Lightboxes and Lettering: the importance of east London’s print industry celebrated in new National Lottery-funded exhibition

he Malvern Press, Dalston Lane, dates as on photos, courtesy of Les and Peter Wynn


Lightboxes and Lettering | 17 January – 29 March 2020 at the Nunnery Gallery E3

A new exhibition at Bow’s Nunnery Gallery is set to celebrate the fascinating and important history of the print industry in east London.

Lightboxes and Lettering by Rendezvous Projects is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the show tells the story of the ever-changing face of the print industry throughout the 20th century. The show focuses on printers in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest, giving the public a chance to view historic photographs and printed items, many of which have never been seen before.

The exhibition collects images of iconic east London print shop fronts, factory floors and machinery alongside print workers’ memories, which are told through a new collection of oral histories. These oral histories were collected by the Rendezvous Projects team alongside a number of enthusiastic local volunteers, who also received free training in interviewing techniques and the collection of oral histories.

Lightboxes and Lettering utilises archive material and newly discovered items from print companies, co-ops and radical presses across east London. The absorbing exhibition documents changes in the print industry throughout the 20th century, exploring the important role east London played and the influences of new and digital technologies.

Forgotten, often intricate techniques are celebrated, with beautiful examples of print on display, which include booklets, catalogues, packaging and colourful posters that advertise anything from political events to music nights across east London. There is also a selection of prints and publications made by local participants in workshops that Rendezvous Projects ran to demonstrate the techniques and equipment of the past.

“The print trade is such a rich part of east London’s industrial history,” says Lucy Harrison, Project Leader. “The technology of print, design aspects and the finished products all provide a fascinating insight into the evolution of the print industry in the area, from closed-shop union print-works to radical presses and commercial, artists’ or community print shops.”

Presented in the heart of the East End, the show will run at Bow Arts’ Nunnery Gallery, opposite Bow Church from 17 January to 29 March 2020. The organisers hope that this will attract many former-print workers and art lovers to view the work and reflect on this slice of our capital’s history. The exhibition is aimed at anyone with an enthusiasm for print, design or local history, although it should also attract those with interest in photography, trades union history or the changing face of east London.

“It is important that the history of the print industry in east London is recognised and recorded,” says Peter Wynn, a former-owner of the Malvern Press, which operated in Dalston from 1953 to 2003. “The advent of the printed word in England in the 15th century saw London become a major centre of print. Due to its proximity to The City, its commercial heart, East London provided a base for printers to supply products and services that supported its rapid growth and, to some extent, still does.”

For further information please visit

Get in touch

If you, or someone you know needs support, or you’d like to know more about our free, confidential helpline, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

To find out more give us a call on 01293 542 820
or click the button below.

Stay up-to-date

Sign up for news and updates straight to your inbox.

Your information is safe with us and will not be passed on to any third parties.