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Occupy Norwich protest camp an eyesore?

PUBLISHED: 02:00 07 February 2012 | UPDATED: 09:16 15 February 2012

The Occupy Norwich encampment on Hay Hill, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams.

The Occupy Norwich encampment on Hay Hill, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams.

Archant Norfolk 2011

One of the recurring arguments I've seen for the Occupy Norwich tent-dwellers moving on to pastures new is that their encampment "is an eyesore".

Without wishing to delve into the politics of the matter (and, indeed, having been told to be a bit less ‘Private Eye’ and a bit more ‘cuddly’ by He Who Pays My Wages) I would counter this argument by pointing to the striking contemporary art that shares a home with the protesters.

Under the watchful eye of the Thomas Browne statue lies a giant marble brain, a large eye and granite seats and tables engraved with some of Browne’s impenetrable musings.

As an aside, quickly, one of my first assignments for the Evening News was to wander forth into the city and ask shoppers who they thought Thomas Browne was.

The best answer, by a country mile, was that he was an ancestor of Philip Browne, purveyor of clothes for the kind of men I have never attracted on the basis that I look like I dress in the dark (because I do).

Thomas Browne was, in fact, a Norwich boy what done good back in the 1600s when he was a leading light in the fields of medicine, religion, science and the esoteric – kind of like an olden-days Puppet Man.

His memorial, which cost £200,000, resembles the grisly scene of a particularly messy autopsy on a giant concrete man.

Creators Anne and Patrick Poirier said: “Our wish is that people will have the curiosity to stop and sit, reflect, eat or read a good book, maybe by Thomas Browne, and to have their own thoughts.”

Pick any time of day, and I can guarantee you that you’ll find a clutch of skateboarders, emos or transients perched on a stone eyelid pondering the majestic works of Thomas Browne, playfully squabbling over who gets to read Religio Medici next.

“It’s not fair!” one will shout, “you got to read Pseudodoxi Epidemica AND The Garden of Cyrys and the Quincunciall Lozenge first too!”

My personal favourite of Browne’s books is his bodice-ripper Hdriotaphia, Urn Burial, A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk. I tell you, once you start on that one, you won’t eat, sleep or visit the toilet until you’ve devoured the entire thing.

Whatever else you think of the protesters, they have to wake up every morning and see that lot. And know that bloke whose relatives opened Philip Browne is watching their every move.

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