Monday, February 17, 2014

Toni Savage of Leicester

Agnes Guano is the proprietor of The Downstairs Lounge and scours charity shops for "chewy vinyl nuggets of the very choicest British comedy records" so you don't have to.

But what caught my attention here was not the thought of Bernard Bresslaw as a poet, but the publisher. Who was Toni Savage of Leicester?

The answer can be found in the Incline Press book A Paper Snowstorm: Toni Savage & the Leicester Broadsheets by Rigby Graham and Derek Deadman:
Rigby Graham, whose drew this evocative sketch of Toni Savage, describes Toni's broadsheet production as a 'paper snowstorm' -- his rate of production only matched by his inventiveness and sheer sense of fun. 
A former opera singer, and a folk-club enthusiast, Savage was at the heart of a revival of broadsheet printing in Leicester in the early 1960s. Transfixed by the creative possibilities of letterpress printing, he and his friends produced hundreds of letterpress-printed broadsheets and pamphlets for free distribution to friends and strangers alike in the clubs and streets of Leicestershire. 
Toni's story is a story of the energies and enthusiasms of the sixties, but it is also a case study in the transformation of letterpress printing from its commercial hegemony to its role as a tool of the artist/craftsman that it holds today.
Rigby Graham is a Leicestershire artist who is still active and is one of the people interviewed on An Empty Stage - a DVD about John Piper. (I suspect his own style owes something to Piper's influence.)

I met him when I was 17 or so because he used to come into the secondhand bookshop where I had my Saturday job. On one occasion the proprietor had poured me a tiny whisky, which Rigby Graham said was "just a dirty glass".


Chris Bartram said...

I assisted Toni for several years as "MC" and "resident" singer at the Town Arms Folk Club and, later, at the Barwell Folk Club. I wrote poems and did illustrations for a number of his publications (including some illustrations for a collection of poems by Spike Milligan, who was an old friend of Toni's. Spike decided not to use my illustrations but, somewhere out there, there's a couple of proof copies of my pictures and Spike's poems!) I also designed and made the New Broom colophon which you can see on the Bernard Bresslaw cover.

Mark Foulds said...

Very interesting. I am married to Toni Savage's daughter Zeta and am aware of the influence Toni had on the Leicester Private Press as well as his friendship with Spike Milligan and Bernard Bresslaw. I am interested in any information on Toni's character as I sadly never met him.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thank you both for your comments.

As a lad I had a Saturday job in a second-hand bookshop. We sold private press books, often with Rigby Graham illustrations, but I don't remember coming across Toni in those days.

Terence Sharrott said...

Hi Mark, Toni was my great friend and mentor. I met him around 1968 as a young folk singer and apprentice bookbinder from Hinckley. I would play floor spots at all the local folk clubs. I used to spend many hours at his press in Highfields, Leicester. I bound books and folded handmade paper for his New Broom Press. I particularly remember binding Spike Milligans book and Canticle by Rex Brisland of the Couriers folk group.Also work by Bernard Breslaw and books printed by Duanne Campbell. I still have a large collection of the work and hundreds of Broadsheets. Toni had many contacts on the folk scene and would book us young singers in folk club and concerts around the country. He was a lovely, generous man who could tell many tales. As we worked we would listen to music and chat in the little workshop he shared with Duanne Campbell. I still miss Toni and I am in touch with Atnena.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typo, I meant Athena.