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Street Spam or revenue scam

Lynda Moyo investigates illegal fly-posting in Manchester

Written by . Published on May 23rd 2007.


Street Spam or revenue scam

If you drive down Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, you’re certain to see posters. They’re on bus stops, phone boxes, boarded up buildings, shop windows, the backs of old people and bus drivers’ foreheads. If paper can stick to it, there will be a poster on it. To some it feels like a teenagers bedroom, to others a reflection of modern day Manchester. The fact of the matter is that fly-posting is a criminal offence.

To clarify, it is ok to hand out flyers if you obtain a permit from the Council. It isn’t ok to stick posters up. Ever. The Council told Confidential: “The cost for a 'consent' to hand out 'free printed matter' ranges from £55 to £405. We do not authorise any fly-posting on street furniture and will take enforcement action against any business found committing this offence.”

“It will discourage smaller niche nights from entering the market, and will ultimately reduce choice for clubbers. To clean up Manchester to the point at which there are no posters, graffiti, etc… would be to remove its character.”

But should it really be a criminal offence to try and contribute to Manchester eclectic music scene? More so than that, do we really want Manchester’s ‘street furniture’ to resemble Ikea?

According to Sinan Jeffries from flyer pack distributor, Don’t Panic!, it is affecting the scene.

He said: “It's a tax that is bound to hit the budget-constrained promoters the hardest. In doing so, it will discourage smaller niche nights from entering the market, and will ultimately reduce choice for clubbers. Manchester is a city renowned for its night life, and the posters are part of that image. To clean up Manchester to the point at which there are no posters, graffiti, etc… would be to remove its character.”

One person’s eyesore is another person’s vision of perfection. Manchester City Council consider the £250,000 they spend on cleaning up illegal posters and flyers much more of a concern than whether or not the laws are killing the scene. Much more than just an eye sore, fly-posting is the cause of stress, fear of crime, car accidents and the war in Iraq. Well, maybe not the latter.

“Fly-posting can be unsightly,” says a Council spokesperson, “and is often seen as symptomatic of low environmental quality in an area. Research shows that fly-posting can exasperate people’s fear of crime, making an area appeared uncared for and causes distress for local residents and businesses. Fly-posting can not only look unsightly, it can cause a distraction for passing motorists. Promoters who use this form of advertising usually pick main arterial routes and junctions, increasing the risk of a serious accident.”

Of course the majority of information we receive has money or control at its core. The venues and acts that tend to use fly-posting are out to turn a profit but they can’t afford the premium rates to get billboard space – unlike the nationals and multinationals. They have to resort to fly-posting to get their message across even though it is illegal, and it is a way of adding a little local colour.

The culprits don’t believe they mess things up too much either. Jason, who fly-posts illegally (and for obvious reasons doesn’t want his identity revealed) told Confidential: “Fly-posting is done on disused buildings and wooden boards used to hide building sites. The buildings themselves are usually an eyesore anyway. If the owners respected the building they would have done them up or turned them into posh flats by now. Some people think graffiti is an eyesore, some think it’s art. Posters contain art. They are visually eye catching pieces of design which change every month or week.”

That’s one angry fly-posterer. But the fact that posters may be classed as art doesn’t take away the fact that to the Council it’s an illegal cheap alternative to legitimate forms of advertising such as flyers, newspapers and legal poster sites.

It’s a money spinner too. To date Manchester City Council has taken out over 50 prosecutions for illegal fly-posting. This has resulted in over £170,000 awarded against people in fines and costs. So how else can the 24 hour party people of Manchester know where’s good to go?

Sinan Jeffries again: “There are numerous modes of promotion. Flyers can be distributed in licensed packs (such as Don't Panic!) at relatively little cost. There are also many shops and take-aways that allow posters to be put up on their walls. Promoters are using digital technology to promote their nights in the form of the internet. A good promoter will find ways to work around the imposed conditions…assuming they have a night worth promoting”

Whatever way you look at it there needs to be a point at which the laws can be observed whilst maintaining the character of the city as progressive and exciting. Fly-posting plays a part in this. It’s presumably why people would choose to live here rather than in the country or the suburbs.

What do you think? Is Lynda’s point of view wrong? Have your say.

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A. PromoterMay 23rd 2007.

Damn right, Anonymous! What about all the new nights being set up all the time by students? Sure, most of them don't last 5 minutes, but others go on to be nationally known Manchester institutions that expand and even influence the charts. How would they have got to where they are now if they'd had to fork out for expensive legal promotion right from the start? ...Exactly. Nowhere. They wouldn't have had two pennies to rub together to start with, and then being saddled with debts would have made them give up the game for some lame uni "indie society" or something. Let that be a lesson to the council, who would also be lacking the proverbial two pennies if it wasn't for Manchester's music scene bringing in the tourists.

B PromoterMay 23rd 2007.

if the council does clamp down on this then they need to provide alternative ways of getting the message out there... manchester has one of the best club scenes in the UK right now and it attracts a lot of tourists and out of town people in at the weekend.... the council people are more than happy to take a pat on the back when thenumbers of people visiting the city and the spending in our economy goes up.putting posters up has a cost to an established night so most would happy pay for a service by the council.

AnonymousMay 23rd 2007.

what you on about....how is a promoter who often loses money and does their events as a hobby expected to pay for legitimate forms of advertising such as billboards and newspapers and even the ones that do make money, how will they afford to take their hard earned takings and splash out 500 pound on a newspaper advert, or several thousands on a bleedin billboard! jesus...no way they could afford anything like that, or ever come close...another point posters distract? and legitimate wonderbra adverts on billboards dont? and most importantly...the flyposting crew in manchester and every other city, stick to legal sites such as diused buildings or shop fronts that the flyposters pay for the use of. the only occasional illegal ones are the ones sometimes on busstops and phone boxes! the ones on buildings are generally legal...and if you do start having to put them on busstops cause you cant afford to pay the flyposting guys to do it, then use blu-tak kids, the council love it, they cant justify large fines for cleaning it up, when all you have to do is pull it off!

B PromoterMay 23rd 2007.

if the council does clamp down on this then they need to provide alternative ways of getting the message out there... manchester has one of the best club scenes in the UK right now and it attracts a lot of tourists and out of town people in at the weekend.... the council people are more than happy to take a pat on the back when thenumbers of people visiting the city and the spending in our economy goes up.putting posters up has a cost to an established night so most would happy pay for a service by the council.

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