At a ceremony in early November at the Guild Hall in London, Priest was made a freeman of the City of London following a nomination by the Stationers’ Company. His history in print extends back through his father and grandfather, and Priest’s own work as co-founder of Southend-based Solopress was highly commended.
While a largely ceremonial commendation, Priest said he hopes to use his new status as a way to work closely with the Stationers’ and to drive a focus on apprenticeships and recruitment within the print industry.
He said: “This is a personal achievement for me and I am very proud of the good news.
“While it will not be used to advantage my business, it has meant I have put my name forward for a number of Stationers’ committees to work on projects. I currently work four days a week at Solopress and would look to dedicate my fifth to the livery company.
“Apprenticeships is where I came from and I think it has been neglected in recent years – if we don’t look after it and put in some oversight now, we will not have any new blood in the sector. My energy will be focused on that and I would like to work with the Stationers’ and the BPIF to help.”
Priest said there were also plans at Solopress for the establishment of an apprenticeship academy, saying “if we do not embrace this now, we never will”.
Earlier this year, Solopress invested £2m in new equipment including a Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75 with Inpress colour control, a Mark III Horizon StitchLiner, HT-30C three-side trimmer and two VAC collators alongside the acquisition of a new office unit to run alongside its two production facilities.
The £24m-turnover online print firm now employs around 290 members of staff and its three-unit floorspace covers around 7,000sqm.
Priest joins a clutch of print figureheads recently awarded the Freedom of the City, with the honour having gone to BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold in February and CyanX managing director Richard Mawson in May.