Street posters are part of the fabric of the local music scene in Melbourne, seen on many street corners throughout the city promoting the latest record release or gig that weekend.
But as thousands of cars drive by the seemingly innocuous bill posters, a recent attack on the office’s of Melbourne’s Plakkit shows that the industry itself is often more colourful than the posters they put up.
A few weeks ago an arsonist was captured on security cameras at the Plakkit offices in Richmond, setting alight a stack of magazines in their undercover driveway late at night.
“A guy walked into the building arew which is an undercover double car port area,” Plakkit director Andrew McGregor told Tone Deaf. “I store my old pallets from deliveries there and some overflows and brochures that staff are working on on the weekends so they can just load up from the front and piss off, they don’t have to get into the building.”
“The person who came into visit had a jerry can in a plastic bag, they arrived, doused the pallets and areas with petrol, came back three minutes later and tried to flick a lit cigarette on to the area doused in petrol, you need a naked flame to make a fire so I think that gave everyone the impressions that he was probably a bit of novice.”“They saw the person that did it, but obviously they weren’t going to run after him and pin him to the ground.”
“Then he proceeded to take a look around on the streets to see if anyone else was coming and tried to light a glossy magazine with the lighter and he’s spent about three miniutes doing that. He still couldn’t get a flame, so he ended up dousing part of the magazine in petrol, he got that lit, boom it went up, he ran down the street.”
Luckily for McGregor and his business, a few neighbours heard the commotion and saw the suspect running up the street. “They saw the person that did it, but obviously they weren’t going to run after him and pin him to the ground,” explains McGregor.
“The neighbours were heroes, they came and put it out. They came and grabbed the jerry can. When he did grab the jerry can it really exploded, so much so that his shoe was on fire. So it was getting pretty dangerous and pretty hairy.”
“Given that the petrol was lapping at the wheels of a van, that is a dual fuel van, so I can see petrol burning underneath the van so if the van would have gone off that would have been a big problem. So it was pretty fucking stupid.”
Detectives have been on the hunt for the arsonist but so far have come up with nothing. Although McGregor belies motives behind the attack may have been commercial, in a fiercely competitive industry of which there are only about four major players.“You don’t bring your jerry can to a fucking party unless you’re burning something.”
“It was with intent, and it wasn’t random. He walked straight to me, he knew what was there, he knew what was to be burnt, so it was a paid for job. That’s my opinion. You can’t prove that so it’s speculated it was a paid for job, something along those lines. You don’t bring your jerry can to a fucking party unless you’re burning something.”
“I’ve had rear windows of the vans popped at the office so people have hit it pretty hard with somehting. A tire change something like that. There’s been instances before of people threatening, no worries about that.”
“Maybe it’s a case of the grass is greener, people see my grass as being a bit more green or lush and someone got a bit jealous and a bit jaded and burnt it. But that’s speculation alone.”
The head of one of Melbourne’s most high profile posturing companies, McGregor says detectives have been doing their homework into everything, but it’s just another chapter in street poster saga
“You enter the street poster game and you come up against people that have been running it for a while,” says McGregor. “I’ve been threatened by numerous players from within the industry. Defending your turf with a baseball bat was how it’s been previously done.”“I want to legitimise the medium because it’s a fantastic medium for the cultural, music, and arts sector that Melbourne brands itself very heavily on.”
“I want to legitimise the medium because it’s a fantastic medium for the cultural, music, and arts sector that Melbourne brands itself very heavily on. And as an important medium it shouldn’t be illegal and it should be made legit, and that’s what I’m going to do, and those people that have been happy to keep it done under the cover of darkness don’t neccesarily want change to come within because it puts pressure on everything then.”
McGregor reveals he’s been busy working with councils such as Moreland City Council and Melbourne City Council to set up posturing spots that are approved by council.
“We’ve got a place on Brunswick St called the What’s On wall. It was just a messy, shitty site for a long time and the owner and I spoke with the council and we made it a showcase of all the local cultural events that Plakkit was promoting on the wall and it became part of the Yarra walking tours.”
“We’re trying to take the medium and actually realise the opportunity in things like street posters but it’s a matter of bringing the medium out of the gutter, out of the cover of darkness, and putting into day-to-day stuff and council approved where they know what’s going on. So we’re legitimising the industry.”
As for threats on his business and property, McGregor isn’t intimidated, but fears that if it isn’t put to a stop that the situation may escalate.
“I think those old school tactics of burning down properties are very outdated. There’s competition and then there’s competition. I’ve got a family, I’ve got three young daughters. I’ve been threatened in the past but you don’t know if the threat will actually come home.”
“That’s the next step and that’s a bit concerning. It’s concerning for my partner because she’s not involved in the game, she’s just at home, she doesn’t want a rock thrown through my daughters’ window at night. There’s no message in that apart from competing in a game where there’s dickheads.”
Fawkner detectives are investigating the fire and anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or go to crimestoppers.com.au.
You can watch footage of the attack below.