Friday, 16 October 2015

Green Ayre Model Railway Goes On Tour

A stunning model railway featuring Lancaster long-gone Green Ayre Railway Station will begin a tour of the UK next month, and the builders hope that at some point, it will come to Lancaster.

Local documentary maker David Chandler has posted a documentary on YouTube featuring about his visit to Wakefield Railway Modellers' Society, looking at the work in progress model the Station, which has been

In it, he speaks to Jamie Guest, the man behind the layout and discovers what inspired his love of trains and railway modelling.

The layout has taken years to build and will have its first public outing at the 54th Annual Wakefield Railway Model Exhibition which will be held in Thornes Park Athletics Stadium, Horbury Road, Wakefield, WF2 8TY on Friday (evening), Saturday and Sunday November 20th, 21st and 22nd 2015.

Jamie would welcome feedback on the model: although they've had a lot of help from a huge number of people, pictures of the station and the surrounding area from the early 1920s are rare. If you think you can help, contact him via the web site below.

• To find out more about the Wakefield Railway Modellers' Society, visit their website:

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Lancaster and District Art Society art to be showcased at Lancaster City Museum

Sunderland Point by Norman Shadwell
An exhibition of the work of talented local artists will soon be on display at Lancaster City Museum.

The new exhibition, which runs from Saturday 24th October until Sunday 13th December will showcase around 80 artworks by members of the Lancaster and District Art Society.

Heather Dowler, Lancashire County Council's manager at the city museum, said: "I'm really pleased that we are able to feature some of the work of the Lancaster and District Art society at the museum once again.

"There's a really wide range of work on display for visitors to enjoy, from watercolours and oils to acrylics and mixed media.

"There are a variety of subjects from local scenes, portraits and abstracts.

"And, as most of the works are for sale, it's a good opportunity for people to buy an attractive piece of local art, perhaps as a unique Christmas gift."

The Lancaster and District Art Society, which meets regularly during the winter months for talks and demonstrations, was set up in 1946 to promote "the practice of drawing and painting in all mediums".

It currently has around 60 members and welcomes anyone with an interest in art who would like to meet like-minded enthusiasts.

• Entry to the museum is free. Opening times are 10.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Saturday. For more information phone 01524 64637 or email Alternatively, visit

• Lancaster and District Art Society:

The museum is run by Lancashire County Council on behalf of Lancaster City Council.

Despite further looming funding cuts, thousands apply to become Lancashire officers

Almost 3,000 people have applied to become a police officer with Lancashire Constabulary, despite announced cuts in funding that many fear will damage the force's ability to fight crime across the county.

The recruitment window for the 120 new posts has now closed and all applicants will be contacted the week commencing 23rd November to let them know whether they have been successful or not.

The chosen candidates will be recruited to start training from June 2016.

The latest round of recruitment is going ahead despite the warning this week from Chief Constable Steve Finnigan and Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw of potentially devastating further cuts to the force.

The Chief Constable warned earlier this week that Lancashire Police will "not be viable" after 2020 because of cuts to funding, saying the county faced the harshest budget cuts in England, which could potentially see the force becoming a "blue light" service, responding to emergencies only.

Both the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner are doing all they can to push back on these proposed cuts as well as trying to gain public support.

PCC Clive Grunshaw said: “We need to maintain our recruitment levels for this year and I wish all the applicants well with their applications. Lancashire Constabulary is now and will remain one of the best forces in the country to work for. "

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 14th to 22nd October 2015

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.

 This is a week of churn in the local cinemas as we have eight new releases on offer. There are two helping of horror with Crimson Peak (15) and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (15). There is fantasy adventure with The Last Witch Hunter (12A) and family fantasy with Pan (PG). We have the mystery dramas Irrational Man (12A) and Regression (15). Finally there is a transport documentary with Bikes Vs. Cars and a concert with Ed Sheeran's Jumpers for Goalposts (12A).

In addition to new releases, five films have returned to the screen after an absence. These are Bill; Minions; Paddington; Pixels and Self/less.

Films lost from last week include 45 Years; Miss You Already and The Visit. Also it seems likely that we will soon loose Everest; Legend and The Bad Education Movie.

Coming to our screens later in the month are Animal Kingdom; My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Friendship Games and James Bond in Spectre.

An event of note during this peroid is the screening of a Back to the Future trilogy at the Reel cinema.

High culture this period is represented by English National Opera and The Barber of Seville, the National Theatre Live with Hamlet and the movie Macbeth.


Crimson Peak
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska
The film opens in the 1900s with Edith Cushing (Wasikowska), an aspiring novelist from a wealthy family, living in New York. She is wooed by an English aristocrat Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and Edith subsequently marries him. Thomas takes her to his home Allerdale Hall, a gothic mansion set on Crimson Peak, a mound of red clay. Here Edith must live with her new husband and his sister Lucille (Chastain). However Edith starts to uncover secrets within the house. This is a glorious, stylistic, sumptuous, costume drama sort of of a horror movie, though the film provides suspense rather than horror. A well made and very watchable film.

Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Robin Wright, Nasko Mori
A docudrama set in May 1996 when two expeditions tried to make it to the peak of Mount Everest. However a blizzard resulted in the death of eight climbers. The main emphasis is on the five climbers who perished on the South face. This is a dramatic and moving film, best appreciated in 3D to get the most of the scenery and the dizzying drops. The mountain itself is the primary focus, with character development taking second place, though there is much made of the trials of the climbers and of the emotional distress of loved ones left behind. An unsentimental movie which makes the viewer feel that he is part of the expedition.

Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders.
The film is both a spin off and a prequel to the Despicable Me franchise. The Minions have always existed on earth and the movie begins by tracing their evolution. They have the purpose of serving the most despicable of masters though not very successfully. The race finally retired to the Antarctic where they fare badly. Hence Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob decide to seek a new master for their race to work for. In a villain convention in Orlando they decide to serve the supervillain Scarlet Overkill (Bullock) who is planning to overthrow the Queen of England and the film, using skits and Musical numbers, follows this plot. The Minions were the best part of the Despicable Me franchise and so it is fitting that they have their own film. The movie is very entertaining, inoffensive and funny and will delight all ages. However this reviewer would have liked more minions and fewer supervillains.

Director: Joe Wright
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Burke, Garrett Hedlund
A prequel to the story of Peter Pan. Peter (Miller) is abandoned by his mother and brought up in an orphanage run by Mother Barnabus (Burke). He is captured by pirates and taken to the magical world of Neverland where he is forced into slave labour by Bluebeard (Jackman). Peter and his friend James Hook (Hedlund) manage to escape to the forest where Peter befriends the fairy Tinker Bell. The fairies fight and defeat the pirates and Hook becomes captain of the Jolly Roger ship. A rather bland and somewhat contrived movie.

Director: Chris Columbus
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Adam Sandler, Kevin james, josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Monaghan
As children Sam Brenner (Sandler), Will Cooper (James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Gad) and Eddie Plant (Dinklage) were expert video game players and they competed in tournaments. They grew and thought they had put their past behind them. However aliens have discovered classic archive video games and interpret these as a declaration of war. They invade earth using strategy and characters derived from the games. Will Cooper is now president and he gathers together his old pals to combat the aliens who will claim the earth if they are not defeated. The movie is a science fiction comedy that will appeal to anyone who enjoyed playing classic video archive games. However it has so far attracted indifferent reviews and looks to be a rather forgettable film.

The Martian
Director: Ridley Scott
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
A manned mission to the planet mars is aborted when the crew face a huge sandstorm. However astronaut and botanist Mark Watney (Damon) is left behind, presumed dead. Yet he lives and must now find a way to survive and contact Earth in the hope that a rescue mission can be mounted. The movie is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Andy Weir. This is a homage to the ingenuity of man in desperate circumstances. The movie is visually effective, scientifically accurate and is well seasoned with humour. An excellent film that has received glowing reviews.

The Walk
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Certificate: PC
Cast Includes: Joseph Gordon-Leveiit, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley.
This is the tale of Philippe Petits audacious crossing between the world trade centres on a high-wire. Petit (Gordon-Levitt) developed the idea for the artistic coup whilst in Paris. Along the way he adopts a band of misfit co-conspirators which include 'Papa' Rudy Omankowsky (Kingsley) who teaches the skill of walking a high wire. The attempt, which was strictly illegal, took place on 7th August 1974 and no safety harness was used. This is an excellent movie, a great story, great acting and superb camera work which will have you clinging onto the cinema seat.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Student Lettings Boss Comes Under Fire after LPNM Goes Under

Lancaster University Students Union student newspaper SCAN has an interesting report about student lettings boss John Sanderson, who has liquidated his company, LPNM, one of the Lancaster's largest student housing providers; and is blaming students for the company's collapse, citing unpaid rents.

Some property owners who have contacted SCAN have a different view of the situation and have set up a Facebook group to gather information on LPNM's activities. Confusion also surrounds the return of student deposits for "utilities charges".

The SCAN report also notes Mr Sanderson cites “void” in the student housing market was also to blame for the company’s difficulties. Explaining the student void Mr Sanderson said there were “1,250 empty beds in Lancaster” in the previous academic year.

Commenting on the closure, Mr Sanderson told the Lancaster Guardian that “it is most regretful that the huge losses encountered by the company due to voids and student bad debts meant that property owners lost some of their income for 2014/15.”

In an interview with SCAN, Mr Sanderson stressed that LPNM were a company who “bend over backwards for students.” He said “we are known as surrogate parents" and claimed that students are to blame for the collapse of lettings firm LPMN.

He claimed unpaid rents were among the factors that led to the collapse of the company, saying “the main cause of our [LPNM’S] demise” was students failing to pay their rent” and that he was owed “£125,000 of unpaid rent from students.”

Several landlords appear to paint a different picture of the company, however, and have been in touch with SCAN to express their unhappiness and concern with the LPNM situation, and several people have commented on the Lancaster Guardian's report, one commentator noting Mr Sanderson is soon to be the focus of a BBC Rogue Traders investigation.

"Once again Sanderson gets his say but his victims don't," said one poster to the newspaper.

Property owner Jos Pashley told SCAN she became embroiled in a row with LPMN, and SCAN has exclusively heard a recording of the tense meeting between the parties.

A combative Mr Sanderson can be heard threatening not to give vacant possession of the property to the owners at the end of their contractual term. Mrs Pashley told SCAN she felt pressured into signing a document stating that properties were “returned in the same condition as when the contract started” and says she is still owed money by LPNM.

She said: “I’m keen to emphasise how the loss of local money impacts on the local economy.” Despite being listed on the creditors list, Ms Pashley told SCAN “we don’t know where this money, our money, has gone.”

SCAN notes in its investigation that over the past year, Mr Sanderson has set up a number of new companies, including Lancaster Property Network (Properties) Limited and Lancaster Property Network (Management) Ltd.

The former LPNM office in Penny Street, Lancaster, is now trading as One Stop Lancaster.

• The LPNM (Lancaster Property Network Management) LANDLORDS group on Facebook is for Landlords who are experiencing difficulty with this company in regards to getting paid and charges for works not agreed and other deductions. Sharing experiences and discussion on actions taken and help

Read the full report, which includes comments from Mr Sanderson, other landlords and a response to matters raised from the firms' liquidator, here on the SCAN web site

Read the Lancaster Guardian''s report on LPNM

Lancaster's famous "Rocking Horse" back in in rightful place later this month

Photo: James Mackie. Photo used with permission

Local designer James Mackie of Dalton Square-based Mackies of Lancaster, charged with restoring the famous New Street "Rocking Horse" to its former glory, says he is hopeful the listed shop decoration will be back in its rightful place by the end of this month.

The Rocking Horse back in May. Photo © James Mackie. Used with permission

As we first reported back in May, James has been busy working on returning the rocking horse to 8 New Street for many months, restoring what is the third horse to grace the building's exterior, this one first erected in about 1987 when the shop was run as a Lawson's toy shop.

Some of the costs of the restoration have been met thanks to funding from Lancaster BID. (There is a modest fund at the bid that businesses can apply for for part-funding towards the restoration/ refurbishment of their shop fronts etc.).

In recent years the premises - still owned by the Lawson family - have been used as a restaurant and, most recently, as a vintage toy shop. Earlier this year the shop was taken over by much-loved takeaway, Wibbly Wobbly, making a welcome return to the city after developing a successful business on the Lancaster University campus.

"Apart from some details, the main painting of the horse and the rocker rails has been completed," says James. "In total we have two coats of preservative/primer, two coats of exterior undercoat, one coat of specialist stain block, one further coat of exterior undercoat and two coats of 8-year guarantee exterior gloss. Of course, there has been sanding between the earlier coats to get a good finish. Although smelly work, the painting has been satisfying after the challenges of the stripping and re-building process. She finally looks ready for the great outdoors!

Photo © James Mackie. Used with permission

Rocking Horse hair! Photo © James Mackie. Used with permission

"I received the horsehair by mail-order two weeks ago and spent last week embedding the mane, forelock and tail into the woodwork using silicone and copper roofing nails (which will not rust).," he reveals. "I spent more money than I had intended on the hair because I wanted it long so that I could trim to shape – always better to have too much than too little. I wasn’t expecting such a beautiful, almost fairy-tale look! Nice as it is ,I think a trim may be necessary.

"From now on I’m concentrating on the lettering – which will be quite a job - and then her face and hoof details. She should be ready for putting back above the shop later this month.

"I shall be sorry to see her go."

Our thanks to James for permission to feature his photographs.

• Wibbly WobblyBurger Bar on Facebook | Instagram

• Mackies of Lancaster:

Monday, 12 October 2015

City centre businesses set to vote on Business Improvement District renewal

Businesses in Lancaster city centre will go to the polls from 28th October to decide whether to renew the city’s Business Improvement District.

The Lancaster BID is a private sector led, owned and managed initiative to create a more prosperous city centre. All business properties with a rateable value of £10,000 and above within the BID area make an investment of 1.5% on a fixed rateable value of their business.

The project supports numerous projects as part of an overall 'Delivery Plan' (PDF link) which has an outline plan running until March 2016 and publishes background information on footfall in the BID area and vacancy statistics.

Ballot papers will be distributed to all eligible businesses in the area from this date. Votes will be cast entirely by post over a four week period, with the ballot closing at 5.00pm on 25th November 2015.

If successful, the BID will bring investment of approximately £1M into Lancaster over a five-year period.

In the run up to the start of the ballot eligible voters will receive a formal Notice of Ballot which details and explains how to vote and a copy of the BID Proposal Document.  

• For more information on the BID contact Liz Hickingbotham by email or telephone at and 01524 590650. Alternatively, information on the BID is available from

Consultation launched on accessible taxis

Lancaster City Council is asking for people’s views on how to boost the number of accessible taxis in the district.

It follows complaints from the public about the difficulties of being able to book an accessible taxi.

The complainants state that they struggle to book a wheelchair accessible taxi and they feel that they are being discriminated against.

Currently just 15 of the 108 Hackney taxis licensed in the Lancaster district are wheelchair accessible.

One potential way of solving the problem would be to remove the limit on the number of Hackney taxi licences that can be issued. Any new licences would require vehicles to be wheelchair accessible.

The consultation, however, is asking for further views to allow the council to consider any other ways of ensuring accessibility for all.

Councillor Margaret Pattison, chairman of the council’s licensing regulatory committee, said: “From the complaints we’ve had from wheelchair users there is quite clearly a problem with accessibility when it comes to taxis. For many wheelchair users a taxi is the only option for them to get to hospital appointments on time, see friends and visit the shops. It’s an issue we need to look into carefully to address the problem.”

• All responses should be submitted in writing by no later than the close of business on Friday 27th November.  You can respond by email to or by writing to: Licensing, Town Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster, LA1 1PJ