Split accidentally sets a World Record

Journal · 13th June 2019

When we built the People Powered Press in 2018 for These Northern Types, we were only aiming to print the biggest fly posters we could display around Leeds.

We wanted to print big posters to amplify local voices and words worth spreading, working with community groups through writing and printing workshops to create prints to be displayed in the heart of the groups’ communities – outdoors and in.

We initially thought we’d create a typeface, get it cut in steel, and print by putting the characters on the floor and rolling over them using an adapted grass-roller. But we were introduced to an engineer called Ian Plant and his Batley-based company JKN OilTools, and Ian had bigger ideas.

Once he and his team had delivered this beautiful piece of engineering, and we’d moved the tonne or so of steel around a couple of times, we started to wonder if we might have something really big on our hands…

Some deep Googling and conversations with other printers failed to turn up any letterpress printing presses obviously bigger than ours, and we approached Guinness to see if we could lay claim to a record.

Given the go-ahead to submit an application, we gathered some friends in our studio on Monday 15 April this year to have the press properly measured and to print some new posters.

NEW GUINNESS WORLD RECORD! | The People Powered Press by Split & JKN OilTools from Split Design on Vimeo.

James Titley, our friendly neighbourhood surveyor from Leeds-based Watts, measured the print area… and after submitting all the film, photography and witness statements of the event to Guinness (sorry for crashing your website, guys!), after what felt like weeks of first-thing-in-the-morning log-ins to our submission portal, suddenly there it was – the confirmation of an entirely accidental world record:

“We are thrilled to inform you that your application for Largest letterpress printing machine has been successful and you are now the Guinness World Records Title Holder!”

And sure – it’s pretty good fun to hold a Guinness World Record. (The eight year old in Oli is very excited!) But we’re hoping that it’s a bit more than that. We hope the record will give the People Powered Press a bit of profile, and draw some attention to the groups, in Leeds and beyond, and their words that we’ll be working to amplify.

Of course, we’re now suffering a bit of GWR anxiety, waiting for the email to come in that starts, “Just heard about your new world record, and I thought I’d better let you know that I’ve got a letterpress printing press…”

But whatever happens, it’s been a fun by-product of a most unexpected and rewarding collaboration… and we don’t think Ian was joking when he told us that if someone claims a bigger one he’d simply extend the People Powered Press.

“Ah, don’t worry – we can extend it here… and add a bigger area here… Just let me know how big you need to go!”

We might need a bigger studio.