Friday, 21 June 2013
Happy atmosphere at pop event.
"In one week's time issue No. 1 of the Glastonbury Free Press will exist. It will have been written, subbed, edited, illustrated, composed, set, locked up, inked, printed, folded and delivered. Some copies may even have been read!" This may be a somewhat optimistic statement, or perhaps just a ploy to instil panic in the hearts of our 'team', but from where I write this it looks as though a hot-metal letterpress newspaper with a 15,000 daily print run might actually happen.
In the last week or so the concrete pad has set, heavy machinery has been installed and a tent erected. Power is connected, ink has arrived, the kettle is on. Most importantly we've got enough cider and fags for the next three days, and we've started printing. The first mastheads rolled off the press at about eight last night, in Pantone 207 Red, and from where I'm sitting they look great. Now we're scheduling the forty hours of press time to get these finished by Monday.
Q. Will it be possible to see the press in action?
A. Yes. All printing and typesetting gear should be visible through doors and windows while it operates, and we're hoping to offer opportunities for closer looks during scheduled 'tours' of the print room.
Q. Can I place an advert now, or do I have to wait until I'm actually onsite?
A. Sorry, ads can only be accepted in person while you're at the festival. You will need to visit our reception desk and fill in a form. The word count will be limited to a certain number of lines, a bit like Twitter is to 140 characters.
Q. Its my friend/partner/son/daughter's birthday. Can you mention it in the paper?
A. This is what the small ads are for. We're hoping the editorial columns will be of interest to everybody involved with the festival, so are unlikely to include material of interest to only a small group of folk. Of course our hacks are no less susceptible to bribery than the rest of the press establishment, so find one and ply him or her with enough cider, and there's a chance you may be able to influence the editorial content. Its worth a shot, eh?
Q. Where are you located?
A. We're in the Circus field near the path that leads to Acoustic, under the high-wire. If you draw a line on a map between Pyramid and Shangri-La, you'll find us at the mid point (near enough).
Q. How many will be printed?
A. Our target is 15,000 per day, and this will involve the press running nearly all day and all night. Not enough, you say? Let the Festival know and next year we'll try and get a bigger machine...
Q. Where can we find a copy?
A. We're due to deliver to festival information points,but to be sure of a copy you'll want to find our Printing Office and grab one as it comes off the press.
An element of our 'show' I have not mentioned yet is our "print your own letterpress poster" department. We've got three of the UKs finest letterpress artists on site to help you (or your kids) print posters to take away with you. The idea is that you come along, ink and print your own handmade poster. You choose the colours and take it away - there's a short film here that'll give you the idea:
As this is a rather special occasion, we've commissioned a new woodblock poster font of the festival's distinctive sign-writing team, Dan and Mo.
Mr. Augustus Weaken explains here...
"Any visitor to Glastonbury Festival will quickly become acquainted with the brilliantly-painted signposts which direct the Festival-goer effortlessly to her or his desired destination. The signwriter's expertise is often, tragically, unremarked, but without it Festival-goers could find themselves in Radstock, Frome, Castle Cary or even Nempnett Thrubwell.
And now, for the first time Glastonbury Festival will have its own woodblock typeface, hand carved into cherry wood by 'Reliab' Al, who has been ensconced in his sawdust-perfumed workshop, his voluminous beard scented with resinous aromas. Al is painstakingly carving letters that correspond exactly with the comforting letterforms that have guided generations of Festival-goers to their desired destinations.
As he skillfully guides his razor-sharp chisels through the close-grained fruity timber, his capacious mind wrestles with multitudinous issues; to cut here? to shave there? to quickly nip out to the pub for a refreshing cider? Who knows?
All that can be certain is that "Reliab" Al has joined the chorus of angels that make Glastonbury Festival the most extraordinary event in the world."
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Two weeks to go, and most of our equipment is now camping in the Theatre & Circus Field, albeit in temporary accommodation for the moment while the Printing Office is constructed. The first job here has been mapping out the plot to accommodate the needs of the high-wire performers (who will be over us) and the pyrotechnics display (next to us).
A concrete pad wad laid yesterday to support the five ton Heidelberg and the two ton Intertype. I'd never expected anyone to get excited about a concrete slab, but so far the quality of our concrete has attracted as many admiring comments at the vintage equipment. Interested visitors tell me that this material is 'the best concrete there is', with fibreglass strands in the mixture which apparently make it stronger than material reinforced with steel. The happy implication is that the slab can stay in place afterwards and be used again next year, assuming our 'performance' is agreeable to the organisers, and it doesn't upset the cows.
The concrete will be set in time for the heavy gear to be installed on it on Friday, and the main tent can be erected over it. A generator has been organised so we can check it is all working and with 100,000 sheets of paper (16 palettes) due the same day, we could be up and printing by the weekend.
The first big job we need to start is printing the 'red top' mastheads on the paper, and we're going to need these printed on 60,000 sheets. At a maximum speed of 3,000iph this would probably take something like 24hours in one go, so the delicious prospect of the Heidelberg printing all day for two or three days in the empty field is approaching. There are no sound systems functioning on the stages yet, so for a while we'll be the noisiest thing on site and I'm looking forward to people's reaction to it. In our Bath workshop you only had to turn the machine over a few times and the neighbours would come rushing over to have a look. Three days solid printing should attract some interest - 3,000 impressions per hour is equivalent to 50 b.p.m., but sounds more like 100bpm as each cycle has two beats as the print bed travels backwards and forwards.
In the meantime we've been shamelessly promoting our organ, dishing out posters round the site and generally settling in. The architects of our wild-west facade are visiting today to begin constructing our veranda; this will accommodate our print-your-own letterpress poster workshops and provide welcome shady areas from Pilton's blistering sunshine. In the unlikely event of rain they'll help too.
Thursday, 6 June 2013
The big news this week is the progress we've made on constructing our Printing Office. It is big too - a three section timber framed facade 13"6' high, in classic 'wild west' stile. We would have liked a flagpole on top too, but 13"6' is the maximum possible height because we need to accommodate the high-wire artists who are going to be performing above us. Yup, high-wire artists. I think we'll have to write what must be the first risk assessment to consider the dangers associated with circus performers falling into a Heidelberg cylinder press. Perhaps we'll strengthen the roof of the office, or we may stop the press while the act is in progress, but it is certainly going to look spectacular.
We acquired the materials from our charming neighbours at Source Antiques, who also provided their tools and considerable carpentry skills to build the facade. They are so taken with the mechanical wonder of our vintage machinery they're donating windows, doors, period lighting and furniture too.
We've added Terry from Rose Mills Press to our team, who will be bring 50 years letterpress experience and a gorgeous 1930's folding machine capable of folding the daily papers at a rate of 2000 per hour (about the same speed as the press). Happily this means we will not now be recruiting child labour to sit folding newspapers all night, nor require readers to 'fold their own'. Yes, we now have a 'Print Finishing Department'.
The requirements of our new Print Finishing Department have helped us choose a sheet size, after some considerable debate within our team of 'experts'. We're about to order 80,000 sheets of 'creamy' coloured 70gsm paper cut to 700mm x 450mm. This should give us room to print four pages per issue in six 12pica (45mm) columns of 10pt type per page, with 1/2pt (2mm) gutters and 4pica (17mm) borders on left and right. In more simple language, the sheet and page sizes are a little wider than the Guardian Saturday Review.
This afternoon we're beginning to move equipment on to site, starting with the heavy stuff. Scott our 'safe pair of hands' in the transport department is on his way with a lorry now, and a forklift is due to meet us at six this evening.
Our new address? We're calling it "Crossroads Of Civilisation", on the corner of Circus Lane and Acoustic Avenue in Theatre & Circus. This famous work of Beatrice Ward (1900-1969) will explain why.
This is a Printing Oﬃce;
Crossroads of Civilisation;
Refuge of all the Arts,
Against the ravages of time;
Armoury of fearless truth,
Against whispering rumour;
Incessant trumpet of trade;
From this place words may ﬂy abroad;
Not to perish on waves of sound;
Not to vary with the writer's hand;
But ﬁxed in time having been veriﬁed in proof;
Friend you stand on sacred ground;
This is a Printing Oﬃce.
– Beatrice Warde
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Well what a week. The Heidelberg arrived and we’ve begun setting type on the Intertype.
Despite the best efforts of our Fleet Street veteran Andy Taylor to train us in the mysteries of linecasting, it is clearly not possible to cram a five-year apprenticeship into a couple of days, and probably not into a few months either. In the light of this we’re putting a shout out for two further experienced operators to help produce the paper. These machines are as complicated to operate as they look, and ours was built in 1960 but hasn’t been used for fifteen years or so. Despite a thorough service it still needs a lot of gentle handling and an experienced operator to coax it through its paces. In the right hands it works beautifully and certainly lives up to its reputation as a “pinnacle of Victorian engineering”. The elegant mechanics that select the ‘mats’ (individual character moulds used to cast the type) are rivalled only by the ingenious method it uses to put them back in the right place after use. The ‘slugs’ of type are cast during a series of reassuring clunks while the machine’s flailing arms wave around in mysterious semaphore, and are ejected (still hot) with a wondrous drama reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate making machines.
Our gorgeous Heidelberg has been much admired, and given a clean bill of health by our press ‘minders’ Patrick and Phil. Before it arrived we weren’t even sure what voltage supply it was going to need (410v 3-phase seems fine so far), or whether we’d be able to modify it for British type. At issue here is that in Belgium type is traditionally 0.4mm higher than type used in the UK, so we were looking for a ‘bed plate’ to put in and trembling at the thought of how much a precisely milled sheet of metal 515 x 710 x 0.4mm might cost. Senior Graphics are the biggest Heidelberg dealers here in the UK, and provide bed plates to specification according the machine's serial number, so we called them up. They looked up the serial number (4876) and said two interesting things. First off, the bed plate we need is exactly the same thickness as standard offset litho plates, so we can just use an old one of those. This was very easy, and I picked one up from a friendly offset place down the road for nowt - they usually just send them for scrap. Serial Graphics also said that with that serial our press was probably older than 1954, the date of manufacture quoted by the people who sold it to us. They said our press was probably made in the nineteen forties, which really makes me wonder. There’s nothing for us to worry about because all these machines were deliberately built to go on for ever, and all the parts we’ll need are still available. But what makes me wonder is what Germany was like when it was made; it is incredible to think that they were exporting machinery like this to Belgium so soon after the war.
This weekend we hosted the first GFP Wayzgoose. I’ve always wanted to host one of these because I think ‘wayzgoose’ is a wonderful word. It means only one thing: “a printer’s party” (look it up if you don’t believe me). We invited everyone who planned to be involved in the GFP production team to come and have a drink, a natter and try out the equipment. We played some records - oh yes, it has to be vinyl or Shellac round here - and talked a lot of nonsense, but in the process we worked out loads of the details that needed to be dealt with.
Meanwhile we’ve acquired an EcoPRO image setting machine that’ll output film to make halftone and line-art plates with and we’ll be getting that sorted out this week. If this works properly we’ll be able to include photographs and graphics created on site, though the photographs will probably look like ‘old fashioned’ black and white newspaper photographs because they’ll be printed with larger halftone dots than modern papers. They’ll be 52dpi (dots per inch) which will mean the individual dots that make up the image will be big enough to see without magnification if you look closely, but at normal reading distance the pictures should look fine. Too much detail? Sorry. Perhaps it's time I signed off before I start going on about the ins and outs of the various papers we’re trying out, but I can say that our favourite at the moment is a creamy uncoated 62gsm. We’ve been offered a couple of tons of coated bright white stock too, but it's coated (slightly shiny) and altogether too posh looking for our provincial rag.
Friday, 24 May 2013
This picture is taken from our 'INTERTYPE PARTS and SUPPLIES CATALOG' (1927 edition), and looks a lot like ours. The 'CATALOG' is 273 pages listing every nut, bolt, spring and cam part number.
The Intertype has been serviced by Milke at Lincasting, and declared fit and well by Andy, our 'No.1' operator in Canterbury, and now the machine is happily installed in our workshop. The electrician is arriving in the morning to connect the 3-phase, and Andy will be here to put back together the delicate bits removed for the journey from Kent. Andy worked on these machines for 30 odd years in Fleet Street 'till he was replaced by 'new technology' and a certain political environment that saw trade unions take a bit of a battering. Here's a line of type I made on the Glastonbury machine, in 12pt Times magnified a bit.
Now we know roughly what the Intertype's capable of, we've knocked together a rough dummy to help us work out word counts and such. If all goes as expected our organ might look something like these pages, only much bigger. We're hoping that a spread of the GFP will be about 650mm x 520mm, which is about the size this mock-up would be if the type was at 12pt, ie if you could read it. If you can read the text in this picture, don't believe it. It's all nonsense, especially the bit about Steve Winwood guesting with the Stones, the alleged Cream reunion and the 'Camo' print bog-roll advert. We made those up.
Monday saw the arrival of a proofing press, some ink and other useful bit and bobs from Richard's studio in Oxford, so we'll be able to start printing proofs any day now. A decision is due this week on what paper we print on. Most of us are in favour of good old fashioned newsprint (yup, the stuff they wrap your chips in), 100% recycled,unbleached 48gsm material that will start to go yellow in the sunlight, then buckle and curl before flaking to dust. Newsprint paper is economical too, but thinner material is more difficult to handle in the press, especially if there are any moisture issues. 'Humidity', something notoriously variable at this time of year 'round these parts. So maybe we'll have to go for heavier stock, but we've arranged for a huge woodburner to keep temperature and er, 'humidity' as stable as we can.
Today is the big day this week, when the 1954 Hedelberg Cylinder is due to arrive from Belguim. This is not easy. A Heidelberg OHZ-S weighs 4,500kg and gets loaded in Belguim with a forklift. We have to forklift it off their delivery lorry and crane it onto Scott's flatbed in Bristol, for him to drive over here and install the press. That should be a laugh.