About the project
‘Lightboxes and Lettering; Printing Industry Heritage in East London’ was a project by Rendezvous Projects CIC in 2018 – 2020, focussing on the pre-digital era of printing in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Clerkenwell, and the experiences of people involved in the industry. The project was funded by a grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The project explored how the printing industry has changed with the arrival of digital technologies, and how newer processes have transformed the everyday lives of print workers. Volunteers were engaged in oral history interviews with current and former employees, and in digitising archive material collected from existing and private collections. Members of the public took part in artist-led workshops, using some of the processes and exploring the archive material uncovered by volunteers. The project culminated in 2020 with an exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery, a publication, and an online exhibition on this website.
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.
The project mapped former businesses, recorded the experiences of current and former employees, and collected printed matter, images of print workshops and details of technical processes. It offered skills in oral history interviews, archive research and digital media to volunteers, and will share print processes with members of the public.