Saturday, 29 October 2016

Light Up Lancaster! Only 6 days to go!!

This year’s Light Up Lancaster festival is just a few days away now -  a weekend of cultural events across the city taking place on November 4 - 5. Don't even read this article, just go now and check out the website + brochure with all the events and wonders you can expect - it's amazing.

OK, for the cynics still here, listen, it will be a magical weekend of illuminations, installations, projections, music and spectacle for all the family, themed around the city's cultural heritage (pretty loosely in places :-), with a trail of marvels through the city centre on the Friday evening and culminating in the annual fireworks spectacular on Saturday night.

Festival goers are encouraged to enter into the spirit of the festival by dressing up in anything sparkly, glowy and glittery!  ‘Bright Sparks Spotters’ will be on hand to spot the best-dressed and award prizes kindly donated by local businesses.

The festival welcomes local, national and international artists including Steve Messam with his stunning installation ‘When the Red Rose’, which has been commissioned by Marketing Lancashire and is being displayed in locations throughout the county before appearing in the atmospheric setting of The Storey Gardens.

Scenocosme, from France, bring us ‘Urban Lights Contacts’, an interactive piece relying on the co-operation of spectators, and a group of Valencian artists return this year to unveil their ‘Falla’, a unique structure based on figures from Lancaster’s history.

That's just three things. Out of loads. I'm not telling you any more. I'm not even telling you what the picture above is (go fish). Go see.

On Saturday in the day there will be guided walks, workshops, live music in many establishments, tours of the castle and lantern making.

Then in the evening, watch the Lancaster Fireworks Spectacular with an array of amazing fireworks launched from the top of Lancaster Castle,  with BBC Radio Lancashire presenters back again this year to broadcast the specially coordinated firework music live from Quay Meadow.

Wristbands to watch the fireworks from Quay Meadow and Giant Axe have now sold out online, but you can just turn up at the other official viewing areas at Williamson Park and Salt Ayre Sports Centre.  Anywhere you can see the castle, you'll be able to see the fireworks. If you tune into Radio Lancashire, you'll also be able to hear the music (and that's the only warning you're going to get).

The free glossy printed programme for the weekend is now available online at (where it's even glossier) or pop in to Lancaster Visitor Information Centre to request your copy.

Brought to you by Lancaster Arts City, Lancaster City Council and Lancaster BID, Light Up Lancaster has been kindly funded and supported by Arts Council England, University of Cumbria, The Duchy of Lancaster, Canal and Rivers Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund,  Confucius Institute of Lancaster University, Marketing Lancashire, Lancashire Encounter, Aldcliffe Road Triangle, Lancaster and Morecambe College, BBC Radio Lancashire, Storm Consultancy, Better with Jam and Morecambe and Lancaster Lions.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Lancaster's Christmas Shelter Appeal is launched

Lancaster & District Homeless Action Service (LDHAS) are busy organising our City's Annual Christmas Shelter for Lancaster's homeless people. The hope is that they will be able to offer a warm, safe place to sleep for 5 nights - with cooked breakfast and supper, hot drinks, Christmas Day lunch and small Christmas gifts.

They tell us that without the help and support of the Lancaster community, this would not be possible. Each and every year the support is exceptional, via donations of food, clothing, money and gifts (see below for details of what's needed and how to donate it).

Growing need
This year, there has been a big increase in people needing the service. Many are struggling to cope with the introduction of universal credit, benefit sanctions, health issues, rising living costs, substandard housing and food poverty.

LDHAS are finding themselves increasingly at the ‘front line’ dealing with individuals who have no recourse to statutory services - and where they should be entitled to statutory help, those services are so stretched they fail to cope, leaving people forced to fall back onto charity. LDHAS believe most charities are facing similar challenges.

Despite the daily challenges, the Service is going strong and has had some very positive outcomes: Since December 2015 they have successfully housed 29 people, with 6 of those moving into employment. With the continuing support from local Booths stores, the generosity of their customers has enabled LDHAS to distribute over 250 individual food parcels, and to share the food donations among other local charitable organisations.

So here's a brief round-up of what's happening so far, as donations are beginning to arrive.
We'll keep you up to date with what's happening and what's needed as we go along.

Please donate money!
You can send a cheque payable to LDHAS and post it or drop it into the centre at:
LDHAS, 6 Edward Street, Lancaster LA1 1QH
marked for the attention of Sandra O’Neill / Finance.
You can also donate via online banking:
Account Name: LDHAS
Sort Code: 40-27-02
Account Number: 41393553
Please use reference: “Shelter2016”

If you are making a monetary donation and are a UK tax payer, if you print and sign this Gift Aid declaration and send it to LDHAS they can claim back 25pence for every £1 you donate, from the Inland Revenue.

Warm Winter Clothing
The types of clothing needed are winter weather garments - waterproof coats, jeans, boots and warm underwear - and washing powder for clients' clothes.

Food and Brews
Currently LDHA have been fortunate to receive fresh fruit and vegetables from the harvest festival period, as well as lots of tinned soup, pasta and beans. The items most needed at present are sugar and coffee.

The bedding is sorted, for now at least
Whilst grateful for all donations,  LDHAS don't have a lot of room for storage; at the moment they have full stock of bedding, duvets and blankets.

Call for volunteers
LDHAS really depends on the commitment and energy of terrific volunteers who help so much in keeping the daily service up and running. The Christmas shelter will be needing volunteers to help out in all kinds of ways and you can find out more if you register your interest on their website or sign up for their newsletter using the box at the bottom of their website homepage.

They are really missing long-serving volunteer Nigel, who died in late September. Nigel volunteered for over 20 years - he was the man with the van – helping with food collection and distribution, delivering household items to newly housed clients; helping with setting up the Christmas Shelter.

Nigel's contribution was invaluable and he will be sorely missed by everyone at the Edward Street Centre. It would mean a lot to keep the light of his work burning brightly.

Volunteer Van driver (with Van) needed
If there is anyone who has a reasonably sized van and could spare a couple of days each fortnight and a day before Christmas, please contact LDHAS. You can phone 01524 842008, email: or get in touch via their facebook page or their website.

Call for Trustees
LDHAS are also looking to recruit extra Trustees to join the current team. Meetings take place once every 2 months – usually on the second Monday of the month from 5.30pm and last roughly an hour and a half. If you would like to be involved, and have experience of, or an interest in publicity, fundraising or governance, please email Sandra at for more info.
More importantly LDHAS are in need of a Treasurer, clearly for this role a financial background would help.

If you have a specific project in mind that you feel could bring added value to their existing operations LDHAS would love to hear from you. Likewise if you have a skill set that you feel could benefit the client training team please get in touch.

Upcoming events:
Saturday 19th November brings the Green Party Christmas Fair to the Friends Meeting House in Lancaster  LDHAS will be selling garden ornaments made by clients under the expert and enthusiastic guidance of instructor Diane - certainly one of those ‘ideal Christmas gifts’.
They have also produced the very first LDHAS calendar for 2017- again the product of a photography course run for clients. These are £6 each or 2 for £10, and all proceeds will go towards the service.
If you would like a calendar and can’t make it to the Fair, please contact Hilary on
01524 842008  or

Saturday 26th November : LDHAS Annual Sleep Out. Town Hall Steps Lancaster.
Please contact Gary Welsh for details

Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 December see the LDHA drama group ( Alternative Outcomes) bring their  2016 Production....'After the Floods' to the Dukes stage, with performances at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm (see picture above). Tickets are £5 and can be booked here.
They will also be performing at The Foyer in Morecambe on Wednesday 12 December.
Read Virtual-Lancaster's report on this production here.
The production is booking tour dates around the North West region: for more information contact Hilary or call 01524 842008

LDHAS wish you all a very happy and  peaceful Christmas and best wishes for 2017.
Please take a look at their Facebook page for regular updates or visit their website at where you can also sign up for their occasional newsletter.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Closure of Lancaster's White Cross Adult College confirmed

Not for much longer
Virtual Lancaster can now confirm that from December 2016 courses will no longer be delivered at White Cross Education Centre, as Lancashire Country Council is redeveloping the building for a change of usage, due to government budget cuts.

We reported last Sunday (via our facebook page) that tutors at the Adult College on White Cross had been told that the building would close in nine days time.

Adult learning courses in Lancaster are delivered by Lancaster Adult Learning Ltd (LAL), which is an offshoot of Nelson & Colne 6th Form College. When VL called LAL on Tuesday at their Chorley office, they were unaware of any forthcoming change and reassured us that classes would be continuing in the new year as normal.

We called Nelson & Colne College and asked them for clarification, and they have issued the statement below, on behalf of LAL confirming the closure, but keen to reassure that they will still be offering an adult education provision in the area, which will include over 50 courses in the Lancaster area available to the public. They tell us that they see Adult Learning provision in Lancaster as a key growth area.

We asked them about the future of the assets at White Cross, which is equipped with a pottery studio and kiln, for example. We were interested to know how such facilities could be provided elsewhere.

They explained that the building remains the property of Lancashire County Council and it would be up to LCC to determine how these assets could be deployed. So we called County on Tuesday and asked them about its plans for these assets. They said they would get back to us and we are still looking forward to hearing from them.

White Cross isn't the only facility to be hit. The number of Adult Education venues across Lancashire has been significantly reduced as dedicated venues, such as White Cross, Alston Hall in Longridge, and Lancashire College in Chorley are phased out, with the loss of expensive built-in educational resources that cannot easily be replaced.

Some of the courses offered can be moved into ad-hoc rented premises, such as the Storey, but others, which depend on specialist facilities, such as IT, sciences, arts and crafts, will not be easily replaced and we have not yet seen plans to do so.

There are plans to close other local specialist services, such as Children's Centres across the area and some community mental health services in favour of more centralised, less locally accessible services at White Cross.

The reason for these cutbacks is that the County Council has sustained a massive cut to its budget (over 60% and rising) from this Conservative government. Government cuts have disproportionately targeted poorer authorities that deal with greater levels of disadvantage and low income.

This being the case, it does seems fairly impressive that Lancashire County Council is managing to deliver the services that it still does. We understand that there have been some agonising choices to be made, in terms of services to invalid, disabled and elderly people and children. Day care and home-care services have been cut back or priced out of the range of many. Libraries and museums have closed. Infrastructure repairs have been delayed. Council offices have been cleared and sold or rented. Adult education cannot be exempt. Services for these sectors don't benefit the government's corporate political donors and their overseas shareholders.

A little learning is a dangerous thing
A new / old education policy is being developed in which grammar schools will harvest a small percentage of children, those who can perform best on a single day at age 11, for more advanced education and direct the rest into more menial channels, anchored to the social station to which they were born.

Statement from Lancashire Adult Learning:

Lancashire Adult Learning (LAL) offers a wide range of learning opportunities to adults across Lancashire, to include over 50 courses in Lancaster.

From December 2016, courses will no longer be delivered at White Cross Education Centre, part of Lancashire County Council, due to building refurbishment and development plans. Any courses that have already started and are running this term will complete as planned.

Any equipment and resources belonging to LAL at White Cross Education Centre will be transferred to new venues or donated to local community partners, where appropriate.

Lancashire Adult Learning has exciting plans to expand its provision in Lancaster and is working with a number of partners and venues across the region to develop this.

Lancashire Adult Learning’s new course list will be available in December for courses running from January 2017. Courses planned throughout Lancaster range from art and crafts, to employability skills, health and wellbeing, and much more.

Courses will be delivered in a range of Lancaster venues to include University of Cumbria, The Storey Institute, Halton Mill, Lancaster Library and The Cornerstone.

Lancashire Adult Learning currently delivers over 300 courses in more than 40 venues across Lancashire. To find out more about LAL visit or contact 0333 003 1717.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 26th October to 3rd November 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.

With halloween soon upon us, there is a excellent selection of horror movies being screened. Modern horror comes with Blair Witch (15); Don't Breathe (15); Ouija: Origin of Evil (15) and the Iranian thriller Under the Shadow. Classical examples of the genre come with the spectacular Pan's Labyrinth and the scary The Shining; Finally the Dukes is offering a more vintage double bill with Dracula and The Mummy.

Fantasy this period comes with the family movies Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (12A) and The Witches. Also Marvel comics heroes continue to make it to the screen with Doctor Strange (12A).

Drama as always is well represented with The Accountant; The Girl on the Train (15) and Tomboy. Also there is the docudrama Deepwater Horizon and comedy drama with Swiss Army Man and The Greasy Strangler. Also on offer are the action and adventure movies Inferno (12A) and jack Reacher: Never Go Back (12A).

Romance comes with The Light between Oceans and comedy romance in Bridget Jones's Baby.

Family films and animation this period are Ice Age: Collision Course (U); Storks (U); Trolls (U); The BFG (PG) and The Secret Life of Pets (U).

Finally high culture comes with Anastasia - Royal Opera; Branagh Theatre Live: The Entertainer and York Theatre Royal: The Railway Children.


Blair Witch
Director: Adam Wingard
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: James Alen McCure, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott
This is a sequel to the 1999 'Blair Witch' movie. James Donahue (McCure) thinks his sister Heather, who disappeared twenty years ago, may still be alive in the Black Hills Forest of Maryland. He, along with a group of friends and a couple of guides, enter the forest to explore the facts surrounding the Blair Witch and Heather's disappearance. As the night comes, all hell starts to breaks loose. The movie is in the 'found footage' genre and it comes with plenty of frights and some original twists, despite remaining faithful to the original film. A very competent horror movie though it doesn't quite capture the novelty of the original.

Bridget Jones's Baby
Director: Sharon Maguire
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Renee Zellweger, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey
After a break of twelve years, this is the third instalment of the romantic comedy franchise and author Helen Fielding co-wrote the script. Bridge Jones is now aged forty-three and still single, having broken up with Mark Darcy (Firth). She decided to concentrate on her career as a news producer. However she meets a handsome American Jack (Dempsey) and has consecutive one night stands with both Jack and Mark. She finds herself pregnant, but does not know which one is the father. This movie captures the spirit of the original and is an improvement on the previous 'Edge of Reason'. It is set in London with Jones in her old flat and the movie features strong acting both from Zellweger and from Thompson. There are some very funny moments and excellent one liners.

Doctor Strange
Director: Scott Derrickson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Kikkelsen
Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) was a surgeon whose career was ruined by a car accident which crushed his hands. He learned of an Ancient One (Swinton) with healing powers and so travels to Nepal to seek out the mystic. Here Strange learns of the different dimensions, magic and becomes a warrior on the astral plane. Meanwhile a former disciple of the Ancient One Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) has turned to the dark side and is intent on invoking the malevolent Dormammu from his alien abode. Strange much choose between a life of fortune or to defend the earth from magical attack. Doctor Strange has made a very successful transition from comic to the screen and the movie provides a good plot with excellent acting and dialogue. Special effects are very convincing and the film is one of the better Marvel super-hero movies.

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?

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Director: Tim Burton
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Samuel L Jackson, Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench
A rather dark fantasy drama based on the 2011 best selling novel by Ransom Riggs. Jake (Butterfield), following the death of his grandfather, finds Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. This is a refuge for people with extraordinary gifts and it is fixed in one day in 1940, which they continually re-live. The inhabitants of the home can access different time zones. However they have powerful enemies, led by Mr Barron (Jackson), who also has peculiar powers. Jake finds himself being called upon to help his new friends. This is a very busy film with plenty of characters, lots of action and CGI special effects. However, in this variety, there seems limited time for the characters to fully develop. The movie has received mixed reviews but this reviewer found it great fun.

Director: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Anton Starkman
Conerstone used to be in the business of delivering babies and most of its employees are stalks. However CEO stalk Hunter (Grammer) discontinued the service for the more lucrative business of delivering parcels. The business receives a letter from Nate (Starkman) a neglected boy who wants a baby brother and Tulip (Crown), a woman working for Cornerstone, causes the baby machine to create a girl in response to the letter. Now Tulip and her stork friend Junior (Samberg) must deliver the baby before Hunter finds out. This involves their facing a pack of wolves, militant penguins and an avalanche. This is a bizarre, non stop and fun packed movie that will appeal to all ages. It has been well received by the critics and is sure to please.

The Girl on the Train
Director: Tate Taylor
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Justin Theroux
A movie based on Paula Hawkins best selling 2015 novel of the same name. Rachel (Blunt) is an alcoholic who recently divorced her husband Tom (Theroux). She commutes every day by train and on her journey she fantasises about the seemingly perfect couple Scott (Evans) and Megan (Bennett) Hipwell who live in a house that she passes. Rachel witnesses something shocking on her journey and then hears Megan Hipwell is missing. She tells the police and starts her own investigation. Yet she cannot remember where where she was on the night of Megan's disappearance, and Megan and Scott are neighbours of her ex husband. Hence Rachel find the police start to suspect she is involved in the mystery. This is a well acted first rate mystery with a plot that provides a good number of unexpected turns. A must-see movie.

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.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Motorcyclist, 53, hurt in Lancaster collision

 A 53-year-old man has suffered a serious foot injury following a collision in Lancaster.

Police were called by the Ambulance Service around 5.30pm yesterday (24th October) following reports of an accident on Little Fell Lane.

A Volkswagen Polo travelling towards Lancaster was involved in a collision with a Honda motorbike.

The motorcyclist, a 53-year-old man from Lancaster, suffered significant injuries to his right foot and was taken by paramedics to Royal Preston Hospital for treatment.

The driver of the Volkswagen, a 55-year-old woman, also from Lancaster, was uninjured. The road was closed for three hours while accident investigators attended the scene.

Police are appealing for information following the incident.

Sgt Tracey Ward, of Lancashire Roads Policing Unit, said: “We are continuing to investigate the circumstances around a road traffic collision in Lancaster.
“If you saw either the Volkswagen or Honda before the collision, or witnessed the incident, please contact us.”

• Anyone with information can call police on 101 quoting log reference 1014 of 24th October 2016