Ann Wilson Synesthetic Poetry Collection

Reviewed by Mollie Baxter

A paper pig suspended in flight

My origami is quite shite…

Many will know Barrow-based Ann Wilson from her time as South Cumbria Poet Laureate in 2006, or from her work with performance poetry organisation Apples and Snakes. She performs as compere, stand-up comedian, poet and, sometimes, ukulele player, possessing a very fine pink ‘Flying V.’

Her poetry collection, ‘Synesthetic,’ as the title suggests is ‘inspired by the colours of emotions and sounds,’ and is divided into 5 colour-coded sections. Many people have experienced ‘sense-blurring’ a neurological phenomenon whereby those sections of the brain which respond to a particular sense are triggered by sensory input from another. As it happens, I have long been used to ‘seeing’ words in colours and have been quite exasperated when told that ‘Monday,’ is a blue word, when it is quite clearly red, so I was interested to see how Ann interpreted the colours in relation to the poems’ subject matters and use of language.

The poems resonate strongly with the author’s on-stage persona; images and ideas are direct and sincere, sensitive to listening ears that seek to connect to the poem on a single hearing.

Skip a Beat

lost riff,

Check pulse,

Skip a beat,

lost riff,

Check pulse,

(Different Platforms)

In terms of theme, Ann’s poems often present a speaker determined to communicate, reaching out to establish connections, seeking and offering warmth and safety. These connections are often fraught with obstacles, ‘It seems like life’s a conversation on a train I always miss.’ Interestingly, trains make regular appearances, but in negative roles: bringers of dislocation and threat.

Being a stand up comedian as well as a poet, one would expect Ann to include humour and so she does. In ‘Gazing,’ we’re told,

‘A paper pig suspended in flight/my origami is quite shite.’

But humour is also used with poignancy to reveal a difficult relationship with a mother, in ‘Cupboard Love,’‘She called it cupboard love/she lived inside a shoe/Only two children but she didn’t know what to do,’and it was good to see this darker flavour being introduced to give new textures and dimensions to the humour.

One of my favourite poems is ‘Drying Up,’ a study of a tea-towel and the childhood memories both happy and sad connected to it, moving from ambivalent memories of tea-towel flicking between a caring brother and sister to the grandmother, ‘holding it under a scalding tap/her hands red raw/her proud of not feeling the pain.’

Because of the nature of the book’s title and premise I was interested in how the poems moved through the colours in progression. We are not introduced to the colours in terms of theme, so we must bring our own connotations. In ‘Deep Blue’ therefore, I expected darker feelings of sadness and although more determined than desperate, many of the poems do contain a deep yearning for connection. Part 2, ‘Red,’ is frequently linked to passions like desire and rage and indeed, ‘The Play Area,’ and ‘Drying Up,’ possess moments of red-hot anger and pain. I would have been tempted to put poems like ‘Cupboard Love,’ from the Deep Blue section into ‘Red’ also, but after all, ‘Monday’ was red for me too..!

Next we move into Part 3 ‘Orange,’ a nourishing, spiritual colour and the first poem is aptly titled, ‘The Sanctuary.’ The second poem, ‘Inhabit’ brings new light and space to the collection’s landscape.

‘I will create room/find subtle lights/ for dark corners/lay down a rug/ and invite you in.’

But darker shadows are never far away. In the same section two poems ‘Vinyl’ and ‘The Designer,’ seemed distinctly ambivalent surrounded by the warmth and light of the sanctuary’s orange. Perhaps though, we can find the over-reaching theme of the collection within this apparent contradiction: growth is an ongoing process of losses and gains, connections made, knowledge learned, and love given and received, it is never a permanent state of arrival.

In Part 4 ‘Pearly Blue,’ there seems to be a necessary act of reconsolidation after the ambivalence of ‘Orange.’ In ‘She Writes to Understand Herself,’ we learn, ‘She started to resist/returned to the page/she was out of place,’ and ends, ‘she put her pen down, danced for a while.’ There are no easy answers then it seems, no permanent states to find ourselves in: we learn and change constantly.

In ‘Green,’ the final section, ‘On Music,’ returns us directly to the themes of synesthesia, of seeking connections and gaining understanding.

‘I’ve been searching for a logical explanation/I’ve been trying out some sound de-sensitisation/and I know what soothes me, doesn’t soothe you/ what you can live with depends on what you’ve lived through.’ These are lessons hard learned with a large and generous spirit. Happily, an equilibrium and acceptance seems to have formed, and the joyful and life-affirming end piece, ‘It’s All A Ride,’ is a fine conclusion.

It’s All a Ride © Ann Wilson

Let there be fairgrounds.

Let children walk freely into welcoming light.

Let world leaders tumble down helter skelters.

Let flames in ghost train of crime

become dragons’ fire to fuel each journey.

Let our roller coaster moments of terror

be photographed, framed and displayed.

Let there be fairgrounds

so we don’t deal in money but in fizz bombs,

pop songs, affirmations and clichés.

Let the hall of mirrors show hidden perspectives

so we never feel betrayed.

Let dealers cut candy floss, let all highs be safe

and let feathered nests of found souls

be beacons on fairytale towers of luxury and grace.

Let there be fairgrounds

so that ignorant minds are ignited

by the spark from a pyrotechnic display

and those who raise the mallet of power

find peace with prize golden fishes,

so each funhouse is filled and no one is homeless

and divorces in dodgems end in laughter and kisses.

Let there be fairgrounds.

Let wonder waltzers spin away censorship.

Let their circling orbits take us on a galaxy ride of inspiration.

Let the log flume cleanse all doom

and let the Queen of Speed take those in need

faster and safely around each sharp bend.

Let there always be a thank you sign

in the light at the end of the tunnel.

LAST MAN STANDING — Improv XPress at The Grand Theatre

Last man Standing began with a remarkable cast of thirteen performers, plus at the helm David Ash as usual.  Some were very experienced, others in their first significant show.   Having seen various members of the troupe in other combinations lately I notice and admire how well they work together as improvisers.   Cues and subtle aids are passed from performer to performer, sometimes gracefully and almost imperceptible, sometimes flamboyantly and with wit.

On this occasion the structure was a competition, with points awarded to each scene based on audience response.  Fortunately tonight there was a reasonable audience, with more than one member of the team having her vocal fan club present.  So, with just a few early moments of hesitancy things went smoothly.

If I hadn’t known some of those on stage it would be difficult to say who was veteran and who the novice.  Nor did some performers or strong personalities seem to inhibit or intimidate their colleagues.

There was plenty on stage to admire in this line up.  Smooth transition, quick reactions, clever response and performance.  Much more than that, or as a consequence of that probably, this was a very funny show.  There was slapstick in Trevor’s exuberant pratfalls, bawdy humour (Colette getting lewd in the libary) and much general absurdism enough to have even the more po-faced in stitches.  In deed it was noticeable just how much fun the cast had, with raucous laughter from sidestage from those not immediately involved, and moments where straight faces were in short supply.

The audience were involved too of course, not just in calling out themes or settings, but when a scene involved the Devil pointing out a man with a devilish goatee in the audience.  (Who? me?  Well they did say how handsome he was…)

So, at the interval the lower scoring members departed.  Then at the end it came down to a tie breaker for last performer standing, with mark edging out Jess on the night.  So Mark reigns as King of Improv, until next time, but the winners were all the performers and the audience who all thoroughly enjoyed yet another great show from Improv XPress.

The Body Collective Exhibition at QSand Morecambe

Reviewed by Kev McVeigh, Photos and thoughts from Wes Martin.

Mona House is tucked away at the heart of Morecambe, on Deansgate behind The Bradford Arms, between Queen Street and Poulton Square.  Thousands of people walk past it daily without realising it is home to QSand Artists collective.  This week (until Thursday 30th July) its doors are open for their first proper exhibition in several years.

qsandInside this impressive Georgian building several artists have studio space. Resident Qsand artist and first time curator Joseph Cowell has created an exhibition drawing on national and local artists, showing a passion and commitment about the work of all those included in his first exhibition. It is evident talking to Joe that he is eager to attract similar minded people to become involved in both the running and future events at Mona House.

Joe’s own work therefore sets a tone for the show.   His work mainly concerns body and image and references his own condition(trisomy mosaic eight), but here we also have a seperate and highly personal installation that shows Joe commenting on the death of his father. It appears to be an attempt to re-animate a relationship he had with his dad, an attempt at a final goodbye, an evocation of a moment of personal and shared history. The installation is a dimly lit recreation of a domestic space, pictures of  ‘dad’ at eighteen looking like a young Laurence Olivier, medical paraphernalia and charts, religious references and a small tv screen showing what looked like a frankenstein or (similar/genre) type black and white film.  Also around the show were large-scale charcoal drawings of bulbous figures, some with explicit statements about disability.


Joseph Cowell

To the show’s credit, although Joe’s work is large and prominent it doesn’t overpower the other artists work by virtue in part of careful placing and balance.   Images of the body in other forms by Spike Joyce, Ruth Tyson, Karen Morris and especially Helen Gorrill also offer a thematic strength to The Body Collective.

Ruth Tyson’s pencil drawings of legs and skirts are incredibly finely drawn and intriguing.  Along side them Amy Ferguson’s multiple intertwined waving arms are serpentine and mysterious.

Karen Morris’ dark pastel female nudes have a certain Lucian Freud/Walter Sickert subjective nature but their dark green/brown density seems to blend the body into the background normalising the figure somehow.

In stark contrast Spike Joyce’s garish squatting figures are disconcerting.  Eschewing detail for impact they are slightly disturbing and provocative in presentation.  Roughly mounted, with creased edges, this adds to the viewers discomfort: what is the artist saying here?

Alongside Spike’s work Helen Gorrill‘s large inkwashed female figures offer yet another perspective.   Part of  a series entitled ‘Would she make a good husband?’  these paintings have already attracted national controversy when shown in Carlisle.  The four on show at Qsand are of female dominatrix or powerful female figures, but the series also includes nude males in submissive forms, some with explicit genitalia.  Ridiculously in the 21st century this was deemed potentially offensive.  Frankly the censorship on these ground offends me.

Helen Gorrill - Spike Joyce

Both of these artist’s work is, I am told, usually on a much larger scale, and whilst Gorrill’s paintings are stunning on this scale, I suspect that Joyce’s suffered badly for being reduced.

Turn around from these paintings though, and you are confronted with the piece that most fascianted and intrigued me.  A collaborative work by Alex McGibbon (who was on hand to talk to about the work) and Adam and Graeme Swift, ‘Azoth’ is both scuplture and part of a projected ongoing performance piece.

Taking the form of an altar, decorated with real human skulls and cast bones, snake imagery and pre-christian text, this is the only piece here to come with proper accompanying text of any kind.


Alex explained how the work was inspired by ancient ideas of a dormant snake energy at the base of our spine, and hermetic theories of unleashing this.  Both the theory of secret societies and the use of gel/wax materials suggested a similarity to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, and the plan to combine sculture and performance would seem to re-inforce that.   Certainly this seems to be a project to follow with its creators strengths of idea and ability to solidify their vision.

Last, but actually one of the first things you see when you enter, ‘Meat’ is a visceral video piece by Joseph Cowell.  Basically a short film of a piece of meat being opened up in extreme close-up, computer trickery sexualises the image in an extreme and provocative manner.  It isn’t exactly pleasant, yet its hypnotic and hard to ignore. A backdrop recreating a dutch brothel window seat underscores this sentiment.

So, for me, QSand’s The Body Collective is a success artistically.  Only Spike Joyce seemed to fail in presenting his work effectively for me, but some of the others might also have offered something in the way of identifiers.  Joe was there to point out his work, the Azoth team had a detailed explanation of their ideas, and Tyson had prices by her work, but there were no artist names by most of these exhibits.  Its a simple touch but surely an obvious one?

Which leads to the main criticism of  The Body Collective.  It’s great that it is out there, but if people don’t know about it, then it might as well not be there.  QSand and the artists involved have obviously put plenty of effort into their work, now they need to add that final touch.  Plenty of people pass and won’t know about it, some perhaps like the man projectile vomiting down the wall of a nearby pub as I left who wont care, but some will.  But what of those who don’t pass by, but would make that short trip from Lancaster, from Carnforth, from further afield drawn by a few posters, an email campaign, just letting people know it is happening.

The Body Collective is on until Thursday.  Take your chance and see something very interesting whilst you can. has links to the artists own webpages.

also find links on Facebook and Twitter

‘You seen Bez lately’?

A review of “Manchester 89-92”, Photographic exhibition
by Richard Davis. The Bookroom, Lancaster.
Runs until sat 22nd august.

by wes martin


Have you been to the Bookroom lately?, well you’ll be pleased to hear that some of your favourite agitators, outcasts, misfits and general geniuses from the erstwhile ‘madchester’ scene are loitering therein.

Photographer Richard Davis now resides in Lancaster, bringing his considerable talents as visual inquisitor to rest upon the alternative arts scene of our fair City, this exhibition however, gives us a concise round-up of the incredible talent that flourished during the 89-92 period in Manchester, and serves to enlighten us on the work of Davis. The description goes thus –

A collection of Portraits – The Stone Roses, John Cooper Clarke, Dave Gorman, New Order, Caroline Aherne, Terry Christian, Frank Sidebottom, Happy Mondays, Inspirial Carpets, Kiss A.M.C., John Thomson, Jon Ronson, Lemn Sissay & John Hegley.

I for one was surprised to see the likes of Hegley, Ronson and Gorman here, man they look young and excited. Many of the portraits were taken before widespread acclaim and fame took hold. Richard explained the sheers ballsiness (?) of the procedure that one would go through to get these photos, usually meaning phone calls, and mates providing inroads to some of the more sought after faces. It kinda helps if Henry Normal is your mate I guess. This of course illustrates the point about Richard, he has a great sense for what is genuinely interesting and worthwhile, stuff that others may have missed or overlooked. Of course, this and taking endless reels of 35mm film.


These images provide a great archive of life at a specific moment in time and place up here in the North, a time that affected everything that I, for one, did during my teens and early  twentys.  Also, interestingly, the process used in creating and colourising these photos also provides a ‘pre-photoshop’ glimpse into the very recent past where a scalpel, coloured paper, a laser printer and a keen sense of design where the weapons of choice. Davis has created an important body of work here.

Presently Richard is photographing some of our local freaks, genius’, oddballs and agitators in preparation for a forthcoming exhibition. He also runs ‘Totally Wired’, cementing his commitment to local, undiscovered talent. Only time and the vagaries of fate will determine whether our local boys and girls will shine so brightly. One thing is for sure, Richard will be there, getting involved, getting in peoples faces, making sure we all get to know about it.

Lancaster Spotlight July – A non-review

Who is writing this month’s Spotlight Review?

You are.

That’s right, we’re completely subverting the review concept and using the ultra-zeitgeisty medium of crowdsourcing. This is democracy, people and, more importantly, it allows me to keep my weekend family commitments.

So have a look at the clips, make up your own mind whether these writers know their assonance from their elbow and comment at the bottom.

Keep it constructive, ye critics.

Sue Seddon, Lighting Fires

Sue Seddon
(Apologies, no footage available)

Kevin Coughlan and the Daytime Moon

Kevin Coogan
(Apologies, no footage available)

Carla Scarano, weaving a yarn

Norman Hadley, tub-thumping

Rashid Winter, Guitar Man

Nate Connelly, Guitar Man

His Serene Holiness, Bernard Alvarez

Iain Colley, beastly verse

Lewis Charlesworth, tales from Bolton

Ann Wilson, Loopy Woman

Steve Lewis, a Novel approach to song-writing

Lunecy Review-Site update

Hi all,

Just a heads up, this site will be having a little makeover shortly. There’s shouldn’t be any disruption or loss of archive postings,  just a new look. So, yeah, keep visiting, commenting, writing, suggesting, all that kind of stuff and we’ll see you soon.


Flax non-fiction submissions

Sarah Hymas (Litfest/Flax) asked us recently if we could post up a notice to all readers of The Lunecy Review regarding submissions for nonfiction for the next Flax anthology (Flax019) – targeting bloggers particularly. Anyone interested in submitting pieces? Or do you know anyone who would be interested in doing so? If you are, then follow the link below to The Submission Guidelines which will give you more information.

So to all you literary types out there…get writing!