David Farrier’s new documentary, Mister Organ, delves into the man at the centre of Bashford Antiques’ car clamping saga, finding many alleged troubling and tragic connections to Ponsonby’s gay community. David talks to Oliver Hall about why he wanted to expose Michael Organ.

In 2017, my friend Hannah and I fell into a trap experienced by many in Ponsonby. 

When picking up a pizza from Pane e Vino restaurant on Williamson Avenue, we pulled into a car space outside Bashford Antiques. Hannah remained in the car and I ran into the restaurant. I couldn’t have been longer than three minutes – but when I returned, a yellow clamp sat on one of her back wheels. When I asked her what had happened, she hadn’t even realised she had been clamped. It was about 7pm, Bashford Antiques was closed, but owner Jillian Bashford and manager Michael Organ arrived on the scene and demanded $250 to remove the clamp. We pointed out that they could have simply asked my friend to move, but they were having none of it. We called the police, who initially were keen to send an officer to the scene, until they spoke to the hypnotic Mr. Organ who assured them this was a private matter.


We weren’t carrying cash, so had the surreal experience of being taken into the antiques shop to pay our fine on Bashford’s eftpos machine. According to David Farrier’s documentary, Mister Organ, more than 100 people were clamped for parking in Bashford’s spots. The headlines these incidents caused led to a parliamentary law change to stop clampers being able to name any price they saw fit.

I was a writer for express at the time, and as I unsuccessfully argued with Michael my internal ‘gaydar’ was buzzing. I wondered if he had a connection to Ponsonby’s expansive gay community. Mister Organ highlights that he did. 

A still from Mister Organ.

“When I make these films about bad people doing bad things, in my mind, I don’t want to bring sexuality into those conversations specifically. So I never state the sexuality of anyone in my films. All I’d say is, of all the people I spoke to who had been deeply affected by Michael, 90% of them were from the gay community. You can read into that what you will,” David Farrier tells us. 

For Mister Organ, David met a number of openly gay and bisexual men who crossed paths with Michael Organ, the film’s primary subject, who also participates in the damning documentary. 

There’s Simon Stockley, whose association with Organ saw him wind up in a jail cell; Paul Blatchford, who alleges that living with Organ contributed to him attempting suicide; and most tragically Grey Lynn bookshop owner Brent Lewis. Footage from Brent’s funeral and interviews with his friends (including former Auckland Mayor Phil Goff) suggest it was an association with Micheal Organ that led Brent to complete suicide. In the film, Michael Organ denies these allegations, calling them ‘a load of rubbish.’

Mister Organ paints a terrifying picture for the people who get close to Michael Organ, with many unidentified voices begging Farrier not to name them in his documentary due to fear of the consequences. This brings us to Jillian Bashford.

“When the Bashford antique saga started, Gillian was the centrepiece. She owned the store. She was the one who had hired this clamper. She claimed she didn’t know anything about the clamper or the clamping company. That is what really first interested me because whenever I’d see them together, they seemed very familiar with each other. I found out pretty early on that they were living together, and when I asked directly what their relationship was, Michael would never tell me,” Farrier says, adding, “He tells other people that they’re married. It’s actually incredibly difficult in New Zealand to find out if someone is married or not, if you don’t know the date and place they got married.”

I remember being surprised, after our clamping altercation, by how many people in Ponsonby still spoke highly of Jillian Bashford. A few mutual friends even excused Jillian’s behaviour saying she was a lovely person, before admitting that they hadn’t seen her in a while.

“I heard exactly the same thing,” agrees David. “Jillian Bashford was known for having big dinner parties and being a hub of the antiques scene; she used to hold a big antiques fair. She loved people. But since Michael Organ got into her life, I think she has changed. You see that in the film. The Jillian you get now, is very different to the Jillian that existed before Michael Organ started eating his lunch with her every day.”

On social media, Ponsonby News Editor Martin Leach is scathing about the impact Michael Organ has had on his friend Jillian’s life, writing on his Facebook: “He threatened us because we told Jillian he’d been seen at Centurion Sauna. He lied and told her it was his ‘double’! Yeah right. Next time we saw him he was furious with me and I just said to him that ‘Jillian is a good friend and you’re not!’ She deserved to know the truth about her ‘boyfriend’.”

There is however a big contrast depicted in the film between Organ’s previous relationships and the one depicted with Jillian Bashford – the contrast being, how long they last. The documentary alleges that within a year of living with them, the men David interviews are desperate to get away from Organ, Bashford, however, Farrier estimates, has been living with Organ for nearly a decade.

“Michael is a parasite,” says David by way of an introduction to his theory of why Bashford has lasted so much longer. “Jillian has a lot more money than the other people… Michael uses people and uses people up, and I think he still has a use for Jillian,” he tells us ominously.

The documentary concludes by pointing out that Michael Organ and Jillian are still together, an edge that gives this already dark documentary an even more uneasy ‘real time’ feel.

“We are in 60 cinemas from today,” David tells me on opening night. “Some of those cinemas have been getting phone calls from Michael Organ, trying to make them stop playing the film. That is a unique situation to be in as a filmmaker… With most documentaries about people doing bad things, the bad person is long gone.” 

However, the fact that Organ is still living and that his relationship with Bashford is ongoing, has not stopped David from seeking ‘justice’ for the people he believes are Organ’s victims. 

“Part of the reason I made this film was a lot of people who have been victims of this person have gotten no justice because Mr. Organ is very savvy and operates, largely, within the law… this film is a way for some of his victims to feel some justice, that you can’t just function this way at other people’s expense.”

David suspects he’ll be hearing from many more people about their experiences with Michael Organ as his film screens in cinemas across the country. In fact, he welcomes it, saying any express readers keen to share their experiences with Organ can contact him at

Michael Organ denies the allegations David Farrier has made about him in Mister Organ.

Mister Organ is out now in cinemas nationwide.



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