PART TWO: [If you missed Part One click here]
We arrived about 10am to find Michael and his partner Jade and their 19 month old son James waiting outside on a grass strip that separates the building housing the newspaper from a garage next door. Their car was full of that week’s edition waiting to be distributed. The business fronting Hickory Street is now occupied by a Trust promoting an endeavour to set up a new medical centre in town through money left by a past resident – the entrance to the newspaper is along the side and leads directly into the factory or ‘print room’.
For me walking into this building was like going back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when I ran my own letterpress workshop in Bromley, UK. It was not much bigger, about the size of a double garage, yet housed the Heidelberg cylinder, a Heidelberg platen, two Intertypes (one not working), and a composing bench, formes, a small proofing press and guillotine. In the middle of the room a pot belly stove for those cold winter mornings, though as Jade told me the heat from the Intertype’s lead pot was usually sufficient: it was the hot summer months that things became unpleasant inside, the tin roof focusing the sun’s heat even more.
There used to be several people who worked at the paper, assisting with the printing or typesetting but Michael does everything now, his father John having passed away. Everything that is apart from hand-setting the headlines which are done by Jade, who also folds the sheets each week. ‘I’m pretty quick at it,’ she says.
Though he is not a trained journalist Michael does a wonderful job, some of the copy being supplied or himself sourcing it from the internet (such as police reports). He has little time to service the machinery between editions and is having increasing difficulty, he told me, finding suitable supplies of newsprint and ink.
That’s when I realised just how devoted Michael and Jade are to keeping this enterprise continuing week in and week out – not just so that printing enthusiasts like myself can come and swoon over the machinery and raise hallelujahs that letterpress is still surviving. This is their livelihood. During our time the local estate agent dropped in to ask about next week’s ad, while Michael said that many of his regular advertisers know this paper is read from cover to cover each week, unlike its local competitior down the mountain.
So because it is their livelihood I ask that if any of this blog’s readers out there know of spare parts for the Heidelberg Cylinder or sources of ink or someone who can turn around recovering rollers quickly do make contact with Michael and Jade at the Don Dorrigo Gazette. Their email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
And think about taking out an annual subscription! At A$1 a week it’s the best investment you can make in letterpress.