top of page


Tony Thorley, 82, reflects on his journey from perplexity when first visiting Fourth Portal to having a double-page spread on his papermaking experience printed in the Versatility of Paper newspaper.

Tony Thorley, top, and bottom, Tony with Fourth Portal print artist in residence, Dawn Cole and Chris, former worker at Imperial Paper Mills.

Tony, in his own words.

"Some thoughts on an experience of "The Fourth Portal" in action.

Being involved in the Fourth Portal (Gravesend) paper project and the launch of the newspaper has, on a personal level, Quite apart from the joy of meeting an old colleague, reignited my passion for paper and its manufacture. A material with a myriad of uses both practical and artistic.

Having devoted most of my working life to industrial paper making this project has given me permission to extend a passion into the artistic sphere by meeting artists working in many mediums, but all having paper within their work, whether that be as substrate for other materials or as a main entity to be fashioned into works of art.

It has also given rise to a more critical thought process around community and society and how the various relationships work in order to create a better understanding, which may be of benefit to communities like Gravesend.

However you view communities and the wider society thus formed, whether it be a close community whose members share a particular interest, artists, photographers etc. or a looser form as members living in a street or town, for that society to grow and prosper it is necessary for there to be opportunities for meeting, to learn from each other and in collaboration to innovate.

The perceived necessity for structure and management within and of the society inevitably leads to the creation of hierarchies and the formation of elites. Which, human nature being what it is, makes communal and societal development much more difficult than it needs to be.

The Fourth Portal's new type of gathering space introducing café culture, social retail and access to retro, new and advanced technologies create a more organic and stress-free way for a society to come together and grow.

Daughter Theresa with Tony in the Fourth Portal, 22 December 2023

Industrial Papermaking may be a thing of the past for Gravesend but knowledge and experiences of that past will bring people together. Extending that process into other areas of the past will have the possible cumulative effect of bringing the whole community together. This coupled with the facility to explore new technologies innovative ideas can be fostered giving the possibility of real regeneration." (Tony Thorley, December 2023).

Intergenerational congregation

AI and other technologies are, in general, all but tools for humans to apply or ignore as they choose. One of the first things an apprentice woodworker learns from the Master is how to hit a nail with a hammer. The transformation of knowledge into wisdom is a long process and not all about systems and processes.

At the heart of the Fourth Portal is creating gathering spaces that appeal to the very youngest and eldest in society and all generations in between that stimulate interaction without effort. Tony's words here provide early evidence of how the Fourth Portal brings people together and for knowledge to transfer from one to another. As the Fourth Portal grows and establishes itself, the opportunities expand for new ideas to emerge from dormant thoughts, materials and processes.

John M

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page