Artist Sumuyya Khader hopes to offer a new space for Northern creatives to experiment, socialise, and make their art with an affordable, community-led printing press and studio
Situated on the cusp of Liverpool’s city centre is Granby, a multicultural, working-class area known most commonly as the site of the 1981 race riots. Decades of dereliction and institutional abandonment have made it one of the most deprived places in the UK, with 62 per cent of the children in Toxteth living below the poverty line. Despite this, the Granby creative community is thriving.
“Granby is underrepresented and underfunded as a whole, yet it’s filled with incredible activists, artists, musicians, and writers,” explains Sumuyya Khader, a Liverpool-based artist and the founder of Granby Press, a community-led risograph printing press. For Khader, the aim is to build an affordable space for creativity, where members of the community can join together and engage with each other through the medium of art, while also providing a hands-on way of communicating local events and activities within the neighbourhood through zines, community newsletters, and flyers.
Central to this is giving Granby’s diverse neighbourhood a platform to share their own unique stories, removed from traditional news outlets that aren’t representative to all. Khader hopes that by having the freedom to test out ideas, and choosing what’s being put out into the world, local creatives will be empowered to experiment, socialise, and grow together as a community.
Below, we speak to Khader about founding Granby Press, giving marginalised groups a platform to share their stories, and why print isn’t dead.
What made you want to start a printing press?
Sumuyya Khader: I’m a big fan of print and, as an artist, it’s my favourite medium to work in. I’ve enjoyed learning how to risograph print for over five years. I had a machine for a short period of time, but it eventually broke, and I’ve been unable to afford a replacement since.
Every time I’ve mentioned starting a press, the response in Liverpool has always been amazing. People are keen to find new ways to communicate and engage with each other – printing provides that. Digital is an incredible resource and a way to quickly communicate and share ideas. But the more longform approach to print – designing a layout, choosing paper, ink colours – as well as the physical print process, has a more enjoyable interaction for me, personally. The fact that things can misprint allows for flexibility and a bit of surprise.
What are the benefits of having an independent printing press in Granby specifically?
Sumuyya Khader: It’s vital that print remains, and evolves, within communities as not everyone has or wants access to social media, and news outlets aren’t fully representative to everyone. We’ve seen an influx of independent news outlets that directly speak to people and share a more open narrative that engages in dialogue rather than tearing people down.
The idea of merging imagery and text is always a great way to communicate local events and activities. I’m also incredibly lucky to live in an area that has multiple languages and dialects so imagery plays an important role in facilitating communication so it is accessible to all.
“It’s vital that print remains, and evolves, within communities as not everyone has or wants access to social media, and news outlets aren’t fully representative to everyone” – Sumuyya Khader
What about community-led printing presses more generally?
Sumuyya Khader: I think that for a lot of us, creativity happens as a hobby or passion outside of our regular 9-5 work life. It requires extra effort but it’s equally as important. It means that most of the time you’re self funding your creative practice, which I’ve found to be difficult.
Funding streams have been cut and art circles are often tightly woven together, making them hard to engage with. It’s vital that artists can print and share their work and ideas. Granby is underrepresented and underfunded as a whole, yet it’s filled with incredible activists, artists, musicians, and writers.
Why is it important to have an affordable outlet for creativity in the current social context?
Sumuyya Khader: It offers a direct way to make and sell – write a short story, collaborate with an illustrator, print a short run via a eco and environmentally friendly way, and then sell that edition.
Disposable incomes are fleeting but art is incredibly important and vital, especially in communities that are underfunded and repeatedly left out on the fringes. That means not only physically seeing art, but also learning about different forms of art and creativity. It’s literature, visual arts, theatre, music! It’s also having the freedom to be able to test things out – to print your own zine, filled with your words, and share your story.
The exciting thing, for me, is being able to collaborate with other people. There’s so much value in being able to openly work with us and draw on multiple ideas and approaches. There’s also huge value in community-owned businesses. Although I’m setting this up as an individual, I hope it will naturally evolve into some of the longer term goals and can open doors and show people you can make and own it.
What sort of projects do you have lined up once the risograph is up and running?
Sumuyya Khader: Things that are currently lined up include collaborating with community projects both in Granby and in the wider Liverpool area. Also printing some artist editions and, when safe to do so, holding a little social print gathering in Liverpool.
There’s a potential community newspaper that would be circulated bi-monthly, highlighting both the social, political, and creative aspects of the Granby area, and holding an open submission for organisations, writers, and artists. I’m hoping to offer a print service, either for the publication as a whole, or to create a special artwork or written piece by a member of the Granby area that’ll be included in every edition.
“We’re highly underrepresented in every avenue but people are out there doing the work and it’s important people see themselves reflected not only in museums, but also in their area. To know they are valued, creativity is possible: it can and should be accessible” – Sumuyya Khader
Also, printing poster editions for local bands and recipe zines for community groups. I’m hoping to reach out to a few organisations about printing short stories. Writing on the Wall Liverpool, for example, has an amazing program for aspiring writers and it’d be incredible to help print their works.
What are your longer term goals?
Sumuyya Khader: A longer term goal is to establish a Black Cultural Centre in L8, Liverpool. We have one of the oldest Black communities in the country, and while we do have the International Slavery Museum – which is a crucial and vital part of the city – we don’t have a place that truly celebrates and educates our past, present, and future.
We’re highly underrepresented in every avenue but people are out there doing the work and it’s important people see themselves reflected not only in museums, but also in their area. To know they are valued, creativity is possible: it can and should be accessible.
I’m hoping to start with regular book swaps and eventually try to set up a bookshop within the Granby area that will be a fluid open and receptive space that people feel they can inhabit; somewhere that stocks a diverse range of books/zines that’s inclusive to local writers; a space to find PDFs or an archive of artists/materials/catalogues and interviews; a space for people to meet and discuss safely; a place to invite in others – authors, poets, artists; resources for local communities, such as a notice board, migrant help, and flyers.