Look to the past to see a clearer future
Petrol head printers will notice a certain similarity between the news that Heidelberg has pulled out of Ipex and the last International Motor Show. That show moved from London to the NEC in 1976 and was held there regularly until 2004, when it returned to Excel in 2006 and 2008. In 2010 the recession caused many of the big manufacturers to pull out and although scheduled for this year, no show was held and there is no news of a return in 2014.
To be fair, in 2008 you no longer went to the motor show to order your new Mondeo. You did that in the comfort of your local Ford showroom, after trawling round the internet for prices with which to be able to beat up the salesman. You went to the Motor Show to see the latest creation from Ferrari or Lamborghini that you could never afford and that your wife would not let you buy anyway.
Printing industry manufacturers face the same dilemma today. If you are going to order a new offset press, and I know not many of you are, it will be a deal done with a local sales person after a trip their premises in Brentford, Hemel Hempstead or Leeds. For your controlling wife, now read Finance Director, and for the Ferrari or Lamborghini read Landa Printing and HP Indigo.
So what has happened to the Motor Show, apart from the fact that the industry has survived and people are still buying cars? Well it has spawned a number of smaller and specialist motor shows - a bit like Informa’s Cross Media Live being held in September. One of the most popular motor shows is one that we in the printing industry have yet to copy – The Goodwood Revival, held this year on the 14th to the 16th September, celebrating all that was good from the golden era of the British Motor Industry.
Now I think there is an opportunity here for Informa, the Ipex organisers to do something similar for print. Can you imagine some of the stands – we could cater for the Letraset enthusiasts with shelf upon shelf of typefaces and symbols, with a large bin for all the consonants that were thrown away because there were not enough vowels remaining on the sheet? At Litho Supplies we sold boxes of the stuff and at least a third ended up in the bin for this reason. Happy days!
We could have a huge darkroom where rival operators could compete in a fog of red light, to produce negatives for plate making, or in the case of some operators I remember, have a crafty fag and a snooze while the boss thought they were busy. Outside there could be spotting out demonstrations where the iPad generation could see how quality was put back into a printed product, before printing plates were hand developed using chemicals that took the skin off your hands.
The Linotype enthusiasts would have a field day, arguing with the Monotype fans about whether a slug of type produced in an integrated machine is better. There could be demonstrations of the old Monotype keyboards producing punched tape to be fed into the casters, next to Linotype “all-in-one” machines. They could have races to produce a frame of type where in a swirling pot of hot lead the result would be decided.
I could go on about other long defunct processes, but it would be in the dress stakes where I think printers would let themselves down. I don’t recall too many of those hairy-arsed operators of Platens and GTOs striking me as fashionistas. The best they could run to was a free tee shirt from Gibbons or BASF, which looked like it had not been washed for weeks and wouldn’t be replaced until the next manufacturer’s promotion. In the 70s and 80s when I first plied my trade in the Industry there were no ladies employed on the shop floor, so unfortunately we would not be treated to the same display of iconic feminine fashion that is the highlight of each Goodwood revival. In the last twenty years the position has changed, so there could at least be a Millennium Print fashion show.
So what about it Trevor – Could we have a Cheltenham, Redhill or Brentwood Revival where the ghosts of the past could be revisited in a haze of MEK nostalgia?
It would certainly be a lot of fun and I doubt anybody would ever believe that our industry, even such a few short years ago, could have seemed quite so archaic, but sometimes we have to look to our past to be able to see a clearer future.
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