Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre And Education Trust Meets Marta Minujin’s Big Ben Lying Down With Political Books! by Hafsah Aneela Bashir

Marta Minujin drawings: Big Ben Lying Down Political Books by Marta Minujín, 2021. Courtesy Marta Minujín Studio

Peopleneedthis!Weneednewideasandnewplaceswherepeoplemeet.Global symbolslikeBigBenstandupstraightandneverchangebuttheworldisalways changing.’ – Marta Minujín 

The world is always changing and the power of books gives us the opportunity to experience life through another lens. Countless studies have shown that this is how empathy and understanding is created between ourselves and others. The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre is a specialist library focusing on the study of race, migration and ethnic diversity allowing readers to access new perspectives and ground-breaking research.  

When we were invited by Manchester International Festival and Argentinian artist Marta Minujin to recommend selected books that would go towards the 20,000 copies covering a colossal 42 metre replica of Big Ben in Piccadilly Gardens, we put our heads together to compile a book list.  

Collectively, we chose books that we felt were representative of the work we do, that spoke to social justice and highlighted the spirit of Manchester too. The idea of lying down a renowned symbolic structure, covered in political books written by the people and accessible to everyone, offers up new ways of thinking. A re-imagined new national monument. With this in mind, we wanted to include forgotten histories, neglected voices and books that we feel will influence the future of Britain. 

1. Catching Hell and Doing Well, Black Women In The Uk – The Abisindi Cooperative by Diana Watt and Adele D Jones.  

2. Murder In the Playground – The Report of the Macdonald Inquiry into Racism and Racial Violence in Manchester Schools.  

3. Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements by Anandi Ranamurthy.  

4. Black And British by David Olusoga.  

5. Coming to England by Floella Benjamin.  

6. Capital by Karl Marx.  

7. There Aint No Black In The Union Jack. 

8. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla. 

9. Insurgent Empire by Priyamvada Gopal.  

10.How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney.  

11. Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis.  

12. In the Shadow of Enoch Powell: Race, Locality and Resistance by Shirin Hirsch.  

13. For Every Child : the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in words. 

14. Abolition: the struggle to abolish slavery in the British colonies by Richard S Reddie.  

15. Exotic England, The Making Of A Curious Nation by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.  

You might also spot my own poetry collection The Celox And The Clot, published by Burning Eye Books. This was recommended by one of the 11 Greater Manchester libraries and cultural organisations that contributed towards the installation too. 

If you do visit Big Ben between 2 -18 July, it’s free and you don’t need to book. To take a walk inside the structure to experience a film and soundtrack created by Marta Minujin between 10am – 9.30pm, reserve your free ticket here.  

On Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July there will be a three-day Book Redistribution Ceremony (free, tickets not required) – when Big Ben will be taken apart with all books handed out to the public in the spirit of sharing knowledge.  

 See how many of our Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust books you can find and if you want to share your pictures or thoughts tag us on Instagram or Twitter @AIUcentre.  

Photo credits: Hafsah Aneela Bashir