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Pop CultureNovember 8, 2022

From Bashford Antiques to Sean Plunket: A timeline of David Farrier and Mister Organ


David Farrier’s new film Mister Organ held its New Zealand premiere last night, theoretically bringing the six-year story of Bashford Antiques to a close. But did it really?

This post will continue to be updated with the latest developments

The journey to bring the story of Michael Organ and Bashford Antiques to the big screen began in 2016 with a single article published on The Spinoff. New Zealand journalist David Farrier had jumped head-first into what initially seemed to be a simple investigation into an over-enthusiastic car clamper in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. 

Of course, in true Farrier style – remember, this is one of the men behind Tickled, released that same year – things soon got a whole lot weirder. 

Now, in late 2022, the Bashford Antiques saga has expanded to include the release of Farrier’s long-awaited documentary, legal documents seemingly aimed at preventing that happening, and an eleventh-hour intervention from broadcaster Sean Plunket.

There’s a lot to wrap your head around. In anticipation of Mister Organ’s release in New Zealand theatres later this week, let’s walk back through this unusual tale.

September 5, 2016: The Bashford saga begins

It’s now one of the most read and remembered articles in The Spinoff’s history: The incredibly weird tale behind the Bashford Antiques clamping story.

But the first instalment of Farrier’s Bashford Antiques saga presents more questions than it does answers. It references a shady individual, a potentially made-up law firm, a seemingly fictitious security company and countless stories of people being towed and/or clamped outside a Ponsonby antiques shop at great expense.

“What the fuck is going on here?” asks Farrier. “Who is MDA Organ? Who is Premiere Clamping Services? WHO IS REAL?”

Our first glimpses of the mysterious Michael Organ, 2016

September 6, 2016: Meet Michael Organ

It only takes 24 hours before we have the answers to some, though not all, of those questions. On September 6, 2016, Spinoff readers first meet Michael Organ, the Mister Organ at the centre of Farrier’s 2022 documentary, in Bashford Antiques, Part II: A mysterious Organ.

November 20, 2019: The saga ends…?

Three years and six parts later, the Bashford Antiques series comes to a close on The Spinoff. It culminates with New Zealand’s parliament introducing new laws to, yup, outlaw overzealous clamping fees. The story, titled “The state clamps down”, ends with the promise of a seventh story to come. 

June 10, 2020: Announcing Mister Organ (née Clamped)

We may never have received a seventh written instalment in the Bashford saga, but in June 2020 there’s another major development. Farrier announces to readers of his Webworm newsletter that he is working on his second feature documentary with the working titled Clamped.

“I like strange stories, and this is one of them,” writes Farrier. “This is so much more than a story about clamping.”

August 17, 2022: Release date confirmed

The film is officially announced, retitled Mister Organ, and given a release date in November. At this point, Michael Organ is now living in Whanganui, having closed down Bashford Antiques in Auckland some years earlier.

November 1, 2022: Things get weird (again)

With the release of Mister Organ just around the corner, things were always going to get weird. Michael Organ is a mysterious, intelligent, controlling and, yes, litigious figure.

It all starts in late October, when veteran broadcaster Sean Plunket, who founded his own online media outlet The Platform at the start of 2022, starts sharing allegedly real court documents on his Twitter account.  

The tweets include claims that Farrier has been served with a temporary protection order – essentially a type of restraining order. At this point it isn’t clear whether or not the documents being shared by Plunket are real. Farrier tells his followers that he hasn’t been served any court documents and nor has he committed any violence against anyone. 

Many Twitter users accuse Plunket of sharing forged documents, among them Mister Organ producer Ant Timpson. “Wonder who could have given that ‘without notice’ (aka fictitious) order to ol’ Plunket?” writes Timpson on Twitter. “It’s from someone in Whanganui who clearly has a beef with you David. Well I’m stumped.”

Plunket continues to maintain the documents are real. While he deletes the images from his Twitter at one point, he later reuploads them as part of a fairly intense spree of late night tweets about Farrier.

On the same day, someone in The Spinoff office uses online wizardry to work out who may be responsible for the documents obtained by Plunket:

November 5, 2022: ‘A strange journey…’

Farrier has been all over media since arriving back into the country last week ahead of Mister Organ’s release. But likely his most illuminating interview is on RNZ’s Saturday Morning show with Kim Hill. 

It’s revealed during this chat that the documents shared by Plunket are in fact real and on the evening of November 4, Farrier was served them officially.

“I got back to New Zealand a couple of days [ago]… everything involving Mister Organ is a strange journey, involving legal pitfalls,” Farrier tells Hill.

“At about 7.30pm last night, two burly but friendly police officers knocked on the door and served me with a temporary protection order made by the Family Court on October 29. It’s the first I’ve seen of it… they’re made on a without-notice basis which means they were made without me having an opportunity to object to it.”

Earlier in the day, at the totally reasonable tweeting time of 3.08am, Plunket had foreshadowed this twist in the saga: “Hey I’ve been blocked by @davidfarrier but if you haven’t could you ask him to confirm that on friday evening 4/11/22 he was served by police with a protection order at an address in eden terrace Auckland? [sic]”

November 7, 2022: Mister Organ premieres in NZ

On the day of the film’s New Zealand premiere, Plunket continues to share sporadic tweets relating to Farrier and Mister Organ. It’s either a perfectly masterminded promotional campaign for Mister Organ, or, as Plunket himself claims on Twitter, “journalism”. Either way, Plunket’s clearly being fed the information from a mysterious source, one that is truly impossible to deduce.

Plunket later claims that Farrier’s interview with Kim Hill may have breached the temporary protection order and that a request to have the order dismissed ahead of the film’s premiere has been declined. “Can his movie be released or is it a breach of the protection order?” he asks on Twitter.

The film premieres later that day at Auckland’s Hollywood Cinema, with a number of Organ’s victims in attendance. While Organ himself does not attend the screening, his presence hangs over a post-premiere Q&A moderated by broadcaster John Campbell. A visibly emotional, angry and tired Farrier reiterates what he’d told The Spinoff’s Chris Schulz: that he “100%” would have chosen not to make the film if he knew what was in his future. “I wish it had never happened, I wish Michael [Organ] had never happened – but here we are.”

He adds: “Fuck Michael.”

November 8, 2022: Farrier to take legal action

As Farrier hinted at last night’s premiere, the film is now playing out in real time. During an appearance on Today FM, Farrier confirms he will “absolutely” be taking legal action against broadcaster Sean Plunket over his tweets and the sharing of legal documents.

Farrier says he’d love to talk more about the court order but is legally prevented from doing so. “But Sean Plunket has been on Twitter disseminating documents everywhere,” he says. “For the record, I’ve never been violent towards anyone – it’s been a pretty weird situation being back in New Zealand.”

Mister Organ will still open, at this stage, on November 10.

Keep going!