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Giant Vancouver poster collection goes to Simon Fraser archives

Perry Giguere put up posters in Vancouver for four decades. And he tried to keep at least one copy of every poster he ever put up.

But he often had duplicates, and collected more posters from events he didn’t do. Which is why at one point he had about 250,000 posters in the basement of his house in Mt. Pleasant.

When he had to move the collection, it took six weeks to sort it out. But there was a last-minute hitch.

“The (moving) guy filled out the truck about two-thirds full and said, ‘The tires are going to explode, I can’t put any more posters in the truck,’ ” Giguere recalled in 2016.

Giguere decided he needed to find a new home for the collection, but it took awhile to find one. Finally, last week 30,000-40,000 of his posters were carted off to Simon Fraser University’s archives.

SFU archivist Melanie Hardbattle said it’s a one-of-a-kind collection.

“It basically spans all the events that were going on in Vancouver over the past 40 years, from very grassroots events and protests to very high-end cultural events,” said Hardbattle. “It’s got DIY (do it yourself) posters for punk shows or activist shows, anarchist meetups, and then it’s got really slick graphic designer posters.”

A Joe Average “Art for Life” poster from 1997. Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun

Sadly, Giguere was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in March, and died June 17. He was 67 years old.

Like many cultural fixtures in Vancouver, he grew up somewhere else. Giguere was born in Quebec City on Dec. 16, 1950, and grew up in Montreal, but really hit his stride after he moved to Vancouver in 1973.

“I was a hippie on the weekends until I moved out here, then I was a hippie full-time,” he laughed. “In 1973, ’74, ’75, Vancouver was a lot of fun for a Montrealer.”

In 1978 he was studying acting at the Firehall Theatre and volunteered to put up posters for shows.

“(The late impresario) David Y.H. Lui phoned our publicist and said, ‘Who’s your guy? We need somebody to put up posters,’ ” said Giguere. “Since I had no money, I decided to do that for them. After a few years it became a full-time thing. People kept phoning and phoning. I never advertised, it was all word of mouth.

“I created a job. I didn’t create a big business, but I created a job, a little niche.”

He became known as Perry the Poster Man. And being his own boss had its benefits for an old hippie.

“He slept in till noon,” said his daughter Jessie, with a smile.

“He was definitely not an early riser,” concurs his other daughter Emily. “He sort of built this whole little life that worked around the things he loved to do. It was all (done) on his own schedule.”

A colourful 1985 poster for Bolero Lava at the Commodore. Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun

He proved so indispensable to the local arts scene that he received a Jessie award from the theatre community.

“It was the first time they had the Behind the Scenes Award,” he recounted. “I was the first recipient, but I wasn’t there — it was my daughter’s fifth birthday and I was cleaning up after a party in the backyard. My friend phoned and said, ‘Perry, you just won a Jessie!’ ”

“I think everybody loved Perry, and respected him,” said Hardbattle. “He was so knowledgeable about the history (of the events on the posters). There was always a story to go with every poster.”

The range of the collection is mind-blowing, from a Joe Average Art for Life poster from 1997 to a Tina Turner poster from a Commodore show in 1983 and an undated poster for the People’s Dinner: A Public Protest Against Untested Unproven Unregulated Genetically Modified Organisms.

SFU initially agreed to take some music and political posters, but eventually Hardbattle decided to take it all.

“I feel very passionate about it, and the significance of the collection, and do feel it should all be kept together as a whole,” she said. “I’m ecstatic we were able to save all of this. It was really weighing on my mind, what would become of the collection. It’s also fortunate that Perry knew ahead of time that the collection would be saved and would be available for people to use.”

jmackie@postmedia.com

A rare Tina Turner poster for an 1983 show at the Commodore Ballroom. Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun

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