Anarchy in the basement


Anarchy in the basement
Anarchy in the basement
Hidden away off a busy street in Clerkenwell, London is a subterranean print shop called T-Shirt Dave, one of the
last remaining manual screen printers in what was once the beating heart of the capital’s print industry. Images
visited its owner, Dave Brett to talk psychedelic art, Simon Cowell and rude tees at Glastonbury
Pure ps
poster p
lerkenwell, an uber-cool part
of London that’s crowded with
media and design companies and
boasts the highest concentration
of architects in the world, is an area that
has changed hugely over the past 20 years.
The jewellery shops still pack out Hatton
Gardens, scene of last year’s audacious jewellery heist by OAPs, but the litho printers,
type-setters and screen printers that used to
call this area their own have moved on in the
face of an increasingly digital world. Or most
of them, anyway.
Happily, Dave Brett, of T-shirt Dave, is
still screen printing spectacularly coloured
posters and T-shirts in the basement of his
brother’s gallery, Bamalama Posters, on
Leather Lane. The gallery itself is an early
indication of what to expect downstairs in
Dave’s workspace: currently hosting a punk
exhibition, there are five authentic punk Tshirts strung across the room and beautifully
coloured posters covering the walls. Given
many of the garments from the punk era unsurprisingly failed to survive beyond the 70s,
the T-shirts, all owned either by Dave or his
brother John, form an impressive spectacle.
Dave, a 52-year-old from Hackney in east
London, quickly points out various items.
There’s a poster he printed from a picture
by 60s psychedelic artist Nigel Waymouth
There were a lot of Daves at the pub so I
became T-Shirt Dave
and a poster by Ben Eine, the artist who has
worked with Banksy and created the picture
David and Samantha Cameron gave to
Barack Obama: “He’s at Glastonbury at the
moment, painting a wall. I’m printing some
T-shirts that he’s designed for the Big Issue
to be sold at Glastonbury next week,” Dave
The tour continues downstairs with some
skulls on a delicate fabric: “Here’s some
material I’ve printed for Jo Wood, Ronnie
Wood’s (of The Rolling Stones) ex-wife: she
used these for cushions.” A lot of what Dave
prints is used by charities for celebrities to
wear, such as the Save the Children T-shirts
worn by models Kate Moss and Naomi
Campbell and media mogul Simon Cowell,
although for Simon the crew-neck, all-over
printed T-shirt was swapped for a one-off,
more ‘Simonesque’ V-neck tee.
The stories keep coming and make you
want to pull up a chair and listen to Dave for
hours, although this is impossible: he likes to
work hard and party hard, he says, and with
the Glastonbury festival taking place only a
Dave ha
rd at wo
few days after Images’ visit this is the time
for serious amounts hard work. As he has
done for many years he’ll be selling T-shirts
at the festival, although sadly this year the
most gratuitously rude yet hilarious of his
designs won’t be on sale. It’s the festivalgoers’ loss, although he has plans to replace
it with something less obviously profane, but
still easily capable of raising eyebrows.
Even if Dave had time to stop for a chat,
finding a chair to perch on for more than
two seconds without being moved is an
impossibility – every inch of the space is
already being used, and then some. The sixcolour manual Hopkins carousel dominates
the print shop, with brightly coloured screens
still in place from a job Dave was printing for
frozen yoghurt company Snog. Dave says of
the Hopkins press: “Unfortunately it’s all in
imperial measurements so if I want any parts
I have to get them from America, but it’s the
best carousel.”
Orders range from one-offs to 500 pieces
and Dave rarely prints longer run lengths
as beyond 500 he feels his manual set-up

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