Wapping

Wapping

Though I didn’t realise it at the time, whilst I was twiddling my magic markers and wolfing Goblin pies in Ardwick, the consequences of the violent industrial dispute which started in January 1986 would turn my life around. At first it seemed like more miners-style agro, only this time the boys-in-blue were truncheoning the workers in London. But it was a case of ‘out with the old, in with the new’. This was all about ‘new technology’, desk-top publishing which was going to revolutionalise the print and design industry in a way not seen for a hundred years or more. In came the word processors and computers – out went letterpress or ‘hot metal’ – the old trays of metallic and wooden letters that Phil and Tony had let us get our hands dirty with in the Manchester Poly print department. ‘Wapping’ as it was known, was a nasty business, the Murdoch empire, backed by the Thatcher government very sneakily played the electricians union against the print union. 6,000 News International employees went on strike and the dispute trundled on for about a year. Despite the pickets and the protests, not a single issue of any of the Murdoch papers failed to get printed. It began an era of press power which we may only now be seeing coming to an end. Not long after that I remember going to a computer show at the newly-opened G-Mex and eyeing up one of the magic beige-coloured boxes which you could do all your artwork on. It cost about £9,000 which was roughly the same price as a terraced house in Moss Side. Even then I could see how it might turn my chosen trade upside down and banish forever my world of rub-down letraset and cut-and-pasting over the photocopier in the library. The prices tumbled eventually but it was another six or seven years before I got my hands on one. Soon we were all hovering over our Apple Macs and the days of typesetting, grant enlargers, overlays, cow gum and magic markers were truly numbered. A leading figure in the SOGAT 82 print union and the acceptable media face of the dispute was Brenda Dean, now Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde. Her autobiography was called Hot Mettle.

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