Thousands of books being given away on closing weekend of Manchester International Festival

MIF's 'Big Ben' sculpture is being taken down at midday on Friday 16 July - and the literature within its walls will be given away.

The Manc The Manc - 14th July 2021

Thousands of books are being given away in Piccadilly Gardens this weekend as the city centre’s magnificent ‘Big Ben’ sculpture is dismantled.

Big Ben Lying Down with Political Books – a 42-metre sculpture made from 20,000 books arranged in the shape of London’s iconic tower – has been residing in Manchester for the past two weeks as part of Manchester International Festival (MIF).

After a fortnight exploring the monument, people are being invited to take home their own piece of history when it is taken down on 16 July.

From midday on Friday until Sunday (18 July) the literature within Big Ben’s walls will be given away.

Marta Minujín’s Big Ben Lying Down at Manchester International Festival 2021 / Image: Fabio De Paola

Poetry, fiction, biographies and essays will all be handed out – covering topics such as race, class, gender, disability and societal injustice.


Manchester writers and activists from Anthony Burgess, Elizabeth Gaskell, Shelagh Delaney and Emmeline Pankhurst to Hafsah Aneela Bashir and Lemn Sissay are amongst the authors, along with publications from contemporary writers Akala, David Baddiel, David Olusoga, Nikesh Shukla, Naomi Klein, Caitlin Moran and Bernardine Evaristo.

Classic literature from George Orwell, D.H Lawrence, Charles Dickens and Doris Lessing will also be up for grabs.


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.

Any books left over at the end of the giveaway will be distributed to schools and libraries across Greater Manchester.

Marta Minujín’s Big Ben Lying Down at Manchester International Festival 2021 / Image: Fabio De Paola

Each book from Big Ben is stamped with a drawing created by Minujín.


“People need this!” explained the artist.

“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.”

John McGrath, Artistic Director of Manchester International Festival added: “As MIF nears it’s close for 2021 we’re delighted that the people of Manchester can take home a piece of the Festival to remember this momentous year and this playful symbol that landed in the centre of the city.

“We’d also like to thank the organisations and individuals that helped it to fruition.”

Marta Minujín’s Big Ben Lying Down at Manchester International Festival 2021 / Image: Fabio De Paola

Manchester International Festival is the first major event to take place in the city since before the pandemic – featuring 18 days of flash mobs, movies, artworks, food stalls, live performances and exhibitions.

The bumper festival programme is running until July 18 – and you can learn more about what’s still happening here.

More information on the booklist at Big Ben is available at: