Manchester International Festival to give away thousands of books this weekend

Manchester writers including Anthony Burgess, Elizabeth Gaskell, Emmeline Pankhurst, Lemn Sissay and Marcus Rashford are among the titles

Audiences are invited to come to Piccadilly Gardens between Friday 16th and Sunday 18th July to take away their own piece of history as Marta Minujín’s monumental replica of Big Ben is dismantled for the Festival’s finale.

Argentinian art pioneer Marta Minujín’s Big Ben Lying Down with Political Books is a 42-metre sculpture in the shape of London’s iconic Big Ben tower, made from 20,000 books about British politics.

Through this year’s Manchester International Festival (MIF) the immense construction has been occupying Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester with audiences exploring the structure inside and out.

‘Big Ben’ will begin to be dismantled at midday on Friday 16th July, MIF and Marta Minujín are inviting the public to take home their own piece of history.

Which books will be given away?

Photo: Fabio De Paola/PA Wire

Writing on race, class, gender, disability and societal injustice will be given out alongside poetry, fiction, biographies and essays.

The diverse list of writers, selected by a coalition of Manchester and Salford based organisations, ranges from Mary Wollstonecraft to bell hooks, Angela Davis to Akwugo Emejulu and Francesca Sobande, Margaret Atwood to Irvine Welsh, Walter Rodney to Mary Beard, Karl Marx to Rutger Bregman.

Manchester writers and activists from Anthony Burgess, Elizabeth Gaskell, Shelagh Delaney and Emmeline Pankhurst to Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Lemn Sissay and Marcus Rashford are amongst the titles that will be given away, as well as publications from contemporary writers Akala, David Baddiel, David Olusoga, Nikesh Shukla, Naomi Klein, Caitlin Moran and Bernardine Evaristo, alongside classics from George Orwell, D.H Lawrence, Charles Dickens and Doris Lessing.

The oldest book in the collection is Common Sense by Thomas Paine, published in 1776 – the most recent is Marcus Rashford’s You Are A Champion: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be the Best You Can Be, published earlier this year.

Contemporary publications include The Celox and the Clot by poet Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Pregnant Then Screwed by campaigner Joeli Brierley, award-winning short story collection Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and acclaimed memoir My Name is Why by poet and author Lemn Sissay.

When can you collect a book?

Photo: Fabio De Paola/PA Wire

Books will be given away from midday on Friday 16th until 10pm on Sunday 18th July, with the remaining books distributed to schools and libraries across Greater Manchester. 

Each book is stamped with a drawing created by Marta Minujín of Big Ben Lying Down with Political Books and her signature for people to treasure for years to come.

“People need this!” says Marta Minujín.

“We need new ideas and new places where people meet.

“By taking a book, people create the artwork.

“The people of Manchester will create a new Big Ben that the UK will never forget.”

Manchester International Festival (MIF) is taking place safely in indoor and outdoor locations across Greater Manchester until 18th July. It features a vibrant programme of original new work from across the spectrum of visual and performing arts and music by artists from over 20 countries. 


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