Surely one of Greater Manchester’s oldest social enterprises, MARC the printers was founded in 1975 and was registered as an Industrial & Provident Society in 1980 – the term social enterprise wasn’t in general usage back then. Manchester Area Resource Centre, its legally-correct name, initially offered a range of community development and support services but soon came to specialise in do-it-yourself design and print facilities for use by local community groups. This was back in the good old days when there were no personal computers, mobile phones, email or social media. Buying an electric typewriter, stencil cutter and duplicator wasn’t a realistic option for many community organisations and campaigning groups, so the shared resources offered by MARC were extremely popular.
MARC had a mixture of funding, from both local and central government, for many years. This paid for staff wages and rent of premises, but MARC always traded to raise funds for new equipment. This revenue funding ceased around twenty years ago and, whilst receiving the occasional grant for IT equipment or a short-term project, MARC took the decision to try and become self-financing. This meant taking on work from individuals and companies, rather than just community groups, and doing print jobs for people as well as our traditional DIY option (still available to voluntary organisations).
So what makes MARC different from any other printer?
We are a community-owned company. We do have shareholders (they are all local community groups) but they don’t get paid any dividends. Any money earned goes back into the business.
We’re green! We still use our venerable Risograph machines to produce prints with soya-based ink. This printing process is very popular with artists who trust us to lovingly recreate their work. Even if our customers want full colour laser prints, we can still do this on recycled paper – our speciality for many years.
We are real printers who put ink onto paper – we’re not an agency which sends work to other printers – and we’re not like internet printers who just run off whatever you send them. If we see an obvious error in your design we let you know and work with you to put things right. Our staff members have a wide range of experience and a lot of it – and we pay them more than the living wage.
We’re local – well, local to Salford and Manchester, obviously!
Since 1975 MARC has occupied various premises in central Manchester, with the last two decades spent in the Norther Quarter. Last year, rising rents in the gentrified NQ led to us moving to our present home in Salford. It was gratifying to find so much support in our hour of need from other like-minded organisations. Without the backing of Islington Mill and Unicorn Grocery Co-op we wouldn’t be here today.
Here in Salford, we are part of a community of similar-minded organisations and, in many ways, closer to MARC’s roots. We are keen to develop work with our new local community and run more training workshops. We haven’t lost touch with our origins and are looking forward to continuing our work for many years to come.
MARC the printers, Unit 5, Regent Trading Estate, Salford M5 4DE