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The Medway River Lit logo - evolution of a design

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

The logo is handmade, using handwritten serif text rather than a font, to reflect aspects of Medway’s long connection with words and writing.

Go to the top of Rochester Cathedral and you will see carved into the brick centuries old graffiti which has serifs! (Serifs are the small lines which kick out from the main body of the letter. One theory suggests they arose when scribes using brushes or quills left small marks with the writing implement as they finished each stroke. This evolved into deliberately adding smaller strokes in more regular, artful ways, and those decorative strokes became an expected part of the letters.)

The pages fluttering at the top of a pen-nib shape with the River Medway incorporated as the ink slit suggests both reading and writing.

Medway River Lit logo
Carving the logo onto lino

A long history of words and writing

In Rochester Cathedral is one of the most one of the most important of all medieval manuscripts, the ‘Textus Roffensis’. Compiled in the early 1120s, it is actually two books in one, containing a compilation of early English laws, dating as far back as the year 600, and a collection of charters relating to the cathedral priory of St Andrew, Rochester. Its seventh-century Kentish laws are particularly important documents as they are unique to ‘Textus Roffensis’.

Of course, this was a long time before the invention of the printing press, so the ‘Textus Roffensis’ was handwritten, by scribes in the cathedral's scriptorium, who would painstakingly copy the words in Latin in neat handwriting, and also illustrate their manuscripts with rich flourishes such as borders and miniature illustrations. Find out more about the ‘Textus Roffensis’ at Rochester Cathedral.

Charles Dickens and his scruffy handwriting

Medway’s most famous literary inhabitant, Charles Dickens, was a prodigious, if messy, penman. All his book manuscripts were handwritten, before going to the printers to be typeset, and some are quite difficult to decipher. He also invented his own shorthand which he named 'the devil's handwriting'. Dickens lived as a boy in two different houses in Chatham, but was so impacted by his early years in Medway that he returned in later life to live at Gads Hill Place in Higham, and would spend much of his time in Medway till the end of his life. The last sighting of Charles before his death was in The Vines in Rochester on 9 June 1870. You can see examples of his writing in Rochester’s Guildhall Museum, with its Dickens Gallery.

Stuck, stuck, stuck

The handmade look of the logo also harks back to the Medway Poetry scene of the 1970s and ‘80s – when there was a flourishing DIY culture of poets who published their own poetry books and pamphlets, accompanied by their own illustrations. Poets such as Bill Lewis and would (and still do) use lino-printing to produce striking black and white illustrations as a counterpoint to their words. Lino-printing is a technique which has been used in one form or another since the earliest days of printing. During this era, the zine culture in the UK and Medway was also flourishing, with photocopied zines being distributed at the many music gigs also going on in Medway at the time.

River of words

Darrell Hawkins’ illustration with inkblots, pages and the line of the Medway River not only celebrates this long history of Medway’s connection with literature from the Medieval period onwards, but Darrell’s process of using both fine art traditional techniques and cutting edge digital image manipulation, suggests looking forwards. It captures the messy, dynamic rush that writing can be, with the urge to splurge everything out on the page at once.

Abstract image of the Medway river with pages and inkblots
Darrell Hawkins' illustration for Medway River Lit

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