Posters for the Gutter Press, second one designed by Martin Walker / 1978 Resisters poster / Squatters handbook
Community Press was based at 2a St Pauls Road, London N1
There were about 6 workers at any one time; at first unpaid, later wages (all equal). Earlier trade union membership was with the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), and later the National Graphical Association (NGA).
Equipment: Offset Litho Multiliths 1850 and 1250, both single colour (did some spot colour work but no process colour); darkroom with process camera; light boxes and print-down frame for plates; a rather scary hand guillotine.
Community Press started round about 1970 in conjunction with the local radical newspaper The Islington Gutter Press. This was one of many such radical papers produced by and for the local people in that era; others were The Hackney Gutter Press and Leeds Other Paper.
It was also linked with the Hackney and Islington Music Workshop – another community activist group providing music for demonstrations, pickets and fund-raising events, as well as producing three excellent song books - New Songs New Times (1976), Stand Together (1978) and Hold The Line Again (1981). The Press also helped to organise the “Red Hot Iron Jubilee” to clash with the queen’s silver jubilee. Some members of the press also formed a punk band called the Resisters. Over the years quite a substantial archive of historic photos, designs and publications was built up and made accessible to any group or individual wanting to use it.
For some of its history the work force specialised; at other times they did a rota and performed all the tasks on a monthly(?) basis – office / darkroom and plate-making / printing.
People were encouraged to help on their own publications and to learn aspects of the process. Space was available to do layout and collating in the evenings and weekends. Customers brought their publications to a weekly meeting of the collective for its approval. Broad criteria were that it had to be non-sexist, non-racist and non-commercial. There were no profits: jobs were costed on materials and overheads, which – later – included wages.
Gin-And-Panic. Work was often scheduled on a weekly base and customers would turn up on Friday afternoons to collect their jobs. The office worker would zip through to the print room: “Have you finished that newsletter yet? They’re here to collect.” “Ah well, we’re actually still making the plates…” Rush back to the office: “Won’t be long now, have a seat. Do you want a gin and tonic while you’re waiting? Sure, no bother.” Rush to the kitchen, gin and tonics all round – printers as well as customers. (Shhh, don’t tell Health & Safety. There was a fair bit of smoking too, never mind that tub of white spirit by the press. And occasionally a child off school would be brought in to play with the scalpels used for cutting negatives. Just joking, everyone came away with fingers intact.)
Bread & Roses typesetters moved to an office upstairs in the same building from their original premises in Camden. They remained a separate set-up but obviously the two connected well on a daily basis. ASS, the squatters’ organisation, also had an office there.
Community Press had the two rooms on the ground floor corner of Newington Green Rd and St Pauls Rd, and the single storey wing running along St Pauls Rd; there were plenty of windows and it was a pleasant workplace. Possibly it was owned by Islington Council and rent and rates were paid; this needs to be checked.
At some point in the early 1980’s there was a fascist arson attack one night. The fire brigade was called and not too much damage was done to the building or equipment, but it left a terrible mess and lots of the paper store was ruined by water. The presses were up and running the next day as a gesture of defiance.
Sarah Grimes (Worked at Community Press 1974-78 and 1983-86)
In the late 80s when the press ran into serious financial difficulties, the workers, equipment and client base were absorbed into Trojan Press in Hackney.