Hercules and The Purge: Anarchy. However to make up we see the return of Mr Peabody and Sherman, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return and X-Men Days of Future Past.

For high culture we have the following two films NT Encore: Skylight and Globe: The Tempest. Also of note is the coming of age movie God Help the Girl showing at the Dukes as this will be followed by a live set (via satellite) from the indie pop band Belle & Sebastian.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell
This movie is already proving a success at the US box office and has the makings of a summer blockbuster. The film is set a decade after 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'. Much of humanity has been wiped out following an outbreak of an artificial virus which killed humans yet increased the intelligence of apes. Human and ape live in a state of fragile peace and the film explores the conflict that arises when the humans try to start a hydroelectric dam that is located in the apes territory. The first part of the movie builds the characters of both humans and apes and later there are very impressive special effects as hostilities commence between the two sides. Both apes and humans have understandable motives and thus the film is much more than a simple war between right and wrong. An excellent movie.

Deliver us from Evil
Director: Scott Derrickson
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Eric Bana, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris, Edgar Ramirez, Joel McHale
Like so many horror films this claims to be based on genuine experiences. New York Police officer Ralph Sarchie (Bana) and partner Butler (McHale) investigate a series of domestic abuse crimes often involving children. They find a hard drinking priest Father Mendoza (Ramirez) is also investigating these incidents and Sarchie and the priest start to work together. In time Sarchie comes to accept there is a demonic element to the crimes and the film builds towards an attempted resolution by exorcism. The movie provides its share of frights but despite, some original ideas, it is a 'by the numbers' exorcism film with perhaps more drama than demonism.

Earth to Echo
Director: Dave Green
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Teo Halm, Ella Linnea Wahlestedt, Reese C. Hartwig, Jason Gray-Stanford
A construction project is destroying a neighbourhood when a group of friends start to receive strange signals on their phones. They search for the origin of the signals and discover an alien who has become trapped on earth. The film tells the story of the youngsters as they battle the government and help the alien return to his home. It is hard not to compare this film with 'E.T.' However the movie is really about the youthful friendships rather than an extra-terrestrial. A entertaining if rather average family film.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace
An action packed space adventure from Marvel. Adventurer Peter Quill (Pratt) steals a mysterious artifact which is wanted by the villain Ronan (Pace) who wishes to use it to destroy the planet of Xandar. This forces Quill into a truce with a group of misfits (including Rocket a talking raccoon and groot a walking tree) who find they must make a stand to determine the fate of the galaxy. This is a very 'busy' film with lots of spectacular action, plenty of great characters, great one liners and lots of jokes. The plot seemed a little convoluted, but just go with it and enjoy the action. The movie does not take itself very seriously and will be loved by teenagers and adults alike.

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.

The Expendables 3
Director: Patrick Hughes
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger
An attempt by the Expendables military team to apprehend an arms dealer goes wrong. The dealer proves to be Stonebanks (Gibson) who was a founder member of the Expendables who subsequently went rogue. In the light of this Barney Ross (Stallone) decided to recruit new members to his team to make it a match for the task of dealing with Stonebanks. This is the third installment in the Expendables franchise and it follows the established formula of a well known cast, wisecracks and violent set pieces. However this film does not break any new ground and in all felt a little tired.

The Nut Job
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl
Set in the 1950s, this animation follows the adventures of Surly the squirrel who, with his friend Buddy the rat, plan to steal from Maury's Nut shop. However the shop proves to be a front for gangsters who are planning to rob the nearby bank. This combination leads to action, car chases jokes and general mayhem. This is an inoffensive film that will amuse children but leave parents a little bored. An enjoyable romp, but not destined to be a cartoon classic.

The Purge: Anarchy
Director: James DeMonaco
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Kiele Sanchez, Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford, Michael K. Williams
A sequel to the 2013 hit movie. Every year a cathartic purge is sanctioned which is an orgy of crime and violence. The film follows the fortunes of five strangers who find themselves on the streets during the purge as they try to make their way to a place of safety. This film is more ambitious than the original (which was effectively just a home invasion) and moves at a faster pace. It contains sufficient violent set pieces to justify its film certificate and there is some attempt to develop the characters of our five potential victims. Despite being rather weak on narrative the movie is an effective and gripping drama.

What If
Director: Michael Dowse
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Megan Park, Adam Driver, Zoe Kazan, Daniel Radcliffe, Rafe Spall
Toronto medical school dropout Wallace (Radcliffe) strikes up a friendship with Chantry (Kazan), a woman he meets at a party. He has given up on love following failed relationships whereas she has a long term boyfriend (Spall) who for much of the film is away on a business trip. This leads to Wallace and Chantry spending increasing amounts of time together. Will they take the plunge and let their friendship mature into a relationship? This romantic comedy is reasonably entertaining with good dialogue and some slapstick humour.

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.

Milnthorpe comic artist Sean Phillips gets new Kendal art exhibition

A new exhibition of art by Milnthorpe-based comic artist Sean Phillips has just opened in a Kendal café, to help raise local awareness of this year's upcoming Lakes International Comic Art Festival (17th - 19th October).

Festival patron Sean is a regular at Baba Ganoush, drawn(!), we're told by their much-loved fishfinger sandwiches, and the exhibition includes the portrait of comedian Russell Brand, above. It's another great example of how the Festival has got local business involved in the three day comics event, that enthusiastic particaption even more in evidence when the Windows Trail launches.

Drawing comics professionally since the age of 15, Eisner Award winning Sean Phillips has worked for all the major publishers. Since drawing Sleeper, Hellblazer, Batman, X-Men, Marvel Zombies and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Sean has concentrated on creator-owned books including Criminal, Incognito, Seven Psychopaths and Void. He recently finished drawing Fatale and is now working on Fade Out, a new project with his collaborator Ed Brubaker that's part of a major five-year creator-owned project deal with the US publisher.

 “It’s great to be involved with any festival that is interested in promoting the vast range of comics out there," says Sean. "Comics is a medium, not a genre. It’s not just superheroes and The Beano, and this festival is a good chance to see that there are comics for everyone, no matter what their interests are. "Comics can be used to tell any type of story in any genre, and that should be celebrated.”

Sean will be appearing at the Lakes Festival alongside designer and artist Rian Hughes for an event titled "Divas and Fatales".

• Baba Ganoush is at Unit 4, Berrys Yard 27, Finkle Street, Kendal LA9 4AB. Web:

  • Check out Sean's web site at:

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Temporary closure of Lancaster car parks

A number of city council pay and display car parks in Lancaster are scheduled to be closed temporarily to allow for resurfacing works to take place.

The Auction Mart Car Park (access via Thurnham Street) will be closed from  Monday 1st September  and is due to be re-opened on Saturday 6th September .

Permit holders who use the Auction Mart Car Park can use Nelson Street and Moor Mills 1, 2, and 3 (off Bulk Street) during the closure.

Nelson Street Car Park will be closed from Wednesday 1st October  until Friday 3rd October.

• Information on alternative car parks can be found or by calling the parking team tel. 01524 582648

Monday, 11 August 2014

Police progress Lancaster rape investigation

Police are appealing for information after a teenager reported being raped by two men in Lancaster, but have cancelled their previous appeal after releasing CCTV of two men they wanted to talk to.

At around 10.40pm on Monday 4th August 2014 the 17 year old local girl was outside McDonalds, Cheapside when she met two men who offered to walk her home. They walked to Nelson Street car park when it is believed that one of the men grabbed her by the arm and pulled her on to the canal path at the rear of the car park where she was raped.

Officers previously released CCTV images of two men they were looking to speak to in connection with the incident and appealed for them, or anybody who knew them, to come forward.

Following that appeal, two men voluntarily attended Lancaster Police station and assisted with police enquiries.

DS Martin Foley of Lancaster Police said: “This young woman has suffered a distressing ordeal and we are continuing to support her whilst our investigation is on-going. If anyone has any other information that they think could help our investigation, I would ask them to get in contact with us.”

• Anybody with any information should contact police on 101 quoting log number LC-20140807-1511. Alternatively, information can be passed to Crimestoppers anonymously 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.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review of Polling Districts and Polling Places

Local voters are being asked to comment on future polling arrangements in the Lancaster City Council area.

The city council is reviewing its arrangements for voters on election day by reviewing polling districts and places.

It is looking for feedback on any aspect of polling districts and/or polling places currently used.

  • polling district is defined as the geographical area created by sub-dividing a constituency/ward.
  • polling place is defined as a designated area (this could be a designated building) for a polling district in which polling stations are located.
  • polling station is defined as the room in which polling takes place.
Please note: A Polling District review does not include a review of parish boundaries, or of the number of Councillors in any authority.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) completed a Boundary Review for Lancaster City Council wards and the new boundaries come in to effect in May 2015, when the next city council elections are to be held.

There are consequential amendments to some Parishes. The Review of Polling Districts and Polling Places will therefore take in to account these changes.

To see the maps showing new Ward boundaries please visit the LGBCE website  where the existing and new boundaries can be viewed.

Current polling districts can be found using the City Council's online mapping system.

Submissions can be made in writing to: Mr Mark Cullinan, Acting Returning Officer, c/o Elections Office, Town Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster LA1 1PJ or by email to

For more details on the review contact the City Council's elections team at

• The deadline for responding to the consultation is September 19th 2014 and final proposals will be considered by Council on 22nd October 2014

Please note: If you choose to comment, please let the City Council know if do not wish for your name and address to be made public