Phantom Blog

Phantom Blog

Diary of a Billsticker – Seattle and Portland, USA

10 November 2009

I’m writing this on the eve of Guy Fawkes’s night and yet I did this poster run a month back in early October. I flew to Seattle and the shuttle bus driver became lost getting me to a Holiday Inn. That’s strange. She also managed to incur the wrath (held back, breathing changed) of several other passengers as she went past their stops. That’s weird. Why would a person do that? I felt incredibly diplomatic as a Kiwi and we always feel the need to patch things up. I did. That’s laborious.

What do we know about Seattle? Well, it’s very easy to tell that it’s a superlative gig town. There are thousands of posters on the lamp-posts for local bands and DJ’s. Mostly these are coloured A3 photocopies. As I was putting up NZ poetry posters (mainly Nicholas Thomas, Pablo Nova, Janet Frame), a cop went past and waved and smiled. I enjoyed that. There was some kind of action in Seattle to ban postering a few years back and this action failed. Good. There is a need for expression, more so now. I think the local poster company in Seattle is called Poster Giant and it looks to me like they do a good job of handling many campaigns simultaneously. That’s required. They obviously maintain the sites.

What do we know about America? Well, just this last weekend I was in Chicago postering. As I left Chicago I noted that the main local newspaper (The Tribune) was in bankruptcy. I was now flying to Philadelphia where the local newspaper there (The Inquirer) is also in serious difficulty. It feels to me like many people in America are now expressing themselves (and their music, theatres, businesses, issues) through alternative ways and this includes posters and fliers. The old reliable stalwarts. The corporate style media has obviously failed. This corporate type of media mainly became about share prices and ignored people. In business, when you cut costs, you also run the risk of cutting your own throat. Of course, the internet features in all of this, but I think the main reason the newspapers are in the ditch is because long ago they lost contact with the population. Mr Hugh Bris came around and arrogance then ruled. Television in America is strange too, everyone has such perfect teeth. Yet there are many good journalists out of work. That’s sad.

There’s something about Seattle and Portland both being highly creative cities. Portland especially is very bohemian and reminds me of Dunedin and also of Cuba Street in Wellington. I had a great time postering in Portland.

Microsoft is centred somewhere around Seattle. Nike is centred somewhere near Portland (in Beaverton). The greatest Rock guitarist of all time, James Marshall Hendrix, was born in Seattle. That says it all. Portland has the greatest bookstore in the world, Powell’s Books and my very favourite author, Thomas Pynchon, worked for Boeing in Seattle for two years in the early 1960s. This was whilst he worked on his breakthrough novel ‘V’. I’ll bet you’ve read it and understood it. Try ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’.

But it was in Seattle where Kurt Cobain came through the ranks and changed music at a time when it was dangerously boring. When music is dangerously boring it is also bad for people. Life becomes inhibiting. Here’s what Jim Carroll (who died about a month back) said in a poem about Kurt Cobain:

“And instead you were swamp crawling
Down, deeper
Until you tasted the Earth’s own blood
And chatted with the buzzing-eyed insects that
heroin breeds”
– Fragments for Kurt Cobain – Jim Carroll

And I’ll finish there. Wouldn’t you?

Keep the Faith,

Jim Wilson

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog. 25th August 2021

It is National Poetry Day in New Zealand on Friday this week. It is a bleak and lonely week to have National Poetry Day even though poetry helps us reach to the very bottom of our souls. We look around the world and there is nothing but trouble, but poetry is mostly sweet in one way or another.

For me, it highlights friends who are no longer with me and the yearning for the time we spent together in better days gone past.

Friendships are mostly what has gotten me through life, good mates that I could clear the slate with, to tell them about every single time I wronged and every single time I felt wronged in return. My life has been up and down and that feeling firstly came from my mother who was the tempestuous type, when she loved you she really loved you and when she took you into the coal room with a leather belt she did damage. The worst kind of damage she did me was when I really needed her and she didn’t respond at all.

I was doubled up with Black Pete Raponi in Her Majesty’s Prison at Paparua over the winter of 1975. Peter was one of the most beautiful men one could ever meet. He was from up north and I believe he was adopted as a child by Pakeha parents. They had given him the world, but something was missing within Peter that nothing or no one could ever make up for. Peter was left to yearn his whole life through. This kind of yearning is not good for people and it did a lot of damage to Black Pete. He was a very good chemist burglar and he and I would often set off in my big black Rover 100 with gas cutting gear in the back so as to cut open the safes in chemist shops. This kind of behavior made us really good friends. I could count on him and he could count on me. He liked to overdose and he did it regularly. When you went to revive him he’d sometimes say: “No, leave me alone to enjoy it….it’s mine….I want to enjoy it.” Usually he’d be revived in the very nick of time.

He would often repay the same favour to me, that is to say he would often revive me in just the very nick of time. These chemist shops often held pure pharmaceutical Heroin, New Zealand being the last country in the world to stop prescribing Heroin for pain, and it was often mixed into cough mixtures in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

These chemist shops almost always had Pharmaceutical grade Cocaine, and then Morphine powder and “cans” (ampoules), and Omnopon, Palfium, Pethidine, Opium Tincture and so on and so forth. It was like a holiday in the South of France and in that state one couldn’t be annoyed by anything.

A famous writer (Anita Brookner) once said that time misspent in youth was often the only freedom one ever had in one’s life and I agree with that. No one in our group raised an eyebrow at the behaviour of another. There was no moralising and no one judged anyone else. Abnormal behaviour was tolerated. New Zealand, back then, was a place that one had to bust out of, one way or another.

Poetry, among it’s hundreds of very fine features, also helps us escape. In life, are we not here to help each other?

I have just bought a beautiful 1963 Volkswagen Kombi “Samba”. On National Poetry Day I’m going to load up my “Bubble” (New Zealand is under Covid induced “lockdown”) and drive them the long way to the supermarket whilst someone reads poetry until another takes turn at doing the same.

No doubt I’ll be glowing from ear to ear. I call this “Freedom”.

Keep the Faith,

Jim Wilson

Phantom National Poetry Day 2021 set to ignite public spaces!

Poetry fans across Aotearoa New Zealand are eager to create a vibrant, diverse Phantom National Poetry Day on Friday 27 August 2021, after the global pandemic curtailed public gatherings last year.

The packed programme goes live today (Thursday 5 August), revealing the breadth of our annual nationwide celebration. More than 100 events and competitions are scheduled for late August. You can find the full programme at Phantom National Poetry Day.

Now in its 24th year, Phantom National Poetry Day is set to go off with a bang, with events all around the country – from cafés and bars to libraries, bookshops, marae, schools, universities and parks. Poetry will also pop up on public transport, city streets, beaches, and hospitals. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s poetry slams, open mic nights, readings, book launches, workshops or performances.

Among the highlights are:

Whangarei – Fast Fibres Poetry 8: poetry anthology launch and performances
Auckland – Written Windows: poetry displays throughout Auckland Hospital, with a performance event including Selina Tusitala Marsh and Renee Liang.
Hamilton – Flesh and Bone ii featuring poets from the moana, including Kelly Joseph, Maluseu Monise and essa may ranapiri.
Wellington – Open Heart Surgery poetry evening at Good Books.
Christchurch – Counterculture – Politics in Poetry Open Mic: contemporary political poetry from Ōtautahi poets.
Queenstown – Pop-Up Poetry Workshop led by Amy O’Reilly and Bethany Rogers.
Dunedin – Poetic Cabaret: dine with pitch-perfect poets and invited instrumentalists.

To celebrate both Phantom National Poetry Day and Australia Poetry Month, online warm-up event Aus x NZ Poetry Showcase is scheduled for Thursday 26 August. The evening will include lively virtual readings from Tusiata Avia, winner of the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards; shortlisted poets Hinemoana Baker, Mohamed Hassan and Nina Mingya Powles; MitoQ Best First Book Award (Poetry) winner Jackson Nieuwland; and Aotearoa Poet Laureate David Eggleton.

On Friday 27 August, Tusiata Avia will also appear at the WORD Christchurch Festival 2021 event Confluence and Jackson Nieuwland will take part in Wellington event Shouting Into The Void: Six Poets One Megaphone.

Poet and NZ Book Awards Trust spokesperson Richard Pamatatau says, ‘As always, this year’s Phantom National Poetry Day is an opportunity for our poets to bring words, ideas and language to people across Aotearoa. To celebrate who we are, what we stand for and to reflect on what has passed. In the midst of a global pandemic, and after last year’s socially distanced celebration, it is delightful to see activity and vibrancy surging back into the day, with so many events planned.’

Nearly 20 wickedly good poetry competitions are listed in the Competition Calendar, including online poetry competition Given Words 2021 – Noho Mai, in its 6th year, and E Tū Whānau’s inaugural Spoken Word Competition, with winners announced on Phantom National Poetry Day. To find out more and enter these competitions visit Competition Calendar.

Much-loved children’s poet Paula Green has created an inspiring resource for teachers to use with students – one which will spark their imaginations as they write poetry and create events. Find out more at Phantom National Poetry Day Schools Guide.

Phantom CEO Robin McDonnell says, ‘Phantom Billstickers LOVES poetry and has been taking it to the streets of New Zealand and overseas for nearly 40 years. There’s something delicious about finding poetry in unexpected places – on walls, lampposts, billboards – for all the world to see. Phantom National Poetry Day gives us an opportunity to go large and celebrate our local poets. What’s not to love!’

Held annually on the fourth Friday in August, Phantom National Poetry Day brings together poetry royalty and fans from all over Aotearoa New Zealand. Many of the programmed events will be FREE and open to the public. This popular fixture on our cultural calendar celebrates discovery, diversity and community. For the past six years, Phantom Billstickers has supported National Poetry Day through its naming rights sponsorship.

For full details about all the events taking place, including places, venues, times, tickets and more, go to Phantom National Poetry Day Calendar of Events.

Social media links

Website: www.poetryday.co.nz

Facebook: @NZPoetryDay

Twitter: @NZPoetryDay

Instagram: nzpoetryday

Hashtags: #NZPoetryDay

We get it. You want your sites to make more money

As a landlord, you know the hard slog and expertise it takes to sort out leases, maintenance and compliance. Not to mention finding good tenants!  

We know it’s hard work because our Sales & Marketing Director, Rupert Fenton, grew up in a family that owned commercial properties. What he absorbed around the kitchen table turned out to be oddly relevant to his subsequent career at Phantom.

Rupert, a bit about your background…

“I grew up in the UK where my family had a small portfolio of commercial properties. I remember listening to my parents and grandparents talking about rates, rent rises, deferred maintenance and all the other stuff you need to stay on top of. So I never had the naive idea that owning a commercial property was easy money.

“In the end I didn’t join the family business, opting instead for the media business. I’ve spent 25 years now in the outdoor advertising industry in the UK and New Zealand. I’ve worked for start-ups and the world’s biggest outdoor media company. And now I’m part of a great team here at Phantom.”

On the surface of it, being a landlord and running a poster network seem like quite different businesses. But you say they’re similar. What do you mean?

“It’s the fundamental business model. If you get the right tenant/advertiser in the right location, you will get the best result. 

“As a landlord you don’t want just any old tenant – you need a business that will really thrive in the space, as well as treating it with respect and paying the rent on time. As their business grows, you as the property owner will be rewarded with a greater return. In the same way, our advertisers benefit from being in high-quality spaces.

“By attracting the right advertisers into our frames, we’re rewarded when their campaigns succeed. They know they’ve done well so they’ll happily come back for more.”

Surely it’s straightforward – high foot traffic equals high value?

“Of course, a premium site on a busy street will command top dollar simply because of the number of eyeballs it attracts each week. But that’s just the beginning. 

“Just as smart retailers look to add value to their stores, we add value to our poster sites. So you’ll see retailers taking on the online threat by innovating with their commercial space, like Barkers with in-store barber shops in its menswear outlets. We have the same can-do, innovative attitude.”

Can you give any examples? 

“At Phantom we’ve been creating more four-in-a-row sites, because we’ve noticed that big brands like State Insurance or Mercury like to book sequential street posters that tell a story. We’ve also invested in extra-large sites, that act as eye-level billboards to give our clients extra impact. And we have the skills in-house to build shelves for product sampling, or to customise and colour-coordinate our frames with their brands. 

“There’s a big pay-off, because now street posters can now serve a strategic purpose in big brand campaigns – and attract more customers.”

What about the role of posters in recovering from Covid?

“We understand how their businesses were hit by the lockdowns. Losing tenants and customers was a brutal blow, and it affected our business as well as theirs. 

“That’s why we’re super-focused on maximising returns from our poster network and helping support the property owners where our frames live. You could say we’ve got skin in the game.”

You’ll love this prize

Rock music and posters go together like Page & Plant, Lennon & McCartney, Tegan & Sara or those two dudes in Daft Punk. Together, they make magic.

Designers relish the opportunity to create something vivid and original. Musicians relish the chance to connect with their audience on the street. The results frequently end up in the collections of art-lovers.

We love them too.

At Phantom Billstickers, the very first poster we stuck to a wall was promoting a gig. Every week, we stick up a load more. So we thought it was time to celebrate the art of the music poster with a free prize draw for Phan Mail readers.

The Art of Rock is 348 pages of visual delight – a lavishly illustrated record of the rock concert poster. From the hallucinatory creations of the psychedelic era, to the in-your-face impact of 70s punk, this book has it all. There’s a foreword by Bill Graham of Fillmore fame, interviews with poster artists, musicians and promoters, and much more.  

And it could be yours.

Be in to win

All you have to do is email Rupert Fenton at rupert@0800phantom.co.nz, type in your name and contact number, plus the answer to this question:

How many poster sites does Phantom Billstickers have in Dunedin?

Hint: You’ll find some useful information here

Get your answer to us by Tuesday 25th May and we’ll pick a winner. Rock on, people.

Legal stuff: This prize draw is free. Only one entry per person. No cash equivalent is available