Lightboxes and Lettering; Printing Industry Heritage in East London

D. Smith and Sons, box makers, 97 Lea Bridge Road, 1959. Courtesy of Vestry House  Museum, London Borough of Waltham Forest

Rendezvous Projects CIC have been awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their project ‘Lightboxes and Lettering; Printing Industry Heritage in East London’.

Printing – including lithography, silkscreen, and letterpress – has been an important industry in East London for many years. Access to small presses allowed political and community groups to easily print their books, pamphlets and leaflets, and many of these smaller firms were in east London. In recent years, the industry has changed a great deal, with the number of print workshops now much reduced and those in operation working in very different ways to how they would have done just a few decades ago.

This new project, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, focuses on the pre-digital era of printing in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest and the experiences of people involved in the industry.

People like Gary Arber, whose family ran Arber & Co for many years on Roman Road in Tower Hamlets. This 19th century letter press print shop became well-known for printing suffragette’s posters and leaflets. The shop closed in 2014 but its story now lives on as part of this heritage project as volunteers help to digitise archived materials, photographs and oral history via interviews.

Organisers continue to seek people who worked in the printing industry in East London prior to around 1995, to share their experiences and any photographs or printed material they may have. You can get in touch with them here >. 

As well as collecting stories from the past, Lightboxes and Lettering explores how the printing industry has changed with the arrival of digital technologies, and how newer processes have transformed the everyday lives of print workers.

There’s an interactive element too. Members of the public will have the opportunity to take part in artist-led workshops, events and activities during the exhibition from 17 January – 29 March 2020 at The Nunnery Gallery, 181 Bow Rd, London, E3 2SJ.

If this interests you , you may like to read the following articles from our archive:

The Art and Craft of Lettering by Nicolas Barker from our 1987 Summer issue.

Printing House and Engraving Shop; A Mysterious Collaboration by Roger Gaskill from our 2004 Summer issue. 

Image Credit: D. Smith and Sons, box makers, 97 Lea Bridge Road, 1959. Courtesy of Vestry House Museum, London Borough of Waltham Forest

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