"There used to be a tradition in Fleet Street newspapers called "banging out". It involved an employee, on the day he retired after a life-time's stalwart service to his chosen rag, being walked by his colleagues through the presses in the print room. As he wandered towards his rendezvous with a carriage clock, the printers serenaded him by whacking the metal benches with their hammers, beating out a ceremonial slow-march to mark his departure."
Banging out also occured when apprentices passed out and when Fleet Street presses were shut down and moved to Wapping and Westferry in the 1980s.
digital:works is working with two primary schools near Fleet Street to chart the history of printing in the area from around 1500, when William Caxton's apprentice set up a printing shop in Shoe Lane, until the digital revolution saw presses move east to Wapping and elsewhere in the 1980s and 90s. This project puts former print workers at the forefront of this history and allows them to tell their story in their own words.
The children will work with Westminster Archives and St Bride Lbrary to study the history of that period and then conduct oral history filmed interviews with former print workers from Fleet Street. They will also produce some historical and creative writing for a booklet and exhibition.
A documentary film based on these oral history interviews will be launched at St Brides in the summer of 2014. The film will also form part of an exhibition which, along with the children's writing, will be shown at libraries and archives around London as well as in schools. This website will host the young people's work including some interview extracts they have undertaken, their final edited film and their writing, both historical and creative. There is also a blog which follows the progress of the project.