Big Ben Lying Down – the Manchester International Festival comes to a close

As the Manchester International Festival wraps up for this year, we look at one of it’s most striking pieces.

If you’ve been anywhere near Piccadilly Gardens over the past two and a half weeks, you may have noticed the huge new structure erected in the centre of the gardens, in the shape of Big Ben.

The piece, named ‘Big Ben Lying Down’, has been one of the largest and perhaps most visually striking art pieces that have been placed throughout the city as part of 2021’s Manchester International Festival.

The structure, conceived and designed by Argentine artist Marta Minujín, is in the shape of the iconic national landmark in London, but is shown as lying on it’s side, on the lawns directly besides the fountains and the statue of Queen Victoria.

Built out of scaffolding, the piece is filled with thousands of different books, all concerned with politics, all with an impact on political thought in this country. These have ranged from historic texts, such as the works of Karl Marx or Elizabeth Gaskell, to newer pieces by the likes of Marcus Rashford.

All have been wrapped in 30% recyclable plastic bags, and as the piece is taken down today, copies of them all are being given away to members of the public, for free.

This giveaway of books has been taking place throughout the weekend, the last weekend of the festival, with each book bearing a stamp in the front cover identifying it as part of the exhibit.

The purpose of the piece has been to get people to look at things from a different view, with this iconic landmark being shown slanted, and on it’s side. All the books within the structure have been chosen by various different bodies from Manchester itself, selected for their importance both to the politics of the city, and of the country as a whole.

We spoke to MIF Producer Kwong Lee for more information about the piece, and the thinking behind it:

You can also find more information about the installation, even after it’s been taken down, at their website, here:

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