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


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney Stories

The contrast between the two managers during their post-match interviews could not have been more pronounced. While tired-looking Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger bemoaned bad luck but refused to address the gulf in class between the two sides – as Manchester City routed the Gunners 3-0 at Wembley to deservedly lift the 2018 Caraboa Cup – Pep Guardiola spoke powerfully and eloquently about Catalonian independence and his support for jailed politicians.

Arsene Wenger bemoaned bad luck as his team were utterly outplayed by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as they beat sorry Arsenal 3-0 in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Arsenal took on Manchester City in the 2018 Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Read Arsenal reporter Layth Yousif’s PLAYER RATINGS from the showpiece match.

Pep Guardiola won his 22nd trophy as a manager as his Manchester City side comprehensively beat Arsenal 3-0 in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Premier League: Crystal Palace 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Yesterday, 14:24

Ben Pearce reflects on Spurs’ important Premier League win at Selhurst Park earlier today

Yesterday, 10:20

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger replied immediately when asked the question.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sunday’s League Cup final is eagerly-awaited by a large number of Arsenal fans. Read on as a number of loyal supporters explained to Layth Yousif what the trophy means to them.


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

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists