Lightboxes and Lettering

Lightboxes and Lettering

Lightboxes and Lettering

About the project

Lightboxes and Lettering explored how the printing industry in East London has changed with the arrival of digital technologies, and how newer processes have transformed the everyday lives of print workers. Volunteers recorded oral history interviews with current and former employees, and digitised archive material collected from existing and private collections. Members of the public had the opportunity to take part in artist-led workshops, using some of the processes and exploring the archive material uncovered by volunteers.

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. 

The project culminated in 2020 with an exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery in Bow, and an online version of the show was created after its early closure.

Limited edition publication

An 80-page full-colour limited edition publication about the social history of the printing industry in east London. The book contains extracts of oral history interviews, archive photography and printed ephemera, and a map of printing companies in 1985.

Project funding: