Fly-posting and advertising

brick wall with variety of posters advertsising events on two noticeboards

© National Museums Liverpool

New sounds will often go unheard unless information is circulated about where they are happening. Small advertisements in the local paper have been one traditional way of doing this - and this has always been common in Liverpool, using the 'Liverpool Echo', but alongside that one of the most cost-effective ways of getting 'new' sounds heard has been the connected activities of fly-posting and handbill distribution.

As early as the late 1940s, promoters of the local 'trad' jazz scene in Liverpool fly-posted on derelict buildings in areas frequented by jazz fans (eg in the Hope Street area). This activity continued into the 1960s, expanding to full-blown posters advertising events at, for example, the New Brighton Tower and the Cavern. In the early 1960s local promoters, such as Carlton Brooke's Joe Flannery with his 'Lot's Go' shows, were constantly running the gauntlet of the local constabulary, for fly-posting was (and remains) an illegal activity. All major venues in Liverpool issued free handbills during the postwar era. But when Triad Promotions began their events at the Liverpool Boxing Stadium these handbills became essential forms of communication for the young hippie subculture.

By the mid-late 1970s the 'do-it-yourself' nature of the punk and new wave rock scenes meant that fly-posting and handbill production were indispensable elements in promoting new sounds - indeed, many punk fans felt that the posters were an essential communication device between bands, promoters and fans (often the same people!). Handbills also complemented these posters, listing future engagements at the club. Some were saved by music fans and today Eric's handbills are much sought after by collectors of punk memorabilia.

This advertising 'aesthetic' became a way of life. It continued into the 1980s and was particularly prevalent in the local dance music scenes of the 1980s and 1990s, when extravagant fly-posters advertising bands such as Quadrant Park and Cream were eagerly anticipated by dance music lovers. Free postcard-sized advertising cards, full of vibrant colours, also accompanied these posters. (These too have now become collectables.) Fly-posting reached such a zenith during this time that competing fly-posting teams were physically challenging each other for empty spaces on abandoned buildings.

By the early years of the 21st century Liverpool City Council and Merseyside Police were addressing the issue of fly-posting. As Liverpool has been rebuilt over the past few years, with former abandoned buildings knocked down, fly-posting has decreased but not entirely disappeared. It continues to be especially prevalent as a communication device for the dance music scene where adverts for special nights with visiting deejays continue to this day. Handbills also remain an essential promotional tool for any would-be music promoter in Liverpool - whether that be a small-time student gig or an engagement at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

For further discussion of fly-posting see Sites and scenes.