Artisan printer pens love letter to streets of Hackney

PUBLISHED: 11:36 17 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:36 17 March 2016

Graham Bignell at the font drawer

Graham Bignell at the font drawer


“When computers came in there was a readiness to just bin everything, but there’s a certain quality in letterpress you can’t beat.”

Graham at the letterpress Graham at the letterpress

Graham Bignell is in the process of printing his latest design at his New North Press workshop, tucked away at the back of Hoxton Square.

He is surrounded there by tonnes of equipment and 700 types of material, which he has accumulated over the last 40 years.

His equipment is back in regular use after years in the wilderness His equipment is back in regular use after years in the wilderness

Back in 1976 he was working for his A-level printing teacher in Victoria Park. Now he runs one of the two remaining letterpress printers in Hackney. But business is good, and his latest idea should be popular with locals.

“We’ve adapted a letter that was sent by Charles Lamb to William Wordsworth in 1801,” explained Graham. “His letter sings the praises of living in London compared to the countryside. Ours follows the same lines, but we have adapted it to describe what we love about Hackney in 2016.”

The love letter to Hackney The love letter to Hackney

The text has been hand set in wood and metal type and is being printed in three colours. It will sell for £120 in his Columbia Road shop.

Graham continued: “We came up with the idea for the design, then we started setting – not only the letters but the white space around them. It was three days’ work, and then another three to print it.”

Graham has lived in Victoria Park for most of his life Graham has lived in Victoria Park for most of his life

Graham, 62, is actually from Chingford – but is an adopted Hackney son who lives in Maynell Road, Victoria Park, with his wife and children. He has spent most of his life in the borough.

“I’ve seen it develop over the years, in some positive ways and in some negative ways,” he said. “I set up New North Press in 1986. Hoxton was really, really derelict when we came here, but it had a vibrancy and was quite lively. At that time there were lots of artists’ studios. Then the estate agents cottoned on and more and more people came.

New North Press studio's in Hackney New North Press studio's in Hackney

“Our business is fairly unique and we think we’re the only ones left in the area now. There’s only I M Imprimit in Victoria Park.”

Graham was introduced to Richard Ardagh after spotting one of his posters at Nelly Duffs. The two went on to host the Reverting to Type exhibition there, which brought on a renaissance of sorts.

“I was printing for a long time on my own but the equipment just wasn’t being used enough,” he said. “I had another business as a restorer in the same space. Then I met Richard and we worked on the exhibition together and he came on board.”

The pair, along with colleague Beatrice Bless, host monthly workshops which are proving popular.

“Printed posters or hand-printed books have a lovely feel that can’t be matched,” he said. “It’s a craft.”

Related articles

Latest Hackney Stories


An unbeaten half-century from James Harris saw visitors Middlesex complete an outstanding recovery to beat Leicestershire by one wicket in a marvellously tense finish to their Specsavers Division Two county championship match at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road.


Belgium and Tunisia have met on three previous occasions in all competitions, with a win apiece and a draw. The encounters have been tight affairs, with victories decided by one-goal margins, but today’s match didn’t follow the same trend.


Gareth Southgate’s promising young England side look ready to make a mark on the world stage and help atone for the disappointments of recent tournaments.


The drama surrounding the threat to Gillett Square continues apace with over 1,500 new signatories in the past month to the petition to Save Gillett Square, writes Adam Hart FRSA, chief executive officer Hackney Co-operative Developments (HCD) 1996-2012, co-director Vortex Foundation, resident and parent for over 35 years.

The temperature nudged the mercury towards nearly 30c as the man sat down on a bench, sited between Grace Road’s evocative pavilion and the sight screen.

Middlesex ended day three of their County Championship match at Grace Road on 82-3, 299 runs adrift with only seven wickets remaining.

Yesterday, 16:33

Brazil and Costa Rica were winless in their opening matches at the World Cup and were both hoping for their first victory of the tournament at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Middlesex bowled Leicestershire out for 186 in their second innings on a baking hot afternoon at Grace Road, to leave the visitors facing a challenging target of 381 to win.


To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.

Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists