Saturday, 19 December 2009

Press now open at 151 High Street, Lewes

Exhibition of prints and books by Dmitry Sayenko

Amanda Dean, Mayor of Lewes, opening the Press

Again, what a hectic few weeks it's been! The Tom Paine Printing Press was officially opened in early December in its new premises at 151 High Street, Lewes (opposite the Bull House and Westgate Chapel), by Amanda Dean, the Mayor of Lewes. This is a perfect location, as Tom paine lived and worked in Bull House, and was married to Elizabeth Ollive in the Westgate Chapel, the marriage being legalised at St Michael's Church - only a stone's throw away. So we have three Tom Paine sites close by, and the White Hart, where Paine attended Headstrong Club meetings, just down the High Street. And of course there's also the bowling green at the Castle, where Paine played bowls with William Lee, who printed his pamphlet 'The Case of the Officers of Excise'.

The Printing Press now has a shop and gallery (Press Gallery) on the premises as part of its operations, the idea being that these will generate income to support the press. We are selling a range of, mostly printed, items related to Tom paine, and also small press books, artists' books, and hand-made prints (etchings, woodcuts, collagraphs, linocuts, lithographs), cards, etc.

The first exhibition (see photo at top) was of prints and artist's books by the Russian artist Dmitry Sayenko, from St Petersburg. He produces very powerful woodcut and linocut images, often combining them with typeset text, or with text which he cuts by hand into the block.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Tom Paine Printing Press moves to Lewes High Street

What a hectic summer it's been! The Tom Paine Festival in July, printing Paine's 'Case of the Officers of Excise' (limted edition of 30 copies) in August, Lewes's Artwave Festival in September and more printing in October (including Paine and Lewes Bonfire broadsides).

The opportunity has come up to move the Tom Paine Printing Press to a shop in Lewes High Street - No.151, opposite the Bull House where Paine used to live and work, and the Westgate Chapel (Unitarian) where he was married. I'm therefore moving the Press from the Market Tower (with grateful thanks to Lewes District Council for providing the space there since the end of June). It will take me several weeks to complete the move, as I have to dismantle the wooden 'common press' very carefully, and re-erect it in the new premises.

The High Street shop will be called 'PRESS', and will also act as a retail outlet for the Press's products, and also for prints and artists' books by local and other artists and printmakers.

I was very fortunate to be given a printer's 'random' or cabinet for typecases, by Graham Moss of the Incline Press, along with some type and other equipment. I also obtained some more type - metal and wooden - from the now-closed Printing House museum in Cockermouth (north end of the Lake District). I'm still very short of the 18th Century 'Caslon Old Face' type, so if anyone out there has any to dispose of . . . ? Or indeed any metal or wooden type.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Artwave, and Paine's Case of the Officers of Excise

I'm demonstrating the printing press (the wooden common press) in the Market Tower, Lewes, during Lewes's Artwave Festival every afternoon from Friday 28 August to Friday 4 September inclusive.

As well as the Tom paine material, I'm also using the press to print the text and blocks of some of my own artist's poem & image books, including Rosenberg (the Whitechapel poet and artist, who was killed in the First World War), and The East London Line (inspired by the current redevelopment of the old East London Railway from Shoreditch through (or rather under) Whitechapel, Shadwell, Wapping, Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks to New Cross and New Cross Gate).

Monday, 27 July 2009

Peter Chasseaud on the Bowling Green, Lewes Castle, 4 July 2009

Photos courtesy of Andy Gammon

Thanks to those who posted helpful comments about correcting the colours, and to Andy Gammon who re-sent the images.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Tom Paine and Lewes Festival, 4-14 July 2009

The Tom Paine Printing Press during the Thomas Paine and Lewes Festival, July 4th to 14th, 2009

The Festival finished today, so I'm just posting these initial statistics and comments.
The Tom Paine Printing Press was open for the whole 11 days of the Thomas Paine and Lewes Festival.
I demonstrated the press for 7 hours every day, to a total of 1,148 visitors, giving 96 complete demonstrations to individuals and groups.

Average number of visitors: 113 per day.

Average number of complete demonstrations: 9 per day.
Public comment was extremely favourable, and children and young people were particularly impressed.

Older visitors were very interested, and many related the Press to their own lives and memories.

It was particularly rewarding to meet so many retired compositors and printers who had worked at local printing companies - Baxters, Farncombes, Lewes Press, Barbican Press. They thought it wonderful that their own trade was being commemorated in this way.

Many of the visitors were clearly day-trippers and tourists from the UK and abroad (France, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, USA), and thought the Press was a great attraction. These were people who were not necessarily in Lewes for the Tom Paine Festival.

Those who were in Lewes just for the Festival were particularly interested in the Press as representing the key engine for the production of printed material and the dissemination of Paine's ideas (and ideas generally).

Many visitors suggested that the Press could produce printed material appropriate for other Lewes commemorations and events. This is one of the aims of the Press, and I have several plans afoot.

Finally, thanks to Andy Gammon, Peter Flanagan, Les Ellis and others, for their help and support.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Tom Paine Press arrives in Lewes

Stop Press -

The Tom Paine Printing Press will be brought to Lewes by its builder, Alan May, on Monday 22nd June, and should be fully erected in the Market Tower, and tested, by the following day. It will be open to the public to view, with demonstrations of letterpress printing, during Lewes's Tom Paine Festival, 4th to 14th July. Tom Paine was closely involved with both the American and French Revolutions, hence the dates:
4th July 1776: American Declaration of Independence.
14th July 1789: Bastille Day - the start of the French Revolution.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Nearing the Tom Paine Bicentenary Festival in Lewes

Tom Paine Bicentenary Festival, Lewes, 4th to 14th July 2009

There've been a lot of delays in moving the Tom Paine Printing Press from Alan May's workshop near Stafford to Lewes. These have been caused by problems with finding suitable vacant premises, but it now looks as though the Market Tower will be available from mid-June, so there should just be time to get the press in there and in working order, with type, paper and ink. Watch this space! I plan to be running a series of letterpress printing workshops, talks and school visits to the press during the Festival.

With all the scandals about Parliament at the moment, Tom Paine's radical views about 'old corruption' are again being aired. I can hear his bones (wherever they are) rattling.

It's interesting that politicians are using the parliamentary expenses scandal to float yet again many constitutional reform projects - and about time too! Many of these, or variants, were proposed over two hundred years ago. We're clearly a Burkean nation, with such a snail's pace rate of reform.

It's also interesting to see the Conservatives, under David Cameron, ahead of the game with firmness of treatment for parliamentary offenders and with constitutional reform proposals.

Now what about the bankers? Everyone's taken their eyes off the ball here! When are we going to have some powerful effective reform of the system of banking regulation, and indeed of corporate governance.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Tom Paine's Birthday; ringing the Lewes town bell

Tom Paine's birthday was 29th January 1737. This year is the bicentenary of his death (8th June 1809). John Crawford, the chief executive of Lewes District Council, agreed to have the town bell rung on 29th January 2009 to commemorate both Tom Paine's birthday and the bicentenniel year. The Tom Paine and Lewes Festival will take place in the town between 4th and 14th July.
This is probably the first time the bell has been rung for Paine's birthday!
Andy Gammon, watched by Mike Chartier, the Mayor of Lewes, rings Gabriel, the medieval town bell in the Market Tower, Lewes

The Market Tower (dating from the 1790s) during the bell-ringing

Andy Gammon preparing Gabriel to be rung

Monday, 26 January 2009

Phil Abel and Hand & Eye Press

Last Friday (23rd January) I visited Phil Abel at Hand & Eye Press under an old railway arch at Pincin Street, just north of Cable Street, in London's East End. His Heidelberg letterpress machines are very different from most of the presses featured on this site, although the principle remains the same.

Hand & Eye Press letterpress publicity poster

Phil Abel operating the larger of his two Heidelberg letterpress machines