When The Presses Roll

Have you ever heard a printing press running? The PF office is on the third floor of what’s basically a printing facility, with state of the art presses taking up the bulk of the space. And I’ve just come from a corner of the building that’s closer to the press hall and heard them start up…

The first thing you hear is a low hum that gradually increases in pitch as the cylinders turn faster and faster until it reaches a mesmerising steady thrum when it’s all running at full tilt. Such an exciting sound.

When we start working here we’re given a tour so that we can appreciate the whole production process, beginning to end, and I’ve been here so long that the presses have changed almost beyond recognition. When I started “some time” ago, the press hall was a dirty, industrial place. Men in grimy boilersuits, their hands black with ink and oil, oversaw every cylinder, every reel. An overseer kept a watchful eye from his “buckie” – a cubicle at one end, as dirty and noisy as everywhere else.

My first publication was Star Love Stories In Pictures. Remember them, illustrated stories printed in black and white? One of the hands would bring up proofs, literally hot off the press, for checking while the presses were rolling. And there would be black-stained fingerprints where he’d been holding them…

Now the press hall is a clean environment and the control room is like the bridge of a submarine, very high-tech, with computer screens to monitor every nuance of a publication’s press run. It’s cleaner, quieter – and just as exciting as ever.

When we’re sitting at our desks, reading stories, working with writers and computers, it’s easy to forget about the bigger picture, the wonderful industry we – and you – are part of.

Just thought I’d share that thought…


Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.