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Mystery solved! Origin of Norwich keyboard revealed

PUBLISHED: 17:25 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:57 22 May 2020

Molly Sole is a digital artist who has worked on blockbuster film franchises such as Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond. She created the Norwich keyboard when she was an NUA student between 1999 and 2001. Picture: Archant/NostalgiaNerd/YouTube

Molly Sole is a digital artist who has worked on blockbuster film franchises such as Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond. She created the Norwich keyboard when she was an NUA student between 1999 and 2001. Picture: Archant/NostalgiaNerd/YouTube

Archant

Its provenance has been shrouded in mystery for two decades, but the origin of one of Norwich’s more quirky features has been revealed.

The freshly set keyboard after it was imprinted in concrete by Molly Sole, an NUA student at the time. Picture: Molly Sole/NostalgiaNerd/YouTubeThe freshly set keyboard after it was imprinted in concrete by Molly Sole, an NUA student at the time. Picture: Molly Sole/NostalgiaNerd/YouTube

Visitors to the city have long speculated over the history of the imprint of a computer keyboard in the pavement on the corner of Princes Street and Elm Hill, with a number of theories posed over the years.

As it happens, one of those ideas has turned out to be true, as discovered by a well-known researcher who specialises in the history of computing and gaming.

NostalgiaNerd, who has more than 300,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, spent weeks chasing the theory that it was created by a student from the nearby Norwich University of the Arts (NUA).

His search proved fruitless, until he got a reply from a woman named Molly Sole who turned out to be the original artist.

Molly Sole, the original artist behind the Norwich keyboard on the corner of Princes Street and Elm Hill. Picture: NostalgiaNerd/YouTubeMolly Sole, the original artist behind the Norwich keyboard on the corner of Princes Street and Elm Hill. Picture: NostalgiaNerd/YouTube

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Mrs Sole made the imprint using a keyboard mould that she created while studying at NUA – then known as the Norwich School of Art and Design – between 1999 and her graduation in 2001.

She said: “It was very off the cuff. I was walking to college – I walked that street every day – and somebody had just laid a beautiful piece of cement on that corner. It was a bit of an act of vanity I suppose, to want to vandalise it, but I thought ‘I’ve got this keyboard mould’.

Molly Sole using a mould to create the imprint of a keyboard in freshly-laid concrete on the corner of Princes Street and Elm Hill in Norwich. Picture: Molly Sole/NostalgiaNerd/YouTubeMolly Sole using a mould to create the imprint of a keyboard in freshly-laid concrete on the corner of Princes Street and Elm Hill in Norwich. Picture: Molly Sole/NostalgiaNerd/YouTube

“I was making a lot of sculpture about how the internet was changing things and how email was altering the way we work. I was melting keyboards in my studio and I had this mould and just thought I would push it in the cement and see if I could leave a mark.

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“It was just one of those times when you’re trying to put your work out there so you have an audience of some sort. That morning I just thought it was an easy way to get an audience. It was probably the most throwaway thing I did in the three years I was there.”

Since leaving Norwich, Mrs Sole has build a successful career as a digital artist in the film industry, having worked in various design roles on world-famous franchises such as Star Wars and the Harry Potter series.

The imprint of a keyboard in freshly-laid concrete on the corner of Princes Street and Elm Hill in Norwich. Picture: Molly Sole/NostalgiaNerd/YouTubeThe imprint of a keyboard in freshly-laid concrete on the corner of Princes Street and Elm Hill in Norwich. Picture: Molly Sole/NostalgiaNerd/YouTube

“I’d love to go back [to Norwich] – I haven’t been back in a long time. I’m sad to wreck the conspiracy theories for people.”


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