A Victorian oil painting on display at Port Sunlight’s Lady Lever Art Gallery has inspired an award-winning track on a new EP.

Folk singer-songwriter Alison Benson based her song Crystal Ball on The Magic Crystal by Frank Bernard Dicksee (1895) which hangs in the Wirral gallery.

The painting features a woman sitting on a throne-like chair, wearing a long flowing dress and looking intently at a crystal ball in her hand.

Alison’s song imagines the story behind the painting, telling the tale of a woman seduced by the power of the mysterious crystal ball which ultimately ruins her life, leading up to the moment where she faces the moral dilemma of passing it on to someone else.

Crystal Ball won the Audience Favourite vote in the 2018 Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Challenge, and now appears on Alison’s new EP, Paths and Stories, which is out on March 28.

Wirral Globe: Alison Benson's new EP will be launched on March 28Alison Benson's new EP will be launched on March 28

Paths and Stories is an eclectic collection of insights into the lives of five individuals – some real, some imagined. Its subjects also include a real-life World War 1 conscientious objector, a seventeenth-century pioneer of women’s education, the protagonist of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, and the subject of a painting by Andrew Galbraith, which was on show in Liverpool in 2016.

Alison is well-known on the Wirral live music scene and is a regular performer at the Hoylake Summer Strum. She has also played at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain, Love Folk festival, Ukulele Festival of Scotland and the Threshold Festival.

Alison said: “The Magic Crystal is a really striking painting and it caught my imagination as soon as I saw it. Using paintings and landmarks as a starting point is a great way to write songs. Merseyside, as a whole, is so rich with inspiration and history – it is full of stories. Folk music doesn’t exist without stories – whether real, mythical or fictional.

“I love the folk and live music scene in Wirral. The Hoylake Summer Strum has a great sense of community and I’ve loved every time that I’ve played there.

“I chose the ukulele as the main instrument on Crystal Ball and the EP as a whole because I just love the sound. It’s seen as a ‘happy’ instrument primarily, but I hope that in Paths and Stories it also adds a poignancy and suggests the different layers of emotion that I imagine each of the people in these songs would feel.”

Alison Benson will launch Paths and Stories and play the EP in its entirety at arts venue 81 Renshaw Street on Saturday March 28 (1.30pm-3.30pm). Support will be provided by The Folk Doctors.

Tickets are free but need to be booked in advance via skiddle.

Paths and Stories is available from 28th March via alisonbenson.com (physical copies), iTunes and most online music platforms.