John Lyons is a genuine renaissance man- a truly wonderful visual artist, an accomplished poet, a talented saxophone player, a great friend and a cook worthy of his own Channel 4 show. I’ve known John for many years and he is all of those things.
Craig Kerrecoe, Managing Director
Red Dot Events Ltd
Read the full interview
As a Trinidadian born painter and poet, John has practised visual arts since 1959 following his studies first
at London's Goldsmiths College, School of Art, and then at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Evidence of his creative involvement to date: six published poetry collections, an illustrated cookery book with foodie poems, several national poetry prizes, including the Peterloo Poetry Competition, inclusion on the Poetry Archive, creative writing tutoring, and readings in major festivals.
Taken together, John's paintings and poetry combine his creative skills to make an influential contribution to the cultural artistic paradigm in Britain today. His work mirrors life in our diverse society and may be found in children's and adult's poetry publications, in prestigious A.C.E. sponsored exhibitions, in the Arts Council Collection, the Victoria & Albert Word and Image Print Collection, and as a WindRush Arts Achiever in the No Colour Bar Exhibition at the City of London Guild Hall Gallery.
Windrush Award Winner, Arts Achiever of the Year 2003
Co-Founder and Trustee: Hourglass Educational Arts Development Services: HEADS 2000 - 2010
The Poetry Archive
The Poetry Society
National Association of Writers in Education
The Society of Authors
Member of EAW (East Anglia Writers)
2010 - Adjudicator Cambridge Writers Short Story competition
2002 - External Examiner M.Phil, Anglia Polytechnic University
2000 - Adjudicator Co-operative Insurance Christmas card competition
1998 - Adjudicator Conwy Festival Poetry Competition.
1996 - Member of the Board of Directors, Signature Book Presentation Ltd.
1994 - Member of Management Committee for the Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank
1994 - Review writer for SCRIPT the Poetry Society Critical Service
1992 - Adjudicator for the Lancaster Festival Poetry Competition
1991/8 - Part-time tutor for creative writing Combined Studies. BA Hons Bolton Inst. of Higher Education
1991 - Adjudicator, Southern Arts Poetry Prize
1989 - Co-editor, Northern Poetry, Littlewood Press
One hundred and sixty-two readings since 1985. The following is a selection:
2015 – No Colour Bar, New Beacon Bookshop Installation, Guildhall Gallery, London
2015 – Cane Arrow Press, book launch, Poetry Library, South Bank Centre.
2015 – Found in Translation, Vinopolis, Cambridge
2015 – Pop-up Lit. Fest. South Bank Centre, 'Dancing in the Rain' children's book launch.
2015 – Fenland Reed, Babylon Arts, Ely
2014 –The Bishop's Residence, Ely
2012 - Oxfam reading with Myra Schneider, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University
2012 - Black History Month, Apex Gallery, Bury St . Edmunds
2012 – 'John Agard and Friends' Hommerton College, Cambridge University, Caribbean Poetry
2012 - British Library, 'Whoop & Shout' with Val Bloom
2012 - The Tricycle Theatre, London, 50th anniversary of Trinidad & Tobago Independence
2012 - 'Guest Reader', Manky Poets, Manchester
2011 - Poetry in Palmers Green, London
2011 - Punters Cambridge, fund raising for Jimmy Shelter, Cambridge
2011 - Hot Numbers Jazz Cafe with Josh Ison, saxophonist
2010 - Manchester Literature Festival, book launch, 'Red'
2010 - Moving Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
2010 - CB1 Poetry , Cambridge with Mario Petrucci, Michaelhouse, Cambridge
2010 - Book Launch, 'Cook-Up in a Trini Kitchen, Trinidad & Tobago High Commission, London
2010 - British Museum, celebrating the Akan Drum with Jean Binta Breeze
2010 - Williams Art Gallery, Cambridge
2010 - Sheffield Food Festival, reading from 'Cook-Up in a Trini Kitchen'
2010 - Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, West Yorkshire
2009 - Babylon Gallery, Ely, National Poetry Day
2009 - Ely Library, 'No Apples in Eden' book launch with John Killick
2009 - Babylon Gallery, Ely, National Poetry Day
2007 - Maritime Museum in Greenwich with John Agard and Grace Nichols
2007 - Babylon Gallery, Ely with Andre Mangeot
2005 - Diarama Arts Centre, London
2005 - Three Cups Gallery, Ely
2004 - West Indian Centre, Manchester
2003 - Square Chapel, Halifax, West Yorkshire
2003 - Pennine Ink, Todmorden , West Yorkshire
2002 - Owl Book Shop, London: Book Launch: Moving Voices
2002 - Launch of new collection, 'Voices from a Silk-Cotton Tree: Hourglass Studio Gallery
2002 - Todmorden Pennine Ink: Poetry Reading
2002 - Manchester Central Library: Commonwealth Programme
2002 - The Albert Poets, Huddersfield
2001 - West Indian Centre, Manchester
2001 - BBC Greater Manchester Radio
2001 - Java Lounge, Hebden Bridge
2000 - Theatre Ardudwy, Harlech, Wales
2000 - Contact Theatre, Manchester
1999 - Project One to One
1998 - Linton Court Gallery
1997 - Ty Newydd, Wales
1997 - Southport Art Centre
1997 - Wrexham Art Centre
1996 - King of Hearts, Norwich
1995 - Aldeburgh Festival
1995 - Llangollen Library, Wales
1994 - Poets Give a Hand, The Royal Horticultural Hall, London
1994 - Manchester Poetry Festival
1994 - Cuirt Festival of Literature, Galway, Rep. of Ireland
1994 - Out of The Margins, Royal Festival Hall, South Bank with John Agard, Jean Binta Breez, Archie
1993 - Wincham Hall, Northwich
1992 - The Lancaster Festival
1991 - Royal Court Theatre, London
1991 - Ty Newydd Centre, Wales
1990 - International Festival of Writing, Glasgow with James Berry
2012 Narrating The Caribbean Nation, Peepal Tree Press, Leeds Metropolitan University
Title of Paper given: Caribbean Literature, Orature and The Visual Arts
2012 Caribbean Poetry Project, Homerton College, Faculty of Education, Cambridge University
Title of paper given: Approaches to teaching Caribbean Poetry
Residences and workshops:
One hundred and forty-seven workshops/residencies from 1986.
The following is a selection:
2015 – Creative Writing Poetry workshop, Canterbury Literature Festival
2012 - Creative Writing Workshop, poetry/prose, Ely Library
2011 - Creative Writing Workshop, poetry/prose, Ely Library
2010 - Peterborough Poetry Group, workshop on performance poetry
2010 - Vital Communities Project, Sutton Primary School
2009 - Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank co-tutoring with Roselle Angwin
2007 - Babylon Gallery co-tutoring with Andre Mangeot
2007 - Cambridge Caribbean Association, Cambridge
2006 - Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank, co-tutoring with Linda France
2006 - poetry workshop, co-tutoring with Doris Corti, Babylon Gallery, Ely
2005 - Sable / Arvon Poetry Master Class, Totleigh Barton, Devon.
2003 - The Big Book Project, Hereford Primary & Junior schools
2002 - Todmorden High School: Creative writing workshops
2002 - Institute of Education, London
2001 - Stretford High School, Manchester
2000 - Tate Gallery, Liverpool
2000 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, Hebden Bridge
1998 - Artranspennine 98, Tate Liverpool and Storey Institute Gallery, Lancaster.
1998 - 'Heart', Oldham Art Gallery.
1998 - Art Under The Microscope. Creative writing and visual art workshop, Storey Inst. Gallery Lancaster
1998 - Bryn Collen Primary, LLangollen
1998 – Ty Newydd (Welsh Arts Council Writing Centre)
1998 - Millane Primary School, Oxford.
1997 - Ty Newydd (Welsh Arts Council Writing Centre)
1997 - The Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank. A Course for writers of Caribbean, African and Asian Origin
1997 - Fallibroome High School
1997 - Manchester University, with post-graduate students
1996 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, poetry writing
1995 - Feb-July: Writer in Residence, The Dee valley, Wales
1995 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, poetry writing
1994 - Writer in Residence, Rawthorpe Infants and Junior Schools, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
1994 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, poetry writing
1994 - Metropolitan University, Crew and Alsager campus
1993 - Poets in Schools with the IRIE DANCE CO. The Blackie, Liverpool
1992 - Arvon tutor at Totleigh Barton, Devon
1991 - Writer in Residence, Ingleborough Festival
1991 - Arvon tutor Lumb Bank
2015 – Cambridge Radio 105, Book Mark
2014 – Cambridge Radio 105, Book Mark.
2003 - The Verb, Radio 3
2001 - GMR Peoples' Programme: Blacture Culture Month
1998 - GMR interview and poems celebrating WinndRush997 - Radio
1o 4, 'Poetry Bang'
1997 - The Peoples' Programme
1996 - Kaleidoscope (book review) Radio 4
1995 - Radio Wales Today
1994 - GMR Manchester Poets
1994 - RTE Dublin (during Cuirt Festival of Literature, Galway
1991 - Kaleidoscope Radio 4
1990 - BBC World Service
1989 - Kaleidoscope Radio 4
1998 - BBC Learning Zone, The WindRush Series
1995 - BBC Wales
1995 - Granada News featuring Chester and the Dee Valley Project (during my Writer in Residence, The
Dee Valley, Wales)
1995 - LUSH LIFE, Granada Television. A film celebrating Black artists in the North of England
1990 - THE NEW, Granada Television. An arts magazine programme
1989 - BOX OFFICE, Channel 4
Prizes and awards:
2003 -WindRush Arts Achiever Award
1991 - Peterloo Poets Afro-Caribbean, Asian Poetry Prize
1991 - Arts Council Literary Award (for Lure of the Cascadura)
1988 - Equal second prize shared with Jackie Kay, Peterloo Afro-Caribbean, Asian Poetry Prize (prize
was split that year)
1987 - Second prize, Cultureword Poetry Competition, with 'Englan No Mudder Country'
1987 - Peterloo Poets Afro-Caribbean, Asian Poetry Prize
1987 - Commended, National Poetry Competition for 'Ham Bone and Tidal Waves'
1987 - Highly commended, Peterloo Poets Poetry Competition for 'Skin, Skin is me, Yuh Na Know Meh'
Single full collections:
2015 – Dancing in the Rain, a collection of poems for younger readers,
Peepal Tree Press
2015 – A Carib Being in Cymru, A Caribbean poet view of North Wales,
Cane Arrow Press
2009 – No Apples in Eden, New and Selected Poems, Smith/Doorstop
2009 – Cook-Up in a Trini Kitchen, Poems, recipes, drawings, watercolours;
Peepal Tree Press
2002 – Voices from a Silk-Cotton Tree, Smith/Doorstop Bookshop
1994 – Behind the Carnival, Smith/Doorstop Bookshop
1989 – Lure of the Cascadura, Bogle L-'Ouverture Publications Ltd
2012 - Out of Bounds, Bloodaxe Books, Editors Jackie Kay, James Procter and Gemma Robinson
2011 - Not Only the Dark, Categorical Books, editor Vicky Wilson
2010 - Writing Your Self, publisher Continuum, Editors John Killick and Myra Schneider
2010 - Did I Tell You, Categorical Books, Editors Niki Gould and Vicky Wilson
2010 - Red, Peepal Tree Press Ltd, editor Kwame Dawes
2006 - Hair, Suitcase Books
2005 - Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, Oxford University Press, editors Stewart Brown and Mark McWatt
2002 - Moving Voices - Hansib Publications
2001 - Poems Then and Now, compiled by Fiona Waters - Evans Bros Ltd
2001 - On a Camel To The Moon, compiled by Valerie Bloom - Belitha Press
2000 - IC3 Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain - Hamish Hamilton
2000 - Hello New, an anthology of poems for children - Smith/Doorstop
1999 - Aldeburfh Poeetry Festival Anthology 1989 - 1998
1994 - A Caribbean Dozen, an anthology of poems for children - Walker Books
1991 - The Sun Rises in The North, a collection of four poets - Smith/Doorstop Books
1991 - Oxford Poetry, Volume v1. No. 1 Summer edition
1988 - The New Brirish Poetry
Windrush Award Winner, Arts Achiever of the Year 2003
Co-Founder: Hourglass Studio Gallery
Member of the Board of Trustees
Hourglass Educational Arts Development Services: HEADS from 2004 to 2010
1959-64 - Goldsmiths' College, School of Art, London.
1964-65 - Art Education Department, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
International Association of Art
Ovenden Contemporary Arts
Founder member of CAM (Cambridge Arts Movement)
2004 - 2010 Trustee Member of the Board of Hourglass Educational Arts Development Services
1998-2004 - Director, Hourgass Studio Gallery
2000 - Adjudicator Co-operative Insurance Christmas card competition
1994-2002 - Member of the Board of Directors, AXIS Visual Arts Information Service
1994 - External Assessor, BA Hons in Cultural Studies, Norwich School of Art and Design
1994 - Adjudicator, British Council Children's International Painting Competition
1994 - Adjudicator for W. H. Smiths Illustration Awards to Schools, John Moores University, Liverpool
1991-92 - Member of the Board of Directors, Nia Centre
1991 - Selector for Dub Transition, an exhibition of work by Denzil Forrester, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston
1991 - Selector for the Nottingham Open Exhibition
1989 - Advisor to Young Contemporaries Exhibition Company
1988 - Adjudicator for the Young Artist Award, Whitechapel Art Gallery London
1987 - Selector for the exhibition, Double Vision, Cartwright Hall Bradford
1987-89 - External purchaser for the Arts Council National Collection
I have been exhibiting since the early sixties: From 1972, thirty-seven mixed / group exhibitions and fifteen solo exhibitions. The following is a selection:
2013 - Mythlore, The Apex Gallery, Bury St Edmunds
2010 - Selected Mini Retrospective from 1964 to 1984, Williams Art Cambridge
2009 - Chimera, Needhams Restaurant and Art Gallery
2006 - Diorama Art Centre Gallery, London.
2005 - 3Cups Gallery Ely, Cambridgeshire
2002 - 'In the Terrain of the Psyche' Hourglass Studio Gallery, Hebden Bridge
2000 - Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech
1999 - 'Ovation', Rochdale Art Gallery
1998 - 'Daydreaming', Lawrence Batley Gallery, West Bretton
1997 - 'Mythopoeia' a major touring exhibition from Wrexham Art Centre.
1992-94 - Behind The Carnival; a major touring exhibition Huddersfield Art Gallery.
1994 - Galway Arts Centre, Republic of Ireland.
1991 - Castle Museum Nottingham.
1990 - Salford Museum and Art Gallery.
Mixed / group
2016 - Cultural Connections, Babylon Arts Ely, Cambridgeshire
2015 - Spirit of Carnival, Upper Gallery, The Plough, Shepreth.
2014 - Aterlier Contemporary, Cambridge City Art Fair
2013 - Blue Contemporary, Cambridge City Art Fair
2010 - Art To Die For, CAM at Williams Art Cambridge
2009 - Ever After The Honey, Clare Hall, Cambridge University
2009 - Ovenden Contemporary Art Group Exhibition, The Old Palace, Ely
2009 - Hills Road Exhibition, Cambridge
2007 - Upper Gallery, Home Affairs, Cambridge Open Studios Artists
1998 - 'Evocation': Hourglass Studio Gallery.
1995 - Caribbean Connections, Islington Art Factory, London.
1990 - 'Let The Canvas Come To Life With Dark Faces' Arts Council sponsored touring exhibition.
1989 - Jouvert Print Exhibition. The Paddington Print Project, a major touring exhibition.
1988 - Plotting The Course. Arts Council sponsored touring exhibition.
1986 - Caribbean Expressions in Britain, Leicester Art Gallery.
1982 - The Hayward Annual, South Bank, London.
1982 - Edison Galerie, The Hague, Holland.
1979 - Galerie du Musee des Duncans, Paris.
Included in the following publications:
2009 - Self. Self-portraits from around the world. Beautiful Cariad Publishing
2001 - Responses: intercultural drawing practice, Centre for Art International Research, Liverpool University
1998 - The Dictionary of Artists in Britain 1945-1998, David Buckman
1998 - The Art Pack, History of Black Artists in Britain, Haringey Arts Council
1997 - Intermediate GNVQ Art & Design, MacMillan
1997 - Black Art, Plotting the Course, Exhibition Catalogue
The following is a selection:
2009 - Firstsite Art Bus, Colchester
2007 - Barns Young People's Forum, Community Centre, Barns Estate, Ely
2005 - Art Workshops: Sutton, Wilburton, Witchford and Harbour schools, funded by ADEC.
2003 - Carnival Workshops, Youth Bank, Rochdale
2003 - The Carnival of Chairs, 'Local Children Network. Calderdale Community Foundation.
2002 - M6 Theatre Company at Hamer School: permanent 3-D sculpture: collaborative process between artist and pupils
2002 - Belgrave Infant School, Chester, Words and painting
2002 - Shade School, Todmorden, Masking-making workshop
2002 - Mixenden Community Drawing on the Earth Project
2001 - Mixenden Community School holidays, painting workshop
2001 - Ossette School, Wakesfield, Carnival Costume making workshop
2001 - Year of the Artist Residency, Stubbings School, Lancashire
1997 - Paula Rego Exhibition, Tate Gallery Liverpool.
1995 - Vital, Tate Gallery, Liverpool.
1994 - Africa Explores, Tate Gallery Liverpool.
1994 - Artist in Residence, Rush Common County Primary,Oxford.
1993 - Community Artist in Residence for the Tate GalleryLiverpool.
1993 - David Tremlett Exhibition, Cornerhouse Manchester.
1992 - Russel Cotes Museum and Art Gallery, Bournemouth.
1992 - Visiting Artist, Dept. of Art and Design John Moores University, Liverpool.
Community Artist in Residence with Joseph Beuys exhibition at the Tate Gallery Liverpool and Liverpool carnival 1993.
BBC World Service, and Meridian programme on Africa Explores.
1998 - BBC Television, 'Windrush' 50 commemorative programme
1997 - HTV Wales, Preview on Mythopoeia
1994 - 'Lush Life'; Celebration film series, Granada Television
1990 - The New; Granada Television
1989 - Jouvert Print Exhibition. Ch.4 Box Office
1989 - Plotting The Course exhibition, Late Night Show BBC 2
RochdaleArt Gallery. Huddersfield Art Gallery. Victoria & Albert Word and Image Print Collection. Arts Council National Collection.
In England, France, Holland, United States and Switzerland.
From 1987 I have also been involved with a number of visual art activities. They include, designing the stage set for the play 'Empire' at the Abraham Moss Community Theatre; art lectures and seminars at art galleries and educational establishments, including Cornerhouse, Manchester, Tate Liverpool, John Moores University Liverpool, and the Metropolitan University, Manchester. I have also been the author of feature articles on visual art and on art criticism for magazines; eg., Bazaar and The Artful Reporter ( a North West arts magazine, in the 80’s). My visual art writings also include exhibition catalogue essays for the following: Dub Transition, a major touring exhibition of the work of Denzil Forrester; Jouvert Print Exhibition and Tony Phillips' 'Jazz and The Twentieth Century'.
An interview with Craig Kerrecoe
Craig Kerrecoe & John Lyons
John Lyons is a genuine renaissance man- a truly wonderful visual artist, an accomplished poet, a great friend and a cook worthy of his own Channel 4 show. I’ve known John for many years and he is all of those things.
He’s also vibrant and incredibly friendly, jolly, supportive, positive, generous and inspirational. That’s my experience at least and I know it to be the experience of everyone else that is lucky enough to know him.
Having shown John’s work in the past at many different events and exhibitions, I know first hand that his paintings, sketches and woodcuts have a vitality, depth and quality that have taken many decades to cultivate. You can really sense the experience, the ‘knowing’ in John’s work. Sometimes it challenges you to reconsider what you think you already know; other times it affirms what you feel inside. But always you feel a reaction, an interaction.
Tell us about your training or your background John.
Well, my country of birth is Trinidad and Tobago. I received my first formal art education as a painter at Goldsmiths College School of Art, London, from 1959 to 1964. After that I studied at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to teach art as a specialist subject from 1964 to 1965.
Did you teach art after that?
Yes, my first job was at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys. In 1967 I moved to Manchester where I worked in secondary schools for nine years, before becoming an Art and Design Lecturer in South Trafford College. I taught at the college for seventeen years, all the time continuing with my writing and painting.
Education and learning is incredibly important to John. When he was nine, his mother died after a short illness and he and his three siblings moved to rural Tobago to live with his grandmother. There, he discovered and sought refuge in the works of Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, and any other author he was able to find in the library in Scarborough.
In 1948 John returned to Trinidad to live with his father and stepmother. After successfully passing the Senior Cambridge exam, he had to forego further study to lessen the financial burden of his family's education costs. Being accepted into Goldsmiths in 1959 was a momentous event for John- one that would change his life.
He has a very academic perspective on the act of painting…
Painting, in my view, is a total experience of being perceptually engaged with my living environment.
Well, this engagement, this perceptual engagement, is often an imaginative enquiry beyond the surface of things and is expressed creatively through the visual language of paint.
Beyond the surface of things?
Very much so. My actual painting practice is a playful and intuitive use of paint which takes me on a journey of discovery, beyond the surface of things. The process of painting is the ‘thing’, the end product is a different experience and another beginning.
Does that mean you never quite know what to expect when you start painting?
(He pauses) It is always good to have an idea of the direction, but it is never necessary, as a creative artist, to know the exact paths to take. Apart from ‘will’, the imperative to paint and to create, this outlook generates creative energy for me to carry on.
That and your persistent preoccupation with folklore?
Yes. My abiding thematic interest is Trinidad and Tobago folklore and legends. Folklore and legends are universally and essentially concerned with the human condition: an endeavour in trying to come to terms with the mysteries of the living environment.
The place where this endeavour is conducted, his studio, is a converted garage on the side of his house overlooking the Fens in Littleport, just north of Ely. It’s never looked big enough to contain John’s creativity, not to my eyes.
It’s adequate, creatively messy but I know where things are!
How long does it take you to finish a painting, on average?
Oh, this is an interesting question. From my view point, a work is never really completed. I think in terms of the work being resolved; and it is for this reason that after spending several weeks/months on a painting, it tells me it is not resolved and I am left with an uncomfortable feeling which prompts me to set the work aside until I feel I want to work on it again.
How long are they set aside for?
Some works take as long as one to two years to come back to me. Other works are quickly resolved within a week; and I can complete a watercolour in a day.
Is it often that a piece tells you that it is not yet resolved?
Yes- I am currently working on a pastel, not yet resolved. I’m still not sure how to continue. Meanwhile there are about three works I keep looking at with the idea of doing more to them. They are telling me there is more work to be done.
What will you do to resolve them?
I will continue to explore the linguistic visual qualities, line shape, colour, texture, to express my preoccupation with mythology, folklore, legends and what I think is the terrain of the psyche.
Which artists do you admire the most?
I don’t have a favourite artist, as such. There are several artists whose work I do admire: historically, Picasso for his creative energy and inventiveness; Matisse and Chagall for their use of colour; Kandinsky for the abstract and sensual musicality of his paintings; Braque for his intellect and sense of abstraction. I also enjoy the work of Francis Bacon and John Bellany. There are creative qualities in the works of all these artists from which I learn.
Do you think the artist has a specific role in society?
Interestingly, this is a question for the critics and academics to answer. They are more appropriately in the position to answer this question.
What do you think though?
Generally, I believe most fine artists are motivated to produce work primarily for themselves without thinking of their role in society. Artists must be honest, have artistic integrity and be true to themselves; the role they play in society is not a conscious one and is incidental.
You clearly revel in ‘being an artist’ What do you most enjoy about it?
Having always work to do and being engaged with the creative processes of making art; and there is no retirement age. I also love to share my work with the public.
Are there any aspects of being an artist that you don’t enjoy?
Definitely. More often than not, the general public’s indifference and lack of respect for artists; also their lack of real interest in engaging with what artists do. That’s a struggle.
It must be important to get the balance right between sharing your work with the public and minimising your exposure to indifference and lack of respect?
Well, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Previews, launches and the public attending these events are an integral part of what the world of art is about. I have my own artist’s sense of achievement in producing a piece of work, but what value does the work have to the world at large if it is never seen? Opportunities must be given to others to engage with it.
What is the best thing anybody could say to you about your work?
That after a long time they are still discovering new aspects of the work that give them pleasure and food for thought.
And the worst?
That they are bored with it.
What would be your dream project?
My dream project is to produce pieces of interactive installation art which integrate drawings, paintings, sound, music and poetry, spoken and written.
What are your plans for the future? What would you like to achieve?
My plan for the future is to keep on painting, keep on looking and engaging with my living environment. I’d really like to have a major retrospective of 80 to 100 pieces of my work spanning the 1960’s to the present; and to be in the position of sharing my work with a much wider public. I’d also like to increase the representation of my work in more national public collections.
John Lyons Bio
John Lyons is a painter and poet, born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. When he was nine, his mother died after a short illness and he and his three siblings moved to rural Tobago to live with his grandmother. There, he discovered and sought refuge in the works of Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, and any other author he was able to find in the library in Scarborough.
In 1948 he returned to Trinidad to live with his father and stepmother. After successfully passing the Senior Cambridge exam, Lyons had to forego further study to lessen the financial burden of his family's education costs. He passed the Civil Service entrance examination and worked for five years in the Civil Service, during which time he continued with his passion for writing and painting.
In 1959 he was accepted into Goldsmiths College in London, and graduated in 1964 with a National Diploma of Design. He gained an Art Teachers’ Diploma at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1965; his first job was at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys. In 1967 he moved to Manchester where he worked in secondary schools for nine years, before becoming an Art and Design lecturer in South Trafford College.
He taught at the college for seventeen years, all the time continuing with his writing and painting. In 1987
he won a clutch of poetry prizes: second prize in the Cultureword Poetry Competition; the Peterloo Poets
Afro-Caribbean and Asian prize; a commendation in the National Poetry Competition, and in the Peterloo
Lyons was co-founder of the Hourglass Studio Gallery in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, where he directed art and Creative Writing workshops with his partner Jean Rees. The arts educational limb of the organisation became a charity, and he remained on the Board of Trustees until 2009, when it lost its Art Council funding in the general cuts.
His first full collection of poems, Lure of the Cascadura, was published in 1989 by Bogle L’Ouverture Publications, for which he received a major Arts Council award. In 2003 he was given the WindRush Arts Achiever Award.
Apart from his numerous contributions to poetry anthologies, he has 8 published poetry collections, the most recent being: A Carib Being in Cymru and Dancing in the Rain, both in 2015.
For further information on commissions, my availability for exhibitions (solo, touring, or mixed), or for information about contributing poetry
to anthologies, public readings and workshops, please contact me in the first instance by email: