New £5 note for Brixton

News at Eden Harper | 23/07/2015

A special edition £5 note designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller has been launched. But the psychedelic paper money can only be spent in Brixton.

The new Brixton £5 note has been introduced to celebrate the currency's fifth birthday. But the limited edition note, which incorporates a provocative message that reflects the B£’s aim of raising the conversation of how we understand, use and value money in this time of economic instability, will not replace that standard B£5 note that features British basketball star Luol Deng.

How did it start?

The B£ was initially started in September 2009 as a physical paper-based currency and was followed two years later by the launch of the electronic B£ pay-by-pay text platform. The B£ is one of several local currencies. Others include Lewes, Stroud and Bristol, while Hackney, Exeter, Kingston and Oxford are also developing their own currencies.

All of these are unique and are designed to respond to local economic needs, which is what the B£ does. It's designed to encourage local trade and production and is a complementary currency, used alongside pounds sterling for use by independent local shops and traders. The aim is to build communities and allow everyone to support each other and ensure the diversity of the high street and boost pride in Brixton.

If money is spent well in independent businesses, it circulates within the local economy for up to three times longer than when it's spent with national chains, according to research by the New Economic Foundation. Currently about 250 businesses accept paper B£ and around 200 have pay-by-text accounts.

The currency is currently available in four denominations - B£1, B£5, B£10 and B£20 - each matching the value of the equivalent in sterling. Previous Brixton residents who've featured on the notes include singer David Bowie, French World War Two spy Violette Szabo and educationalist and historian Len Garrison.

Why was Brixton chosen?

Brixton has a variety of features that made it an excellent place to pioneer an urban local currency in the UK, such as a famous, thriving local economy, with a bustling high street and local market; along with a rich community spirit and diverse group of people.

Also, SW8 is known for its history of revolution, activism and dynamic people - this made it a great place to launch a new currency.

The goals were and still are:

  • To build a strong self-help ethos model so Brixton can stay independent during tough times
  • Increase community awareness of the local Brixton economy
  • Ensure local sourcing of goods to help the environment
  • Raise the profile of the community both regionally and nationally and contribute to positive perceptions of Brixton
  • Help protect jobs and livelihoods of local members of the community

The B£ also recently announced that a Brixton Bonus draw will be held every month, raising money for local micro-grants, with a range of prizes and rewards to spend in the area.

Image source: Wikipedia