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13 November 2014

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Recession in London

You are in: London > Recession in London > The Brixton Pound

Currency hopes to overcome recession

Currency hopes to overcome recession

The Brixton Pound

Brixton is due to become the first London community to launch its own currency.

The note will have the same value as pound sterling and will be available to spend in participating independent stores from September.

Brixton Pound Project Manager, Tim Nichols, says the scheme aims to encourage shoppers to spend locally, and claims it will help Brixton through the recession by investing and keeping money circulating in the area.

Residents have already pre-bought up to £7,000 worth of the new currency, which will be printed in £1, £5, £10 and £20 formats.

The currency is backed by the Lambeth Savings and Credit Union, and will operate much like a voucher scheme, with many shops offering discounts to entice potential spenders.

An online ‘note vote’ is currently taking place to choose the face that will feature on the currency.

The shortlist features several well-known local figures, including former Tory Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and pioneering dub poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson. Additional suggestions include Brixton born presenter Sharon Osbourne and singer David Bowie.

The launch follows on from two similar campaigns in Totnes, Devon and Lewes, Sussex, both of which have proved successful.

Brixton is famous for its character

Brixton is famous for its character

However Brixton represents the first urban location to attempt the scheme, with organisers choosing it for its distinctive character and cultural diversity.

So far, 40 businesses have accepted the currency, a number expected to rise nearer the launch.

Shop owners are hopeful the scheme can help counteract the effects of the recession, and Rosie, owner of Rosie’s Café, believes “the positives are massive”. However she also warns that more promotion is needed to avoid confusion and raise awareness. 

Although public response has been largely positive, some residents remain sceptical.

“I’m still to be convinced whether it actually works or what it’s trying to do. It’s a good idea, it just needs to be publicised more”, said one local. Another accused the note of being a gimmick, adding, “Show me something real, something tangible.”

Other critics have accused the note of being protectionist, saying it will result in less money being spent in surrounding areas, such as Peckham and Streatham.

Brixton Pound Project Manager, Tim Nichols

Brixton Pound Organiser, Tim Nichols

However Nichols insists that the benefits will outweigh the negatives, leading to a “tighter community and more local sourcing for supplies”.

Economist and BBC London financial adviser, David Kuo, has said that the scheme could not work across multiple boroughs in the capital, principally because of the serious danger of “no money flowing from one part of London to another”.

Whether or not the scheme can prove successful in Brixton, especially during such financially trying times, remains to be seen.

Whatever the outcome, the Brixton Pound certainly marks another intriguing chapter in one of London’s most well-known and individual communities.

Alternative Currency Facts

  • During the American Great Depression rabbit tails, seashells and wooden discs were issued by businesses as alternative currencies.
  • In 1932 Austria’s Wörgl shilling was issued to generate employment and build new public works in the town. It circulated faster than official money and was stamped out by Central Bank in 1933.
  • In 1971 the mayor of Curitiba, Brazil exchanged bus tokens for street cleaning in order to kick start the economy. Curitiba became one of the most prosperous cities in Brazil.
  • There are 75 complementary currencies circulating in the US, including the ‘Plenty’ in North Carolina, the ‘Bay Back’ in Michigan and ‘the Detroit Cheers’ in Detroit.
  • The most successful US scheme is the ‘Berkshares’. With 100 Berkshares worth US$95, two million berkshares have been circulated, accepted by 350 local businesses.

last updated: 17/07/2009 at 12:39
created: 16/07/2009

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