Friday, 6 February 2015

"Landed", a study of Freeman's Wood, is new Storey G2 project

A renewed Lancaster arts organisation has just launched a new project focusing on a much-loved woodland that has caused plenty of discussion here on virtual-lancaster in the past - Freeman's Wood.

The Lancaster arts organisation previously known as Storey Gallery, has moved out of the Storey building and is no longer organising exhibitions, but has shifted its focus to projects in public spaces. To reflect this change in activity, they have changed their name to “StoreyG2”.

The organisation is currently running a project entitled “Landed (Freeman’s Wood)” in which they are researching landownership and its effects on people’s lives, and the money, power, and influence associated with it.

This project is centred on a plot of land on the edge of Lancaster known as Freeman’s Wood, which is at the end of St George’s Quay, adjacent to the site of the old Williamson’s factory. It has been used by local people for decades, and treated as common ground. But in 2012, as we reported then on virtual-lancaster, the installation of fencing around the perimeter in 2012 by its owners created huge public anger. Local residents submitted applications for the site to become a Town Green, and for the designation of public footpaths to run across it. Lancaster City Council imposed a tree preservation order but sadly, trees were still felled.

The land is owned by the Bermuda-based Property Trust Group, who in association with their partners, development consultants Satnam, openly breached the Council's Tree Preservation Orders (see: Freeman's Wood - TPO upheld at Appeal Hearing).

Bulldozed landfill and trees. Photo: March 2012

Virtual-Lancaster published photographs taken in March 2012 depicting clear evidence of extensive tree felling and damage to the site and the surrounding paths. A deliberate breach of a TPO can incur a fine of up to £20,000 if a Magistrates Court convicts.

Workman felling trees on the site
Photo: March 2012
The Property Trust Group's directors are thought to be from Hong Kong and the director of its property development company is a polo-playing friend of Prince Charles, originally from the Punjab.

Now, StoreyG2 has commissioned several artists to explore the issue of landownership through a focus on this site, revealing how a much-loved patch of land in Lancaster has direct links to global economic, political, and social networks. The artists are experienced in working with themes of mapping, place-making, and economic structures and have been asked to create artworks suitable for display on the internet, so that they can have a wide distribution and stimulate discussion.

"Over the past few months we have been talking to local people who have used this land – dog walkers, footballers, cyclists, den-builders, nature watchers, etc. – about their memories of the site and their wishes for its future," says a spokesperson for StoreyG2. "These conversations have fed into the artists’ work.

The commissioned artists have been working during 2014, and are now nearing completion of their artworks. Layla Curtis is developing an app which features conversations about the site; Sans Facon are creating a board game about landownership; and Goldin and Senneby are working with a playwright to produce a script.

• StoreyG2 will be presenting the artworks in the next few months, both on-line and ‘live’. Further details about the project can be found on the website:

Kendal's Comics Festival gets new funding, local creators to be involved

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival mascot outside Kendal's historic Clock Tower

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival - a popular event with Lancaster-based comic creators such as artists Sean PhillipsJack Knight and Paul Harrison-Davies, Captain America writer Andy Diggle and audio comics editor John Freeman - has just received a welcome cash boost from Kendal Town Council that will help it secure further funding for this year’s weekend-long event in October (16th-18th October 2015) and its impressive array of outreach projects.

Existing and potential new volunteers for the Festival have been invited to a relaxed and friendly meeting on Tuesday 24th March in Kendal, where organisers will review the 2014 Festival, share the 2015 line-up and discuss volunteering opportunities.

The Council voted to allocate a further £2,500 of funding to the town’s annual Comic Art Festival earlier this week – increased funding that means the event will also continue to receive help from the British Arts Council to develop internationally.

The increase will be a one-off payment for this year’s Festival, whose line-up has yet to be announced but we’re told includes a similar line-up of both British and international guests as over the past two years. There are some great names in the still-secret line-up but the first will be announced next month.

Numerous outreach projects are in the works including a longform graphic novel, partner events with organisations both home and abroad, and a partnership with Lancaster Library for a special comics day in June.

The Festival’s patrons are COSTA Award-winning authors Bryan and Mary Talbot, locally-based comics artist Sean Phillips and artist Emma Vieceli.

• The volunteers event on Tuesday 24th March will take place at 7.00pm in The Warehouse Café at The Brewery, Kendal. If you’d like to come or are interested in volunteering email

• Check out the Festival’s official web site at or follow them on Twitter @comicartfest and Facebook

• Booking for spaces in Kendal’s Comics Clock Tower venue for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival (16th – 18th October 2015) closes on 27th February 2015. Full details here

Thursday, 5 February 2015

It's National Voter Registration Day - Are You Registered to Vote?

A quick reminder that today, Thursday 5th February 2015 marks the United Kingdom’s second annual National Voter Registration Day.

Bite the Ballot – in partnership with a host of NVRD 2015 Partners – is co-ordinating a week of action, building up to a national day of celebration on 5th February. The aim is simple: to engage and inspire as many eligible citizens as possible register to vote ahead of the 2015 General Election.

There are fewer than 100 days until voters go to the polls to elect two Members of Parliament: one for the Morecambe & Lunesdale constituency and one for the Lancaster & Fleetwood constituency, and several organisations are backing this Registration Day, including Lancaster City Council.

Local elections for Lancaster City Council and Parish Councils and Town Councils are also taking place on Election Day.

As we reported earlier this week, changes to voter registration rules mean the majority of Lancaster students – living both on and off campus – are not on the Electoral Register. subtext, a Lancaster University-based ezine for students and academics, recently reported that the current voter registration rate on campus sat somewhere in the region of just 22 out of 7000 students.

The electoral reforms have hit constituencies up and down the country, but student towns and cities are particularly badly affected. Others set to miss out are private tenants and recent immigrants. (Only 56% of the 2.4m EU citizens eligible to vote in the European Parliamentary and local elections in the UK are registered to vote in the UK).

On campus, the Lancaster University Student's Union are working alongside the Bite the Ballot campaign, aiming to highlight the importance of students being on the register to vote and will involve finding out the issues that they, on their campuses and in their communities, care about. (Read more here)

Registration drives are taking place in hundreds of university and Further Education college students’ unions (in partnership with the National Union of Students) and registration activities are taking place in workplaces across the UK (in partnership with trade unions and the Trade Union Congress).

Nationally, the Government has provided funding to help the push to encourage registration, working with organisations working with the most under-represented groups, including students and black and minority ethnic communities.

The Bite the Ballot campaign is also getting support from both local and national media.

Individual Voter Registration means that each person eligible to vote can now register their vote as an individually. The Individual electoral registration (IER) is the new system, introduced in June 2014, and replaces the old one in which the head of the household was responsible for registering everyone else who lived at the address. notes that it seems as though 5.5 million electors were not automatically transferred to the new registers across the UK. This is 13% of existing electors not matched. The Electoral Commission say that the combined figure for those who could not be matched and those not on the registers at all is 7.5 million people.

• Anyone not registered can do so at

• On social media, the hashtag #RegisterToVote used as a promoted trend on Twitter and this weekend will see a number of Join The Vote community-led campaigns (in partnership with 38 Degrees) to encourage registration.

• You can track NVRD 2015 on Twitter by following @BiteTheBallot

• For full details of the campaign, visit

Lancaster's new Shop Local Discount Card 2-for-1 offer ends Friday

A new loyalty card scheme is being developed locally  The card is called 'Independent Lancaster' and it's based on a similar scheme currently popular in Liverpool. Its aim is to promote and encourage local trade by offering a variety of discounts at independent businesses in the local area.

Since local graphic designer and illustrator Jack Knight set about launching the card in the New Year, he tells us that he's had a very positive response. 28 retailers have signed up to the scheme so far and are offering a range of promotions to card holders from 5% off up to 25% off, and new retailers are being added.

There are cafes, bars & restaurants, fashion outlets, shops, services, quality produce, furniture, carpets, you name it and all offering discounts (See the list below).  Each business decides what they want their offer to be and these are promoted on the Independent Lancaster website at, on the Independent Lancaster facebook page and on twitter.

Jack Knight 
Jack is a member of the Lancaster Ethical Small Traders Association. He told us, "I genuinely feel passionate about supporting local businesses and I thought, rather than sit around moaning about the fact the high street is dying, I ought to get up and try and fight for it."

Pre-order this week and get one free
Jack is hoping that local people will pre-order the card to generate enough seed capital to launch it. Pre-ordering a the discount card costs £10. To encourage orders he's been offering a buy one get one free deal until this Friday 6 February.  (He told me this by email over two weeks ago and, to my shame and due to a family illness, I've only just got around to passing it on.)  It only takes a couple of minutes to pre-order. Here's 4 reasons why you might consider it:

The local trade dividend
  1. When you buy goods from chainstores and supermarkets that aren't locally based, the net profit they generate from your trade goes straight out of the area. When you buy from local traders, the profit remains in the local economy to be spent again, creating more profit and jobs locally, and so on, which means we all get added value to the local economy. If everyone changed just one more purchase a week from a chain to a local trader the local economy could be boosted by 100s of £1000s a year.
  2. Local traders are themselves more likely to stock locally produced goods, which again supports local business and jobs.
  3. Local traders compete with chainstores by offering unique goods and services, a reliable standard of quality and service and knowledgeable customer care.
  4. Unlike many chainstores, local traders pay their taxes, which contribute to public services; a trade dividend that everyone benefits from. 
Current List of Traders
Latest list can be found at
Retailers, cafes, restaurants and other local businesses signed up so far and their current offers include:

*NEW* Atkinsons – Buy one cappuccino/latte get one free
*NEW* Elle Jones Photography – First photo shoot £10
*NEW* Go Burrito - Free small "Go Nachos" with any med' or large burrito
*NEW* Hoover Shop, The – 10% off
Ahoy - 15% off
Borough, The - 10% off School Dinners menu Mon-Thur
Carpetman - 5% off
Exchange Dress and Vintage Agency, The   – 5% off
Filberts Bakery -10% off
Fruits of the Lune - 10% off jewellery until 14th Feb
Hadashi Senshi Do School of Karate - 10% discount off for 1st 2 months, free uniform for children (20% off adults) & 2 weeks free introductory classes.
Kitchen Corner - 10% off
Lancaster Bed Company - 10% off
Mariyana's - 10% off*
Moghuls - 10% off*
Music Spot, The – 10% off
Novel Café, The – 10% off over £5
Radio Shack - 5% off over £10
Robinsons Electric 10% off
Rockpopshop 10% off
Shelleys - 10% off
Simply Flowers - 10% off
Slip Inn Lane Emporium -10% off
Soupanova Soups - 10% off over £5
Study Room, The – 25% off*
Studio Arts - 10% off*
Vanity – 20% off*

You can find out more about these local discounts and offers at

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Cuts and reforms to your Care Services from April

People in Lancashire are being encouraged to find out how how they will be affected by changes to the national care and support reforms that come in on 1 April.

The Care Act will see the most significant reforms in adult social care for more than 60 years.
In an attempt to escape the pitfalls of postcode lottery systems, for the first time, there will be a new national eligibility test that all councils will have to use when they assess what help they can give people who may need care and support.

As a result, wherever you live in England, or move to within the country, if you meet the national benchmark, you will be entitled to support. In addition, it may be possible to defer care costs, which will be capped at £72,000 (read on). So far so good.

Budget cuts consultation
Unfortunately, in parallel with this change, Lancashire County Council (LCC) is having to implement a £177m cut to the budget from 2015 - 2018. LCC is running a consultation on cuts to adult social care and you can have your say online at

The consultation lasts until 31 March 2015. The changes are due to take effect from the following morning, 1 April 2015.

LCC's online consultation states:

"From 2015 until 2018 government funding for local authorities will decrease again, and we face the huge challenge of reducing our costs by a further £177m on top of the £134m of savings we've already made,.... we have to make savings of between £45m and £80m each year for the next three years.

"These reductions will apply to the total amount of money available, not individual budgets.We propose to:
• reduce the physical disability service budget by 20%;
• reduce the learning disability service budget by 15%; and
• reduce the older people service budget by 7%.

"People assessed for social care services after April 2015 will receive less support from us than at the present time. People already using our services will be reassessed before the end of March 2016 to see if and how their support arrangements might need to change. 

"For many people this will lead to a reduction in their personal budget, but it will depend on the outcome of the reassessment. When planning your support, we will consider both county council funded and non-funded services to meet your needs, and we will not jeopardise anyone's safety or leave anyone at risk."

Changes for Carers
The Care Act will also put carers on the same footing as the people they care for, by giving them the right to their own assessment and support from their local council. Carers will also be entitled to an assessment even if the person they care for does not get any help from the council, or the person being cared for does not want their own assessment.

Respite Care 'Yellow' Voucher Scheme to be replaced
In Lancashire Carers have already been receiving Carer Assessments for some years. Depending on need, Carers may be allocated a number of LCC 'yellow' short break vouchers each year which can be used to contribute  toward a proportion of the cost of residential, day or home respite care, to give them a break.  These are usually sent out as an annual allocation in April, at the start of the financial year, and Carers reapply around now.

LCC has sent out a consultation letter to Carers which anyone can also complete anonymously on the County Council's online consultation. This explains that the voucher scheme is being stopped, with three new schemes being introduced to replace it (more about these below).

Find out if you are eligible for help from AprilThe Council tell us that people who already receive care and support from the county council do not need to do anything. Their services will be reviewed in the normal way.

If you used short break services between April 2014 and March 2015, from 1 April 2015 you will receive a sum of money (the council's website tells us) for the year for you to spend on short break services. This will continue until a carer's assessment of your needs is done in summer 2015. If you did not use any of the short break services in 2014/15 then you will be asked to have a carer's assessment before any money can be allocated. This can be arranged by telephoning the Customer Access Centre on 0300 123 6720.

Three New Schemes
The three new methods of allocating respite support to Carers will be: Direct Payment, Planned Episodes of Care, or Rolling Respite. These are explained more opaquely in the consultation questionnaire. It's not clear from the consultation how these will be implemented or how long they will take to get into their stride. It currently takes about two months to arrange a social work assessment and another two before you hear back from it. Any services recommended then will need to complete their own assessments before they can start.

In Lancashire there are more than 100,000 carers, many of whom could be eligible for this help.

Peace of Mind 4 Carers scheme
Other help available includes the Peace of Mind 4 Carers scheme, which provides short-term emergency backup care to replace/support carers registered on the scheme in the event that they are ill, injured or otherwise incapacitated. This requires a separate assessment. Essential carers receive a wallet card and keyfobs that give the number to call to ensure that the disabled person who depends on them is not left stranded. You can find out more about the scheme on the Peace of Mind 4 Carer's website here.

Keeping your home longer
According to the Care Act, people should not have to sell their homes in their lifetime to pay for care home costs. Instead, 'deferred payment agreements', which some councils already offer, will be available across the whole country.

Under the agreements some people will be able to have an arrangement with their council that will let them use the value of their home to cover the cost of their residential or nursing care. In these cases, the council would pay the residential bills and allow people to delay repaying the cost until they choose to sell their home, or until they die.

Care costs capped to £72,000
And from April 2016 there will be a limit on the care costs people have to pay. This means that no one will have to pay more than £72,000 towards the care element of the costs of meeting their needs in their lifetime, and many people will pay much less.

County Councillor Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: "We already provide help and support to nearly 30,000 people across Lancashire, together with 17,000 carers.

"The changes coming in April will enable even more people to get the help they need.

"These could be carers who need a well-earned break, people moving to Lancashire from another part of the country, or an older person looking to move to a care home without having the worry and upset of selling their home to pay the bills.

"So if you think you may need help, please call us to get advice about your situation."

For more information about the changes and how you might benefit visit or call 0300 123 6725.

Local Cinema Round-Up for 4th to 12th February 2015 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.

New movies screened this period include science fiction adventure with Jupiter Ascending (12A); historical drama with Selma (12A) and comedy animation with Shaun the Sheep (U). In addition we have a showing of the comedy drama My Old Lady (12A) that was released in November last year but has not yet been screened locally.

We have lost the films Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and The Snow Queen: Magic of the Ice Mirror. However, by way of compensation we see the return of the war drama Kajaki: The True Story (15); historical reconstruction with Mr Turner and the excellent Pride.

Drama and adventure is well represented at the moment with Kingsman: The Secret Service; American Sniper; Mortdecai; Taken 3 and Citizenfour. For science fiction we have the new with Ex Machina and the old with a showing of the classic and arguably the best 2001 a Space Odyssey.

There is a good selection of family entertainment with Big Hero 6; Into the Woods; Annie; Penguins of Madagascar and Paddington. In addition there is black comedy with the recommended Birdman and 'laugh out loud' entertainment with the incomparable Marx Brothers in Duck Soup.

Again the Dukes is offering a very full programme this week, including the classic musical Guys and Dolls.

High culture is represented this period by RSC: Love's Labour's Lost and The Old Vic: The Crucible.

A full listing of movies being shown at the Reel was not available when this review was posted.


American Sniper
Director: Clint Eastwood
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Ben Reed, Luke Grimes.
This is the story of Chris Kyle (Cooper), the most lethal sniper in American History with 160 confirmed kills. Following the attacks of 9/11 Kyle enlisted, and became a Navy SEAL marksman serving four tours of duty in Iraq. The film is based on his autobiography. As a sniper, Kyle was separate from the other troops and was forced to make life and death decisions depending of his perception of whether the person in his rifle cross-hairs was a terrorist or simply an innocent bystander. The film does not address the politics of the Iraq conflict, but is told from Kyles point of view. Thus his is the only character who has any depth (his history and the increasingly strained relationship with his wife is told in flashbacks). This is a tense movie, well acted and thought provoking, if a little one dimensional. Still it merits a trip to the cinema.

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Lindsay Duncan, Edward Norton, Michael Keaton, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifiankis, Emma Stone.
Subtitled 'The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance' this is the story of washed up actor Riggan Thomas (Keaton), once famous for playing a movie superhero Birdman. However once he left the franchise, his career never recovered. Thus he is making a last ditch attempt to revive his fortunes by directing and acting in a play at the St James theatre on Broadway. The play is not going well and Riggan is plagued by his inner voice (manifest as the character Birdman), by quarrels with his actors and arguments with his family. The film appears to be shot as a single, cut free. sequence and it contains surreal, 'over the top' interludes. This is a dark comedy, a flight of fancy, about a self absorbed man. The acting is superb (especially Keaton) and the whole is a quirky must see movie that could be the film of 2015. If you can only see one movie, this is the one.

Ex Machina
Director: Alex Garland
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Oscar Issac, Alicia Vikander, Corey Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson.
Caleb (Gleeson) is a twenty-four year old programmer working at the world's largest Internet Company. He wins a competition and so gets to spend a week at the private estate of Nathan Bateman (Issac), the CEO of the company. Nathan unveils his work, a female android Ava (Vikander), and explains to Caleb that his role is to perform a Turing test on her to explore if her thinking and behavior is indistinguishable from that of a human. As Caleb gets to spend time with Ava, she starts to become dominant in their relationship, trying to recruit Caleb for her own ends. The film is reminiscent of Frankenstein, with Nathan increasingly taking the role of mad scientist who does not have the emotional empathy to support his creation. The movie is excellently shot with impressive special effects that do not get in the way of the story. A superb, thought provoking science fiction drama that explores the interaction between man and machine.

Director: Bennett Miller
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum.
A sports movie (Wrestling) based on a true story. Mark Schultz (Tatum) is a wrestler who won a gold at the 1984 Olympics. However he lives rather under the shadow of his more charismatic brother Dave (Ruffalo), who is also a wrestler and his coach. Meanwhile, the millionaire John du Pont (Carell), heir to the Du Pont chemical corporation, bankrolls the American National wrestling team. He offers to train them at Foxcatcher farm, the home of the Du Pont family, ready for the 1988 Olympic games to be held at Seoul. John DuPont has his own demons, feeling inadequate and trying to impress his mother (Redgrave). Mark Schultz, at first pleased to be invited to train at Foxcatcher, becomes increasingly disillusioned as does his brother as they are manipulated by du Pont. The alienation between the three men builds to a horrifying climax that makes for a really gripping movie.

Into the Woods
Director: Rob Marshall
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, James Corden, Anna Kendrick
This is a Walt Disney adaptation of Sondheim's 1987 hit musical of the same name. The film posits that the fairy tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel are all happening simultaneously. Meanwhile a Baker and his wife wish to begin a family, but they cannot due to a witches curse. To lift the curse they must collect items from each of the fairy tales. This is a star studded musical with excellent performances, especially from Meryl Streep who plays the wicked witch. The original stage musical had a number of adult themes which are softened for the Disney version, but the end result is a great and entertaining family movie.

Kajaki. The True Story
Director: Paul Katis
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: David Elliot, Mark Stanley, Scott Kyle
A dramatisation of events in Afghanistan in 2006. Members of the British Army's Third Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (3 Para) set out to disable a Taliban roadblock. However one of the soldiers steps on an old Soviet landmine which removes his leg. A rescue mission is mounted led by Corporal Mark Wright (Elliot). However as more soldiers enter the unmarked minefield, another steps on a mine and a rescue helicopter which was deployed detonates yet another. The focus remains on the experience of soldiers as the film does not seek to make a political comment. This is a well made though rather harrowing movie which honours the bravery and courage of soldiers on an ill fated mission. The film was released to mark the withdrawal of British Troops from Afghanistan.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Sophie Cookson, Taron Egerton.
A spoof spy adventure based on the comic book series by Dave Gibbons and Mark Miller. Kingsman is an international covert spying agency and they recruit members from street wise misfits. A chavvy gang member Egysy (Egerton) is recruited by the ultra suave agent Harry Hart (Firth). To be accepted Egysy must become both refined and also pass a grueling 'boot camp' where he will learn how to be an agent. In the meantime the eccentric billionaire Valentine (Jackson) is planning to distribution free SIM cards, an act that will trigger the eradication of most of mankind. This is a very 'tongue in cheek' movie, in equal measures a violent action adventure and a comedy. There are outrageous gadgets and wonderful set pieces, with the movie being part James Bond and part every other spy movie you have ever seen. Irreverent and unmissable.

Director: Ava DuVernay
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson
A slice of American History. The film follows Martin Luther King (Oyelowo) and the events that led up to the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery which preceded President Johnson's (Wilkinson) signing the voting Act of 1965 giving equal voting rights to Afro-American citizens. Not only does this film show the build up to the march, it also portrays something of the humour and character of Martin Luther King and the strain that his work imposed on his marriage to Coretta (Ejogo) and on his friends. It covers much of the political backdrop to the civil rights movement and contains images of violence and racial slurs that were endured by the marchers in their quest for equal voting rights.

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 Theory of Everything
Director: James Marsh
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox
A biopic of the early years of the world renown physicist Stephen Hawkins, based on the memoir 'Traveling to Infinity: My life with Stephen Hawkins' by Jane Hawkins. At Cambridge, Stephen Hawkins was an active young man who fell in love with literature student Jane Wilde. However, aged 21, Hawkins had an accidental fall which led to his being diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given just two years to live. The film shows the marriage of Stephen and Jane and how she supported him and their children during the years of their marriage (they divorced in 1995). This is a beautiful film likely to leave the audience in tears. The acting is excellent especially Redmayne's portrayal of Hawkins and the movie shows the lighter side of Hawkin's character, his humour and his passion.

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death
Director: Tom Harper
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Phoebe Fox, Oaklee Pendergast
This is the sequel to the film 'The Woman in Black' which was based on the novella by Susan Hills. The Second World War is raging and a group of eight school children are evacuated away from London and the Blitz to rural England. They are accompanied by their Headmistress Jean Hogg (McCrory) and teacher Eve Parkin (Fox). The group occupy the abandoned Eel Marsh House which had been haunted forty years ago. Eve tries to build trust with Edward (Pendergast), one of the vulnerable children, who starts to exhibit trance like stages. Subsequently other children start acting strangely as a dark force is awakened. Eve seeks the cause of the problem aided by a pilot Harry Burnstow (Irvine). The film is a very competent horror movie with some romantic interest. It is well acted and has plenty of frights. However like many sequels, it does not quite live up to the suspense of the original. 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Lib Dems announce Robin Long as parliamentary candidate for Lancaster & Fleetwood

Robin Long
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate
Lancaster & Fleetwood

The Liberal Democrats have announced that their parliamentary candidate for the Lancaster & Fleetwood constituency is Dr Robin Long.  

This is their statement: 

Robin Long is pleased to stand as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency in the 2015 General Election.  
As a Lancaster University scientist with a PhD in physics and an enduring interest in politics, Robin knows the value of evidence-based decisions and credits the poor performance of many in government to an ideological, rather than logical, approach to decision-making.  
A Lancaster resident since 2004 after growing up in rural Lincolnshire, Robin has a sincere passion for bringing change into parliament.  "Policies are often based on beliefs and ideological nonsense rather than on reason, are often not thought through or fully investigated before implementation."
Robin would like to see more MPs who are not career politicians, but who come from other vocations, such as science, to diversify the thinking in the House and to grow a culture of sound and reasoned policy-making. 
Robin joined the Liberal Democrats in 2010 just before the last general election:
"The first paragraph of Liberal Democrats constitution resonated with me where others had failed to - The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. 
"This is just what I believe. As I read their policies I found more to like: a commitment to environmentalism, restorative justice, evidence based policy and much more. Whilst I do not and will not always agree with all of the policies of my party, or indeed how some MPs vote, I still find the Liberal Democrats best aligned with my own views."
Robin will focus his campaign on promoting vocational education and apprenticeships; on fighting for improvements to the NHS as a fully publicly-funded source of pride; on promoting equality of opportunity; and on implementing fairer taxation and welfare spending.  
"Lancaster and Fleetwood deserve an MP who will analyse policy, consult with experts and get the best for residents, rather than simply repeating party policy without listening to or helping their constituents", Robin says.  
Robin enjoys living in Lancaster with his wife and son, with excursions throughout the Fleetwood and Lancaster region to enjoy the surrounding beauty and the friendly community. 

Businesses team up for new cycling facilities at White Cross

More than 50 companies based at Lancaster's White Cross Business Park have teamed up with Lancashire County Council to get new cycling facilities.

White Cross Business Park has been granted the funding from Lancashire County Council's Sustainable Travel Team to create new showers and bike storage facilities. The business park is owned and managed by Lancashire County Developments Limited - the county council's economic development department.

County Councillor Niki Penney, Chair of LCDL, explained: "Cycling facilities have been in demand at White Cross for some time, so we're pleased to get this funding. "Many of the companies based here are small in size, so they would have struggled to gain enough funding to do this on their own. 

"Instead these companies have pooled together their money, along with some funding secured by our team at White Cross, so that they'll all benefit from these new facilities. They’ve shown a wonderful sense of community spirit, which we applaud and encourage."

Lancashire County Council's Sustainable Travel Team, which gave the funding, supports businesses and organisations to deliver sustainable travel initiatives to encourage more short, everyday journeys to be made by car sharing, walking, cycling and public transport.

The county council's funding comes from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to help tackle congestion in two target areas: Lancaster and Preston/South Ribble. Grants of up to £5,000 were available to individual businesses and organisations based in the two target areas. The funding could be used for shower/changing facilities, personal lockers, cycle storage, car sharing, electrical vehicle charging points and personal travel plans.

The amount of grant allocated by the Local Sustainable Transport Fund depends on the potential impact of the sustainable travel measure(s) to be introduced by a business on the congestion in the area. All grants have to be justifiable to the Department for Transport.

From April 2015 this funding will be available for East Lancashire-based businesses (Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley). For more details contact 01772 530201 or email

• Find out more about White Cross at, call Janet Nielsen on 01524 585 360 or email

Monday, 2 February 2015

Voters urge to register to vote as General Election campaign swings into gear

Lancaster City Council is encouraging local residents who have not yet registered to vote, to take advantage of National Voter Registration Day (5th February) and go online to register.

The call comes as the major political parties, both locally and nationally begin their General Election campaigns. It also follows news that registration among students studying in Lancaster is at an all-time low.

Changes to voter registration rules mean the majority of Lancaster students – living both on and off campus – are not on the Electoral Register. Nationally, the Mirror reported today that thousands of students had vanished from the Register and, overall, across all local authorities, there are 950,845 fewer electors than there were in last year's registers.

subtext, a Lancaster University-based ezine for students and academics, recently reported that the current voter registration rate on campus sat somewhere in the region of just 22.

“The drop off is concentrated in many of the key seats that will determine the outcome of the election," says Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate, which carried out the research using latest town hall data.

There are fewer than 100 days until voters go to the polls to elect two Members of Parliament: one for the Morecambe & Lunesdale constituency and one for the Lancaster & Fleetwood constituency.

Local elections for Lancaster City Council and Parish Councils are also taking place on the same day.

“Anyone not yet registered to vote should do so as soon as possible," says Mark Cullinan, Electoral Registration Officer for Lancaster City Council."

I’d urge all residents to spread the message about National Voter Registration Day amongst family and friends who may not have registered yet. It only takes a few minutes to complete the form online.”

“National Voter Registration Day exists because it’s important that anyone who’s eligible to be on the register, but has not yet registered, does so. Young people, students and people who move frequently are much less likely to be registered to vote. We’re urging them to use the day as an opportunity to get onto the electoral register.”

Kay Jenkins, Head of English regions at the Electoral Commission, said: “National Voter Registration Day exists because it’s important that anyone who’s eligible to be on the register, but has not yet registered, does so.

"Young people, students and people who move frequently are much less likely to be registered to vote. We’re urging them to use the day as an opportunity to get onto the electoral register.

"There is still plenty of time for people living on campus to get registered - there is certainly no rush, but as well as waiting for people to pull their fingers out and get registered nearer the time, students need to be made aware that they actually are not automatically registered by the University anymore, and that there is a deadline," subtext noted in its report on low voter registration at Lancaster University.

"The last thing subtext wants to see is keenos being turned away from the polling booths because they weren't aware of the new rules and regs, although it may well be the first thing that certain political parties who perhaps might have fallen out of favour with students in 2010 would want to see happen.

"It would be of great help if academic staff were to open lectures and seminars with brief parenthetical asides referring to said rules and regs, as well as to emphasise just how EASY it is to do."

• Anyone not registered can do so at

DukesDocs unlock works of artist and of whistleblower

David Hockney
DukesDocs are a new strand at The Dukes and present the best new documentary films from around the world, with three recently released docufilms showing this month.

On February 9, there will be a screening of Hockney (15), a definitive exploration of one of the most significant artists of a generation. On 12 February  Citizenfour (15) focuses on whistleblower Edward Snowden, while on February 17, National Gallery (12A) provides an insight into London’s world famous art institution.

Hockney sees the artist giving access to his personal archive of photographs and film for the first time, resulting in an unparalleled visual diary of his life. The film chronicles his vast career from his early life in working class Bradford to his relocation to Hollywood.

 Citizenfour is the codename adopted by whistleblower Edward Snowden.who leaked evidence of numerous global surveillance programs, many of them run by the US National Security Agency and its allies the Five Eyes with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. Laura Poitras was years into the making of a film about the abuses of national security services in post 9/11 America when she began receiving encrypted emails from a potential whistleblower who turned out to be Snowden. She subsequently interviewed him in a series of tense encounters.

National Gallery is directed by renowned documentarian Frederick Wiseman who takes the audience behind the scenes on a journey to the heart of a museum inhabited by masterpieces of Western art. This film is the portrait of a place, its way of working and relations with the world, its staff and public and its paintings.

Tickets for all of February’s DukesDocs are priced £6/£5 concessions (a £1 per transaction fee applies to online bookings).

 For more information or to book, call The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or online at

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Ashton Evenings: Music and Art at the Ashton Memorial

The Ashton Memorial
The beautiful Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park is set to host the first fabulous Ashton Evening on Friday 27 February 2015. Local artists and musicians have been quick to offer their generous support to this new venture by the Friends of Williamson Park.

Each Ashton Evening will showcase the works of both a local artist and a musician in beautiful surroundings, offering the chance to meet the artist and view works alongside musical entertainment. There will be tasty nibbles prepared by Williamson Park chef Alex Huntington and a complementary glass of wine.

Well known members of our local arts community are featured in the programme.
(Read on for the list of dates).

For this opening night of the series, popular singer and pianist Sue Parish will perform a solo set of well-loved jazz standards by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Arlen. She will also include bossa nova, ballads, plus classic and current songs by Carole King, Melody Gardot and many more. A relaxed and intimate evening of memorable melodies.

Sarah Bellwood lives in Lancaster and exhibits in London and Lancaster (Bellwood and Wright Fine Art). One of her detailed watercolours was recently awarded the North of England Prize in the National Open Art Competition 2014. The evening will provide an opportunity to meet Sarah and see her original art work. In addition, Sarah has worked with the Friends of Williamson Park to develop her first ever limited edition of prints which will be sold in aid of the Friends of Williamson Park.

Organiser Liz Dean said,
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and generosity of the Lancaster arts scene and we are really looking forward to the first in our series of Ashton Evenings.”

Tickets are £10 and are available:
In person from the Williamson Park shop or Lancaster Visitor Information Centre @ The Storey.
By phone: from The Storey Tel: 01524 582394 or online (click here).

All proceeds raised will go towards the work the Friends do in Williamson Park  as a registered charity. The charity's objectives are to support, assist and improve the facilities of Williamson Park in co-operation with the Park management and staff.

Programme of events:

Fri Feb 27 2015
Music - Sue Parrish
Art exhibition - Sarah Bellwood

Fri June 5 2015
Music – Paul Palmer
Art exhibition – Chas Jacobs

Fri Oct 9 2015
Music – Quay Change
Art exhibition – Patricia Haskey

University Court backs Occupation demand

In what is being hailed as a resounding victory for students, Lancaster University's Student University news service Scan reports that two motions, one of which reflected the principal demand from the recent occupation of University House (see previous story), were put forward by student representatives and passed yesterday by the 2015 annual meeting of University Court. This Court was the first to be presided over by Lancaster’s new Chancellor, Rt Hon Alan Milburn (ex-Secretary of State under Labour).
You can read the motions in full on the Scan website here.

The occupation's first  demand was: 'No rise in tuition fees or rent now or in the future.'

The first of the two motions put to the University Court was proposed by VP (Education) Joe O’Neill. It sought to urge the University to reconsider the recent decision to increase tuition fees for international and postgraduate students,

It also sought the University to reconsider the increase in on-campus rent.

The motion also stated that the Court wished:

- To express its dissatisfaction with the decision to increase rent and  Postgraduate / International student tuition fees.

- To express its dissatisfaction with the level of consultation on the decision.

A second motion, which was proposed by VP (Campaigns and Communications) Ronnie Rowlands, urged the University to consider the abolition of search committees for the college principal appointments, placing more responsibility with the college syndicates.

Both motions were passed by an overwhelming majority of those in attendance.

The Court does not appear to have the authority to stop the rent increase outright. It will remain up to the University's executive bodies to consider how its wishes might best be interpreted. Nevertheless these progressive motions do signify a groundswell of support for progressive social mobility and the welfare of students.

The 2015 session of University Court took place in George Fox Lecture Theatre 1. University Court is the body which aims to reflect the wider interests served by Lancaster University, and includes many members from outside of the University, including alumni, those representing the local community, and other interested bodies, in addition to members of University management, members of staff and over 50 student representatives.