Friday, 20 November 2015

"Safety Last" film screening at The Gregson

Next month's screening by Lancaster Silent Movie & Classic Film Club is the nail-biting "Safety Last" starring Harold Lloyd. Everyone is welcome to this not for profit event.

"One of the most nail biting sequences in film history that leaves you continually catching your breath," says organiser Ray Turner. "Lloyd really was as high as he seems to be and performing all manner of daredevil stunts on narrow ledges, flag poles and, of course, a clock.

"We are also thinking of arranging a 6.30 showing, for children (maybe won't do the short film). Would anyone be up for that?

"For the earlier show (if it goes ahead) we won't charge the full amount. You can just give a small donation which we will put towards our club.

"It is a brilliant film (about an hour and a quarter long so won't take too much concentration on the kids part) that I would expect children from about the age of eight or nine would be able to enjoy and follow as long as they can read a little bit."

• For more info visit:

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 18th to 26th November 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.

Four new releases make it to the cinema during this period. The big release, providing fantasy adventure, is the final instalment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (12A). Also new is crime drama with Black Mass (15); a documentary in He Named me Malala (PG) and fantasy drama with The Lobster (15).

Movies that have disappeared from the local cinema include Everest and Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. By way of compensation we see the return of family fun with Animal Kingdom: Let's Go Ape and Minions. Also returning is the period drama Far from the Madding Crowd and the spy thriller The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

Drama during this period is well supported with Brooklyn; The Lady in the Van; Steve Jobs; Sicario and the James Bond Adventure Spectre. Still showing is the excellent horror movie Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and the convincing science fiction adventure The Martian.

For family entertainment, the animations Hotel Transylvania 2; Inside Out and Minions are sure to please, as is the fantasy adventure Pan.

Culture is represented this period with Macbeth and Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company: The Winters Tale.

The Dukes continue to host movies in the Willianson Park in an enclosed mobile cinema. They continue their 'Love' Season with movies including A Matter of Life and Death; True Romance and The Princess Bride. Also, showing for one night only at the Lancaster Town Hall is the classic Brief Encounters.

In other news, the Vue is showing a Hunger Games Mockingjay double bill on the 18th November, and the Dukes host another instalment of the Film Quiz on Sunday 22nd November.


Director: John Crowley
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Glascott, Emory Cohen.
The movie is a period drama, based on the novel by Colm Toibin. Eilis Lacey (Ronan) grew up in Ireland, but her sister (Glascott) arranged for her to move to Brooklyn for a chance to find a better future. Initially homesick, Eilis finds lodgings, a job and subsequently romance in the form of Tony (Cohen) who she meets at a dance. However back home her sister Rose dies and her mother gets her to return to Ireland. Here Eilis must decide whether to continue with her life at home or to return to New York. The film has been well received and is marked by very strong acting. An excellent movie that will tug at the heartstrings.

Far From the Madding Crowd
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Juno Temple, Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen
The latest film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel of the same name. Bathsheba Everdene (Mulligan) is a willful young woman who has come into property by inheritance. Her looks and manner result in three potential suitors looking to marry her, a sheep farmer Gabriel Oaks (Schoenaerts), a middle aged neighbour William Boldwood (Sheen) and a handsome Sargent Frank Troy (Sturridge). However Bathsheba comes to regret her choice of husband. This is a fine adaption of what is a difficult novel to bring to the screen. The scenery is glorious and acting excellent. A solid period drama romance.

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 thought 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.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Chris Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Dan Gill
This is the sixth instalment in the Paranormal Activity series and it opens with a scene from Paranormal Activity 3. Ryan Fleege (Murray) moves into a new home in California along with his wife Emily (Shaw), daughter Leila (George) and his brother Mike (Gill). The two brothers discover a box of old VHS tapes filmed by a previous inhabitant of the property, starring two girls Katie and Kristi. These girls start to communicate with the current family by means of the TV set and various supernatural phenomena manifest within the house. Ryan brings in a priest to perform an exorcism, but things don't go to plan, leading to an unsettling conclusion.

Director: Sam Mendes
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Waltz, Andrew Scott
The latest James Bond Movie. M engages in a political battle to keep the secret service, in the light of a plan by Max Denbigh (Scott) to replace the 00 program with computer surveillance. Bond meanwhile is trying to locate Franz Oberhauser (Waltz), the suspected head of the evil organisation 'Spectre'. The movie starts in Mexico during the Day of the dead celebrations and thence the action continues in London, Rome and Morocco. There are numerous over the top action sequences, car chases, a good assortment of scary villains and exotic love interest. However amid this harshness, the movie contains a good level of humour. Tension builds from the very start, though some of this starts to dissipate as the film progresses. This is James Bond from the classic mould and Daniel Craig delivers a great performance.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Director: Francis Lawrence
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
The concluding part of The Hunger Games series, based on the novels by Suzanne Colins. The movie continues from the previous film. Katniss (Lawrence) is recovering from battle, but she rejoins her comrades to bring the revolution to the Capital and President Snow (Sunderland). The Capital however is now peppered with booby traps awaiting for them. The film seems to move at a slightly slower pace than the previous instalments as there is a political element to the plot. Acting is very convincing, the special effects are spectacular and the plot has a good number of twists and turns. An excellent and emotional movie that provides a satisfying and worthy conclusion to the Hunger Games franchise.

The Lady in the Van
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
A true story, adopted from 1999 West End Play of the same name and filmed on location in North London. In 1974, Miss Shephard (Smith) is a woman looking for somewhere to park after being moved on the council. Playwright Alan Bennett agrees to her parking her van (which is also her accommodation) in his drive for a couple of days. However Miss Shephard then lived in the drive for the next fifteen years and the film shows the relationship between Bennett and his nuisance neighbour. This is a warm, charming and thoroughly fun movie.

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.

Lancaster's Poorest Could Lose Out in Rushed Voting Changes, pressure groups warn

Campaign groups such as 38 Degrees the Electoral Reform Society and Hope Not Hate are highlighting concerns which could mean over 4,000 people could be wiped off the Lancaster electoral register under new government rules on Friday.

Not being registered can affect your credit rating and mean that you miss out on voting.

The worst part? Many people have no idea it’s happening to them.

Changes to the way we register to vote mean up to 1.9 million people may fall off the electoral register in December. Hope Not Hate reports the government, against the advice of its own independent expert body, wants to end the transition period for the new individual electoral registration (IER) system in December 2015. This is one year earlier than originally planned.

When the transition period ends, those people that local authorities have not been able to match with tax or benefit records and who have not re-registered and provided a National Insurance number will be taken off the electoral register.

The registers with the largest predicted drop off tend to be in large urban areas with a high incidence of multiple occupancy housing, regular home movers and large numbers of historically low propensity registering voters.

"The new registers will then be used for the upcoming Boundary Review meaning it will produce a distorted electoral map in which urban areas and low propensity voters are under-represented," say Hope Not Hate.

"Not giving enough time for IER to be implemented carefully furthermore makes it more difficult for many people to exercise their right to vote, a key foundation of our democracy and a fundamental human right.

"A study of 54 Universities across Britain found that very few were planning any voter registration efforts this autumn. When the IER drop-off is included, it is estimated that there will be 10 million eligible voters not on the electoral register."

Last month, the Independent reported on Hope Not Hate's research that the government are removing twice as many people from the electoral register in Britain's poorest areas as the richest. In Britain’s ten poorest areas an average of 6.2 per cent of people on the electoral register are expected to be removed when the system changes – with the figure as high as 22.9 per cent in areas like Hackney where people who rent their homes live.

 By comparison only 2.96 per cent of voters will fall off the register in the ten leafiest and richest areas outside the capital, the study, conducted by Hope Not Hate, found.

38 Degrees is urging everyone to sound the alarm about the changes.

"The people about to be taken off the register are our neighbours, family, friends and colleagues - people we see everyday. If we all commit to telling five people in Lancaster about Friday’s deadline, we can make sure our neighbours are still registered," they urge.

"There might not be an election for a while, but being registered matters right now. The government is cutting the number of MPs and basing the cuts on how many people are registered - not actual population. So fewer people registered here could mean Lancaster loses out.

"And if that wasn’t enough, not being registered to vote could also impact your credit rating. This can make ordinary things like getting a phone contract, a credit card or buying a car more difficult.

" Our political system isn’t perfect. But voting is one of the main ways we can hold our politicians to account."

• Are you registered to vote? Most likely you will have received some information from your council. If you’re not sure, there’s no harm in registering again just in case.

Local MP, Cat Smith, Pushes BT for better broadband for Lancaster's Highgrove Estate

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, met with senior BT staff to pursue residents’ concerns about the lack of high-speed broadband at the Highgrove Estate in Lancaster earlier this week.

The company's cabinet serving the estate connect some 170 households around Caspian Way in Scotforth, who experience slow connection speeds and problems with downloads.

Residents have been lobbying for BT to upgrade Lancaster Exchange Cabinet 76 for a number of years, with the help of local City and County councillors and the issue has previously been raised in the House of Commons, and through local media outlets. A 250-strong petition has also been sent to Ed Vaisey MP, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy.

The estate includes many professionals who rely on their connection for business purposes and struggle to use services such as Skype and FaceTime.

"BT have been too slow in ensuring residents of the Highgrove Estate have access to high-speed broadband," commented Cat Smith, who met with BT officials in Westminster to discuss the issue earlier this week.

"BT’s poor response to residents enquiries has only further served to frustrate residents, so I am pleased that BT have agreed to my request to meet with residents in the New Year.

"Residents wishing to be advised of the meeting details should contact my office via"

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Lancaster Cyclists to Brave the Cold for Climate Change

Lancaster CyclistsSeven keen Lancaster cyclists will be joining a mass five day cycle ride from London to Paris this December for the UN COP21 summit.

The group have been inspired to act and to collect and represent the voices of Lancaster at the climate negotiations where it's hoped that a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change will be the outcome, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The Lancaster seven hope to join the thousands of other voices heading to Paris by foot or bicycle to urge for urgent action and meaningful outcomes, hoping decisions made will avoid crossing the climate ‘tipping points’ which could spell disaster for human kind and many other species around the world.

The group organising the cycle ride are - a voluntary organisation supported by Biketrain, Reclaim the Power, Campaign against Climate Change and The Otesha Project UK.

“I'm inspired to cycle to Paris to make a stand for the world's present and future environment," says Anne Jarvis, one of the cyclists."Frustrated at the slow pace of change by governments, I'm keen to join with many others in an attempt to show how serious this issue is and how definite action needs to be taken now.”

In Paris the cyclists will join thousands of people gathering outside the summit venue to demonstrate how important it is to take climate action now. Delegates attending the summit will be urged not to leave until they reach an emissions-cutting deal, for the sake of a liveable world for our children and future generations.

The COP21 summit is the latest attempt to get governments of all countries around the world to agree upon actions to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels. The last summit, held in Copenhagen in 2009, produced no resolution for action and was seen by most as a failure, and milions across the word argue these negotiations cannot be another one.

• Before departure the group will be collecting messages of goodwill to take to Paris and will be fundraising to cover the costs of the ride. To find out more, to send a message or to sponsor the cycle ride visit or contact Lauren Walker

A Beastly Tale, Beautifully Told: The Dukes festive show is a classic fairy tale

A scene from The Dukes production of Beauty and the Beast which runs from November 20-January 2. Photo: Darren Andrews
Photo: Darren Andrews
A beastly tale beautifully told by local writer Eddie Robson will entertain audiences at The Dukes in Lancaster this festive season.

Beauty and the Beast, which runs opens on Friday (20th November) and runs until 2nd January 2016, is a classic fairytale full of adventure, fun, wonderful characters and drama.

The audience is invited to join Belle as she leaves her family and ventures deep into the forest towards the magical castle. There she confronts the Beast, a grizzly and gruesome creature who’s in hiding from the world.

Can the Beast soften and change during Belle’s stay in his home or must Belle look beyond his grotesque appearance to what really matters?

Performed in The Round, this new version of Beauty and the Beast has been adapted by the Lancaster-based writer and father-of-two, Eddie Robson, and promises to be a feelgood festive treat for all the family and is the perfect Christmas play for anyone aged five plus.

Eddie has previously contributed to The Dukes youth theatre productions of Your Country Needs You (But I Don’t Need My Country) and Your Country Called (And It Wants You Back) as well as Late Night Lock-In. He has written episodes of Sarah & Duck for Cbeebies and Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, sketches for Mitchell and Webb, and ten episodes of Radio 4 Extra’s Doctor Who series. His other work includes a recently-launched novel Tomorrow Never Knows, non-fiction books on film and TV, and comic strips for Marvel Comics and Britain's long-running weekly SF anthology comic 2000AD.

Beauty and the Beast is the fourth Dukes Christmas production in The Round to be directed by Joe Sumsion, who was brought up in Kendal and who saw a version of this fairytale when he made his first ever theatre visit to The Dukes in 1973, aged five. He has since directed versions of this fairy tale twice, for M6 Theatre Company at the Bury Met in the 1990s and as the first walkabout show in Lancaster’s Williamson Park, which he directed in 2008.

“Beauty and the Beast is a fantastic, rich and moving story – the best of all fairytales for my money," he enthuses. "It’s about the idea of true beauty and how it could be that a young, beautiful woman would fall for a hideous beast.

"Presenting this story in The Round, with the audience in touching distance of the characters, will give it an extra frisson.”

Beauty and the Beast is the highlight of The Dukes festive season which also includes a Christmas Cabaret with Slightly Fat Features on 10th - 11th Decemberand a selection of seasonal film screenings.

• To book tickets for Beauty and the Beast, ring The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit

Performance dates: Friday 20th November - Saturday 2nd January. For the first time at The Dukes, there will be a Relaxed Performance at 2.00pm on 28th November. This is open to all but especially children with special needs and their families. There will be a more relaxed atmosphere and possibly some changes to the production at certain points in the show.

• Tickets: £10.50-£17/Concessions receive a further £2 off. November 20 2pm preview, £5. Balcony stools £8. Balcony standing £5. A £1 per transaction fee applies when booking online

Lancaster Creative Writers Group Assembles!

The next meeting of the Lancaster Creative Writers Group is tonight, Tuesday 17th November from 7.00pm upstairs at the Royal Kings Arms Hotel.

This week the Group will be discussing story structure and narrative arc, courtesy of one Dr. George Green of Lancaster University Creative Writing Department.

They will not be mentioning apostrophes.

New members more than welcome.

• Find the Lancaster Creative Writers Group on Twitter: @WriteLancaster

Missing girl, 15, could be in Lancaster or Morecambe

MFH Kelis NicholsonPolice are appealing for help to find a 15-year-old girl from Manchester who may be in Lancashire.

Kelis Ann Nicholson was last seen at an address on Northampton Road in Middleton, Manchester at around 6pm on Sunday 15 November, however it is believed she may be in the Morecambe or Lancaster areas as she has links to those places.

She is described as white, 5ft 2ins, slim build with shoulder length hair which she recently dyed from light brown to black.

She was last seen wearing a grey Adidas hoody, grey tracksuit bottoms and a black bracelet with the initial ‘K’ attached to it.

DI Phil Jones said “We have concerns for Kelis’ welfare and so I am asking anyone who has seen her or knows where she is to get in contact.”

18th November 2015 UPDATE: Kelis has now been found safe and well.

Monday, 16 November 2015

‘Phoenix’ dance into Lancaster in December

Phoenix Dance Tearfall Square

Phoenix Dance Theatre cross the Pennines to Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University this December premièring two new dance works by female choreographers Sharon Watson and Caroline Finn alongside a double bill by Christopher Bruce CBE. The works are presented as part of their ‘Mixed Programme 2015’ at 8.00pm on the 1st and 2nd December at the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster.

Sharon Watson follows up her audience favourites Melt (2011) and Repetition of Change (2013) with TearFall, a piece that explores both the science and emotion of tears. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, TearFall was inspired by the exploration of the biochemical make up of tears, how their appearance and composition is affected by different emotional states and looks at the differences between how tears function and how they are perceived. For TearFall, Watson worked in partnership with Professor Sir John Holman from York University and dramaturg Lou Cope.

Phoenix Dance Bloom

Set to an eclectic contemporary soundtrack, Bloom, by New Adventures Choreographer Award winner Caroline Finn, is an examination of how people create ‘facades’, behind which they can become the person they believe they should be. The title Bloom was inspired by the idea that a tree in blossom - a beautiful layer – only masks the true nature of the tree beneath. Finn’s work often presents darkly comic expressions of life and humanity using a playful, quirky and highly engaging choreographic style.

The double bill by Christopher Bruce CBE features Shadows, a brand new work created especially for Phoenix Dance Theatre and a restaging of Bruce’s energetic study of life in the 1940’s, Shift. This double bill was previously performed at the Linbury Studio Theatre, London in November 2014, the first time that Phoenix has performed any of this renowned choreographer’s work.

• Tickets to see Phoenix Dance Theatre start from just £9 and can be obtained by visiting the Lancaster Arts Box Office or by calling 01524 594151. Tickets are also available online at

Park for free for your shopping spree

Shoppers will be able to enjoy free parking at selected times in Lancaster and Morecambe in the run up to Christmas.

From Sunday November 22nd until Sunday December 20th, all of the city council's pay and display car parks in Lancaster and Morecambe will be free to use for Sunday shopping.

From Thursday November 26th until Thursday December 17th, you can also park for free at the council’s pay and display car parks in Lancaster after 6pm (until 8am the following morning) on Thursday evenings to enjoy late night shopping. Evening parking in Morecambe is already free.

The privately run Marketgate Car Park in Lancaster is also providing the free parking on the same dates as the city council, plus Monday December 28th.

• For more information on city council car parks visit

Sunday, 15 November 2015

New publication tells Holocaust stories of Lancaster families

A new publication being launched this month in Lancaster and distributed to schools throughout Lancashire will provide a chance for young people to find out the extent of the involvement of people from this district with the Holocaust.

From Generation to Generation: The Impact of the Holocaust in the Lancaster District has been edited by Fiona Frank and will be launched on Wednesday 18th November at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. All are welcome.

In this publication, supported by funding from Awards for All, Judith, Alison, Naomi, Wlodek, Bob, Diana, Jo and Pete – who all live in the Lancaster district or close by – talk about how the lives of their parents and grandparents were changed forever by the Nazis, and how those experiences have affected the way they look at the world.

Holocaust Memorial Day has been commemorated in the Lancaster District since 2001. Over the last 15 years at these events, many people whose lives were impacted by the Holocaust, survivors themselves or close relatives of survivors, have shared their stories.

And now school children and others in the Lancaster district will have a chance to get to hear some of these stories.

Some of the contributors had heard their family’s stories many times while they were growing up; others did not find out the full extent of what had happened to their families until they were adults.

All of the stories are relevant to the society we live in today. They show the extremes that some people fleeing war may have experienced – even today. They help us to think about the welcome we should be providing to those seeking refuge in the UK – and how we can ensure that everyone, across the world, has access to shelter and a good life.

Naomi’s grandparents escaped from Poland before the war with her mother and aunt, and eventually ended up in Palestine. Wlodek’s mother escaped Poland with her parents and spent the war years in Russia; his father, who had Aryan looks, ‘hid in plain sight’ in Warsaw throughout the war with a ‘Righteous Gentile’ who sheltered and educated him. Bob’s father escaped to South Africa with his parents, but his mother’s parents weren’t so lucky. Jo’s grandmother left Poland for Israel with her family in the 1930s.

When the signs were clear that Germany was not going to be a good place to be Jewish in the mid 1930s, Pete’s grandparents left with his father for England; Alison’s family left for Spain, initially, and then her father came to England. Judith’s father came to London as a boy of 11 on one of the Czech Kindertransport trains organised by Sir Nicholas Winton, clutching the violin that Jude still plays today; he never saw his parents or siblings again. Diana, who grew up in Novi Sad in Serbia (former Yugoslavia), found out as a young woman that her father spent the last part of the war in Dachau. Her grandparents perished in Auschwitz; as did Bob’s maternal grandparents. Naomi’s maternal grandmother was gassed in Chelmno, and Jude’s father’s family all died in the camps.

Fiona Frank says it has been astonishing to discover how many people in the local area have had their lives affected in some way by the Holocaust and how current that impact is for some.

"Some of the stories shared many themes; the silence surrounding some of them and the need to break it; wanting to know and understand what had happened in the past; the loss of relatives and the mourning for what and who had been lost; the dispersal of people throughout the world; the courage of survivors and those who helped them; elements of luck that had saved some but not others, and how the family stories had shaped lives today."

Several of the contributors will be at the launch as well as some of the young people who will have visited Auschwitz this term.

• From Generation to Generation: the impact of the Holocaust in the Lancaster District’ will be launched on Wednesday 18 November at 6.30pm in the Governors Board Room at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.