HCRI contributes to Big Ben Lying Down with Political Books artwork

Big Ben Lying Down with Political BooksBig Ben Lying Down with Political Books is a monumental participatory artwork at this year’s Manchester International Festival by Argentinian artist Marta Minujín. The installation, featuring a 42-metre structure of London’s iconic Big Ben clock tower, is covered in 20,000 donated political books that visitors are invited to take away for free at the end of the festival.

Marta Minujín approached several Manchester and Salford-based organisations including HCRI, to put together a list of 160 book titles that have shaped British politics, including forgotten histories, neglected voices and books that will influence the future of Britain or point to the diverse political and social issues in today’s Britain.

Greater Manchester has a unique history in British politics, from the Peterloo Massacre to the formation of the Guardian newspaper. This campaigning spirit is still alive and kicking across the region today, which is the reason Marta Minujín chose to bring the UK’s most iconic political symbol to Manchester to be reimagined as a new temporary national monument with knowledge curated in the North.

The collection of books is therefore a contemporary portrait of Britain’s politics, democracy, and political history, informed by a northern perspective. HCRI’s contribution, led by Dr Birte Vogel, Lecturer in Humanitarianism, Peace & Conflict Studies, includes titles on Britain and British people as humanitarian and peacebuilding actors as well as books that critically engage with contemporary domestic responses to social change. Other HCRI colleagues and affiliates also provided suggestions.

On being involved in the installation, Birte said:

It was fantastic to work with the MIF team and the other local collaborators on the booklist. The process provided interesting insights into what matters to different groups across Manchester and Salford, and how they see the country we all live in.

The installation features several publications by HCRI academics:

The Charity Market and Humanitarianism in Britain, 1870-1912 - Sarah Roddy, Julie-Marie Strange, Bertrand Taithe

This book breaks new ground in humanitarian history. It builds on a vast range of archives to bring into sharp relief the history of philanthropy and fundraising in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. The book makes a strong case for the importance of understanding charities as having one foot in the world of business and entrepreneurship.

Learning from LGBTIQ+ experiences of COVID-19 in the UK for future crises, HCRI Policy Brief 01/2021 – Billy Tusker Haworth

This policy brief reminds us how contemporary government crisis communication and responses often fails to recognise and include viewpoints that reflect Britain’s diverse social makeup.

The Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork – Roger Mac Ginty, Roddy Brett and Birte Vogel

This is an edited collection that looks at what it means to a British/Western academic and conduct research in countries affected by violence and war. It is critical reflection on how we produce knowledge about “others”, the power dynamics within this process, and whose voices we ultimately represent in (British) academia as a result.

Other titles submitted for inclusion by HCRI include:

  • Oxfam: A cause for our times - Maggie Black
  • Das Kapital - Karl Marx
  • Welfare of Children in Hospital: Committee Report of the Central Health Services - Council Stationery Office Books
  • The Unsung Sixties: Memoirs of Social Innovation - Helene Curtis and Mimi Sanderson
  • Prejudice and Tolerance in Ulster: A Study of Neighbours and" strangers" in a Border Community - Rosemary Harris
  • My Name is Why - Lemn Sissay
  • Black Flamingo - Dan Atta
  • Saving the Children: Humanitarianism, Internationalism and Empire - Emily Baughan
  • A is for Activist - Innosanta Nagara
  • The Beekeeper of Aleppo - Christy Lefteri
  • Girl, Women, Other - Bernardine Evarist,
  • Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity - Judith Butler

The incredible artwork can be viewed around the clock for free in Piccadilly Gardens until 18 July or visitors can book a free ticket to explore inside, including a film and soundtrack by Marta Minujín.

On 16, 17 and 18 July a three-day Book Redistribution Ceremony will take place, when Big Ben will be taken apart and visitors can take home one of the 20,000 books for free.

More information about the installation and a full reading list can be found on the MIF Big Ben website.

Photo credits: Fabio De Paola and Ezequiel Velazquez

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