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‘Just what I needed at the end of a busy day’ - Norfolk artist jumps in Norwich river to save artwork

PUBLISHED: 20:04 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:25 17 October 2018

John Behm took a dip in the Wensum. Picture: Katy Jon Went

John Behm took a dip in the Wensum. Picture: Katy Jon Went

Archant

They say Norwich has a close-knit art community with people often willing to go above and beyond to help each other out.

John Behm took a dip in the Wensum. Picture: Katy Jon WentJohn Behm took a dip in the Wensum. Picture: Katy Jon Went

And while that usually means sharing ideas and techniques, one artist took it to the next level.

John Behm is caught here on camera stripping down to his underpants and jumping into the River Wensum to save a fellow artist’s painting.

Mr Behm had been taking part in Paint Out Norwich on Tuesday where a number of artists have been setting up their easels in various locations around the city.

The architect and painter had been taking some of his art to Studio 22 and as he returned to Fye Bridge, Norwich, he saw his fellow artist’s easel in the water.

John Behm diving into the river. Picture: Katy Jon WentJohn Behm diving into the river. Picture: Katy Jon Went

Not wanting to lose the work the American artist stripped off and jumped in.

The 62-year-old said: “It was just what I needed at the end of a busy day.

“The river is so slow moving, I have canoed up it several times, and it just lies out under the sun. It was warm enough not for it to be a shock when I jumped in.”

He had originally planned to try and climb down a mooring ladder but when this did not work his only option was to jump in.

The painting in the river. Picture: Katy Jon WentThe painting in the river. Picture: Katy Jon Went

Mr Behm added: “A young man and his friend were trying to inch along a sheer edge but that wasn’t working.

“He got a branch and he tried to throw the branch at the easel but he let go.

“It’s a time when you don’t stop and have a committee meeting about what can be done so I looked over the side of Fye Bridge and thought I’d get in and get it.”

A crowd gathered around to see what was happening.

One on-looker said: “It was legendary. He dived in from the bridge to rescue the art and easel that was floating down the river pooh stick style.”

The painting was the work of Paint Out organiser James Colman.

He said: “It was an accident honestly and not any dissatisfaction with the artwork.”

Mr Behm knew that the river would be deep enough for him to jump in.

“When I went in I touched the bottom with my hands. It was fun,” the Tasburgh artist added.

“James now has the painting and thinks it looks better now. It’s not so much watercolour now, we call it mixed media.

“It just goes to show that artists are not about standing still and painting, we do things differently. We can still be more rock and roll.”

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