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It’s a no-brainer! City’s controversial sculpture could be removed

PUBLISHED: 15:25 10 October 2020 | UPDATED: 08:43 11 October 2020

Artist Patrick Poirier with the brain sculpture
 in Hay Hill back in 2007. Photo:  Adrian Judd.

Artist Patrick Poirier with the brain sculpture in Hay Hill back in 2007. Photo: Adrian Judd.

Archant © 2007

The brain sculpture in the centre of Norwich could be removed, as part of plans to breathe new life into the heart of the city.

The Norwich Society has backed the removal of the brain, so the Hay Hill area can be used for events such as live music. Pic: Denise Bradley.The Norwich Society has backed the removal of the brain, so the Hay Hill area can be used for events such as live music. Pic: Denise Bradley.

Bosses at Norwich City Council believe better use could be made of the Hay Hill area, so it could host more free events to keep people in the city centre.

But, for that to happen, the marble brain, eye and other pieces of artwork, installed in July 2007, would need to be removed.

The city council has bid for government Towns Fund cash, hoping to secure £25m for schemes to regenerate the city centre.

Hay Hill has been identified as an area which could potentially be improved.

Paul Burall, from the Norwich Society. Pic: Bob Hobbs.Paul Burall, from the Norwich Society. Pic: Bob Hobbs.

The council wants to make the space, near Next and Primark, “more versatile” for events and to make “cross movement” easier.

The area, along with Castle Gardens and under the Magdalen Street flyover, is highlighted, in the council’s city centre public spaces plan, as “problematic” when it comes to making areas attractive to “design out” crime.

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The council has said, while it waits for a decision on the Towns Fund cash, it is too soon to discuss the Hay Hill scheme.

A spokeswoman said: “We are awaiting further news of the £25m, which would allow us to properly take forward and develop options for such an important and popular part of the city.”

It is not clear whether the work, created by French sculptors Anne and Patrick Poirier, would be relocated or simply removed.

The sculptures, which include inscriptions on blocks of marble, are called Homage To Sir Thomas Browne and were designed to complement the nearby statue of the 17th century physician, philosopher and writer.

The commission, funded with a £148,000 grant from the Arts Council, £31,000 from Norwich City Council and £20,000 from Norfolk County Council, has always been controversial.

At the council meeting where planning permission was granted, three councillors dramatically walked out of the decision-making process citing “undue pressure”.

The Norwich Society has previously proposed removing the sculptures and redesigning the area as a performance space.

The society’s Paul Burall, said: “I think they are horrible and I’m all for the idea of the area being used for events.

“If they can find somewhere else for them, then fine, but we wouldn’t be vigorously campaigning for them to be kept.”


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