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La Machine

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.

Where?

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.

The Artists

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.

In partnership with

Funded by

Supported by

  • Ainscough Crane Hire Ltd
  • The Liner Hotel
  • Walter Forshaws Ltd

Operational partners

  • 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
  • Merseytravel
  • Mersey Tunnels Police
  • Network Rail
  • Northwest Ambulance Service

Testimonials

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

Thank you for such a spectacular event. The weekend was a magical experience, and superb street theatre. Saturday and Sunday evening had to be the best, 200,000 estimated people came to say farewell to La Princesse. Truly amazing, shame she couldn't stay for a while longer.

Matthew Bell from Wirral on Wed 17 September 2008

Such a spellbinding, beautiful weekend, despite the cold and torrential rain on Friday. From the moment La Princesse woke on Friday evening, I was captivated by her - such imagination, such fabulous music, such ingenuity. Seeing her fall asleep on Friday night under a blanket of snow was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and being drenched by her outside Liverpool Town Hall on Saturday afternoon was a curious pleasure ! Sunday and I followed her towards the Mersey Tunnel hoping she would decide to stay after all......... Thank you for this weekend of magic. La Princesse is now a part of Liverpool that we will never forget.

James Howard from Cheshire (but born and raised in Liverpool) on Sat 13 September 2008

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 from Liverpool on Wed 10 September 2008

I would just like to say how brilliant it was over the weekend. My friend and I loved it. It was wonderful to see all ages captivated by La Princess. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. What an amazing sight and feat of engineering she was. I was sad to see her go. You did yourselves and us proud. Thank you so much for bringing her here. xx

Jayne Falconer from Liverpool on Wed 10 September 2008

Truely amazing and utterley breathtaking!!! The whole performance and the atmosphere was an experience neither myself or my children will forget. Thank you.

Sarah from St Helens on Wed 10 September 2008

We all forgot our lives can be hard, and we all remembered that life can be full of magic and incredible joy, and that will stay with us. We were children again. Thankyou so much. Lost for words but full of emotions.

Karl Maher from Liverpool a city enchanted on Tue 09 September 2008

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all those concerned in her birth and involved in her care during her travels. She is truly a magnificent sight to behold and will remain in my memory and heart forever. I look at all spiders now with love an affection and have just helped one out of my bath. Thank you to all for bringing her into our lives.

Jacqui Youde from Wallasey, Wirral on Tue 09 September 2008

Thankyou to everybody who was involved for bringing La Princesse spider to Liverpool, she is amazing, Sunday night was fantastic ...what a show...just brilliant. I am totally in awe of the people who built her ...just amazing. But i have only one thing to ask of La Machine ..please please can you bring our princesse back........we’ll look after her ...after all look how long our Liver birds have been with us smile.

Debra from Merseyside on Mon 08 September 2008

I saw large parts of each day’s presentation. 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, to share in, and enjoy, one man’s creative imagination. M. Delaroziere, I salute you.

Mike Kinley from Crosby on Mon 08 September 2008

WOW! I have waited with baited breath for months so see what La Machine was bringing to our City. THEN when I finally found out - I have to say that I was more than a little deflated (being terrified of spiders!!!!). However, I bit the bullet and went to glimpse the sight on Concourse Building. From then on - I was...... HOOKED! Don’t know how I will react when I see a “real” one again - but ... La Princesse has had me mesmerised. Stood at the Town Hall on Saturday (couldn’t make Friday - due to work commitments :( ) then down to Lord Street where I met her head on! It was amazing watchng her go to sleep again. Fantastic work by the puppeteers (who must have spent most of the last few days soaked to the skin). Waited at the Adelphi at night-time - what a brilliant sight she was surrounded by city lights! Sunday we couldn’t wait to snag our spots at the Museum and the spectacle was incredible . The fireworks and water bombardment was amazing, the snow storm almost real. It was so poignant seeing her battling against it all. I almost (!) wanted her to escape. All ages cheering and whistling in appreciation as we said farewell. CONGRATULATIONS and thank you to La Machine for sharing your vision and for the hard work that has gone into bringing this amazing piece of art to our 08 year. The musicians were stellar and music haunting at the finale. Something we will never forget.

Ally from Liverpool on Mon 08 September 2008

Vital statistics

Weight

37 tonnes

Height

50 feet

Members of French company

65

Members of UK production team

250

Benevols

51

UK musicians

20

Meals for crew

51,000

No. of axes of movement

50

Plant required

16 cranes, 6 forklifts, 8 cherry pickers

No. of crane lifts

300

Roundabouts removed

1

Bed nights

2436

Media Coverage

518 articles and reports in 12 countries

Equivalent advertising value

£3m

Members of facebook group

2,600

Website hits

920,000

Increased footfall in retail street

615%

Number visitors

250,000

Direct spend by audience

£340,000

Special effects

Water, flame, smoke, wind, snow, light, sound

Selected Media Coverage