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Do you know the real story behind one of Norwich’s most noticeable graffiti works?

PUBLISHED: 13:54 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:27 17 January 2019

The complex of former Eastern Electricity buildings in Norwich, and the Utopia art. Photo: Bill Smith

The complex of former Eastern Electricity buildings in Norwich, and the Utopia art. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2013

If you have ever caught a glimpse of the old Eastern Electricity building, you have probably stopped to admire the tenacity of the graffiti artists who inscribed its walls with more than 40,000 words.

The complex of former Eastern Electricity buildings in Norwich. Photo: Bill SmithThe complex of former Eastern Electricity buildings in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

The story behind the feat, however, is entirely different.

The old electricity factory on Westwick Street in Norwich was in fact selected by artist Rory Macbeth in 2006 to feature in the EASTinternational contemporary exhibition as the location for his latest art instalment.

Having gained permission from the property developer Targetfollow, Mr Macbeth set about turning his artistic vision into a reality.

He chose to inscribe Sir Thomas More’s entire 100-page-long book Utopia onto the exterior building walls with lime whitewash.

The complex of former Eastern Electricity buildings in Norwich. Photo: Bill SmithThe complex of former Eastern Electricity buildings in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

The book itself was first published in 1516 and was written as a socio-political satire about a perfect, fictional island society.

In previous interviews, the artist explained how he had chosen that particular work because of its timeless relevance, in contrast to the abandoned factory.

With the aid of his team -and a cherry-picker - the piece was completed across several weeks.

At the time, it had been assumed that the building would be demolished the following year but as of yet, more than a decade later, the building remains standing and Mr Macbeth’s work is still in tact.

To date, it is still owned by the original property developers, who were contacted over why the building had remained but are yet to comment.

It seems as though, for the foreseeable future, the factory exterior will continue to provide a talking point for residents and visitors alike, with many seemingly bemused at its origins.

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