03–08 September 2008, Liverpool City Centre
La Machine’s giant mechanical spider La Princesse captured Liverpool’s heart as the centrepiece of the city’s European Capital of Culture celebrations.
In September 2008, commuters and residents discovered an unexpected visitor to Liverpool. A giant spider clung to a derelict tower block next to Lime St Station. ‘La Princesse’, as she became known, enchanted onlookers as she progressed through the city. Vast in scale, the spider drenched crowds with sprays of water, while scientists used wind, fire and snow to contain her. The resulting spectacle was breathtaking.
La Princesse was created by French theatrical engineers La Machine. The show was commissioned as part of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture celebrations. The spider was a feat of engineering genius: she was fifty foot high, weighed 37 tonnes, and had 50 separate axes of movement.
For five days, a giant mechanical spider stopped a city in its tracks. She captured the hearts of Liverpudlians and visitors alike.
La Princesse began her journey clinging to the side of Concourse House next to Lime St Station. She was then removed by scientists to the Echo Arena, where she awoke. She moved to Albert Dock and proceeded to the Cunard Building. She then made her way to the Queensway Tunnel, via Water Street, Castle Street, Lord Street and Ranelagh Place. In the finale the spider disappeared down the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel, never to be seen again.
La Machine is a French company based in Nantes. It is headed by Francois Delaroziere. The company was formed in the early 1990s as a collaboration between artists, designers and technicians. Their aim was to create extraordinary theatrical machines, permanent installations, as well as their own theatrical productions.
La Machine has created many theatrical machines. These include a series of giants for Royal de Luxe, including The Sultan’s Elephant. In 2003 La Machine launched their show Symphonie Mécanique in collaboration with composer Dominique Malan, and the exhibition Le Grand Répertoire.
In 2007, the company opened Les Machines de L’Ile on the site of an old shipbuilding yard at the edge of the River Loire. This is a permanent gallery containing models and designs for many of La Machine’s creations. In 2010 they will open another permanent attraction there, Le Carrousel du Monde Marins, a merry-go-round of fish and sea creatures. In 2008 they created Le Manège Carré Sénart, a square merry-go-round of insects and buffalo, which was commissioned by the town of Sénart.
Their work has toured across the world – to Japan, Australia, the USA and across Europe, making them one of the most renowned theatrical companies in their field.
- Ainscough Crane Hire Ltd
- The Liner Hotel
- Walter Forshaws Ltd
- Albert Dock Company
- British Waterways
- CB Richard Ellis
- English Partnerships
- Enterprise Liverpool
- Kings Waterfront Estates
- Liverpool City Traffic Management and Regeneration
- Liverpool One
- Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service
- Merseyside Police
- Mersey Tunnels Police
- Network Rail
- Northwest Ambulance Service
I was among them and I saw at first hand the enthusiasm of the people involved and how attractions such as the spectacular La Machine spider captivated the imagination of so many.Gordon Brown
Thank you so much! Apart from my daughter, La Princesse is the cleverest and most beautiful thing I have ever seen. We waited for hours and it was well worth it. We were utterly spellbound. My daughter said ‘I will remember this day forever’ - so will everyone who saw your wonderful creation. Please can we have another one!Sara Byrne, audience member
I have never before witnessed an event on this scale which set out to, and manifestly achieved, the sole intent of making the world a slightly better place. No requirement to buy anything, no commitment to a cause, no politics, no promotion, no underlying propaganda. Just hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world gathered in Liverpool in an atmosphere of enormous goodwill.Mike Kinley, audience member
Members of French company
Members of UK production team
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16 cranes, 6 forklifts, 8 cherry pickers
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518 articles and reports in 12 countries
Equivalent advertising value
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Water, flame, smoke, wind, snow, light, sound