Saturday, 25 February 2017

Unite Against Fracking National Day of Action at Preston New Road

 Archive Post

Cat Smith MP and Lancs County Councillor Gina Dowding speaking at Preston New Road
Cat Smith MP and Lancs County Councillor Gina Dowding speaking at Preston New RoadAdd caption

Anti-fracking campaigners are holding a day of protest today at Maple Farm on Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, where Cuadrilla have been setting up drilling pads since January. As well as the wind-swept 'Protectors', other local residents and local and regional campaign supporters, musicians, rappers and even a troupe of Morris Dancers have converged on the site. 

A peaceful 'rolling' protest has been running alongside the site at Maple Farm on the A583 attempting to slow down the work and block traffic from entering and leaving the site. 

The rally is part of a national day of protest against fracking sites across the country. 

Lancashire County Council's decision to refuse planning permission for Cuadrilla to frack the site was overturned by the Secretary of State last Ocober. The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) said that his decision was "fundamentally flawed" and a "top-down abuse of power". The group have crowdfunded a legal challenge to the decision, which will be heard at Manchester's Civil Justice Centre on 15 March in Manchester.

About 7 carloads of people went from Lancaster to the anti-fracking rally, with Labour, NUT and Unite banners.  Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith spoke out against Cuadrilla's fracking plans and the need for unity against government policies that disadvantage the region and render it vulnerable to such exploitation.  Standing alongside Lancashire County Council and the local parish councils, Cat Smith has been strongly and consistently opposed to Cuadrilla's fracking plans.

Also addressing the rally, County Councillor Gina Dowding (Green Party) explained the grounds on which the council had overwhelmingly refused permission and the obstacles that had been set in their way by central government in the process. She repeated her message to the Secretary of State that "When Lancashire says 'NO' it means 'NO'".  

Anti-fracking campaigners and groups have been supporting the protest, culminating yesterday in a visit from the East Lancashire Clarion Choir, who sang their hearts out at the gates, and demonstrated the very broad opposition felt by decent people across Lancashire against this extreme energy extraction plan. 

Since the SoS granted Cuadrilla permission to frack, regulation on groundwater testing has been changed and protesters complain that Cuadrilla has not met the new requirements, as they failed to carry out the required year of preliminary testing before commencing work. Protesters point out that they are supposed to be reassured by environmental regulatory controls, but these controls are repeatedly set aside for fracking companies. They are concerned that the government has consistently set the interests of fracking companies above the law, leaving local residents without real protection or safeguards. 

You can keep up to date with local fracking news and campaigns at Frack Free Chorley & South Ribble and Frack Free Fylde on facebook.

Friday, 24 February 2017 - News, Events, Community Information - Now All Under One Roof!

All Change for our Community web site

The virtual-lancaster team is very proud to announce the realisation of a long-held dream - the creation of our new, fully interactive community web site, with features that will help make it much easier for you, our readers, to be part of the project. has always been our home online of course, but this blog has long been the initial posting place for news items about Lancaster, Morecambe and the surrounding area. We found Blogger was, quite simply, the easiest way for several people to contribute to the site without having to train everyone in HTML etc. that our old site was based on.

Now, all that's changed, thanks to much hard work behind the scenes, and virtual-lancaster.net is now the place for community news, events, information about Lancaster and Morecambe's many attractions, community group information... and much, much more!

So while this blog will remain in place, head over to now for all the latest about your area!

And please, do consider joining us in our project - you will be very welcome!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 22nd February to 2nd March 2017

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 films have been released during this period. There is the comedy drama 20th Century Women (15); suspense mystery with A Cure for Wellness (18); fantasy action in Logan (12A) and the police drama Patriots Day (15).

The region has lost the film Split and it seems that Rings will soon come to an end of its screening. However we do see the return of Assassin's Creed; the drama I, Daniel Blake; the family favourite Moana and zombie horror in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

Drama this period comes with NASA mathematicians Hidden Figures; life on benefits in I, Daniel Blake; the family drama Lion; police action in Patriots Day; space flight with The Space Between Us; and the must see move T2 TrainSpotting.

Action movies on offer are Assassin's Creed; the wartime epic Hacksaw Ridge; gun action in John Wick: Chapter 2; the X-man Logan; and oriental fantasy with The Great Wall

Family animation is provided by Ballerina; Moana; Sing; The Lego Batman Movie and Trolls.

Romance is on offer with the musical La La Land and the erotic sequel Fifty Shades Darker.

Horror is well represented with the stylish drama A Cure for Wellness, the creepy Rings and zombie horror Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

Finally, movies of note this period include a giant rabbit in the classic Donnie Darko and culture with the Royal Ballet The Sleeping Beauty.


20th Century Women
Director: Mike Mills
Certificate: 15
Cast includes Annette Bening, Lucas Jade Zuman, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning

Set in Santa Barbara in 1979, Dorothea (Bening) is a divorced mother bring up her teenage son Jamie (Zuman) whilst running a boarding house. She feels that her son needs more role models in his life and so enlists the help of her tenants including handyman William (Crudup), photographer Abbie (Gerwig) and her sons friend Julie (Fanning) to assist. A coming of age tale with drama and a good dose of comedy. A great movie with excellent performances by all. It has received good reviews.

A Cure for Wellness
Director: Gore Verbinski
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Dane DeHaan, Harry Groener, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth

Lockhart (DeHaan) is a young executive, sent to a the wellness centre health spa in Switzerland to collect the Company CEO Pembroke (Groener) who is being treated there. However Lockhart is injured and finds himself staying at the Spa also. He meets Hannah (Goth) a young patient and she reveals that the spa was built on the ruins of a castle with a troubled history. Lockhart comes to question the cure offered by Dr Volmer (Isaacs) the spa director and finds evidence of dubious medical experiments being carried out. The movie is visually spectacular with false leads, twists and eels that make up for a rather thin plot. An enjoyable move.

Fifty Shades Darker
Director: James Foley
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
A sequel to the 2015 film 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Anastasia (Johnson) had broken off her relationship with Christian Grey (Dornan) intending to pursue a career in a Seattle publishing house. However Christian entices her back albeit on her terms of a 'vanilla' relationship. However his desire for ownership rather than a relationship and rather shady figures from his past threaten to destroy their future. A sex and kink movie that rather lacks the novelty value of the original. Mildly entertaining.

John Wick: Chapter 2
Director: Chad Stahelski
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamercio
The sequel to the 2014 movie. John Wick (Reeves) again comes out of retirement to honour a blood oath and assist a former associate Santino D'Antonio (Scamarcio) who is plotting to take control of an international assassins' guild. As a consequence Wick finds himself with a bounty 'on his head' and he must go on the run pursued by assassins looking to kill him. The plot requires a large suspension of disbelief but the movie provides dizzying action, non stop gun related pandemonium and some flashes of wit and humour. The movie has been well received. It offers plenty of entertainment, but little novelty.

La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

Mia (Stone) works as a barista during the day but aspires to be an actress. She is involved in a road rage incident with Sebastian (Gosling) a jazz pianist. The two subsequently meet again and start to fall for each other as they try to satisfy their ambitions, she attending auditions and he playing in dingy bars as he plans to open his own jazz club. However the daily drudge of trying to live their dreams starts to take its toll. This movie, set in modern day Los Angeles, is brilliantly written and very well acted. Excellent musical entertainment.

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.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Director: Paul W S Anderson
Certificate; 15
Cast Includes: Milla Jovovich

The movie is a sequel to the 2012 Resident Evil: Retribution and forms the sixth and final film in the series. Alice (Jovovich) has lost her psychic powers and now is assisted by the Red Queen who has switched sides. She returns to the demolished Raccoon City where, with a band of survivors, she has one last battle with the Umbrella Corporation and myriads of mutants and zombies. This reviewer has greatly enjoyed the Resident Evil Movie series and can recommend the Final Chapter as offering more of the same special effects and fight sequences. However the film is not the best of the bunch and the franchise is now starting to feel a little tired. See it if you are a Resident Evil fan.

Director: F Javier Gutierrez
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe Johnny Galecki, Vincent D'Onofrio

Julia (Lutz) becomes worried when her boyfriend Holt (Roe) starts to explore the sub-cuture around a videotape which causes the death of anyone who watches it. She watches it herself and discovers that her version of the tape has additional footage which hints at the fate of the antagonist Sadako Yamamura. Julie and Holt undertake a quest to find Sadako's remains in the hope of lifting the curse. This is the latest chapter in the Ring franchise and is a sequel to 'The Ring' (2002) and 'The Ring Two' (2005). The movie tries to move the franchise onto new ground but it has received poor reviews. It is of interest to ardent Ring fans only.

T2 Trainspotting
Director: Danny Boyle
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Ewen McGreger, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Anjela Nedyalkova

Mark Renton (McGregor) returns to Edinburgh after twenty years in Amsterdam and finds his old associates are still much as he left them only older. Spud Murphy (Bremner) continues to struggle with heroin addiction. Simon 'Sick Boy' (Lee Miller) nurses old grievances and has swapped a heroin addiction for cocaine. He plans to turn a run down pub onto a bordello. Francis Begbie (Carlyle) is serving a prison sentence, but he escapes. He still harbours a grievance against Renton. The movie is part black comedy, part thriller and total melancholic drama that draws on Welsh's 1993 novel and the 2002 sequel Porno. This is an inventive and vibrant film that captures the spirit of the original. Excellent viewing.

Shakespeare Returns to Lancaster Castle, call goes out for actors from Attic Door Productions

When Demi Paradise retired from performing Shakespeare after 16 years and 10 phenomenal performances at Lancaster Castle, it looked like the Bard would no longer be leading audiences around the historic courts and keeps of Lancaster’s historic Castle.

Enter Stage Right! Attic Door Productions – organisers of Morecambe’s Bard By The Beach Shakespeare Festival and sister company of the award winning After Dark Entertainments who sell out the Grand Theatre year on year with their Adult Panto and confound audiences countrywide with their own brand of murder mystery and mayhem.

"It seemed the perfect fit" says company director Ben Muir, "We already perform murder mysteries at the Castle and for the last two years we have staged a promenade production in the Shire Hall for families (the sell out shows – Alice in Wonderland and Wind in the Willows).

"When we discovered that Demi Paradise would be retiring we approached the castle and offered our services. Shakespeare at the Castle has become almost as famous as the Duke’s theatre in the park and it’s a tradition that deserves to continue."

So what show have they got in store for us? "It’s the perfect piece for our debut," continues Ben. "The Two Gentlemen of Verona is believed to have been Shakespeare’s first play and so it’s only fitting that it should be our first performance at the castle – it’s also a very funny play with moments of high comedy and farce so it fits perfectly with the style we are known for.

"We’re also going to be keeping our first production very local – the poster has been designed by local artist Sazi Harrop and we’ll be casting from within the Lancaster and Morecambe area. There’s such a wealth of talent in this locale that it seems silly to look any further than our own city to find the cast. We’ll be holding auditions at the beginning of March."

Shakespeare isn’t the only production that Attic Door will be staging at the Castle this year, either.

"We’ve put together a full programme of events including a return with our family promenade show – The Jungle Book; then in October we’ll be presenting The Trial of Van Helsing, a new take on the Dracula Story.

"In December we’ve got a treat in store with an adaption of Dicken’s Christmas Carol and of course it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have at least one Murder Mystery: that’s in May and it’s Secret Agent themed.

"It’s all very exciting and hopefully this is only the beginning of the exciting theatrical journey we’ve got in store for the castle."

The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs from 18th – 29th April (no shows on Sunday and Matinees on Saturdays) Ticket prices range from £12.50 - £22.50 and an early bird discount applies if you book before 28th Feb. Call 01524 64998 to book now

• If you are interested in taking part in The Two Gentlemen of Verona you should email us at 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Lancaster Litfest 2017 makes March bigger on the inside

Lancaster LitFest 2017 celebrates its 38th year throughout March with a fabulously varied programme of events celebrating writers and writing - and you can download the programme here.

The first weekend (March 4 + 5) starts off bigger on the inside with a fantastic Doctor Who-flavoured event (cosplay invited) with Eddie Robson and Paul Magrs at the Shire Hall. The following day brings you Louise Gornall and Liz Flannagan, nominated for the Lancashire Book of the Year, hosted by Chris Moore, who will also lead a ‘book blogging’ workshop in the afternoon.

In partnership with The Dukes, More Music and Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University 15 March brings “Beyond the Water’s Edge”, a poetic telling of stories from around the world; the hugely-popular Scottish National Poet Jackie Kay (18 March); an evening of creative translation with the International Man Booker Prize (22 March) and the amazing Sarah Howe (23 March). Expect more poetic delights in LitFest's full-day poetry event on 25 March which will include Polly Atkin (launching her first collection), Philip Burton, Gill Lambert, Kim Moore, Hannah Lowe and Patience Agbabi.

This year LitFest is also including opportunities for you to come and read at The Gregson Centre. The Litfest Homebake (11 March) offers local writers space to present their contributions from across all genres -  poems, prose, storytelling, jokes, memories. Whether you are interested in  a ten minute reading slot or you want to experience some of the best new  talent, everyone is invited! Bring your words, your ears and your cakes!

April Poets (9 March) present an afternoon writing workshop and another eclectic night of poetry and music: touching on  the real, the near, the far and the dead, and offering an open mic slot.

Spotlight (17 March), now in its 21st year of showcasing local arts every month, will be compered by Edinburgh Fringe favourite Kriss Foster, featuring Spotlight's current 'Listening to Youth' project. FYI, the last tryout left for this event will be in Carnforth this Saturday 25 February, unless you can get to the Gregson in the next half hour (Tuesday 6.30pm).

And finally Litfest welcomes back favourites Jo Baker (24 March) and Jacqueline Harris (26 March). Jo will look at the current popularity of Jane Austen and her influence on new writing, using her own ‘Longbourn’ as an example. Jacqueline will hold us spellbound with a collection of tales with a Nordic flavour, accompanied by the outstanding cellist Maja Bugge and the beautiful artwork of Jackie Morris.

LitFest is looking forward to welcoming you to as many events as possible. And if you enjoy the festival, you are also invited to volunteer to help Litfest to continue in its mission to bring the very best of well-known and emerging talent to Lancaster audiences.

Download the Litfest 2017 PDF Programme

Monday, 20 February 2017

'One Day Without Us' Lunch Celebrates Migrants' Contribution to Lancaster

Lancastrians enjoyed a special lunch at the Dukes today as part of a national celebration of the contribution migrants make to the UK. The lunch was part of a national inititiative called 'One Day Without Us', which perhaps indicates how long the UK wouldn't last without their daily contribution at almost every level of UK society.

The event included a special screening of 'If Boats Could Talk', documenting a project by Year 3 children at Dallas Road School as part of last year's 'Light Up Lancaster' festival. With visual artists Anna Read and Shane Johnstone the children created installations for the Aldcliffe triangle and the adjoining canal that referenced the journeys made by migrants to Lancaster over the canal's history. You can watch it at

Dukes Front-of-House Manager Jane Twyman is obviously keen to see the Dukes engaging with all the members of our community, regardless of the colour of their passports. She read out a statement by Matt Carr, organiser and journalist, explaining that the event was 'galvanised by the alarmingly xenophobic drift of UK politics over the last 12 months.

"We had had enough of seeing migrants and foreigners – or simply people who looked and sounded foreign – being abused and harassed in our streets and denigrated by politicians."

In response it provided  "an opportunity for British nationals to stand in solidarity alongside the men, women and children we have known as friends, neighbours, workmates, colleagues and students, and celebrate the fact that they are part of our society."

Jane told VL "It's great to see so many people coming together to recognise and celebrate the contributions made by migrants, despite the current challenges to be faced."

People there included teachers, health professionals, members of the local business community and a scientist who shared her deep concerns about the intractable difficulties of conducting advanced research and development without clear routes for international collaboration. All were invited to join in a mass 'tweet' of similar events up and down the country at 1pm (see image).

Erica Lewis, who is standing as a local Labour candidate for the County Council elections in May told VL:

"Uncertainty is central to Brexit & for EU citizens who have made their homes in Lancaster that uncertainty extends to their very ability to continue the lives they have built here. Today's action expresses solidarity with EU citizens who have made their lives in the U.K., & calls on the Government not to use EU citizens in our country, or U.K. citizens resident in the EU as bargaining chips."

Having spent the morning liaising between a sick neighbour and local NHS staff - every one of whom spoke with a non-native accent, I have to agree. Some of us just wouldn't have got through the day without them.

You're welcome.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Morecambe Comic-Con announced for Easter

Morecambe will play host to a Comic Con this Easter, with Sixth Doctor Who Colin Baker, leading a (so far) TV and film guest-focused line-up.

Other announced guests are Paul Blake, who played Greedo in Star Wars and James Mackenzie, who presents children’s game show Raven.

The event is being organised by the Gary Jones and Mark Longman as part of Geek Comic Cons.

Cosplay will be a major part of this event and there will be plenty of stalls and more.

"It's a fun-filled family day out," Gary told local paper The Visitor, "bringing together TV and films stars with prop displays, a Cosplay (dress-up) competition, stalls, and question and answer sessions.”

Nearby Lancaster has its own comic event, Lancaster Comics Day, on Sunday 11th June, with a full comic creator focus that includes a very rare appearance by Roy of the Rovers artist David Sque, who has drawn the locally-published graphic novel, Preston North End: The Rise of the Invincibles, and legendary comics editor Barrie Tomlinson, who helped shape the Roy of the Rovers legend over decades, even at one point roping in Morecambe and Wise to support his efforts!

• Morecambe Comic-Con 2017 takes place at the Platform on 17th April 2017, 10.00am - 4.00pm. Admission £5, 12 and under £3 and five and under go free

Morecambe Comic-Con 2017 Facebook Event Page

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