Monthly Archives: November 2017


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In this issue, we publish a letter from a Stretford resident stating some of the objections from local residents to the siting of the new UA92 in the middle of their community (see Letters below). This is symptomatic of the growing – and strengthening – opposition in Stretford to the plans announced with much fanfare in September. Shortly after that announcement an online petition was launched which within days attracted over 900 signatures. The petition – addressed to Trafford Council – highlighted the environmental and social impact of having a 6,500-strong ‘student village’ built in the area. Local people have long campaigned to have the damage caused by previous ‘regeneration’ schemes to be put right, and were hoping that the current Stretford Town Centre Masterplan would at least begin to address this. Instead, they are having to deal with a scheme which, in their view, would make their situation worse.

Residents are particularly incensed that all this has been presented as a fait accompli by Trafford Council. There had been no consultation with residents and even local councillors had been kept in the dark. Since the plans were announced there has been one public consultation meeting, with another to come. However, some of those who attended the meeting are of the opinion that the Council is simply going through the motions and that it was all a done deal. At this stage, it is not clear if it was UA92 that first approached the Council for a piece of the Trafford Masterplan action or if it was the other way round. What we do know is that MediaCity in Salford was under consideration as the UA92 site when, late in the day, the Stretford option appeared on the table, suggesting that it was Trafford Council who made the approach. It would appear that the star appeal of the Class of 92 was such that the Council was prepared to make a significant change to its own development plan in order to accommodate their wishes.

Trafford is not the first local authority in the area to be dazzled by the glamour of these footballing legends. Earlier this year the Salford Star announced the winner of one of its annual awards for ‘the most deserving individuals and organisations in the city for their stupid statements, dodgy dealings and iffy activities over the last twelve months’. And the winner of this accolade for 2016 was Salford City Council for ‘the very strange manner in which planning permission was obtained for Salford City FC to develop its Moor Lane stadium’, the same club that’s 50% owned by the Class of 92. And who owns the other half? Why, none other than Mr Peter Lim, who already controls 75% of the said Class of 92. The Salford Star also highlighted the role of a company called Zerum Construction Management Ltd, which seems to specialise in helping development companies find the cheapest way through those pesky planning regulations. A quick search of the Companies House database reveals that Zerum is 75%-owned by a Mr Gary Neville. Not for nothing has the Star decided to name its annual prize the ‘Gary Neville Finger in Pies Award’.



The UA92 website continues to astound with its philosophical pronouncements and its steadfast refusal to be bound by niceties of syntax and logic. Its ‘Vision’, we are told, is to ‘educate preparation to realise dreams’. And what does this mean? Apparently, it’s about ‘giving our graduates the tools, challenges, support and confidence to make amazing happen.’

Ryan Giggs, long-experienced in giving 110% effort when he played for Man U, gives his own prescription for ‘making amazing happen’. ‘Here at UA92’, he states, ‘we believe that tenacity, preparedness, passion and hard work play an equally important role. Add commitment, inner fire and the right preparation, and you can compete at a level far beyond your inborn potential…’

While we at the Mother Campus limit our ambitions to helping students develop to their full potential, at UA92 they will be encouraged, nay enabled, to go ‘far beyond’ that potential. To infinity and beyond, indeed. And all this, in the closing words of the ‘Vision’, will be ‘underpinned by the academic rigour of top-performing, world-renowned Lancaster University.’

We have been warned.



Aside from lauding its ‘good character building’, UA92 has also been publicly committing itself to a widening participation agenda.

Presenting educational opportunities to people from marginalised communities requires tact, empathy, and an understanding of the barriers that people face, and who better to smash stereotypes and level the playing field than the Class of ’92? A body whose commitment to ‘closing the gender pay gap’ and ‘generating… public interest in the women’s game’ culminated in their sponsorship of the Lingerie Football League (

We look forward to UA92’s positive presentation of poor, disabled, and ethnic minority students. We suggest a flashmob of soot encrusted children in Victorian dress, Joey Deacon impressions, and a black and white minstrel show [that’s enough – ed].


How long does it take to repair a leaking shower door in the changing room of the new Faraday building? Although brand spanking new, the door was damaged in the repair then discovered to be a discontinued part, so an entire shower unit, less than a year old, was ripped out. After several revisions of Planon status a new unit was eventually bought and lay next to a messy hole in the floor awaiting assembly until last week when the job (requested 24th August) was finally completed. A random survey of the half dozen daily users who had to traipse towel-clad to the nearest facility discovered a range of opinions as to how long one would tolerate such a situation at home before devising an alternative fix (e.g. an IKEA shower curtain at £1.50). Answers ranged between 24 and 48 hours. During the survey it was discovered that one reason for the queue of users was that the showers in the even newer Physics building were installed with NO door or curtain. Their first use led to a flood, and they have been deadlocked ever since!


The other week LU Text informed us of planned ‘canopy work’ outside Fylde:

‘From Monday 30th October, a section of canopy which has been installed to the Fylde Building along the South Spine will be worked on. Completion of these works is planned for Friday 3rd November. Noise disruption is expected in the immediate area. External work at Fylde will take place during the times of 7.30am–4.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am-4pm Saturday and Sunday.’

Teaching staff may remember to warn students that they will be subject to the bomb shelter experience (see subtext 167) – the room may shake every few minutes accompanied by loud bangs and crashes and you may be gently showered with dust from the ceiling. Teaching staff may remember to tell students, but the intermittent nature of the thumps and the level of noise does not stop them, and indeed the member of teaching staff (understandably) ‘jumping’ and/or squealing.

What LU Text did not warn those of us teaching on the ground floor of the Charles Carter building was that a large generator would be making so much noise that you could hardly hear yourself think, let alone shout loud enough so the students could hear you.


We are informed by the powers that be that there continues to be a number of unexpected teething problems with the new attendance monitoring system. How long are ‘teething problems’ supposed to last? subtext understand that these ‘teething problems’ continue to mean teaching staff spending a not inconsiderable amount of time finding out who is not and who is in the lecture theatre – sometimes half the actual session. And then, the surveillance machinery overrides what you spent your precious teaching time inputting. And of course there are some students who are genuinely concerned about what is going to happen to them when they are not being picked up by the surveillance machine.


In the previous issue of subtext, we incorrectly noted that Phil Neville had a brief and inglorious stint as Valencia manager. An eagle eyed reader has informed us that it was in fact Gary Neville who had a brief and inglorious stint as Valencia manger, while Phil Neville enjoyed a longer and just as inglorious stint as Valencia assistant manager.


Readers may recall that during our review of the last Mark Thomas gig at the Dukes we promised you tell more about the University and the Miners’ Strike of 1984/85. The return of Mark Thomas to the Dukes on the 29th November (of which we hope to offer a review) has prompted us to make good on our promise.

The Lancaster Miners Support Group (LMSG) was well established, after a protracted political birth (the Left!), in the early days of the strike in 1984. The only University contribution at that time was through the friendship of a prominent member of the LMSG and a well-placed member of LUSU. Through him every two weeks LUSU clandestinely printed 1000 copies of the fortnightly bulletin that was distributed by LMSG throughout the local area. The actual Lancaster University Miners Support Group (LUMSG) resulted from an initiative by one of the organisers of the Lancaster Social Education Summer Project. This was a heavily camouflaged scheme to provide a summer camp for miners’ children. The organiser arranged with a sympathetic member of the LUSU executive for there to be a miners’ stall at the Societies Bazaar at the start of the academic year in early October. Run by members of the University branches of ASTMS and NALGO, the stall raised a lot of money and aroused enough interest for a campus support group to be set up. LUMSG brought together students, technicians, clerical staff and lecturers. Its main activity was the regular collection of money (and some food) outside the Spar supermarket on campus every Thursday and Friday lunchtime. Initial opposition from university management was overcome after the intervention of a supporter on Council, though there was continuing sporadic harassment by the ‘University Beadle’. The collections were kept up throughout the winter, and established a regular ‘clientele’ of contributors. Two of the group’s members came from Accrington and had already built up connections with Burnley strikers, who worked at Agecroft where they were greatly outnumbered by scabs. The bulk of the money (some £2000 in total) went to Burnley, and about once a month several Burnley miners joined their University supporters in a mass collection in Alexandra Square. At Xmas a Burnley miner’s wife undertook a sponsored swim at the University pool. Her 100 lengths brought in a total of £290, which was spend on record tokens for the children of the Burnley strikers. Donations were also made to Bates Pit, Blyth.

Miners appeared on campus to speak at a number of public meetings organised by LUMSG, which were reasonably well-attended. Also a minibus took supporters from the University to the strike committee rooms at Burnley, where discussions with miners revealed the extent of political awareness gained by many of them during the dispute. After the visit the university party travelled to the picket line at Huncoat power station. Probably hundreds of people put their hands into their pockets at some point during the two academic terms in which the group was active, and no-one there will forget the £50 cheque dropped into our bucket by one female student just before Xmas (‘I had more left over from my grant than I expected’, she explained). Physical support at meetings or on collections, however, never involved more than twenty or so people. Only a handful of academic staff took any active part (although some were involved in LMSG) and most Labour Party and Communist Party members were conspicuous by their absence. Technicians and students were better represented and both ASTMS and the Labour Party levied their members; the technicians raised £250 in his way. On balance it was well worth doing. We promoted the miners’ cause twice a week in a way that could not be ignored, and annoyed the campus Tories enough for one academic’s office door, festooned with miners’ posters, to be spattered with egg yolk one weekend. And for years afterwards there were still envelopes with ‘Coal Not Dole’ stickers circulating in the internal post.


Your travel correspondent has had little to excite him of late. Journeys to and from work have provided little in the way of amusement. Until the middle of half-term week, one late morning. The single decker bus arrives and the awaiting crowd steps back to allow an older man with a wheeled walking frame to board the bus. He is followed by two mums with a pushchair each – one a giant ‘state-of-the art’ thing that looks as though it would be good for ‘off-roading’. The driver is obviously under the illusion that the bus is some form of Stagecoach Tardis which will expand to accommodate any number of passengers – more and more people clamber on. The student passengers all seem to have massive over-sized handbags or completely stuffed backpacks. More and more people get on and we set off (illegally) on our journey. By this time your correspondent (comfortably ensconced in his window side seat) was intrigued how this would all pan out. This was made all the more interesting by the willingness of the driver to stop at the Infirmary and stuff more folk on the bus, including a young woman with a child in a baby-wrap. She had bags of shopping and a polystyrene cup of coffee which causes a frisson of nervousness to ripple through the bus. Incredibly some passengers managed to get a hand free and attempt to use their mobile phones. More entertainment was provided by the bus having to stop at almost every stop on the way to the University to let some passengers get off. This all meant an extended journey time to work but was a price worth paying for an entertaining people-watching experience.


Phantasmagorical. Brilliant. Captivating. Light Up Lancaster was a delight – two evenings of illumination, art, music, projection and performance in the city centre. Beg, borrow or hire a small child and witness the look of wonder on their faces. This year the theme was the natural world and the city was packed with lots of smiling faces thoroughly enjoying the winking, blinking light and colour accompanied by a cacophony of sound. The city was alive with rivers of people snaking their way around the street and lanes to find their favoured spot to ooh and aah at the whizzes and bangs. Friday night ended with a glass of mulled cider in the Printroom café and bar in the Storey. A truly memorable event topped by a splendid firework spectacular launched from the grounds of the castle on Saturday night. We were too late to get our wristbands to allow access to St George’s Quay Meadow or Giant Axe so we walked up from town to join hundreds of folk enjoying the stunning view from Williamson Park. Magical stuff.


Your cultural correspondent squeezed into a packed Dukes on Monday (6th November) to watch a screening of ‘The Death of Stalin’ – a brilliant film, a creative mixture of grim and laugh out loud funny. This was followed by a question and answer session with one of the screenwriters on the film. Ian Martin is an English Emmy award-winning comedy writer who has lived in Lancaster since 1988. This was a fascinating and insightful window into the movie world. It was also an incredibly swear filled event. Ian was a writer for the BAFTA winning BBC series ‘The Thick of It’ and was famously hired as ‘swearing consultant’ by the show’s creator, Armando Iannucci. You could see why. The film itself was rich with some fruity language and the Q & A followed suit. This did not detract from what was a very interesting discussion. Your correspondent was reminded of an experience at a Mark Thomas gig at the Dukes 2/3 years ago. A few minutes into the show Mark made a derogatory remark about Hemel Hempstead. A woman in one of the front rows got up and walked out in front of the stage to the exit. Mark asked as she was leaving, ‘are you from Hemel Hempstead?’ ‘No’ the woman replied, ‘I abhor your filthy language’. About half an hour later another woman got up and walked out in front of the stage. Mark asked if there was anything wrong. ‘Yes’, the woman replied quick as a flash, ‘you’re not fucking swearing enough – I am off to the loo’.


Review: Scarlatti and Cage in the Great Hall

Domenico Scarlatti (born Naples in 1685, and so an exact contemporary of J S Bach) wrote over 500 sonatas for harpsichord, nearly all of them short and in just one movement of simple AABB form – two halves, each of them repeated. John Cage (1912-1992) also wrote short keyboard sonatas, also nearly all of AABB form, but only sixteen of them. They were all intended to be played on a ‘prepared’ piano, which entails placing screws and bolts between the strings, together with rubber rings, plastic strips and an eraser, all of whose positions are precisely specified. This produces some strange sonorities – in some cases a thud rather than a musical sound.

In the Great Hall on Thursday 26 October, the American pianist David Greilsammer performed an interesting programme in which eight Scarlatti sonatas were alternated with seven sonatas by Cage. The University’s two concert grand pianos were placed end to end on the Great Hall stage, with Greilsammer sitting on the piano stool between the two keyboards, so that when he had finished playing one sonata, he could swivel quickly round to the opposite keyboard and begin on the next sonata, by the other composer. The programme of fifteen sonatas was played without a break or an interval.

Scarlatti spent much of his active life in Portugal, where he was employed as the harpsichord teacher of Princess Maria Barbara. In spite of, or more likely because of, his musical isolation, his sonatas are fascinatingly quirky and distinctive. They would of course have been played on the harpsichord – the piano had not yet been invented. When Greilsammer entered and positioned himself on the stool, the lights were dimmed to the point where it was impossible to read the programme, which rather defeated the object of having it.

He opened the first Scarlatti sonata playing ppp – so quietly that some of the notes barely spoke at all. Then he suddenly switched to playing extremely loudly. What was the point of these extreme contrasts? It was unclear, but they were very unsettling. Of course, if the Scarlatti sonatas had been played on a harpsichord, in which the strings are plucked rather than struck by hammers as in a piano, such contrasts would not have been possible. This would have been more appropriate. It would also have been impossible to open so very quietly.

The Cage sonatas were a complete contrast. Although completely written out, they sounded quite free, and of course their genre is totally different from the sonatas by Scarlatti. Greilsammer seemed more at home in this modern American music than in the Scarlatti sonatas, where his idiosyncratic performance seemed to this critic too self-indulgent.

Having said this, it was an interesting recital, no doubt introducing many members of the audience to Cage’s music.

Contributed by Martin Widden.


Dear subtext,

I suspect I’m not alone in asking if you’ve seen our latest signage but if not I suggest you pop ‘down south’ for a look. At first it all appeared very corporate and professional, a smart look with clear white on black text (though some colleagues feel the text is too small). However as of this week we’ve had a very odd black monolith appear at the south end of the spine with a map so small you’ll need to be issued with a magnifying glass to view, and a step ladder if you’re under 6ft tall. To cap it all Charles Carter has gained purple, black and white signage and the ISS building itself has a nice place for students or staff to rest their pint glasses, empty bottles and ashtrays on. The funny thing about the ISS building is you’d have to walk right up to the door to even read the sign!

Also has anyone commented on the removal of the location grid from the maps, replaced by some sort of numbering scheme? Patently the designer of the map has never had to use one to find anything! Nah let’s just get rid of the grid lines, we don’t like boxes, we’re not a box university! You can just imagine the meeting.

Name supplied


Dear subtext,

The new UA92 campus will educate 6500 new students – a 50% increase on Lancaster’s current numbers. This is being imposed on a town in Manchester which has a settled, established community of 30000. Many residents are very worried about the impact of such a high influx of students on our infrastructure and existing community. Part of the plan is to build a 20 storey tower on a very small site in the heart of Stretford which will house 1700 students. In a ‘masterplan’ consultation, our local council has shared vague information about how it will all work, hiding the most alarming plans within very long documents. It feels like our concerns are going unheard. We have yet to have any direct input from UA92, or from Lancaster. We would really like to hear evidence that all parties involved are considering the local community – perhaps some commitments to widening participation schemes and other outreach locally. But there is nothing, and we feel like our town is just being used to make more money for people who already have lots.

A Stretford resident (name supplied)


Dear subtext,

Your concerns over posters on campus advertising a public meeting on the centenary of the Balfour declaration (HOW NOT TO PROMOTE A POLITICAL MEETING, 26 Oct. 2017) seem to me misplaced. subtext objects to the ‘alarm’ likely to be caused among members of the University community by discussion of ‘Jewish opposition to Zionism’. There will doubtless be those that that disagree with speaker Robert Cohen’s views on Zionism, but is there really any reason to be alarmed at this subject being discussed?

subtext also objects to part of the poster’s blurb which states: ‘most Jewish communities around the world will be celebrating the anniversary’ of the Balfour declaration. This is actually the first half of a sentence, which in full reads: ‘While most Jewish communities around the world will be celebrating the anniversary, Palestinians see it as an historic betrayal of their rights, the implications of which are still being played out today’. Again, it is hard to see what is objectionable about this statement.

The piece goes on to cite a survey recording that ‘93% of British Jews feel that Israel is important to their identity’. The argument that seems to follow is that a similar number of British Jews regard the Balfour declaration as ‘on the whole, probably a good thing’ and would therefore not feel welcome at the advertised event. It seems a stretch to interpret British Jews seeing Israel as ‘important’ to their identity to represent any value judgement about the modern state of Israel, let alone a statement by a British Foreign Secretary made 100 years ago – even one as important as the Balfour declaration. More worrying is the inference that because a certain group holds something to be central to their identity, critical debate of this subject should be discouraged for fear of offending members of that group.

In a week when Chris Heaton-Harris MP seemingly united academia in defending freedom of political expression on university campuses it is disappointing to see subtext (usually a staunch defender of these values) objecting to a poster advertising discussion of a controversial topic – even if it is in a silly font.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Mills


Dear subtext,

Have you seen the promotional video for the UA UA92? It is wrong on so many levels! Coming from a University that used to pride itself on its Centre for Women’s Studies we now seem to have slid into a very ‘iffy’ area of marketing. Entire thesis could be written about this representation of women in this presentation (the funding should be easy to achieve in the current Weinstein climate). It is so inappropriate that it would take an entire edition of subtext to discuss. Am I the only person who feels this presents Lancaster University in a very bad light? Sorry but on this one I feel Lancaster is way off trend.

Name supplied