• 07.08.14

London’s New “Book Benches” Invite People To Relax On A Classic Work Of Literature

Take a seat on a Ralph Steadman original and you can be transported to Wonderland. That’s not a drug reference.

The literary traditions of London are rich. So is the tradition of needing a place to sit after hours of enduring the city’s crowded streets and busy transit system. The National Literacy Trust partnered with public art organization Wild in Art over the summer to bring those two fine traditions together–with the help of some of the U.K.’s more notable (and some not-yet-so) artists.

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The result is the “BookBench,” a series of sculptures placed in 50 different locations around the city, that resemble paperback books with the front section folded over–a full-sized, functional bench that reminds passersby and potential sitters of the worlds to be found within the pages of a book. The project includes original art by Rae Smith, Charlotte Brown, and Ralph Steadman, who each created an original piece of art based on a book that inspired them (Steadman, naturally, went with Alice in Wonderland). The series spans the great historic London literary tradition–Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, George Orwell–and the contemporary–Monica Ali (Brick Lane), Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch), and Cressida Cowell How to Train Your Dragon, a fine reminder that literature (like art, and sitting) isn’t something relegated to the past.

Characters from The Gruffalo to Stick Man have been brought together by illustrator Axel Scheffler

Each of the 50 benches–which are mapped on the project’s website, if you’re in London and want to be sure to sit down on a tribute to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–will be made available to the (very rich) public in an auction in October, to raise money for literacy campaigns in the U.K.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.