Telling the Story of an Iconic Building

I’ve just begun a piece of work with Leeds City College. There are a number of strands to it, more of the others later. This post is about the work we are doing on Printworks.

We are building to the full launch of the Printworks campus which will take place in August of this year. Printworks is a state-of-the-art campus housed in the former Alf Cooke Printworks in Hunslet. It is a building which has a rich history, including being the place where the first colour playing cards were produced, and for years, it was acknowledged as the world’s leading producer of cards. Printworks is an iconic building to the people of Hunslet and to the wider community in Leeds, and is important to many who came in contact with it as employees, customers or contractors.

On the launch day in August, we’ll be live streaming and flooding social media with the exciting activities taking place (more of which later), but, between now and then, we are seeking to engage with the local community and the former workforce of of the print company, to build a living history of the building and its place in the community and the economy of Leeds.

We’ve already made a start on this, as Raychel McGuin, the college’s Marketing Manager has made contact with a number of former workers at the works, and we met with them last week to kick things off. We are now working to form a Friends of Printworks group whose role will be to engage with the community and help us build an historical record of the building. So, we are asking the following:

  • Would you like to be part of the Friends of Printworks group?
  • Do you have any historical items / artefacts associated with the building or with Alf Cooke?
  • Do you have any stories to share about something that happened in the building or while working for or doing business with the Printworks?
  • Do you have any photos of the window of St. Jude’s Church which was incorporated into the building in the 1950s?

We’ve already heard some great stories from the people we’ve engaged with, including

  • The employee who used to run his car on printing fluid;
  • The workers who brought their own coal in from home to fuel fires in the building;
  • Fights on the shop floor; and
  • The women who worked assembling munitions on the balconies during the Second World War.

The Alf Cooke company was known to be generous to its workforce, sponsoring annual racing and fishing trips, and running a number of sports teams including rugby and cricket teams. There must be thousands of people with some kind of connection to the building, and we’d love to hear your stories.

If you have anything to say about Printworks, or want to get involved in the friends group, please get in touch.

Former Printworks employees John Tonks, Norman Raddings, and Denis Smith

Day Two of (unofficial) Yorkshire Social Media Week

Leeds Social Media Surgery 2nd Feb 10

Just back from Leeds Social Media Surgery, the second of three Yorkshire Social Media Surgeries this week. It was quieter than Huddersfield on Monday, but the snow and ice may have been a factor.

Nevertheless, as usual at Social Media Surgeries, the conversations were uplifting and inspiring. I feel privileged to be experiencing these feelings on a regular basis.

Leeds Social Media Surgery 2nd Feb 10

We have plans to increase attendance at Leeds SMS, by gaining access to offline channels which have been denied us to date. Watch this space for news.

And so, it is on to Sheffield on Wednesday for the third consecutive Yorkshire surgery.

An Exciting Week for Social Media in Yorkshire

Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery -1st Anniversary

At the end of my presentation at last year’s National Digital Inclusion Conference I said that we were aiming to make Yorkshire & the Humber the “Social Media Region”. I think quite a few in the audience realised that I hadn’t really thought through the path to this objective at the time. However, I think we may now be well on the road, as this week sees Social Media Surgeries in three of our major conurbations on consecutive nights.

Huddersfield Social Media Surgery is on Monday 1st February, Leeds SMS on Tuesday 2nd, and Sheffield on Wednesday 3rd. With the second York SMS imminent, and plans in train for surgeries in Hull, Grimsby, Barnsley and Hebden Bridge, the idea spawned in Birmingham by the amazing Nick Booth and Pete Ashton is taking root around Yorkshire & the Humber.

It promises to be an exhausting week for those of use involved in all three of this week’s Surgeries, but the cumulative satisfied glow that always follows a successful event will make it all well worthwhile.

O’Reilly Ignite UK North

Yorkshire & the Humber achieved another first on Thursday 22nd January when O’Reilly Media brought its Ignite concept to the UK. Ignite events have been popular for some time in the USA. They comprise a series of quick-fire “lightning talks”, mainly, but not exclusively, on technology-related subjects. An enthusiastic audience of more than 100, drawn from across the north of England, gathered at Old Broadcasting House in Leeds, in an atmosphere at times resonant of a revivalist meeting, to hear 18 different speakers deliver their message in five minutes, using 20 PowerPoint slides which advanced automatically.

Prior to the event, this sounded like a major challenge for the speakers, but all not only managed to keep to their allotted time, and synchronise with their automated slide show, they also succeeded in getting some powerful messages across. All the presentations were rapturously received by an audience clearly excited to be present at this UK first. After a welcome to Old Broadcasting House from Linda Broughton, Head of the NTI; and an introduction to the event from O’Reilly’s Craig Smith; Katie Lips of Kisky Netmedia got the presentations off to a strong start by outlining the development of the CoffeeBuzz application as an example of the process of developing iPhone applications.

Katie Lips

Katie Lips

Jeff Allen enthralled the audience with tales of the inspiring ICT initiatives which had been supported or witnessed by Medecins San Frontieres in Africa, providing proof that such technologies have a vital role to play in community and economic development. Tim Panton of wanted to highlight the importance of voice communication in new technologies. He took time out to remind us that the iPhone can make telephone calls too, and talked about how to use smartphones to direct voice callers to online content. Michael Sparks of BBC Research urged the techies to use code to make the web fun. Dean Vipond used his five minutes to take us on a quest for Perfection in Design, and he was followed by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino who gave an interesting tour of some hardware hacking techniques designed to encourage creativity in tool development. Ian Pringle made everybody think by raising the issue of digital inheritance. What are we doing to safeguard digital assets for the future, and do we need to appoint a digital next-of-kin? Dominic Hodgson played to the crowd while expounding his views on the Future of Search, and its use to develop location-aware, personalised services.

Dominic The Hodge Hodgson

Dominic "The Hodge" Hodgson

Winding up the first half of the evening, Ed French gave a very useful overview of the role of the Venture Capitalist in new technology start up businesses. The message is “get in early” the deal always takes longer than you think it will.

A half-way break was very necessary to allow everyone to draw breath, and the excited chatter suggested that most were taking full advantage of the opportunities for networking.

The second half of the event got off to a storming start, with Tom Scott giving an entertaining, and very funny, romp through his life as described in twenty graphs. Stuart Childs and Richard Garside then demonstrated their Friispray digital graffiti system developed by hacking the Wii remote. Katie Brown of Information for Mental Health gave an interesting insight into the role of social media in helping people to recover from mental health problems. Arturo Servin showed us how machines make decisions using artificial intelligence. There were some puzzled looks as Glenn Smith started his presentation with a number of slides showing bottoms of various shapes and sizes. This led him to an explanation of the process of automating design, which he argued, had driven designers to become more creative to keep their jobs. And, with the basic principles of design automated, a number of innovations in design have resulted from designers being able to give their attention to other aspects of the process.

Glenn Smith

Glenn Smith

Guy Dickinson spared us the prospect of lots of maps of a large Berkshire town as he began his talk on the Future of Reading. He considered eBooks to be a short-lived phenomenon, and thought that “pulp fiction” was here to stay in printed form as it can be read in the bathroom. He told us that most non-fiction reading in the future would take place on mobile phone screens. Philip Hemsted gave a thought-provoking talk on Psycho teams and the theory of mind. His point that high performing teams gel and understand each other’s mindsets, was illustrated by reference to the Clangers who demonstrated teamwork at its best. James Boardwell then gave us a tour around the Politics of Patterns. Rounding off the presentations was Ian Forrester who told us that Twitter was about to get very sexy! He outlined a new dating service he wanted to develop using the increasingly fashionable short message networking service.

The audience response suggested that the evening had been a resounding success, and, as everyone decamped to the upstairs room of the Fenton pub across the road from Old Broadcasting House, most people were agreed that this had to be the first of many such events.

That other kind of networking

That other kind of networking

The videos of all the speakers have now been posted by Imran Ali here: