Saturday, 17 December 2016

New Xmas hamper food donation point at SearchQuest, Church St

Anyone who wants to contribute to this year's Christmas hamper collection
can drop their items off at SearchQuest's headquarters at
80 Church Street before Thursday, December 22.

Award-winning Lancaster Digital Marketing Experts SearchQuest, have launched their annual Christmas appeal and are reaching out to other Lancaster businesses to get involved.

They are inviting businesses and residents to stop by their Church Street offices to donate hamper items to the Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service (LDHAS).

SearchQuest staff (pictured) are collecting donations from staff, local residents and other businesses to help give those who are less fortunate a comfortable Christmas.

Senior Digital Marketing Executive, Katie Hornby, has been organising the collection and is overwhelmed at the generosity of both staff and the public. She said: "Christmas is supposed to be a special time of year for everyone, so we thought it would be a great idea to give a little to those who may not be as fortunate as we are.

“I'm amazed by the amount of donations that we’ve received after only two days of our appeal being launched. With just under a week left until we deliver our hampers, we are hoping even more people will get involved and make Christmas extra special for those who are homeless in the area.”

LDHAS need a variety of items, including dried fruit, cartons of fruit juice, socks, gloves, sanitary items and non-perishable foods, and are extremely grateful for anything that can be spared for those who will be spending Christmas outside this year.

Since their founding in 2000, it has become a tradition for SearchQuest staff to keep it real and dedicate their services to helping those struggling with misfortune.

So far this year, the Lancaster business, which has now grown to being an official Google Premier Partner,  has created more than 20 hampers for our local Homeless Action charity, and hope to put together at least another ten before they deliver them on Friday, December 23. With your help, they might manage even more. There are people facing the roughest times of their lives in our area who will be so glad of it.

Last Christmas, the Searchquest team collected for both the St. John’s Hospice and Animal Care charities and recently raised more than £500 at their Macmillan Coffee Morning.

Anyone who wants to contribute to this year's Christmas hamper collection can drop their items off at SearchQuest's headquarters at 80 Church Street before Thursday, December 22.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 14th to 22nd December 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.

Things are fairly static in the run up to Christmas, with only two new releases. There is musical animation Ballerina (U) and science fiction adventure/romance Passengers (12A).

Movies that have vanished from the region include the two animations Ice Age:Collision Course and The Secret Life of Pets. Also the films A United Kingdom; Allied and Bad Santa 2 are coming to an end of their screening. However we do see the return, for one day only, of I, Daniel Blake with its view of life on benefits.

There are three science fiction movies on offer this period. Aliens visit the earth in Arrival; the rebel alliance continues to harass the Empire in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and love is found amidst adversity on a starship in Passengers.

Romance can also be found in the second world war in Allied whereas A United Kingdom tells a story of forbidden Love.

Other drama comes with an aviation crisis in Sully: Miracle on the Hudson; racial tension with In the Heat of the Night and terrorism in Die Hard.

The movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them offers Fantasy from J K Rowling. Family entertainment also comes with the animation films Ballerina; Moana; Storks and Trolls.

Festive comedy for all comes with The Muppet Christmas Carol whereas adult comedy is provided by Bad Santa 2 and Office Christmas Party.

High Culture this period is represented by the Bolshoi Ballet: The Nutcracker and National Theatre Live: No Man's Land.


A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: David Oyelowo Rosamund Pike
Based on the book 'Colour Bar' by Susan Williams, the film is a romantic drama based on the real life romance between Sir Seretse Khama, king of Botswana and Ruth Williams. Seretse and Ruth met in London, in the 1940's, fell in love and subsequently married. However the marriage was opposed by their families, the couple becoming ostracised by their friends. Governments were also involved as South Africa had recently introduced their system of apartheid and they pressured the British government with threats of economic sanctions if the marriage was allowed to go ahead. This is a fine period romance with excellent costumes, impressive cinematography and exotic backdrops. The film concentrates on the human drama faced by the couple and rather glosses over the political complexities, but it is not the worse for that. The movie has received good reviews.

Bad Santa 2
Director: Mark Waters
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Kathy Bates, Brett Kelly
A sequel to the 2003 movie 'Bad Santa', starring many of the original cast. Wilie Soke (Thornton) again plays the role of drunk, lecherous and greedy anit-hero. He teams up with his helper Marcus (Cox) to attempt to rob a Chicago charity of $2 million on Christmas eve. Also involved in the scheme is Soke's foul mouthed mother Sunny (Bates) and 'the kid' from the first movie Thurmon Merman (Brett Kelly) now fully grown but no less innocent. The movie contains much bad language and sex scenes as it tries to recapture the magic of the original. However there are fewer 'laugh out loud' moments amongst the rather muddled plot. An average movie which received mixed reviews.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell
This is a Harry Potter prequel, inspired by J K Rowling's book of the same name. The movie is set in the 1920's, where Newt Scamander is a magizoologist, collecting and studying magical creatures. He visits New Your City where several of these creatures escape from his suitcase. He collects about him a group of allies to try to recapture the beasts. However New York at this time has been under a reign of terror from the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Depp) and in the era of suspicion the creatures are believed to be responsible for an attack. Hence Percival Graves (Farrell), a director of magical secrets, declares war on Scamander and his helpers. This is a wonderful film and a fine tribute to the creativity of Rawlings. There are lots of plots, strange people and weird and wonderful beasts. The movie has received favourable reviews, but is perhaps a little darker than the Harry Potter series.

Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson
A Walt Disney animated fantasy adventure. Moana (Cravalho) is the teenage daughter of the chief of a Polynesian island. However the fish and island produce become less abundant and hence Moana undertakes a nautical quest to find the magical amulet Te Fiti's heart and the demigod Maui (Johnson). The quest involves monsters and battles This is a magical film, with music, comedy and a good dose of adventure. It is extremely well produced and has received excellent reviews from both critics and audience. A must see movie for all ages.

Director: Morten Tyldum
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt
The rocket 'Starship Avalon' is on a 120 year voyage from earth to the colony planet Homestead II, transporting over 5000 people who are travelling in hibernation pods is a state of suspended animation. However two of the pods open prematurely releasing their occupants while they are still 90 years from their destination. These are journalist Aurora Dunn (Lawrence) and mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Pratt). They are drawn to each other and romance blossoms. However they need to understand the apparent malfunction that released them early from their hibernation and decide how to respond to their plight. They discover that the pods are not the only problem and the spaceship and its entire cargo is in jeopardy. This is a science fiction movie with a good helpings of romance, suspense and action. An entertaining movie.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Felicity Jones
This movie is set just before the events of the original Star Wars. There are rumours circulating that the Galactic Empire are about to construct a horrendous new weapon, a 'Death Star' designed by Galen Erso (Mikkelson) A small team of rebels led by his daughter Jyn Erso (Jones) and Cassian Ander (Luna) strive to find the designer and steal the design schematics. The movie hosts new and familiar aliens who strive to 'use the force' and it comes with breathtaking special effects. This is more gritty that the familiar star wars offering, more of a war move with a higher body count and more muddied ethics. The movie has been well received and will delight audiences. It breaks new ground from the classic Star Wars, but only just.

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.

Labour City Council "out of its depth" on community pool closures, say Tories

Lancaster City Council's Conservative Party Group have accused Labour of failing to keep their promises to engage with the community to find solutions to keep the swimming pools in Carnforth, Hornby and Heysham.

The concerns come as the Council meets tonight and discusses the issue of the community pools today and the Conservatives will be asking for action at the meeting.

Conservative spokesperson and Bare ward councillor Charlie Edwards told virtual-lancaster councillors were promised that they would receive an update in November and visibly there has been no action from the Council to keep these community assets in the community.

The Conservatives propose that if the schools are committed to taking on the pools but need more time to finalise arrangements, the Council should continue to operate the pools beyond April 2017 for a limited period in order to ensure they remain available for public use until transition takes place.

Councillor Andrew Gardiner, who represents Overton, said: "Despite all the boasts about spending £5 million at Salt Ayre, it would be much more effective also to keep community pools open. Heysham have a huge community asset in the pool at Heysham High and I want the Council to help facilitate a Community Asset Transfer."

Councillor Mel Guilding, representing Carnforth, said: "We have had to fight for any information about Carnforth pool: there has been little engagement with the community. Everyone in Carnforth should have access to the pools, it was the people of Carnforth who paid brick by brick for the pool to be built in the first place."

Leader of the Conservative Group, Peter Williamson said: "The Councils are dragging out the process and failing to consider the interests of those who use and work at the pools."

"It is clear to us the Labour Party is out of its depth."

Positive Progress on Lancaster's Local Plan

The Conservatives will also be lending their support to a decision on the council's Local Plan.

"As a Party, we are disappointed that it has taken so long," Charlie Edwards told virtual-lancaster, "as every day we don't have a plan that allocates where people can and cannot build, another developer can put in an application anywhere in the entire District.

"It's a huge piece of work and we have made significant inputs to make sure that all rural areas keep their independence, that the look and feel of the City does not change and that our growth matches the actual need for housing in the area. We want development that is good for the District as a whole, not what is good for developers. "

• Here is the Council report on the community pools: 

Agenda for 14th December 2016 Council Meeting

Lancashire County Council's fund to support rural life in Lancashire - details announced

Old School Brewery, a microbrewery based near Warton Crag, has benefitted from the LEADER  fund. Photo: Lancahsire County Council
Rural companies in Lancashire are being encouraged to apply for a share of £3.8m to grow their business, funding that is the next stage of the Lancashire LEADER programme 2015-2020.

The funding can support a range of activities such as business development, farming, rural services, culture and heritage, and forestry and can be used for a variety of different uses such as buying equipment and business expansion - as long as projects involve business growth, job creation or both.

LEADER aims to create jobs and help businesses grow, which will then benefit the rural economy. The scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme for England and is partly funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (LEADER is a French acronym, which roughly translates as 'Liaison among Actors in Rural Economic Development').

Lancashire County Council deliver the funding on behalf of the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs Rural Payments Agency.

"We're calling on rural businesses and groups to apply for this funding that will help them to create new jobs and boost the local economy," says Lancashire County Councillor Jennifer Mein, leader of the county council.

"We've previously supported a wide range of rural companies and organisations across the county, and want to help more this time around.

"The current round of funding closes towards the end of January, so people are encouraged to apply straight away."

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, added: "We're particularly pleased that this year's funding could support cultural and heritage projects, and the provision of rural services for local people.

"The LEADER programme encourages the involvement of local rural communities. Decisions on which projects to fund are taken by local representatives from businesses, the public and community organisations. Their local knowledge and expertise is used to decide how funding is allocated in their area."

Locally, one company that has benefitted from funding is the Old School Brewery, a microbrewery situated at the foot of Warton Crag.

In 2011, they received planning approval to turn an old 'at risk' building into a brew house. They worked with Rural Futures planning facilitation service to secure the planning permission and were signposted to LEADER funding, securing £41,000 towards the cost of renovating the building and brewing equipment. The project has created three full-time posts in the brewery, three part-time posts for bar/catering staff who work at functions and events and also casual staff who help out as and when required.

Farmyard Ales in Cockerham, near Lancaster, received 40 per cent funding towards the building of another new micro-brewery, which will create five new jobs once it's open.

Other companies which have received this funding in the past year include FB Eminson & Son and  Lovania Nurseries in Tarleton and Box Tree Farm Camping Cabins, in Wenningtonin the Lune Valley.

• To find out more about the funding and how it could help your business, contact Karen Lawrenson on 01772 538797 or Louise Kite on 01772 534134, or email You can also find out more details by visiting

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Lancaster Pub Watch "Home Safe" Scheme Launched

Lancaster Pub Watch has launched a scheme called Home Safe this December to try to ensure everyone who heads into town this Christmas is also able to get themselves home safely.

A great initiative supported by local licencees, it's being run in conjunction with the Police, Lancaster Royal Infirmary A&E, local security company FGH and Lancaster Street Pastors.

"We want as many people as possible to come into the City Centre over the Christmas period," explains Lancaster Pub Watch Chairperson Tim Tomlinson, and enjoy Lancaster’s many wonderful pubs, bars and restaurants. But we also want to make sure they don’t overdo it.

"If someone has had too much, they may not be in a suitable state to get themselves home safely.

"They may also be a nuisance to other customers and ultimately if they’ve really had too much they may put their health at risk and require the attention of the already busy emergency services, potentially putting others with more urgent needs at risk.”

The first stage has been a training plan for staff from the city centre premises in how to spot someone who has had enough to drink, or for whom the next drink would be one too many, and how to handle them politely and safely. FGH security, who won a National Security Industry Excellence award this year, are very generously providing this free of charge to all Lancaster Pub Watch members.

“What we hope people understand is that it is our job and legal responsibility to let anyone know that it’s time to go home if we believe they’ve had enough to drink. It is in their own best interest and they are welcome to come back again whenever they please.”

Safe Place

Pub watch has also made plans for the few cases where an individual has had too much and are not properly able to look after themselves. Venues will try to let them sober up a little with a glass of water or a hot drink and be taken home by one of their friends.

If this is not possible where they are at, two venues, The Sugar House and Apothecary, have offered the use of a quiet room to be used as a Safe Place where they may be taken to recover before going home. Managing access to these is being co-ordinated between FGH, the Police, Lancaster Street Pastors and the venue managers.

“Christmas is a great time to be out and about in Lancaster, but we want to make sure people don’t put themselves at risk or spoil the night for others.”

What landlords ask of customers is:

• Come into Lancaster and enjoy your night out
• Please drink responsibly
• Consider spacing your drinks out with soft drinks
• If you can’t get served because you’ve had enough, please respect the bar staff: It’s the law and it’s for your own good
• If you friend has had enough, don’t try to buy them another drink; help them to get home safely.

Lancaster Pub Watch is made up of 36 premises in and around the city centre
Its main aim is to make Lancaster a safe and welcoming place for customers to enjoy and staff to work in.

Street pastors are trained volunteers from local churches who care about our community. They are usually on patrol from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night to care for, listen to and help people who are out on the streets.

Man identified following Lancaster sexual assault CCTV appeal

Following the release of CCTV images detectives investigating the sexual assault of a woman in Lancaster have identified the man in the pictures.

A man is now helping police with their inquiries.

Police continue to investigate the incident which happened at around 2.45am on Saturday, December 10th when a woman, 19, was attacked by a man on Milking Stile Lane before a member of the public intervened, forcing the attacker to flee.

Following an earlier appeal, the Good Samaritan who assisted the woman has come forward.

The offender is described as black, medium build with short dark hair. He was wearing dark trousers and either a dark waistcoat over a long sleeved shirt or a two tone coloured top.

DI Phil Jones of Lancaster CID said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the public who have assisted so far and the Good Samaritan who came forward following our earlier appeal. They have provided vital information and I have no doubt that the actions of the Good Samaritan prevented a more serious attack on the victim, who continues to be supported by specially trained officers after this traumatic incident.”

• Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting log number 0225 of December 10th or independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at

• 18th January 2017 UPDATE: Our earlier story on this assault which included the CCTV pictures has been removed following developments in the enquiry

Advice available for Lancashire young people who need help

A Lancashire County Council service for young people is gearing up to cope with demand over the festive period.

Talkzone, provided by the Council's Wellbeing, Prevention and Early Help Service, offers advice, guidance, support and information for young people by phone, email, text, Facebook, Twitter and webtalk.

It's for young people between the ages of 12 and 19; and up to the age of 25 for young people with special educational needs or a disability and is available between 2pm and 10pm, every day of the year, including Christmas Day.

"I'm glad we have Talkzone, because Christmas and New Year aren't always merry and happy for everyone," commented Matthew Tomlinson, Lancashire County Council's cabinet member for children, young people and schools.

"This time of year can be as stressful and challenging for young people as it can be for adults. They can feel as if all their friends are having a good time, while they might be at home with their worries.

"The good news is that you're not alone. Talkzone is staffed by sympathetic workers who are experienced in dealing with a wide range of issues affecting young people. They've probably dealt with every problem and question under the sun.

"If you're a young person and need to discuss anything, you can ring, text or email and one of our advisers will help."

Tracy Scotland, the manager of Talkzone, added: "We have qualified and experienced staff on hand who are used to dealing with anything and everything that young people call about. They really can talk about any worries, and at this time of year that is often about coping with family and relationship pressures.

"As well as relationship issues, Talkzone also helps young people who find themselves homeless at Christmas, need contraceptive, drugs and alcohol advice; or who need information about finding a job. No matter how big or small the issue is, Talkzone is available to help all young people in Lancashire."

Talkzone advisors will also be contacting young people over the Christmas period to help them to find a job, or training and education opportunities. They will also remind young people of the support that is available to them from Lancashire County Council and other organisations.

• The service will be open from 2pm to 10pm throughout the Christmas and New Year period. Young people are welcome to ring on 0800 511111, text on 07786 511111, email or to talk about any issue that concerns them. 

• More information about Talkzone and other information for young people is available at 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Don't forget to apply for a primary school place for your child

If your child is starting primary school in 2017, don't forget to put applying for their school place on your Christmas list.

The closing date for applications is 15th January 2017, and online via the county council's website is the quickest and easiest way to apply.

Parents need to submit an application form for all children starting school, even if the child already has an older brother or sister at their preferred school.

County Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: "Christmas is a busy time of year for many people, but I urge parents to remember to apply online for a primary school place for their child.

"If a family already has a child at a school, they must still apply for a place for their younger child.

"And if they have twins, they'll need to fill in two application forms.

"We know how important it is for parents to get the right school for their child, so we're encouraging them to apply on time to give themselves the best chance.

"It is important that parents include at least one of their local schools in their preferences.

"The deadline for applications for primary school places is 15 January 2017."

Children start primary school in the September after their fourth birthday.

For more information, visit

• In northern Lancashire, parents can also call on: 01524 581148 or 01524 581112 (Lancaster, Morecambe, Wyre, Fylde)