Thursday, 30 June 2016

Judges' Lodgings Museum Needs £100,000 a year to stay open, campaign group reveals

The Friends of the Judges' Lodgings group, who are trying to save the Lancashire County Council-run museum on Lancaster's Castle Hill from closure, has cautioned they need to find £100,000 a year to to keep it open, if they were to run it.

Open Monday to Saturday, the Judges' Lodgings Museum is located in a Grade I listed building on Castle Hill. It's Lancaster’s oldest town house, originally home to witch hunter Thomas Covell, Keeper of Lancaster Castle and  between 1776 and 1975, was home for for judges visiting the Assize Court at nearby Lancaster Castle. Today (until September), it's home to a stunning collection of Gillow furniture, fine art and the Museum of Childhood exploring toys and games from the 18th century to the present.

As we previously reported, the museum is, sadly, one of five across Lancashire earmarked for closure as the County Council tried to save money in the face of swingeing reductions in government funding for council services, which also affect the future of library services, youth centres and more.

In March, the County Council began inviting bids to run Lancashire's museums and libraries - and the Friends' group has begun to make theirs.

The museum - recently given a big thumbs up in the Lancaster Guardian's "Lancashire Recommends" column - was given a stay of execution until September in the hope that a new means to keep it open could be found.

The impending closure comes just as Lancaster City Council's Cabinet has discussed proposals to modernise the City Museum in Market Square, but also close the Cottage Museum and Maritime Museum, making for a grim potential future for the City's cultural offering.

Nick Norman Wilkinson would love to hear
from anyone who can help keep the Judges'
Lodgings Museum open.
In a short statement to the Friends Facebook group, Nick Norman Wilkinson, Vice-Chair Friends of the Judges' Lodgings gave an update on their bid to keep the Judges Lodges open to the public.

"As I'm sure many of you know the Friends Group have expressed an interest in running the museum in the future," he notes. "We have now been provided with the information and application form  [to make a bid to run the Museum] by the County Council with a closing date of 2nd August 2016.

"A small group has been working hard to develop the application form. This includes looking at the current way the museum operates and trying to identify money making opportunities to help support the museum.

"Lots of ideas are being explored ranging from tours of the building through to restaurants, cafes and improved educational facilities.

"We've had an initial meeting with the County Council and although County are sticking by their line that there is no money to support the museum in the future, it did feel like a positive meeting!

"The key at this stage is the money," Norman highlights. "To keep the place open we are looking for a minimum budget of circa £100,000 per annum.

"Obviously, we want to go further than just keep the place open," he continues. "We have ambitions for major change and improvement - but, first things first, we need the money to secure the existing building and the collections for Lancaster.

"We are exploring bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council, but we can't take these forward until after the County Council have selected a 'preferred partner' to run the museum. A date for this hasn't been confirmed by the Council but we envisage it will be early autumn this year (fingers crossed it is us!)."

Norman added that the Friends group are exploring working with other interested parties - they don't see the bid process as a competition.

"It's more a collaboration of local groups," he explained, "to see if we can keep this amazing building and its collections open to the public."

• The Judges' Lodgings is open 10 - 4.00 weekdays, 12 noon - 4.00pm Saturdays. Opening time information here on the Lancashire County Council web site (which to be honest, makes little effort to promote the Museum). Admission - Adults £3.00 | Concessions £2.00 | Accompanied children free

• If you want more information or fancy getting involved in the Friends' project, message Norman via Facebook. If you just want to support the project please join the Friends of the Judges' Lodgings 'physical' (as well as Facebook) group - applications are available from the Judges' Lodgings museum, or message Norman and he will email one to you

The Friends of the Judges' Lodgings Facebook Group

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 29th June to 7th July 2016

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

There are just three new releases making it to local screens this week. There is adult comedy with Absolutely Fabulous: The movie (15), family comedy with Ice Age: Collision Course (U) and drama with The Daughter (15)

Movies that have disappeared this period include Alice Through the Looking Glass; Bad Neighbours 2; Captain America: Civil War; Mother's Day and The Jungle Book. However we see the return of the comedy drama Florence Foster Jenkins and the animation Zootropolis.

Movies scheduled to appear in July include Batman: The Killing Joke; Ghostbusters and The BFG.

This is a good period for comedy drama with Central Intelligence; Hail, Caesar!; The Nice Guys and the hilarious Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie. Laughs for the family come with Ice Age: Collision Course; The Secret Life of Pets and Zootropolis.

Science fiction action comes with the spectacular Independence Day: Resurgence, whereas more earthbound drama is provided by The Daughter and horror in The Conjuring 2. Finally, there is a key documentary being shown by the Dukes with The Battle of the Somme.

High culture during this period is provided by The Importance of Being Earnest and Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company: Romeo & Juliet.

The cinema listings given for the Vue are unfortunately incomplete. This is due to the Vue website being 'down' at the time of this posting.


Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Jennifer Saunders Joanna Lumley, Julis Sawalha, June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks
It was 1992 when Absolutely Fabulous first appeared on the TV and twenty four years later Patsie and Eddy finally make it to the big screen. The couple are blamed for a major incident involving Kate Moss at a fashionable launch party. To escape the paparazzi and poor publicity, they flee, penniless, to the French Riviera, where they concoct a plan to regain their fortune. The film retains the cast of the TV series and a number of major celebrities also make cameo appearances. This is a hilarious film, that maintains the character of the original TV series. Excellent entertainment.

Central Intelligence
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Dwayne Johnson, Kelvin Hart
Robbie Wierdicht (Johnson) was bullied at high school. On leaving, he changed his name to Bob Stone, developed an impressive physique and became a CIA operative. Calvin Joyner (Hart) was his friend at high school and had a career in accounting. At the time of their high school reunion, Bob starts to work with Calvin to stop the illegal sale of satellite codes by a mystery agent Black Badger. Calvin however is approached by the CIA and told that Bob is actually delusional. Yet Calvin continues to help his friend and the two of them face fights, gun battles and car crashes to track Black Badger. The movie is a fast paced buddy action comedy. Johnson and Hart work well together and the fast talking dialogue from Hart goes a long way to carrying the film. Expect some slapstick and a great deal of humour.

Florence Foster Jenkins
Director: Stephen Frears
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant
A period drama based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep). Jenkins is a rich heiress with ambitions to be a singer despite a terrible singing voice. Her husband St Clair Bayfield (Grant), despite being something of a cad, arranges for her to sing in a concert, having carefully selected the audience to ensure her efforts will be well received. This is the second recent movie based on the life of Jenkins and it provides a more light hearted approach than the 2015 film Marguerite. The movie is has been well received and provides a good share of laughs, though, for this reviewer, it was something of a one joke film.

Ice Age: Collision Course
Director: Mike Thurmeier and Galen T Chu
Cast includes: Simon Pegg, Roy Romano, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Hohn Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Chris Wedge
A computer animation family adventure film. This is the fifth instalment in the Ice Age series and the sequel to Continental Drift. Scratt (Wedge), the sabre toothed squirrel, activates an alien UFO in his continued pursuit of the acorn. The craft propels Scratt into outer space and thence causes a planetary collision resulting in the creation of meteors that threaten to engulf the earth. Manny (Romero) the Wooly Mammoth, Sid (Leguizamo) the sloth and Diego (Leary) the sabre toothed tiger hatch a plan with the weasel Buck (Pegg) to save the earth. The plot is quite unbelievable, but the resulting mayhem is as entertaining as ever. New characters are introduced as the movie unfolds and the film a worthy addition to the franchise. Whats not to like?

Independence Day: Resurgence
Director: Roland Emmerich
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Golgblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch
In the 1996 film 'Independence Day' the earth underwent alien invasion but this was finally repulsed and the attackers were defeated. In the aftermath, earth spent time understanding the alien technology and developing a global defence program with military based on the Moon, Mars and a moon of Saturn. Now twenty years later, the aliens return, with a larger and much more powerful battle fleet. Again earth must fight for its independence. This is a fast moving film with everything bigger and better than the original, thought the plot is a little lighter. Some of the old characters return to provide continuity though Will Smith is absent. A fun, action packed, visually impressive and entertaining movie.

The Conjuring 2
Director: James Wan
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O' Connor, Madison Wolfe
A sequel to the 2013 film 'The Conjuring'. Lorraine (Farmiga) and Ed (Wilson) Warren are psychic investigators. The hear of a haunting and travel to the UK to help Peggy Hodgson (O'Connor), a single mother of four, who is plagued by poltergeist activity in her London council house. However things get worse when Peggy's youngest daughter Janet (Wolfe) shows signs of daemon possession. The psychic investigators come to find themselves in peril. A superior horror movie which provides plenty of frights and has been well received.

The Secret Life of Pets
Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Louis C.K., Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart
A family animation film that follows the lives of pets living in a Manhattan apartment building during the time their owners leave them alone. Max (Louis) is a rather spoilt terrier who starts to find himself neglected when his owner Katie (Kemper) brings home Duke (Stonestreet), a mongrel, from a dog pound. However the two dogs must put their rivalry behind them when they are captured by Snowball (Hart) a rabbit and an army of abandoned pets who are trying to get back at all happily owned pets and their owners. This is a delightful and energetic animation movie that is inoffensive and fun for all, young and old.

Zootropolis (Zootopia)
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman
This is a comedy animation set in the city of Zootropolis which is populated by animals. Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is a rabbit rookie police officer. She parters with a con-artist fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) to solve the mystery of a missing husband. An excellently made fun movie that will appeal to a wide range of ages.

Lancaster's Museums "Stuck in the Past", says Councillor Clifford, as future discussed

Darren Clifford

City Councillor Darren Clifford, Cabinet member with responsibility for leisure, culture and tourism says Lancaster museum offering is "stuck in the past" and in need of major overhaul if they are to maintain their "significance".

Cabinet members met to discuss a report from museum consultants Aitken, Prince and Pearce on Tuesday (28th June 2016), which include a radical revamp of the City Museum as the central hub of a new and revitalised museums service - and the closure of the Cottage and Maritime Museum, along with a proposal for a new museum facility in Morecambe.

No decisions were taken on the report’s recommendations (reported here), but Cabinet members agreed to commission a complete redesign of the museums service with the emphasis on providing an enhanced cultural offer and much improved public access.

A more detailed review of longer term management options will also be undertaken, along with further feasibility work on each of the proposed elements in the report.

Councillor Roger Mace

Speaking at the meeting, City Councillor Roger Mace, Chair of the Friends of the Friends of Lancaster City Museum called for some joined up thinking on the future of Lancaster's museums when he addressed the City's Cabinet meeting before its decision to approve the recommendations set out in its agenda.

Councillor Mace emphasised that FOLCM's broad interest is to see coordination of all the museums in the District. He noted the possible move of Lancaster's Visitor Information Centre to be part of the reinvigorated museums service that Cabinet proposes - but reminded Cabinet of the present importance of the Visitor Information Centre in giving financial support to the viability of the Storey Institute, and of the importance of the present ground floor space in the City Museum Building as flexible space and as space for the mounting of the temporary exhibitions which are so successful in attracting local visitors to make repeat visits to the museum.

A recommendation included in Roger Mace's address "that a Museums Cabinet Liaison Group be formed" was accepted by Councillor Clifford, and approved in a later agenda item at the cabinet meeting.

Currently, Lancaster City Council’s museum collections reside in the City Museum, located in the Old Town Hall in the Market Square, the Cottage Museum adjacent to the Castle, the Maritime Museum in the Port of Lancaster Custom House and adjacent Warehouse on St George’s Quay, and an out-of-District store in Preston. The three museums are managed by Lancashire County Council under an agreement with the City although the buildings and the objects (with the sole exception of those of theKing’s Own Regimental Museum which occupies space within the City Museum) remain the property of the City Council.

The Council does not run the Judges' Lodgings, due to close in September, and Lancaster Castle - which is being developed as a major heritage attraction - is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and, as we noted in out news story, their role in Lancaster's museum offering was not considered in the Aitken, Prince and Pearce report, which cost £9500.

“Museums can no longer be ‘cabinets of curiosities’ - they need to be interactive, dynamic and educational, centred around the visitor experience and powered by a commercial engine," commented Councillor Clifford after the meeting.

During the financial year 2015-2016 Lancashire County Council reports the The City Museum had 46,620 visitors, the Cottage Museum 4800 and the Maritime Museum 8,038 (but has been closed since October 2015).

Lancaster Market Square and Museum. Photo: John Freeman

“Unfortunately Lancaster’s museums are, quite literally, stuck in the past, and would require a massive investment to bring them up to date with modern expectations.

“Unless we look at making fundamental changes and rethinking how we run them, they will spiral into insignificance.

“Across the country we’ve seen a number of museums put under threat due to the reductions the Government is making in local government funding.

“While finance is certainly a factor, the key driver for us is make sure we have a museums service that will really excite future generations and encourage them to connect with our heritage.”

Also at the meeting was Major Danny Parsonage, a Trustee of The Kings Own, who had attended a recent FOLCM Committee meeting and presented a number of points additional to those presented by Roger Mace.

"FOLCM is aware that the contents of the Kings Own Museum is owned by a Registered Charity with appointed Trustees and that the Kings Own moved items from Bowerham Barracks in the 1920s at the invitation of the City to be in the same building as the City Museum," he said on the subject of The Kings Own. "In view of this long established co-location of the two museums, FOLCM considers the display of the collections owned by the Trustees of the Kings Own Museum to be an integral part of the offerings within the City Museum and (subject to the opportunities for display of the collection at any proposed new location within Lancaster being sustainably funded and seen as 'cost effective' and advantageous to that Museum by its Trustees), FOLCM is opposed to any plan that separates these displays."

He noted the potentially unaffordable costs of proposals for repairs and maintenance and refreshing of the displays in the City Museum and added:

"In the event of major works affecting the interior of the City Museum, and leading to temporary full closure, we ask that alternative venues for displays and for community engagement be made available to cover the full period of closure. This will keep disruption of the service to the local public and inconvenience to visitors to a minimum."

Among other recommendations, the report from Aitken, Prince and Pearce suggests:

    • The City Museum could potentially act as a gateway to the city and the wider district and could include the Visitor Information Centre, retail and catering alongside frequently refreshed collections and exhibitions
    • In the longer term the development of a new multi-use facility at Morecambe Seafront, with a museums and cultural dimension, should be looked into. This would bring together the interests of many partners around culture, heritage, ecology, wildlife and outdoor pursuits
    • The Maritime and Cottage museums should be closed as maintaining them would be costly and risk the viability of the museum service as a whole. The Customs House part of the Maritime Museum, however, could be ‘mothballed’ in case the building is needed in connection with the interpretation of the Roman finds found recently in Quay Meadow
    • New improved storage facilities are needed so collections from all the museums are consolidated and conserved in a new store

You can read the Report online here. There are no costings in the report in terms of how much it would cost to close the two museums, or how much it would cost to build an all-new facility in Morecambe

Monday, 27 June 2016

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" Takes Over Lancaster Library

A photo from rehearsals for A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Chad Porter as Demetrius and Laura Shepherd as Helena. Image: Elart
Lancaster Library is host to a lively version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the comedy written by William Shakespeare portraying the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta - brought to Lancaster by local group Elart.

Elart has already performed the comedy in aid of St. John's Hospice, as part of their weekend-long fund raising event.

The comedy includes the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (the mechanicals) who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. The play is one of Shakespeare's most popular works for the stage and is widely performed across the world.

"I’ve got a talented and committed cast," says director Emma Ruscastle of the production, who is the founder of independent theatre company ELART Productions. "They’re hard-working and lovely to create with – willing to trust me and each other and try almost anything, which is vital in a process of this nature."

Ben Brighouse as Moonshine/Starveling.
Image: Elart
Since 2009, ELART Productions has been putting on high quality theatre of all types in a wide range of settings, using both professional and community actors and creatives.

A Midsummer Night's Dream 7.30pm Friday 1st July 2016, Lancaster Library, Market Square, Lancaster. Tickets £5, availailable from Lancaster Library or by emailing

• If you are interested in working with ELART Productions in any capacity, or you have an idea for a show or workshop you would like, please contact them via

Actress Cherylee Houston Appeals for New Honorary Patrons for The Dukes

Cherylee Houston, Honorary Patron of The Dukes. Photo: The Dukes
As fans of Coronation Street will know, one of The Dukes Honorary Patrons, actress Cherylee Houston, has been at the centre of a major storyline recently - but that didn't stop her taking time out to support the theatre.

Cherylee, who plays Izzy Armstrong in the soap, has been watched by millions recently as she defended herself in court against drugs and assault charges in the popular soap.

It was a powerful performance by the actor who began her career here at The Dukes youth theatre – then known as The Bottleshop – in the late 1980s and early Nineties.

Cherylee, originally from Morecambe, is now one of The Dukes Honorary Patrons and returns to visit as regularly as her busy television career will allow.

While on the Coronation Street set, Cherylee recently recorded a video about The Dukes which is currently playing before the venue's film screenings.

“More than 20 years ago, I was one of many young people lucky enough to be inspired by The Dukes and I also appeared in some of its magical productions in Williamson Park,” she says.

“I spent four wonderful years at The Dukes and it gave me an invaluable grounding as an actor. I hope more people will help The Dukes to give opportunities to young people because it transforms so many lives.”

She describes The Dukes as where the soul of our community is nurtured. “In short, it is indispensable.”

The video encourages people to become patrons who play a central role in sustaining The Dukes, which is currently gearing up for its Theatre in the Park show, The Hobbit, which launches on 5th July

• Anyone interested can find out more from the Box Office on 01524 598500 or via

• Cherylee’s video can be viewed at

• Follow Cherylee on Twitter @cheryleehouston

Sunday, 26 June 2016

County Council, Wyre Council to meet to discuss cuts ahead

Leaders at Lancashire County Council have invited senior members and officers from Wyre Council to a meeting to discuss the ongoing review of the county council's buildings and how it delivers its services.

Just as in Lancaster,  the Wyre area faces more cuts to services in response to Government funding reductions for councils, including proposed library closures and many young children's services in favour of "Neighbourhood Centres" pooling more limited resources - but which may be some distance from the communities they are supposed to serve, adding to transport costs for families.

"As part of our response to the serious financial challenges we are facing, we have published a series of proposals setting out changes to how we deliver some of our local services," notes County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of the county council with responsibility for Finance and Property. "By creating a network of neighbourhood centres, which would deliver multiple services tailored to meet the needs of the local community, we would be able to make significant savings by reducing the number of buildings we own and rent.

"We have invited senior elected members and officers from Wyre to meet with us so that we can discuss the impact of these proposals for communities across the district and to identify any opportunities for delivering services differently with partners in the area.

"We are part way through a 12-week public consultation process which will shape the final proposals which will go before our Cabinet in September. This meeting would play a role in ensuring we have fully considered all of the issues and would offer the opportunity to explore all of the possible options. We have had similar meetings with colleagues from other districts which have proved very helpful."

• The public consultation on the Lancashire County Council property review will run until Sunday 14th August. People can find out more and respond to the consultation online by visiting "Changes to our buildings". You can see overall map of proposed changes here. Alternatively, paper versions of the consultation document are available from libraries and children's centres