In June 2023, I stepped in front of a crowd of angel investors and entrepreneurs at the Radix Big Tent Pitch Pit. I was there to share our ambitious plans for a community-driven, economically sustainable cultural hub, building a new creative future for an ancient craft inspired by York’s extraordinary history of print.
By then, we had already created a superbly well-equipped printing workshop, packed with historic equipment, and were about to enter our soft launch phase, recruiting members, running workshops, away days and events and building our team.
We had come a long way since our humble beginnings in 2017, when we launched Thin Ice Press, an on-campus research and teaching facility designed to preserve and re-energise the heritage craft of letterpress printing.
But what does old-fashioned printing have to do with the Radix Big Tent? How did we get from the age of Gutenberg to the era of Dragon’s Den? Surely the two could not be further apart. After all, Radix aims to use contemporary ideas and technologies to reimagine the way our institutions function, not to turn back to the inventions of past ages.
It turns out, though, that the history of printing has a lot in common with Radix’s guiding principles. Since its invention in or around 1450, printing has contributed to the rapid spread of ideas. It has been used to challenge received wisdom, provoke people out of complacency, and proliferate ideas of what a good life could look like and how it can be achieved.
The Radix ambition to create a functioning model of open-source, participatory citizenship is inspired by the possibilities of the digital age, but it relies on principles of literacy, autodidacticism, democracy and debate that are themselves products of print.
Like the Radix Big Tent, our vision at Thin Ice Press: the York Centre for Print is both local and international. We believe we have something important to contribute to the theme of ‘Cohesive Capitalism’, and what Barry Cooper describes as ‘the organic growth of localism’.
We’re fighting against the death of an endangered craft, and the end of a vastly influential heritage of traditional knowledge and skill. But we’re also here to build something new: to create a haven where people with any level of experience or ability can get together as active participants, enriching their lives, and the lives of those around them, through hands-on, physical work.
Like Radix, our aim is to rediscover community, and to give people new (old) tools to take charge of their own destinies.
‘How did the pitch go?’, you ask. It went very well. There was huge enthusiasm for our vision of an inclusive, vibrant, creative centre: a member’s workshop, gallery, and museum in one. And there was real excitement about the difference Thin Ice Press: the York Centre for Print can make, both to York and more widely.
But the angel investors set us a challenge. Rather than bidding for venture capital, they pushed us to build the support we need through crowdfunding, proving that old-fashioned printing can inspire a community of new supporters.
Our next step is to raise £30,000 to move our heavy, specialist equipment into an amazing historic venue, creating a superb, newly-refurbished space for our activities, members and visitors, and allowing the Centre to thrive for the long term.
Please donate, if you can, and spread the word. The Big Tent audience embraced our vision. We hope you will too.
To find out more about membership, events and workshops, please visit www.thinicepress.org or follow @thinicepress on Instagram or X. Or our fundraiser here: https://yustart.hubbub.net/p/Heritage-Print-York/