It initially started by accident...

It initially started by accident...

13 September 2016

Following a successful first UK appearance in London last November, the 10th edition of Dublin’s Creative Festival OFFSET will be taking place in Sheffield on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 October 2016 at the Crucible Theatre. To celebrate this event, and the city’s fantastic creative start-ups, we will be hearing from Sheffield businesses.

Interview with Sarah Christie from The Edge of the Universe Printing Press.

The Edge of the Universe Printing Press is a social enterprise in Sheffield which offers open and accessible writing, publishing, and printing workshops and services. Their core focus is on inclusivity, accessibility, and education, working closely with a variety of organisations including schools, universities, community groups, and charities. Having been running for three years now, the team have moved to Sheffield Print Club, where they will run a variety of workshops, such as screen printing and letterpress, in addition to other printing services – but will continue to travel to the people and communities who need them.  

Could you imagine if one day, as if by magic, your hobby turned into a social enterprise? This never normally happens, but for writer and print maker Sarah Christie, this dream turned into a reality. We ask her how she made that happen.

I'd been creative writing for many years when Roy, who originally started The Edge of the Universe Printing Press, came to me with an idea. He wanted to publish some of his writing and that of members of his local writing group, and wanted to use DIY self-publishing to do it. As I have a background in creative writing I was really excited by this idea, and immediately got on board! After we started publishing our own work it wasn't long before we were asked to do a zine-making workshop at Off the Shelf 2013, one of the UK's largest and most popular literary festivals, which is held in Sheffield. It snow balled from there!

We soon started running screen printing workshops, and we’ve run several drop-in workshops at the Theatre Delicatessen Sheffield, which is on the Moor. We run these sessions on a donations basis to ensure accessibility; we set up in the window, so everyone can see our printing, and have had hundreds of people (families, students and shoppers) call in to have a go themselves.

Roy moved to London in the summer of 2014, and I now co-run The Edge of the Universe Printing Press alongside David Gasi (a graphic designer and printmaker), with lots of help from Jon Orlek (an architect at Studio Polpo) and other friends and volunteers!

In May 2016, a space in Sheffield's cultural quarter became available through Creative Arts Development Space (CADS), as part of a programme called Space CADets. This is one of Sheffield’s accelerator programmes, and is designed to help start-ups by giving them six weeks’ free studio space. The opportunity to occupy this space for free has been instrumental to our social enterprise, as it has allowed us to run our own workshops independently and test our ideas without worrying about paying overheads. From this space we trialled a variety of paid workshops, including letterpress, screen printing and writing/editing workshops. This in turn gave us the confidence to take over Sheffield Print Club, who had been looking for people to take on managing the space. Originally founded by Jane Elliott and Laurence Harborne in 2014, Sheffield Print Club provides open access to screen printing facilities for total beginners and experienced printers, and runs print-making workshops.

We've literally just moved into the Print Club! It's a really exciting opportunity for us as we now have own our permanent space to hold workshops from – and we’ll be hosting our first screen printing workshop at the end of September. Having this space and facilities is fantastic, as we will be able to share it with people who wouldn't otherwise have access to the equipment required for printing and publishing your own work.

We hope to take on more staff once we get more established, and in particular I’m keen to offer internship opportunities. We’re hoping to take on a placement student from the University of Sheffield early next year, who will help us with a variety of publishing and printing projects.

I'm from York originally, but have been in Sheffield for five years now. I find Sheffield to be an amazing place to be doing creative stuff. There's a real sense of collaboration; everyone is so keen to see interesting, creative things happening that it doesn't feel fiercely competitive. Many small businesses here focus primarily on being creative and making a positive community, so it is the ideal place to start up a creative business. By running and attending events we met and were introduced to lots of other makers in the city, and their support has led us to where we are today. We've also received lots of help from places like CADS, and from Ignite Imaginations (an arts organisation encouraging vibrant and creative communities in Sheffield).

If you would like to learn more about the advice and support available in Sheffield for creative start-ups and other services Business Sheffield can provide, please contact  a member of the Business Gateway team on  0114 224 5000.