Paper making and the printing press have been critical innovations throughout modern human evolution. Paper and printing will form an important aspect of the Fourth Portal.

The following blog post is on Norfolk Paper Mills, by Joe Mason, from 2016, following the industrial paper making process in Norfolk.

There is once again a paper-mill in Norfolk, over sixty years after the last of the old mills closed. This new mill belongs to the German firm Palm Paper, and is a huge facility just to the south of Kings Lynn on the Great Ouse river. It produces 450,000 tonnes of newsprint a year, and it is one of the largest paper-mills in the world. This is a far cry from the first paper-mill in Norfolk which opened not many miles away from Kings Lynn in 1695. This was converted from a fulling mill (for the treatment of woollen cloth) in Castle Rising. This was known as the Upper Mill to distinguish it from another one further downstream on the Babingley river. There are records of five mills (including wind-mills) in Castle Rising, although not all were working at the same time. There was no printing industry in Norfolk until the early 18th century and although a certain amount of writing paper was required this first mill probably made paper used in pressing cloth or wrapping paper.

The next paper-mill in Norfolk was also converted from a fulling mill – a popular choice as the water powered hammers used to beat the cloth could easily be converted to making pulp for paper. This was in Taverham, a small village on the river Wensum about five miles outside Norwich. It opened in 1701. From the first it advertised itself as making ‘paper suitable for printing’ although there was then no printer to make use of it. Lacking this essential industry, Norwich was obviously keen to attract a printer, and this they soon did in the person of a young craftsman from London called Francis Burges. The capital in London and the two university towns of Oxford and Cambridge were the only places where printing had been allowed until 1695, when Parliament refused to renew the Licensing Act which controlled printing. Bristol had been quicker off the mark than Norwich in setting up a printing office, but the City was not far behind, and it was Norwich that produced the first newspaper outside London.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring many challenges. As the world goes virtual, the role of public gathering places will need addressing. The Town Square must again become the centre of local discourse. If not, the 4IR may become known as the Period of Polarisation.

From Wikipedia

“A town square (or square, plaza, public square, city square, urban square, or piazza) is an open public space[1] commonly found in the heart of a traditional town used for community gatherings. Related concepts are the civic center, the market square and the village green.”

Piazza della Signoria, in Florence, Italy, a historic example of a traditional public square

Announcement of the establishment of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs on Congress Square in 1918


Town squares will become contested during the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Technology will permeate every part of daily life. As it does, the need for physical gathering places will rise. The risk is that such public spaces become battlegrounds.

Urban planners need to pay close attention, particularly in England. The virtual world is changing behaviours. These changes are spilling out into the real-world streets. [1]

Class system

Since the Edwardian period, England has neglected public spaces. Public squares that encourage the mixing of cultures are rare. The Georgians began the trend to fence off public spaces and streets. The policy was steeped in the British class system. In recent years, the privatisation of public space has accelerated.

Sample of English public spaces

In Southern continental Europe, the opposite is the case. Town squares are the centre of the entire community. The design, construction and purpose are all geared towards civic pride and participation.

Sample of Spanish public spaces

Spanish Squares

In Spain, all urban planning revolves around public space. There are plenty of elaborate squares and boulevards to be happened upon. Most though are of simple design and materials. They work for all occasions. Organised events, family gatherings, meeting friends or eating a sandwich. Finding a public space with a fence or a locked gate will be a challenge in Spain.

Some squares have a cafe or restaurant bordering the parameter; many don’t. It is unusual to see a cafe in the middle of a town square. Modern Spanish libraries and museums spill out onto public squares. Public spaces in Spain are welcoming and well used because of their simplicity. [2]


The two photo galleries above show the public realm where people live. These are not tourist areas or places of commerce. Public spaces are there, in theory, for the local community and visitors to use and enjoy. The public realm in Spain sits at the very heart of a community. Unless there is a commercial reason, public space in England is a low priority.


Town Squares can be a metaphor for what is happening in the virtual world. Some people wish to see them controlled with restrictions on who has access. Others want them completely open, freeing and welcoming to all. [3] [4] [5]


Recent history has demonstrated how the virtual world can spill out into the real world.

Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, is the most prominent example. Protests in 2013 began online, discussing government corruption and policies. WhatsApp groups and Facebook posts began to grow and to spread. Soon these virtual spaces were not enough. People had to come together. Tens of hundreds of thousands of people started filling Tahrir square. Night after night protests continued until Egypt’s President Mubarak toppled.

Similar scenes with different results played out across the Arab world. These 2013 protests became known as the Arab Spring.

Although not on the same scale, most areas of the developed world have seen similar protests. The rise of the online protest hashtag has been instrumental. #MeToo and #blm (#blacklivesmatter) are the most successful to date.


Britain’s exit from the European Union was a direct result of online campaigning. What followed has been years of disruption, strife and polarisation. The struggle between the Leave and Remain camps manifested physically in London’s Parliament square. The argument has continued right up to the present day. [6]

Brexit supporter carrying Great Britain cardboard cutout, Parliament Square.

Rise of technology

As life moves further online, the need for real-world gathering forums will increase. Failure of authorities to not plan for this change could lead to dire consequences.

Reasons for people to engage within the physical world has been declining since the 1990s.

The internet changed the world of work, allowing employees to be more distributed. The onset of the pandemic brought a further scattering of the workforce as people work from home. Retail has been shifting steadily online. Restaurant food can now be delivered directly to the family dining table. The world of supermarkets without cashiers is upon us. Online gaming transformed from a table gathering to global competitions. The gaming industry now dwarfs, by revenue, the movie and music industries combined. [7]

There are plenty of Apps that anyone can access for free. However, to receive the full benefit requires buying a subscription. Public squares in England surrounded by cafes and shops are similar. To fully partake in the space requires a certain amount of purchasing power.

Two-tier England

English Extremes

Above photos from the Argent development, Kings Cross, London (2020). Below, public squares managed by Great Yarmouth borough council (2021).

In Spain, public squares are places where people congregate, play and celebrate. The public realm encourages the community to come together for serendipitous moments. Spending power is not relevant except in the most exclusive of shopping areas.

Public forum, with permanent outdoor screen, multilevel seating, no barriers. Eivissa, Ibiza, Spain, 2022. [4]

In England, the opposite is too often the case. There is heavy reliance on the private sector to create public amenity spaces. It is another aspect of Britain’s two-tier society. Money buys access.

Fenced public spaces, ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs and other rules are commonplace around England.


Public space needs to become the bridge between the virtual and physical worlds. Some may believe this is about introducing VR – virtual reality. VR will soon be playing a much larger role, but this is more about the physical spaces themselves.

The layout, ambience and purpose of the public domain in England should be along Spanish lines.

Free to access town squares must have 5G connectivity. Multipurpose seating and tables that encourage gatherings, games, meetings and work. Architectural flair can overcome issues around Britain’s inclement weather. The public realm needs to be attractive to all cultures, ages and abilities.

Without change, England risks further polarisation. Addressing the poor quality of places for public gatherings is now urgent.


The internet has slowly eroded the need for people having to meet fellow citizens. The pandemic has further reduced real-world interactions. Technology seeping deeper into everyday life raises the potential of a more isolated society. Free to access public spaces is critical for communities to stay in touch in the real world.

The political discourse around local issues cannot be online alone. To allow this will lead to unhealthy debate and will undermine stable democracy. Views are best challenged and debated in the open, in places where alternative voices can be heard.

Open, free, real-world forums, like town squares, are the best spaces for such discussion to happen. Being open will also allay some fears around privacy, censorship and freedom of expression.

Britain is in the grip of a mental health crisis, with loneliness and a sense of isolation increasing. Social media gets some of the blame. Not much is written about the lack of public amenity spaces.

England needs to rethink its approach to the public realm. Design should encourage serendipity and random conversations. Learning from Spain’s public spaces would be a good start.

We are in the fifth decade of the internet. It will be one that will see the virtual world and the physical world merge. Successful societies this decade will be the ones with the most engaging public realm.

Introducing technology into these spaces is the next phase around the world. Creating buzzing ambient public spaces will be essential for community lifeblood. Animated public squares will also attract the next generation of innovators.

England needs to rethink the public realm urgently! This is where ‘levelling up’ has to begin.**

John M

All images John McKiernan ©2022

** Levelling Up. A Conservative government manifesto pledge. What does it mean?

[1] see Public Space

[2] see Eivissa

[3] see Censorship

[4] see Apple Privacy

[5] see Leiston and Sizewell

[6] see Brexit

[7] see AI Supermarkets


The lines between privacy, censorship and freedom of speech blurred as the internet evolved. This blurring is where the battle for social media is happening. Only real-world dialogue and understanding will produce a solution fair to all.

It‘s unfair accusing governments of abdicating duty around online communication. The issues are complex. Every decision a government makes will have long term ramifications. Unlike laws within a country’s borders, the internet requires global solutions. What one country deems libellous will be satire in another.

Culture. Economic standing. Educational attainment. Religious and political norms. Many considerations have to feed into the internet debate. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides the first step.


In January 2021, Twitter removed the account of Donald Trump. During this period, Donald Trump was one of the most popular accounts, by followers, on the platform. He was also the sitting President of the United States of America. In removing the account, Twitter effectively issued a D-Notice.

A D-Notice is an old UK government device sent to media editors to voluntarily not report on a story. The fundamental difference between a democratic government and Twitter is one is elected, and the other is not.

And herein lies the rub. Who gets to decide what is and what is not acceptable online?

Has Twitter become a new form of democratic state? Rather than built on votes, Twitter runs on Tweets and sentiment.


Marketers use sentiment analysis to ascertain campaign effectiveness. It is a powerful tool for understanding how the public reacts to a topic or event. What it does not have are policy setting attributes. And this is what sets a government apart from corporations. Governments, in theory, set policies for the overall good of society in its entirety. Corporate policies set strategic goals for the company, shareholders and customers.

Distributed power

Aside from politics, the Trump episode highlights a dispersal of power. Beyond a vote, citizens can now vocalise their views, demands and concerns globally. This vocalisation has brought benefits and worrying situations. The storming of the US Capitol in January 2021 is one case in point.

Printing press politics

At the time of its creation, the printing press was the social media platform of its day. What followed sparked the violence of the Protestant Reformation and widespread education. One saw families and communities torn apart while the other brought societies together.

Our present period is no different.

The 2011 Arab Spring was, in part, attributed to social media as much as the underlying discontent. In Syria, a brutal war ensued. In Saudi Arabia, women began forcing reform around equality.

Protests, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and #MeToo went global due to social media. Groups opposed to change also use the same platforms to maintain the status quo.

So who is the referee for social media? And who was the referee for the printing press?

Public space and the arts

Public space has been the one constant throughout the history of societal change. Back to the time of the Greek agora, public space has proven pivotal, along with the arts, in forging progress.

Technological interaction is integral to progress. Real-world interaction is essential to peaceful co-existence.

It has never been more critical to have open gathering places and public spaces. Real-world environments challenge opinions and viewpoints. There is more exposure when people meet in person. More reactions are on show; body language, sweat, pupil dilation. These reactions can be positive or negative, depending on the situation. It is a different dynamic to sitting semi-anonymous behind a keyboard.

Fourth Portal

Public space, where people come together remains the best place for consensus to emerge. The arts will play a pivotal role as always. The ability of artists to see beyond the mundane will light the path.

The haphazard business journey has been to uncover what a hub of the future will look like? What does it need to convey? What will make it different?

The Fourth Portal hub needs to counter-balance the online environment. A hybrid meeting place, operating in both the real and virtual world. Open discussion and dialogue are intrinsic to the hub.

A successful Fourth Portal will spill over into other public forums. The reassertion of the historical value of public space is needed. Encouragement is required to reevaluate the importance of the town square and marketplace as places to gather. Urban design needs to incorporate hybrid relatedness into all future buildings. A well designed public space will be both physical and virtual.


Censorship demands by one group will be freedom of expression for another.

Measures to balance different views have not kept pace with the growth of online platforms. Meanwhile, the internet has become an extension of everyday life. It has allowed mass connectivity. Despite this, there is an increase in isolation and dis-association. Something is not right!

Censorship and privacy laws will be unable to address the problems of online interaction. Only real-life engagement and dialogue will solve these issues.

Governments are struggling to draft legislation. Big tech presently fills the void with their own rules.

We are only on our second-generation since the creation of the World Wide Web. The printing press has had dozens of generations shaping laws, regulations and principles, and we are still tinkering.

Public space, where people come together, remains the best place for consensus to emerge. It may take a long time. Discussion allows a better understanding. Ultimately, new online manners will emerge through real-world conversations – not on Twitter. The Fourth Portal will play a small part in nudging this conversation towards equitable consensus.

John M


Arriving at the shabby-chic North Norfolk seaside town of Cromer, I was taken aback by how little it resembles Great Yarmouth and spent a very pleasant day strolling the lovely streets and excellent beaches.

Great Yarmouth myths

While in Great Yarmouth, there were numerous comparisons to Cromer in North Norfolk being similar, with poverty, social issues and struggling. Norfolk friends would scoff and those from outside the county were a little puzzled as they could not remember Cromer being down at the heel. So I took the bus from Holt, where I am based for two weeks while I explore North Norfolk to see the town for myself.

Old Cromer photograph, shop window.

First impressions

As the bus pulled in, Cromer looked clean but shabby. Looking up at some of the windows, it was obvious that there is poverty in the town, so my expectations initially leaned towards what I heard in Great Yarmouth. This swiftly changed however, and the more I walked the more I could appreciate why so many people, particularly those who grew up or holidayed as children in Norfolk, are in love with the town.

Architectural Motifs

The schools are back, so the kids on the beach were infants with parents, paddling in the sea on a glorious warm sunny day. It was a day for creating childhood memories.

The first thing that struck me was how untouched the town has been by ugly developments and in all likelihood, was not bombed very much during World War Two. The mixed architecture resembles that of several Kent seaside towns. Whitstable houses and beach huts. Three floor Georgian houses in street rows at right angles to the sea, as found in Cliftonville and Ramsgate. Long sweeping paths from the top of the cliffs down to the seafront, as in Folkestone. Some of the housing is in need of TLC but not much that I observed would be deemed unfit for human living, as is the case right across Great Yarmouth. The town has living accommodation for all tastes it seems.

Keep it simple

Whether through lack of money and funding or whether it is by policy and design there is a noticeable difference in the approach to urban planning in Cromer versus Great Yarmouth.  Cromer appears to have a more thoughtful approach to planning.  No doubt irritating to local developers and people wishing to see change, the town benefits from allowing things to develop at a considered pace, not seeking to gentrify (although that is seeming to be happening in pockets), the town is self-regenerating, the best kind of change. 

The children’s play area on the beach and wildlife exhibition (photos below) are prime examples of very simple yet highly effective public art, information and play spaces. All over the town there are small yet strong permanent or semi-permanent interventions that are informed, intriguing and easy on the eye. An old Ford tractor on the seafront, which I guess never moves, is a perfect example of creating a public intervention that will appeal to people of all ages that has probably cost little or nothing to install.

L to R: Public artworks and wildlife information on seafront paths with open access, Tribute to local hero, Ford tractor parked alongside other ageing vehicles and boats, attracting interest of people of all ages, Simple, beautifully designed and constructed children’s play area on seafront, free and open access.

Care and attention

There is no more damning evidence of the disrespect and lack of care in Great Yarmouth from borough council and outsiders than when taking a cursory glance at any building site in the town. The council itself does not enforce rules on its own sites or cares how construction takes place on other sites. The three photos below are just some examples of practices in Great Yarmouth that you just don’t see elsewhere. Coming across a clean building site with some block paving being laid in Cromer brought home the difference in approach and mentality to that found in Great Yarmouth. 

L to R: Great Yarmouth Aldi refit (summer 2021), Man in flat cap and worker with trainers on demolition site on North Quay, Great Yarmouth (May 2021), Market square roof construction, Great Yarmouth council led project (September 2021), block paving and restoration, Cromer (September 2021).

Food and Drink

Cromer’s food and drink offer has been the best I have found in Norfolk, outside Norwich. Still not a huge choice but there are some very good coffee shops, nice new bars and The Red Lion pub has a wide and excellent selection of Norfolk ales. The local speciality is crab, which I did not try on this visit, and makes the town regionally famous. I opted to visit No1 Cromer, a Fish and Chip shop that I have only heard good things about. Chips were the first thing I tried on my first visit to Great Yarmouth in 2019 and with hindsight set the tone for my time in the town. Cromer No1 fish and chips were very good, and far far superior to anything available in Great Yarmouth town centre or beach front, however probably only on par with the White Swan in Great Yarmouth, an excellent fish restaurant deserving of national accolades.

L to R: First portion of chips in Great Yarmouth in 2019 (read more here), Fish and Chips from No1 Cromer, High St, Part of a wide selection of Norfolk beers available at The Red Lion.


Besides both being by the sea and in the same county of England, there is little else in common between Cromer and Great Yarmouth. The brash and uncaring approach of the council, businesses and developers in Great Yarmouth is amplified by the quiet, reflective and highly effective approach being undertaken in Cromer. Spending a day does not provide a deep insight into a town it has to be acknowledged, however comparing this visit with the first trip to Great Yarmouth in 2019 (here) provides a pretty good indication of the power of first impressions.



Pictographic of Great Yarmouth capturing the middle and last weekends of the holiday peak season and indicating the hoped for 2021 summer staycation boom was a muted affair, leaving a bleak outlook for the businesses still operating.


With the Covid-19 pandemic still spreading across the globe, international travel has been a less attractive proposition in 2021. There was expectation across hospitality and tourism for a staycation boom with the British public choosing to stay in the UK for the summer holidays rather than travelling overseas. Despite the UK summer weather being generally poor with weeks of grey, rain and often chilly, many regions and towns have been booming as predicted, particularly Cornwall and North Norfolk. Unfortunately, Great Yarmouth seemed to have bucked this positive trend.

Weekend 20-21st August 2021

Bleak outlook

Visiting Great Yarmouth on two separate weekends during summer peak season, it became apparent that the town was not having the staycation boom that other UK holiday destinations were experiencing. This once vibrant holiday destination was again struggling, with sparsely populated restaurants and few retail customers to be spotted. Many more shops have closed since leaving the town in May 2021 and the outlook for a good number of the businesses that remain operating looks bleak indeed.

Saturday 05th September 2021

Sunday 06th September 2021

Sunday 5th was the busiest day observed during my time in Great Yarmouth. A classic car event was taking place and the weather was good, warm, sunny, no wind, just a gentle summer breeze.  The seafront was comfortable, certainly not packed and there were plenty of spaces to park a car.  Away from the seafront the town was empty. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, many businesses were not open, including a whole stretch of the Pleasure Beach at 1pm. It is a mystery why the businesses are not open until 11pm throughout the summer to maximise trade, one of the many mysteries of Great Yarmouth. 

Delusion or obfuscation

This post documents, for the record, the streets and seafront of Great Yarmouth over two weekends of peak season during summer 2021, regarded locally as the most important and busiest weeks of the year.  It serves to counter any claims from those in power in the town that Great Yarmouth thrived throughout the entire summer.

John M


Returning to Great Yarmouth for the first time since moving away in May 2021, this post touches on some of the trepidation of returning to the deprived seaside town and catching up with the Haphazard Business blog posts.


Leaving Waking London

Leaving the slowly waking, pandemic-damaged city giant of London for the almost destitute Norfolk seaside town of Great Yarmouth provides an odd sense of trepidation.  As the 13:30 Greater Anglia train out of Liverpool Street whisks through the new glass towers of East London, a sense of almost despair at what to expect on my return is on my mind.  London has a long way to go to recover from the pandemic, with major thoroughfares like Fleet Street, Theobalds Road, Strand, and Bloomsbury at times almost like ghost towns with retail casualties littering once busy streets.  Great Yarmouth was already like this before the pandemic, and worse on my leaving in May, so I can only brace myself for what is to come.

Images L-R: Chancery Lane, Saturday afternoon; Bloomsbury, weekday afternoon; Strand, weekday evening (All summer 2021, photos: John McKiernan) 

As we travel, the train reduces to a slow pace and the train crew announce that there will be a lengthy delay due to a fatality on the line. 

Fake Optimism 

I should be really optimistic about this journey.  From the turn of the year there has been money pouring into Great Yarmouth in the form of multimillion-pound grants.  The approval of the new third bridge is around £120m, the swimming pool on the seafront £26m, Winter Gardens £10m, Town Centre deal £18m and a number of other public grants, all awarded within the past 12 months (numbers approximate). Private investment that I could see was mainly property speculation, people planning to cash in on an expected rise in house prices, no doubt creating yet another false bubble as elsewhere in the UK.    

Having met the leadership of Great Yarmouth, observed and documented the town from 2019 through to 2021, and spoken with a great number of people I have no confidence in the slightest that any of this money will make a significant change to the lives of the tens of thousands of people trapped inside this poverty strewn district.  There is a denial that pervades the town’s power brokers and firms that is more akin to 1970s cartels, with business reluctance to invest in the future; instead choosing to gloss over the past with a lick of paint.  

New Blog Posts

Since leaving Great Yarmouth in May 2021 a lot has occurred.  The intention of this blog from the outset was to document the journey and accompanying push and pull that goes along with setting up any new business.   Time and energy has made keeping up with the posts difficult, leaving a number of half-written pieces that I intend to complete and publish over the coming 4 days.  

The Great Yarmouth posts will outline why, in my personal view, I think the approach of the local authority, the county council and other government agencies is folly under the present leadership in the town.  I will set out my reasons and include photos, films and personal experiences and conversations from my time in the town.  

I also intend to publish how the learning and observations in Great Yarmouth shaped the emerging Fourth Portal and look to explain the interconnectivity that informs how tiny experiences and events shape ideas.

John M


Seeing Kamala Harris huge happy smile brings me back to what I wrote exactly 4 years ago, as Donald Trump was confirmed US President.  Vice-President Harris represents ‘the first flower open[ing] through a crack on the rocky path where only the ignored moss seemingly existed.’ 

Listening to the Vice-President’s humble speech acknowledging ‘the strength of vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been, and I stand on their shoulders’, recognises that positive change is a fluid process, built over time, and by many who had to sacrifice themselves to the cause.

For me, Trump’s arrival signified the ‘Last Throes Of Capitalism’; he has represented, and continues to be, the personification of capitalism in its most grotesque form.  

As the new world begins to emerge, it is essential that there is not a seeking of retribution or punishment for the white man, whose hands continue to drip with the blood of the earth.  Our new world has to begin as it means to go on, taking the hand of the scared, confused, frustrated and angry and show them how beautiful the world really is, and the size of the universe and the joy ahead.  

Like providing experiences for a child who has never experienced joy, the challenge now is to embrace and lead not through punishment but through love, and then we can really begin to create a new world that lives with our mother earth, not against her.

Trump | Last Throes Of Capitalism

John McKiernan | Nov 9, 2016 | 1 min read

There is an observation of the death throes of the capital system, beached as it is on the shifting sands. The huge tail swings wildly as it gasps for air. The white man keeper is becoming desperate as he watches the enormous beast slowly dying, and with it his power. He knows the game is up. He looks around observing the emptiness, it was all an illusion, nothing actually ever existed in his world besides the youthful conjuring trick. 

Suicide beckons as fear engulfs the scarred mind of deluded dominance. Now alone, watching the only thing he ever truly loved, flailing in front of his own eyes, he scans the horizon for whom in which to blame. He sees no one. There is nothing left. He will need to sleep soon as he is hungry and weak. In his angry daze, full of confusion, contorted by hate, he stumbles inadvertently under the last great flap of the monstrous tail. There is silence. Serenity returns. The first flower opens through a crack on the rocky path where only the ignored moss seemingly existed. The sun begins to shine brightly again.

Read the original blog post here

Headline Photo: New York Times

Sunset on Capitalism | John McKiernan

John M


Photo gallery of the emerging Paget Garden. The garden at the pub had pots of neglected plants. Nurturing them back to health became an idea for a new app game. A fun introduction to AI and other algorithmic technologies.

Introducing the Paget Garden

The Paget garden has been inspired by a book by a local man called James Paget, whose name locally is more associated with the nearby James Paget University NHS Hospitals. Along with his brothers, James Paget listed all the Fauna, Flora and Birds of Great Yarmouth and published as a book in 1834 titled, Sketch Of The Natural History Of Yarmouth And Its’ Neighbourhood.

Although I have not yet seen a physical copy of this book, which I first discovered mentioned in Sir James Paget: Surgeon Extraordinary and His Legacies, the pages I have seen were enough to inspire the garden and the forthcoming game.

Dead Plant Resurrection

Before acquiring the keys to the St John’s Head pub to develop into Portal B in February 2020, I noted a large number of seemingly dead plants on the patio.

On seeing these plants, I recalled an old colleague and French Chef, Ginni Debert from my Margate 2011 intervention, who demonstrated how, with water, love and some attention, most plants can recover to their former glory. As a metaphor, this could also be applied to towns’ like Great Yarmouth where, to an outside eye, the town can appear almost lifeless.


So in winter 2020 I began my project, with only a very vague idea of a plan. My first task was to cut back the bamboo in the garden where I live and put aside to dry.

Creating the Lab

Once St John’s Head was secured and I had the keys I began the task of transporting the plants back to my home and creating two lab spaces, at the front and rear of the house, to try and recover the plants. I also bought some tomato plant saps, took some rose cuttings from a neighbour’s garden and a friend provided some beans, courgettes and other seeds.

I have little active experience of gardening so it was as much guessing, sensing and remembering things from what others have said, particularly Ginni’s tips. The only purchase beyond the tomato plants I made was compost from the local Moulton nursery in the nearby town of Acle.

Lockdown Development

During lockdown the lab took more of my time and the plants slowly started to return to life. Neighbours were not convinced by my endeavours, however slowly and steadily they watch the front lab transform over April and May 2020.


In the rear lab area I created a large compost heap from the discarded plant waste, newspaper and food using compostable food bags that the breakfast cereals are packaged in. The hope is that this will be ready mid-autumn to plant a winter crop. This also solved a problem of not being able to take the waste to the local recycling tip, which was closed due to lockdown.

At time of writing, 10 Sept 2020, the compost heap is now less than a third as high and some fine compost is beginning to appear at the base of the heap.

Back of Asda

As well as the Paget writing, the real motivator is the area of flat marshlands just outside Great Yarmouth, directly behind the Asda supermarket. An incredibly beautiful, wild and managed area stretching miles and home to a huge array of plants, fauna, migrating as well as local birds, fish and insects. The constantly changing weather and light makes the back of Asda a magical place.

Summer Bloom

As any beginner to gardening will exclaim, there is real excitement in spring when the first shoots appear and immense pleasure when plants begin to bloom. By June 2020, as lockdown restrictions were slowly lifting and more local people began going about their business, the lab had turned into a proper garden – although all in pots – and people began to notice. Neighbours fell in love with the space, it was a beautiful place to sit despite the increased traffic noise.

Testing Idea

I started testing ideas, like building a bamboo fence and whether it would stay upright in the strong Great Yarmouth winds, find out whether barrels could be converted into plant holders and how to construct bean climbers.

On the Move

With licensed premises again allowed to open, time came to move some of the plants to Portal B, their new home and build the bamboo fence around the car park using the old beer barrels.

Plant Exchange

Inside Portal B there will be a plant exchange to encourage people to grow their own. The first plants in the exchange all come from a single mother money plant, the only plant in the pub that was still thriving when the keys were handed over.

First Crop and More Plants

The first sign of a crop began to show in July and it slowly expanded over August. Colleague Gillian brought some succulents to add to the money plants, and the beans and tomato plants in particular grew fast. Some of these were in old plastic milk bottles to demonstrate that it is possible to use any container. There has been the odd problem, like almost hurricane winds blowing over many of the containers.

Bountiful Harvest

As with the lab, neighbours to Portal B began to see this strange garden emerging in what was previously just a concrete empty car park space behind an old pub. As August pushed towards September 2020 a bountiful crop began to appear and neighbours became increasingly interested in what was/is growing. The harvest of beans, tomatoes and cucumbers are an ongoing feast and allows for sharing with many who live locally. The courgettes and chilli peppers have not been so bountiful as would be hoped and the snails and slugs feasted on the lettuces and onions all summer. No chemical sprays or pellets are used.


The garden has already proved a great conversation starter and breaks down barriers reasonably quickly. I have had a few opportunities to show some of the plant apps that I want to use to introduce AI and Machine Learning (ML) in particular. On the Patience, Perseverance and Hooks blog post I outline the importance of these slow build ups that allow people to engage at their own pace. Food and nature are great as both are imperative to our survival.

Paget Game

Over autumn 2020 and winter 2021, the intention is to develop a game to accompany the garden. The game blog post will follow soon, in the meantime, more on why this is called the Paget Garden.

John M

This post should be read in conjunction with PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE AND HOOKS, JAMES PAGET AND PAGET GAME (to follow).


Sturzaker, Hugh. (2013), Sir James Paget : Surgeon Extraordinary and His Legacies, Great Britain



Sir James Paget Surgeon Extraordinary and his Legacies by Hugh Sturzaker book cover.

The local NHS hospital is named after an inspirational local man, James Paget who was a pioneer of pathology and the inspiration for a game and garden that will begin introducing AI technologies to the people of Great Yarmouth.

James Paget in Brief

The James Paget NHS Hospital Trust is named after a local man to Great Yarmouth.

Sir James Paget became the Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, and is now eponymous with a number of diseases, the most well known of which is Paget’s Disease. Paget had to overcome many obstacles and illnesses throughout his life, as well as financial difficulties, and was always aware of those who were suffering from misfortune. Throughout his early career Paget craved one innovation more than anything else, a microscope, the Machine Learning (ML) equivalent of that period.

Paget Book

From a teenager, James Paget, along with his older brothers began documenting the birds, plants and fauna of his home town and in 1834 published, Sketch Of The Natural History Of Yarmouth And Its’ Neighbourhood.

Introduction. | Sketch Of The Natural History Of Yarmouth And Its’ Neighbourhood.

The introduction states the intention to engage residents and visitors to Great Yarmouth to become aware of their surroundings with “the idea that it might be useful’. They believed ‘persons residing in town’ may engage more fully with the manicipality and local environment if they ‘become aware of the number and excellence of the productions of their own neighbourhood are in some measure pointed out”. Fourth Portal has a similar aim, to raise awareness of the opportunities that new technologies can offer in benefiting individuals and towns like Great Yarmouth while attempting to reverse some of the environmental damage we have all caused.

Introducing Algorithms to Great Yarmouth

The Paget brothers book stimulated an exciting way to introduce Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Linked Data, Semantic technologies, image recognition and Virtual Reality (VR) to the residents and visitors of Great Yarmouth. In the process, I feel it could fulfil the central aim of the Paget publication that future researchers could complete the Sketch by filling in the gaps. It seems that time has arrived!

Should these purposes be even inadequately fulfilled, its intention will be accomplished, more especially if it excite a spirit of research, by the assistance of which the Sketch may at some future period be filled up.

Page 1 | Introduction

Paget Garden

The idea to create a Paget Garden at the back of Portal B began simmering in late 2019, after reading Sir James Paget : Surgeon Extraordinary and His Legacies by Hugh Sturzaker. Sketch of the Natural History of Yarmouth and Its Neighbourhood was touched upon while describing the Great Yarmouth of Paget’s youth. Throughout Sturzaker’s book there are striking similarities to issues Great Yarmouth, and many other towns, are facing today, poverty, absence of adequate education, lack of curiosity and little active engagement or interest in the natural world.

Reading how the Paget brothers had listed everything they found, I decided to create a garden along the same lines using some almost dead plants that I found upon the patio at the back of St John’s Head pub, now Portal B. The garden I began creating, just as the UK went into the first national Covid-19 lockdown, is a good way to engage people who would not go into a pub or have little interest in technology, plants or the environment. In addition, I saw very few plants and kept gardens in Great Yarmouth and I thought it might work as a stimulus to others to grow flowers and food. For more read The Paget Garden and view the gallery.

Point of note: The Sir James Paget book author Hugh Sturzaker is himself a surgeon and was governor of the James Paget Hospital for 8 years from 2005, having previously worked there since 1979.

Plant Apps

My initial idea was fairly simple, use the garden as a way of introducing algorithm based technologies. There are now numerous free plant apps for mobile devices that can be simply downloaded and used by taking a photo of the plant of interest. Usually within seconds the plant can be identified with a reasonable degree of accuracy and wealth of information is provided, from the latin name through to the origins of the species. As the use of these apps widen so the accuracy improves, a process called Machine Learning. They are impressive, and will be a simple way to begin to explain the power of some of these new technologies and hopefully stimulate ideas how these could prove useful in other contexts.

Using the interventionist approach developed with my Platform-7 network, the garden will emerge at a deliberately slow pace, allowing local people to watch plants arrive in pots, grow and change. As hoped, it has already begun to attract neighbours to ask questions with some enjoying the harvest of tomatoes, beans, courgettes and cucumbers. During the conversations about the plants, opportunity to use the plant app arises directing the discussion towards technology.

Paget Game

Along with colleagues from several universities, the Paget garden idea has developed, and now forms a much larger and important element of Portal B. We intend to create an open source game using various technologies to see whether the people of Great Yarmouth and beyond can fill up the Paget Sketch.

We are at the very outset. What we know for sure is that the game will be in the form of an app and open source, meaning anyone with basic coding skills can contribute. The intention is to draw in as many people as possible, by making it as collaborative as possible.

Beyond Coding | Creating Communities

The beauty of the Paget garden is there are numerous avenues to join in, even if a person has no liking or understanding of technology. The project is to inspire curiosity and develop new communities and ideas. Create interest groups and hopefully inspire some ideas that can be commercialised by individuals, for example walks around the town and local marshlands and riverbank.

They were founded on the idea that it might be useful first, by aiding another to the number of local history necessary to a perfect acquaintance with that of the whole [United] kingdom, and with the particular distribution of each species;

[People of Great Yarmouth] be led more diligently to pursue their investigation than hitherto, while those only casually visiting it may be enabled more easily to procure specimens of the several rarities.

EXAMPLE OF PAGE FROM Sketch Of The Natural History Of Yarmouth And Its’ Neighbourhood


The Paget garden and Paget game will serve as inspiration. They will allow people coming to Portal B, those passing through and potentially schools and local groups to engage in topics that may not be easily accessible or even considered previously. The programme will link people with people, people to technology, technology to environment, and environment and technology to people and community. It may also inspire some entrepreneurship, but that will be for another blog post.

Slow Time | Knowledge and Wisdom

A further key learning outcome to this programme is stressing how learning is lifelong, and how seemingly unimportant, insignificant or irrelevant knowledge and wisdom may have relevance and importance at some future time.

James Paget recognised this himself, a man whose career and fame did not arrive until quite late in life…

James attended lectures on anatomy and bone given by Mr Randall at the Angel Inn – it was not uncommon for inns to be used as lecture halls and for teaching purposes during this period. He later described this as being equal to anything learned from lectures heard in London during later years. 

During his apprenticeship an outbreak of Asiatic cholera developed in Great Yarmouth. He saw many cases which were unsuccessfully treated using a variety of methods such as bleeding, opium and saltwater injections. He studied the disease intensively and created an orderly volume of abstracts of his readings, a skill he developed from his study of natural history.

Even when knowledge or knowhow is no longer relevant, the discipline of acquiring remains invaluable.

During his later years he wrote of the Sketch Of The Natural History Of Yarmouth And Its’ Neighbourhood “The knowledge was useless; the discipline of acquiring it was beyond price”.

Environmental Importance

It is hoped the game will provide some valuable information about the changing natural environment of Great Yarmouth and surrounding marshes. Norfolk, on England’s east coast is particularly susceptible to rising sea levels, storm surges and strong winds. How this has changed the landscape over the past 190 years might prove revealing.

Going Forward

This programme will begin quietly and grow and develop at its own pace, the importance is to start introducing different technologies at a level people are comfortable without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed.


Throughout the ages, technological advances share a common theme; how to apply them to everyday use and inspire new innovations and discoveries? Development of the microscope was no different and can be compared to how photographic imaging recognition needed people uploading camera phone photos to gather enough images to learn from.

It has to be said, however, that until the nineteenth century most microscopes were sold as gentleman’s toys rather than instruments for serious scientific experimentation. They were provided with expensive cases, lined with plush velvet and compartmentalised to accommodate various accessories that often went unused. To avoid disappointment the makers often supplied the purchaser with a set of pre-prepared slides.

The College of Optometrists, Early microscopes: The first simple insect viewers, undated.

1793; this was the time of transition from Hunter’s teaching, which for all its greatness was hindered by want of the modern microscope, to the pathology and bacteriology of the present day. Paget’s greatest achievement was that he made pathology dependent, in everything, on the use of the microscope, especially the pathology of tumours.

Wikipedia, accessed 6th Sept 2020.


Introduction to Sketch Of The Natural History Of Yarmouth And Its’ Neighbourhood

It is sincerely hope, that the name given to the present work will be interpreted literally- at nothing more than a mere open “sketch” does it aim; nor were the motives which induced its publication any but of the most unpretending description.  They were founded on the idea that it might be useful first, by aiding another to the number of local history necessary to a perfect acquaintance with that of the whole kingdom, and with the particular distribution of each species; and, secondly, that other persons residing in town may, when the number and excellence of the productions of their own neighbourhood are in some measure pointed out, be led more diligently to pursue their investigation than hitherto, while those only casually visiting it maybe enabled more easily to procure specimens of the several rarities.  Should these purposes be even inadequately fulfilled, its intention will be accomplished, more especially if it excite a spirit of research, by the assistance of which the Sketch may at some future period be filled up.

It may be useful at the outset, briefly to describe the characters of the localities in which the species hereafter mentioned occur, as well as to give some general directions respecting the mode in which they may be best be procured.

Related Posts

This post is part of a series of posts to be read together, PAGET GARDEN, PAGET GAME and PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE AND HOOKS.


McCallum, Marilyn. A Biography of Sir James Paget, Paget’s Association, Online. 14th Aug 2020 (

Sturzaker, Hugh. (2013), Sir James Paget : Surgeon Extraordinary and His Legacies, Great Britain

The College of Optometrists, (undated) Early microscopes: The first simple insect viewers, London, Online 6th August 2020, (


Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020

Believe in Yarmouth: Catch the Tide is Gillian Harwood’s personal manifesto to turn the fortunes of Great Yarmouth and assist with the transition into becoming a Fourth Industrial Revolution town.

Gillian Harwood owns the site of Fourth Portal B and is investing in restoring buildings in the town of Great Yarmouth to a high standard, recovering their architectural richness. This manifesto has been a joint effort to encourage other like-minded people to potentially invest to create a blueprint for collaboration and commerce in a post-Covid-19 world full of challenges.

Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020 p1
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020

John M