Funding boost for family-owned Glasgow print business as it endeavours to preserve printing heritage
A FAMILY-owned printing business in Glasgow has received a “sizeable” funding boost from The Watson Foundation in an effort to keep alive traditional methods of printing.
Govan-based Glasgow Press has embarked on an initiative to bring often-forgotten methods of printing to a new audience with a series of workshops and learning opportunities with a strong community focus.
Now their efforts to engage the local community and beyond in learning about printing have attracted funding from the Foundation.
The donation from the philanthropic organisation The Watson Foundation which he set up following his retirement will, according to Glasgow Press, “turbo charge” its efforts to preserve and celebrate traditional printing.
For many years Glasgow Press has been collecting printing presses along with wood and metal type which would otherwise have been discarded as printing technology moved on.
The business has a firm emphasis on “letterpress printing” which is a form of relief printing. The raised surface of letters or images is inked and then pressed into paper. Words can be typeset by hand, letter by letter, and then printed on cast iron presses which in some cases are over 100 years old.
Dan Clark, who runs Glasgow Press with his family, said: “Letterpress printing is on the red list for endangered crafts and we’re keen to try and keep it alive.
“There aren’t any college courses for anyone who wants to be a letterpress printer as far as we know, so by trying to make things more accessible, by getting people in for courses or introducing children into this method of printing, we are trying to keep this trade going a bit longer.”
Dan’s father, also Dan, now a remarkable 88 and still working part-time in the business – started off as a message boy at a printworks in the 1940s before opening the family business in 1960 on completing his apprenticeship.
Dan Clark junior said “We are immensely grateful to John Watson and The Watson Foundation for this generous and substantial funding. We will be sure to put the money to good use engaging with the local community and more widely given that we share John Watson’s long-held social justice credentials as well as his passion for printing
“The boom in digital printing has eclipsed letterpress printing and we are proud to be making the case for the letterpress process. We are sure that engaging with the community in our Govan home and beyond will capture the public’s imagination and spark renewed interest in printing.”
Glasgow Press has now set up a “community interest company” called “letterspace” to promote the work.
This is not the first time the Foundation has supported traditional printing and its role in Scottish life.
In 2018 the Foundation, working with the Scottish Printing Archival Trust, produced booklets entitled the Glasgow Print Trail and the Edinburgh Print Trail discovering why printing was so important to both cities.
John Watson OBE explained: “Preserving traditional printing methods for me is a labour of love.
“Most people associated with the printing industry generally agree that there have been more fundamental changes in the last 50 years than in the preceding centuries since Johannes Gutenberg invented printing from movable type in 1450.
“It is worth remembering that printing was a mainstay of Glasgow’s industry – third only in importance to heaving engineering and shipbuilding.
“The pace of change has been unrelenting and with technology and new processes, ways of communicating the printed word have changed out of all recognition. Sadly, the industry has, too, and many of the companies have fallen by the wayside.
“This is why it is vital to ensure traditional print methods such as letterpress printing is not forgotten and Glasgow Press are leading the way with their community outreach initiative. I’m pleased to be supporting it and wish them well.”