Party political leaflets ,circulars and flyers by the thousand are now pouring off the digital presses at Penarth’s only major printing company as fresh batches of election literature are being produced ready to distribute around the town ahead of the May 4th local elections .
For Penarth’s largest – in fact, only – full-range printing company, Beacon Printers, the election has brought-in extra work from most of the political parties including the Independents, Greens, Plaid Cymru, Labour and Conservatives .
Beacon’s specialist computer controlled digital printing equipment is so sophisticated it’s able to produce individually-addressed full colour leaflets for every registered voter in the town .
The printing firm’s roots go back to 1880 when it was based in Hickman Road and was later run by one of Penarth’s first female entrepreneurs Emily Matilda Harries of Railway Terrace.
The founder of the present firm – Fred Beacon had served his printing apprenticehip with Ms Harris before the war, but joined the RAF in 1942 at the age of 18 and served for 3 years as a Spitfire pilot with the 607 (County of Durham) Squadron.
After war service he returned to Penarth and bought-out the original printing business (which possessed just one manually operated printing press) – from Ms Harris and renamed it as Beacon Printers.
In its first year – 1946 – the firm turned over just £390 but by the time he retired in 1988 Fred Beacon had made it a thriving business with a staff of more than 20 .
The company is now run by partners Peter Legg and Dave Stafford (who was recruited as an apprentice by Fred Beacon) – along with a team of busy and dedicated staff who can produce everything from a wedding invitations to full-colour illustrated books of the highest quality.
Despite the plethora of computer-controlled equipment now installed at the Cornerswell Road premises, the firm has held on to the last of its 4 traditional 1963-vintage German Heidelberg letterpress machines – not only because it’s part of the company’s heritage, but because it still delivers outstanding quality.
The size of the financial investment made in new electronic equipment in the firm however is eyewatering.Some of the modern litho colour presses at the Beacon Printers – like the Presstek 34DI – cost well over a quarter of a million pounds apiece.
They’re capable of taking-on just about any kind of printing commission – including full colour glossy book publication – and are so green they don’t use any of the harsh chemicals which older machines need.
Whilst retail shoppers are being urged to “shop in Penarth”, Beacon directors would like to make sure that local customers also “print in Penarth“.
They were disappointed to find that they hadn’t even been invited by the Labour Party to quote for some of the election leaflets that the party had contracted to have printed in Barry – even though the literature was for distribution in the Cornerswell Ward of Penarth – where Beacon Printers is actually based .
There’s also a bit of a black mark for Penarth resident and Labour South Wales Police Commissioner Alun Michael, whose force commissioned 47,000 leaflets to be printed in Sheffield rather than in Penarth. Beacon would have liked to have tendered for that business too.
The Labour Party did however commission Beacon to print its latest batch of Penarth Town Council election literature in Penarth – which were coming off its presses today.
Beacon Printers has a strong reputation for the quality of its commercial work – and holds a long-running contract with the Principality Building Society to fulfil all its printing requirements in Wales.
The firm also offers customers a much-appreciated facility for storing printed material on site – so that it can be produced economically in a large print run and held for distribution as and when required.
Beacon Printers is now one of the most capital-intensive and high-tech enterprises in Penarth, indeed anywhere in the Vale – something about which its founder, Fred Beacon, would have been justifiably proud.
Fred Beacon died in 2012 at the age of 88. He was a lifetime member of both the Penarth RAFA Club and the Penarth Branch of the Royal British Legion .Like his RAF comrade-in-arms and fellow Penarthian, Wing Cdr Guy Gibson – he was a member of Glamorganshire Golf Club .
In Beacon Printers, the legacy of Fred Beacon’s hard work, drive and attention to detail lives on.