Print's support will prevent the historic YMP from reaching the end of its run

It seems that we have come to the end of an era for the YMP as we know it, as the current members of the committee will all be stepping down at the YMP Reunion, being held in Blackpool on 25-27 February 2011.

I doubt this will be the complete end of the organisation and, hopefully, with enough encouragement a new committee will pick up the baton, move it forward and revitalise it in some form or another, if not in its current status.

It is a sad state of affairs and, although many of us would like the YMP to continue, it has proved extremely difficult, on some occasions impossible, to actually persuade, cajole and sometimes even bribe delegates to attend events.

The YMP was established in 1929 as Young Master Printers. It was put together as part of the Federation of Master Printers and Allied Trades of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, founded in 1901. In June 1931, the Federation’s name was changed to the British Federation of Master Printers and in April 1974 it became the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF).

The term master printer has different meanings in letterpress (or any form of commercial printing) and in printmaking. In the commercial context, it simply meant an employing printer, one who was master of others, not one who has mastered the craft – it is not a progression from apprentice to journeyman to master printer. The term journeyman was used for a printer who was sufficiently trained to be considered capable of doing "a day’s work" without supervision. To be a master printer, you had to own the equipment that allowed you take on and train apprentices. This presumed a sufficient level of skill on the equipment.

Print to the letter
The YMP was set up for the sons of the master printers. And, although the initials have remained the same, its meaning has changed to reflect modern times. In fact, it now stands for a number of things – the best example I heard recently was Youth Means Progress; something I agree with and think you will, too.

More important than what its letters stand for, though, is that the YMP exists to help members develop confidence, leadership and organisational skills and gain a wider knowledge of the print industry. Membership is open to anyone who works in printing or a related sector. There are two types of membership, either as a full associate or student member and benefits include structured training programmes, company visits, study tours, business meetings and formal gatherings.

This year was the first time – except for the period during the Second World War – in the organisation’s 82-year history that a National Conference has not been held and while this was mainly down to the economic climate, declining numbers did not help. So we hope that you will show your support and sign up to our last event, a time to share memories and meet up with old friends – you never know when we will be able to do this again.

One of the main benefits of the organisation is the opportunity it provides for networking. Making new contacts with people can not only help your business, it also adds a personal touch. Many of print’s leading figures have been party to the YMP, including many chief executives of successful print firms and a number of former BPIF presidents. Many past members now manage or own their own companies.

There is a feeling of camaraderie when things get tough and it’s good to know that you have a friend at the other end of the phone. They will always give you an honest opinion, without the flannel – how do you put a cost on all that – it’s invaluable and a treasure we don’t want to lose.

There are few places in the UK that can claim to be as iconic as Blackpool, a town that embodies many of those qualities attributed to Lancashire: enjoyment, friendship and honest hard work. It is against this background that our National Conference 2011 will strive to be an occasion to remember – please come and show your support for this fantastic organisation.

Mark Barlow is national chairman at the YMP and head of print and post services at Blackpool council. For more information on the YMP National Conference 2011, click here
• The YMP has been established since 1929, the first chairman being Eric Annandale
• Originally founded as Young Master Printers, the YMP was put together as part of the Federation of Master Printers and Allied Trades of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
• To be a master printer, you had to own the equipment that allowed you take on apprentices and train them for a career in the industry
• The YMP was set up for the sons of these master printers but today membership is open to anyone who works in print. Many leading industry figures have been party to the YMP and many past members now own or manage their own print companies
• The current committee members of the YMP will stand down in February next year and there is, sadly, a possibility that this could mark the end of the organisation
• This year was the first time, except during the Second World War, that no National Conference was held in the history of the YMP
• While so many in the industry would like to see the YMP continue to flourish, tough times economically and waning membership numbers have meant this has proved difficult

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