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Posted 28.11.18


By Katherine Peberdy

Alan Qualtrough | Image © Taylor Harford

Alan Qualtrough, a retired journalist and editor, wanted to explore developing a visual language to compliment his expertise in the written language.

We believe that high-quality education for life in contemporary arts practice is the creative catalyst for personal, professional and cultural transformation, and our manifesto includes ten propositions, written by our Principal, Professor Andrew Brewerton, that added to the themes of CREATIVE LEARNING and SOCIAL JUSTICE, define our strategic plans for the future. For our new campaign, we invited thirteen current students, recent graduates and alumni to contribute their own propositions.

Choosing to study BA (Hons) Graphic Design & MA Visual Communication at Plymouth College of Art was influenced by the value Alan saw in an institution that prioritises making, learning and creating in a collaborative creative community. We chat to him about his proposition and his passion for letterpress...

Tell us about yourself.
More than 50 years ago I was an apprentice in the printing industry, setting type. At my local newspaper I used to make up the pages in metal, then in the mid 80’s the first photographic revolution came in, and hot metal was abandoned so I retrained as a journalist.

During a tour of the college facilities, I saw the large print room full of letterpress equipment, and I thought to myself this is going to be great. I have seen letterpress in its renaissance, and it’s a fantastic way to express yourself.

Alan hosts a letterpress workshop at the annual Port Eliot Festival.

After my undergraduate degree at the college, I decided I wanted to do an MA focussed on my interest in letterpress which I’d built up a bit of a practice around. I’m interested in communication theory and what it means to move from a print-based culture to an image-based culture, there have been big changes in how we communicate as a society with the rise of social media. If you get hold of language and assemble it in front of you, does that give you better engagement? I want to explore whether the traditional craft of letterpress can be used to interrogate truth in the production and conception of social media.

Tell us about your proposition.
I want to empower communities through critical language. Using my skills in language along with my technical and communication skills, putting these together to help people understand what we’re facing especially when it comes to issues around democratic choice. I want to empower them to stand on their own, and protest.

Proposition by Alan Qualtrough

What’s it like studying at the college?
I studied for my MA in Visual Communications with fellow students from a dozen different disciplines, from photography to ceramics; and we all had something in common, a love of making. I wanted to be in a place where the whole message is about making and creating. You are allowed to be an individual in the college, you are just you.

Industry contacts also come as part of the package study at Plymouth College of Art. The college is very open with all of their connections and if you take advantage of them you can’t go wrong, just a few months ago I was exhibiting my work at the Tate in London. 

At our highly anticipated Masters Show, Alan exhibited his work 'CRYPSIS . MIMESIS'

What would be your advice for those looking to get into the creative industry?
People are getting tired of the same look and the same definition of art and beauty. The biggest challenge, and the biggest opportunity, is to be able to use your creativity to not be someone else’s clone, mould yourself in your own fashion.

What’s next for you?
I have a studio and a nice press, so I’m going to do my own stuff for a few months, and then I’m going to think about how I can develop all of this into a programme and take it into art schools.  

Follow Alan on Instagram @alanqualtrough

Speak up and create your proposition.
Draw or write yours at