Liverpudlians, beware!

Commuters arriving at Liverpool’s Lime Street station were greeted by a 50ft (15m) high mechanical spider clinging to a nearby redundant office block.  The 37-tonne beast heralds the start of a five-day piece of street theatre as part of the Capital of Culture year….

This statement probably caused some gnashing of chelicerae, though:

Helen Marriage, the producer of the show, said: ….”It has 50 axes of movement so all of it moves as you would expect an insect to move. [emphasis mine].


EDITED TO ADD: footage of the spider “awake” and stomping about town!

Additional video here.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I guess I am to much of geek/gear-head to really get into street theater, because I read about this and I think it’s just lame.

    It weighs 37T, more than an empty Boeing 737-400! How the heck did they make it weigh so much? It takes 12 operators. Thats 1.5 operators per leg. I can’t see how, even if they used no walking algorithms at all, they need 1.5 operators per leg.

    And 50 axes of movement? What total? Per leg? Huh?
    You’re the entomologist. How many axes does a spider need anyway? Wait, entomologist specialize in insecta not arachnida. Still, by your best guess does it need 50 axes, does that even make sense?

  2. I think what they did was make the thing have an endoskeleton, not an exoskeleton.

    The reason Arthropods are so strong is that they can attach muscles in a way that is a higher order lever–directly to the part that needs to be moved, not to another bone, like us.

    There also is that pesky little thing called mass—the bigger something gets, the more work it takes to move it–which adds more mass, if you’re running it on an engine.

  3. I heard somewhere once the mass to strength benefits of exoskeletons seem experience a law of diminishing returns as they get bigger. This is why there are no exoskeleton land creatures with a mass of more than 71 grams. In water, where buoyancy can reduce the apparent weight, there are no exoskeleton creatures over 22kg (The Japanese spider crab).Large animals evolved with endoskeletons because they have higher strength to mass ratios at larger sizes.

    Also, surface area to mass ratios generally have greater efficiency with larger sizes as well.

    I say it weighed 37T (rather than say, 10) because it was designed badly!

  4. That’s (indirectly) what I was trying to say–they tried to use a design that is made for a small scale, on a large scale.

    But in retrospect, I should have had more coffee :)

  5. It weighs 15 tonnes.

    The ‘chariot’ that it sits to move through the city etc. makes up the difference from the 37. That’s one heavy chariot – agreed – but it needs to be to ensure that it sits back from the spider and not tip over.
    There is 1 ‘manipulateur’ per leg. The remaining 4 control its head, eyes etc.

    It doesn’t matter if they could have used ‘walking alogrithms’, this is intended as a piece of street theatre as you noted. Whether or not it is anatomically correct (or ‘correct’ scientifically in any other facet) or is again neither here nor there.
    Worrying about the exact details was never the intention, so criticising the execution on that front seems a little redundant.
    The main point is that everyone in the city recognised it as a spider and enjoyed the performances it and the back-up performers gave.

    The project indicates a catalyst for change within the city of Liverpool and is very much in the spirit of what the Capital of Culture represents.

    As for saying you’re too much of a geek/gear-head to get into it; are those two things mutually exclusive? I really hope not, you seem to be stereotyping every geek/gear-head out there! Those are the sorts of people that brought this show into fruition.

    In closing; you’re absolutely entitled to think it’s lame, but it seems you’ve misundestood the whole point in its existence and the wider context in which it was set.

    Huge crowds were out in the wind and rain to watch the performances unfold and from what I understand it could have the same resonance that the Sultan’s Elephant in London and Reykjavik had.

    But if its legs are the wrong shape, or a bit fat, or not really made out of steel & poplar wood, or if a real spider doesn’t really have 12 (albeit very small) people controlling it none of that matters eh?

  6. Alain, I have no fucking idea what you are talking about. Where, exactly, have I stereotyped geeks?

    Are you directing this comment at truthwalker?

  7. Yes, though not exactly aimed!

    More in response to what he was saying. Sorry, i thought using the word “gear-head” and “walking algorithms” in my little piece would’ve made that clear – sorry for any confusion!

  8. It was the unspecified “you” that was unclear.

    Are you perhaps involved with this project? You seems awfully invested in it.

  9. If only I was!

    I saw it on Saturday afternoon/evening and thought the show was great. I stumbled across this blog trying to find pics of it (I wasn’t looking for an argument or to offend anyone!)

    When I read truthwalker’s comments I couldn’t not respond (just to clear up a few figures and to make it clear it’s not supopsed to be rigorously scrutinised in a scientific sense).

  10. My only complaint was they called it an insect :)

    I would have loved to have seen it.

  11. I agree with you on that one!

  12. Great new video of the giant spider of Liverpool. Watch it arrive at the city hall, wake up after a sleep and, in a nice bit of dramatically speeded up footage, crawl up a building to rest.

    Watch it here:

    La Princesse was created by a French company, La Machine, as part of the Liverpool European Capital of culture programme. – filmed and edited by Giselle Leeb

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