Norman Payne – The Preston People’s Portable Plague Stone

The Preston People's Portable Plague Stone is a contemporary take on a medieval tradition, whereby a large stone with a hollow on its surface would be placed at a settlement boundary. The hollow was often filled with vinegar to act as a disinfectant. Those in quarantine would leave money in the hollow in exchange for food. Norman Payne has updated this ritual into a participatory performance, taking place at Penwortham Old Bridge on Saturday 4th July 2020. Coins are stamped with meaningful words by passersby and left in the stone in exchange for a previous participant’s offering. 

The Preston People's Portable Plague Stone may yet return...


Norman Payne is a multi-disciplinary artist involved in researching the origins and purpose of art. His work centres on the creation of experiences in which objects, spaces and times are set aside for contemplation, reflection and connection. ​ Anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake, in her book ‘Homo Aestheticus: Where Art comes from and why’ suggests that art-making, as a behaviour, originated around 4 million years ago to serve an evolutionary need. Our ancestors created objects, places and experiences that were set outside of the everyday or: ‘made special’ in order to make sense of their lives and experiences. It is ideas such as this that inform Payne's practice. ​ In exploring these ideas he makes art that references the structures of the past such as monoliths, recurring shapes and patterns in cave art, contemplative and folkloric objects such as Scholar’s rocks and Hagstones, alongside contemporary culture, to explore an art centred on experience.