Page Break, 1–10 September 2016

MSL Digital collaborated with Dublin + Holland to offer a short season of films, talks, demonstrations and workshops to celebrate the history, people and trades of the Hastings publishing company FJ Parsons – publishers of the Observer newspapers. We wanted to celebrate both the past of the buildings and their new life; to explore the tension between digital and other creative media, and the historic era of print and the graphical trades of the past; and to debate the relevance of the old to the new industries.

For more information go to the Page Break website or #pagebreakhastings.

Taking place over two weekends in and around the iconic Printworks (Claremont), Hastings Museum (Bohemia Road) and Rock House (Cambridge Road) Page Break celebrated the old graphical trades’ skills and the people who practised them with a series of events ranging from demonstrations of an old mechanical letterpress, fanzine, illustration and photographic workshops, to exhibitions, film footage and a live streamed panel discussion suitable for all ages. The audience was encouraged to join in and experience these skills for themselves as they were practised long before everything was done on a computer.  All the events were free and family friendly. Participants were able to log onto the Page Break website using our free WiFi during their visit to see more and enter a free prize draw by answering a few simple questions.

These buildings were once the print and publishing centre of Hastings. Employing almost 1,000 people across the company, Parsons was one of the biggest employers of its time and a key part of the gentrification of Hastings. At a time when a ‘job for life’ was a normal occurrence with long apprenticeships and learned trades, working at FJ Parsons was aspirational and meant being part of a real occupational community.

Page Break explored how printing helped to form utopian visions of the future by allowing the artists and writers of the Enlightenment to express and disseminate those aspirations that led to universal suffrage, the abolition of slavery and other world-changing ideas. We ask how that compares to today’s increasingly controlled and filtered on line publishing world where use of the wrong word or phrase can lead to censorship, surveillance or worse. The events asked what roles these old skills have in today’s digital world and explored how and why they are being revived and how the methods of the past can still have relevance today.

Page Break was produced by MSL and Dublin + Holland, and funded by Arts Council England.

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