Author Archives: Tom Shakhli

We’re hiring! Come and work in our cafe

Join our team at the Brixton Pound Cafe

Are you a budding barista? Do you have flair and panache in the kitchen? Are you imaginative and creative? Would you like to be part of a friendly local community?

We’re currently looking for new people to staff our pay-as-you-feel café in central Brixton.

We make tasty vegan and vegetarian sandwiches, salads, soups and top quality teas and coffees. Where possible we aim to source our ingredients from items that would otherwise go to waste. We regularly receive donations from local food businesses and therefore adapt our menu depending on what is available.

We are looking for someone who is:

  • Experienced working in a cafe or coffee shop and using a manual coffee machine
  • Passionate about food and creative in the kitchen – you’ll be able to think up dishes based on what’s in stock, and make them our daily specials
  • Excellent dealing with customers
  • Personable and able to work alongside colleagues and volunteers
  • Flexible with the rota, and happy to do the occasional Saturday
  • Aware of kitchen hygiene, food and drink preparation, ideally with a level 1 or 2 in food safety
  • Confident working as part of a team and independently in a busy work environment
  • Happy talking to the public about the Brixton Pound and the ethos and aims of our project

What we offer:

  • The opportunity to be creative and to work with a small social enterprise with a unique progressive ethos
  • Competitive hourly rate
  • Free meal & all the coffee you can drink whilst on shift
  • A chance to be part of a dynamic Brixton community
  • Up to 16 hours a week available

To apply, please email your cover letter and cv to keisha@brixtonpound.org or drop it in to our café at 77 Atlantic Road, Brixton SW9 8PU

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The money raised by sales at the Brixton Pound Café goes towards the Brixton Fund, which funds community projects in the area. Our ethos is on sustainability, community and inclusivity, and we aim to sell food made primarily from surplus goods that local businesses would otherwise throw out.

Sign up for Brixton’s first Action for Happiness course at the B£ Cafe!

We’re excited to be hosting Brixton’s first Action for Happiness course, an 8-week course for people interested in exploring what matters for a happy and meaningful life.

“In the modern world we are bombarded with false messages about what makes for a happy life. The Exploring What Matters course helps people discover for themselves that real success has much less to do with what we earn or consume – and much more to do with our inner attitudes, our relationships with others and our contribution to society”.

-Dr Mark Williamson, Director, Action for Happiness

A challenge to the materialism and doctrine of individual success that predominates in today’s society, Exploring What Matters sees a group of likeminded, curious people meeting for eight weeks to explore key factors that shape our lives, and determine our wellbeing. They start with “What really matters in life?” and then “What really makes us happy?”. These are followed by sessions on dealing with adversity, having good relationships, caring for others, and creating happier workplaces and communities. They end with “How can we create a happier world?

Analysis of the course has found that it leaves people both happier and more pro-social, with participants reporting increases in levels of life satisfaction, mental wellbeing, compassion and social trust. It’s delivered by community volunteers, and is supported by the Dalai Lama (!) … https://www.youtube.com/embed/rakF28bExMU?rel=0&autoplay=1

Sound good? Sign up for your place here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-action-for-happiness-course-brixton-22-may-2017-tickets-34101744235?aff=efbevent

The first session kicks off on 22 May 2017 at The Brixton Pound Cafe, 77 Atlantic Rd.

See you there!

New: Yoga classes in Brixton Pound studios

We’re very pleased that we’ll soon be starting yoga classes in the studio space below our cafe.

Yoga with Sarah (Mondays starting 8 May): 8am-9am Vinyasa Flow. 10.30am-11.30am Parent and baby yoga

Yoga with Mary (Fridays starting 19 May): Mindful yoga flow 11am-12pm beginners, 12pm-1pm intermediate

Both classes are £10 drop-in. Free turmeric chai for every attendee!

Both teachers are keen to get to know students and make it a social experience as well, so there will be a coffee/tea in the cafe after classes for anyone who would like to join in!

Sarah was an education consultant for more than a decade but in 2012 left for Latin America. Discovering yoga as a sustainable way of life, she qualified to teach in 2013 and began giving one-to-one classes, teaching small groups in offices and at a studio in Crystal Palace. She completed 500 hours training in India, studying the styles of Iyengar and Ashtanga with focus on alignment and adjustment, practicing under gurus in Mysore and learning Thai yoga massage to enhance her anatomical knowledge. She specialises in the styles of Ashtanga, Yin & acro-yoga and she recently added parent & baby yoga to her qualifications after attending classes with her own baby. She also teaches wellbeing classes & mindfulness yoga to students and staff in secondary schools. Her classes are dynamic yet playful, flowing but structured, encouraging students to feel grounded and energised.

Mary first turned to yoga as a way of keeping fit, sane and anchored while working in a manic advertising role. She also found it highly useful in dealing with her increasing anxiety. In 2011 she decided to press pause on the rat race; completing her 200 hour teacher training on a retreat in Dahab, Egypt; her mother’s homeland. The country had an intense pull on her so she relocated there shortly after, teaching her Vinyasa style classes to ex-pats, holidaymakers, Egyptian and Bedouin women, which she describes as an enlightening experience.

Returning to live once more in London in 2014 she went on to complete an 80 hour Pregnancy teacher training with Yogamama Ltd. Her yoga promotes balance, flexibility and strength, whilst the mindfulness techniques along with breathwork help develop an openhearted awareness of the present moment. You will leave feeling relaxed, energised and grounded. Resources are also provided to help you develop a personal practice at home.

Are you a yoga teacher looking for an affordable space in Brixton to run your classes? Get in touch spacehire@brixtonpound.org

Brixton Windmill pops up in Pop Brixton

You might not have noticed the little logo on the page of Brixton’s local newspaper, the Bugle. It’s a silhouette of a windmill. And not just any windmill – it’s the Brixton Windmill. Located a little way up Brixton Hill, tucked amidst the houses of Blenheim Gardens in a unique urban setting, the Windmill has been around for 200 years, and through the twists and turns of history has now lovingly been restored to working order.

In March, the Friends of Windmill Gardens brought the Windmill to central Brixton, running a pop up stall in Pop Brixton to raise funds and launch their summer programme. The Friends are the spiritual guardians of the Windmill: a group of local volunteers who manage and maintain the mill and its grounds, recruit volunteers, and raise funds. Most recently they have embarked on an exciting new project to build an Education Centre in the grounds, which will ultimately make the Windmill more accessible and user friendly for its diverse range of visitors, including school groups and young people.

As part of Pop’s Community Investment Scheme, they took over an empty unit where they sold merchandise and promoted their 2017 programme http://www.brixtonwindmill.org/visit, which kicked off on 25 March. The Windmill opens for volunteer-led tours of the mill and gardens on scheduled weekends, which are very popular, so make sure you book. And don’t miss the renowned Beer and Bread Festival [http://brixtonwindmill.org/whats-on?item=161] which takes place on bank holiday Monday 1 May, with beer, bread, live music and Morris men.

The Friends also sold their locally milled Brixton flour (produced in the Windmill itself by their tireless volunteer millers – if you’re interested in becoming one, get in touch with the Friends!) If you missed the pop up, you can buy Brixton Windmill flour from Brixton Whole Foods, the Old Post Office Bakery, Cornercopia, F Mondays, Dulwich Picture Gallery, and our own Brixton Pound Café.

Friends of Windmill Gardens visited Pop Brixton as part of the Brixton Pound’s community investment scheme, through which Brixton businesses give back to the local community in varied ways. If you’re a community organisation, project or school interested in benefiting from the scheme, get in touch with Lucy (lucy @ brixtonpound.org) to find out more.

Workshop: a transparent tax zone in Brixton?

B£ Transparent Tax 1280px

Date: Monday 16th March

Time: 12.00-14.00

Location: Impact Hub Brixton, Lambeth Town Hall

Tax is a high-profile and hugely-important issue. We are faced with a constant stream of stories of individuals and corporations evading and/or avoiding tax. If tax isn’t paid it means there is less money to for the public services that our communities rely on in times of need and to educate our children to invest in the future. In very practical terms, if a shop is owned by a local business woman and she pays tax then she is at a commercial disadvantage to a ‘chain’ shops that manage to avoid paying tax. This puts the local businesses we love at an unfair disadvantage.

This is why the Brixton Pound is working with researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Lancaster to explore ideas around what a visible tax system might look like. Would you as a B£ user like to be able to see if a company pays tax, much like Health and Safety information is made visible. If so, how would that work? Or, do you think it would be a dangerous idea?

The workshop is going to be a friendly discussion to explore ideas for a tax system that works better for Brixton. We are offering participants £10 sterling or B£20 (paper or electronic), and food will be provided. Places are limited, so please send an email to tom@brixtonpound.org to register your interest in taking part.

Brixton Pound statement on Brixton Central regeneration

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(photo courtesy of urban75.org)

The Brixton Pound (B£) was created to support the small independent businesses that are the lifeblood of the Brixton community. We hope over the years that our efforts have helped raise awareness amongst both Brixton residents and visitors that supporting local businesses, although sometimes costing a little bit more time than going to the big chains, is a worthwhile investment and a more rewarding experience. There is also a hard-nosed economic case for small independents[1] – they employ more local people and spend more of their profits locally than chain retailers. Indeed, two-thirds of all the jobs in the UK are created by small and medium sized enterprises.

As everyone is aware, however, Brixton has increasingly become a more challenging place for independent businesses to survive. Rents have been shooting up year on year and fierce competition has arrived from the major national chain-stores and supermarkets. Brixton’s main high street lost its last independent business – Mr Webster’s shoe shop[2] – a few years back. Now, with the exception of the joss-stick sellers and flower shop pop ups outside the tube, its looks little different from any other UK high street.

Fortunately, off the main thoroughfare, Brixton is still a vibrant home for independents. This includes the 30 businesses in the arches of Atlantic and Station road, many of which have been in residence for decades. So it is with great concern that we hear of the 6-month notice being served by Network Rail to these businesses with no guarantee of a return and the likelihood of large rent increases.

We do not know the details of the negotiations between Network Rail, Lambeth Council and the other stakeholders involved in the Brixton Central development program. We also appreciate that redevelopment of central Brixton will involve difficult decisions and that the current economic climate means commercial considerations have to be balanced against the needs of local stakeholders.

However, we have been involved in the community consultation and of course are familiar with many of the businesses on these two roads who have been loyal B£ members since we launched in 2009. Our understanding was that the development would not involve permanently uprooting existing businesses. We note in the Future Brixton published feedback [http://futurebrixton.org/brixtoncentral/workshop-feedback/] from the community consultation on the workshops published on 30th December, it is stated that:

“The proposals to locate new studio or office spaces throughout the masterplan were welcomed, with many people raising the need for space to be affordable… Small shops and workspaces in between the viaducts within a new covered space were also well received. The importance of offering space for light industry and artists, including those already in the area was also raised.”

Clearly, something has gone wrong and the proposals, if carried out, represent a huge blow for the robust local economy that we have been working to support.

We ask all the partners involved to try and take a long view on the development of Brixton Central. Of course, in the short-term, the easy options is to simply ramp up the rents on the refurbished commercial properties in the arches to boost profits. But what would be the long-term consequences?

What makes Brixton special and what makes people want to live here and visit is the diversity of both its residents and its businesses. Research also shows that independent businesses, although they may be able to afford a bit less in rent, are less likely to lay off workers[3] or close down during the bad times, as Tesco is doing right now across the country[4].

The current residents of the arches have proven their commitment to Brixton and their ability to ride out the ups and downs of the Brixton economy. They also provide basic goods and services – the shops on this strip include fishmongers, general stores and places to buy fruit and vegetables. But they are also more than simply businesses. They employ Brixton people, are run by Brixton families and serve loyal Brixton customers. Forcing them out would involve breaking part relationships and the social capital built up over generations.

In other words, the decisions over the Central Brixton redevelopment, as with any redevelopment, need to be based on more than just a simple, short-term economic bottom line.

Going forward, as proposed in the petition[5], we ask that Network Rail reconsider their eviction notice and engage in constructive negotiations with the arches businesses to find a solution that will enable them to remain an integral fixture of the Brixton community. We also call on Lambeth Council and the other stakeholders involved to do everything in their power to ensure such a positive outcome.

Signed

The Brixton Pound Staff and Directors

 

[1] http://ilsr.org/key-studies-walmart-and-bigbox-retail/#1

[2] http://www.urban75.org/blog/websters-shoe-shop-closes-for-after-140-years-of-service-to-brixton/

[3] http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/reimagining-the-high-street

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/28/tesco-names-43-stores-to-close

[5] https://www.change.org/p/network-rail-halt-the-evictions-of-brixton-s-beloved-businesses-from-its-railway-arches?just_created=true

The future of local businesses in Brixton

The below letter was sent by Brixton Pound co-chair, Binki Taylor, on Thursday 5th February to Cllr Lib Peck (Leader of Lambeth Council), Tessa Jowell MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, Cllr Jack Hopkins (Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Jobs and Growth), Tom Bridgman (Delivery Lead for the Future Brixton regeneration programme) and Elly Foster (Chair of the Brixton Business Improvement District)

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Dear All,

I am extremely disturbed to hear about the notice being served by Network Rail to the tenants on Atlantic Road and Station Road. Yesterday I had a long conversation with the owners of A&C who are devastated by this announcement and the uncertainty it brings to them and 25 other families involved.

I do not want to believe that the manner in which this is being implemented and the lack of intention in protecting the future of these longstanding Brixton businesses is an acceptable outcome of regeneration for you or anyone responsible for this development programme, however it is becoming increasingly difficult to feel that protecting the essential essence of Brixton has ever been a serious priority. This makes a complete nonsense of the Future Brixton community consultation process, and I deeply resent the time, energy and commitment taken by myself and many other citizens to protect community interest in the Central Brixton Master Development Plan.

This is not regeneration it is violation and it is taking place at the heart of our community; to the very people that have built and shaped it over many years. As you know I am an advocate of positive change and I am not naive about the commercial considerations needed to make a balanced and viable community. People- their passion, commitment and hard work at a local level, breathe real sustainable life into this community; you cannot replace that with mono-cultural retail and leisure development and expect a culturally rich, diverse and inclusive community to survive and flourish. This is not positive it is destructive; who and what are these longstanding, much loved businesses making way for?

On perhaps a more productive note you could consider re-housing those displaced businesses on the POP site at affordable rents? Any vague whiff of integrity the Future Brixton plan may once have held is now seriously dead in the water. This is extremely damaging and someone needs to take some responsibility for ensuring that livelihoods are not unduly affected in the long term. I, and no doubt many others look forward to hearing from you very soon in a public arena.

Regards

Binki Taylor

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There is a live petition calling on Network Rail and Lambeth Council to resolve this issue. Please sign it.

The new kid on the block

Hi everyone, I’m writing this blog as part of a work experience placement with the Brixton Pound, where I have been made to feel part of the team already! Here’s how my first week has gone.

On my first day I was given some videos and web pages to look at to get an insight into what the Brixton Pound is all about, and the origins of it. I wanted to know the back story in order to get a better feel of it, so that I could explain it to others more comfortably and confidently. I then started going through YouTube and gathering all of the videos about the Brixton Pound – there are a lot!

I have also been doing research on other community currencies, which has given me a wider understanding and knowledge of how they work and the purpose of community currencies not only here in Brixton but all over the world. As well as being behind a computer doing research I have also been able to go out and do business surveys, talking to them about their current situation and how they see their business developing in the near future. I have also done special research with Latin American businesses because I am Colombian and the team thought that it would be beneficial to communicate in Spanish with them.

The other thing I have been doing is eating! I have been using pay-by-text around Brixton, which makes life a lot easier while paying. I enjoyed eating in Kaff, which was a different experience to what I am accustomed to, which is Colombian cuisine. I liked Kaff’s American-Caribbean crossover style and the chilled out, homely vibe, and the presence of lots of artwork too. The food carries on the theme of the place giving you a variety of things to eat from jerk chicken to pulled pork. I chose to feast on the pulled pork with dirty rice (no the rice wasn’t actually dirty it was quite delicious in fact).

From sitting down in Kaff to taking away at Healthy Eaters – there was simply no space to sit down, an early indication that the food was going to be good. Some of my colleagues went to the new vegan branch of Healthy Eaters around the corner, but I wanted to sample some of the meat on offer. Being in Brixton I went for jerk chicken in stew with rice and beans – my first time trying Jamaican food! I didn’t know what to expect but I was definitely not disappointed, the first bite of the chicken was like an explosion of different spices and flavours, way more than I am used to!

Anyway it’s Friday now so almost time to knock off for the week and start the weekend! See you next week.

Alejandro

Talking money and leadership

Money. It makes the world go around but, if you believe the doubters, it’s actually got quite a lot to answer for. Well, not money per se, but the money system and more specifically, the way money is created – by banks, as debt, to be repaid with interest. From silly house prices to inequality to climate change, all can be traced back to the financial wizardry caused when a bank, simply by typing some numbers on a screen, creates new money in the form of a loan. I wanted to find out more about this and specifically, what leadership might look like should one wish to reform this seemingly messy affair. To discuss the issues I sat down with B£ co-founder and economist at the new economics foundation, Josh Ryan-Collins, and writer and campaigner Brett Scott.

I wanted to begin by asking them something seemingly obvious, that all this is nothing new. As far back as the 1950s Joseph Schumpeter was writing about money creation from banks, while also claiming it to be a topic that causes a headache for most economists. It appears that little has changed 60 years down the line. Or has it? According to Josh, Schumpeter had a better grasp than most economists today, chained as they are to neoclassical economic dogma. Schumpeter, like Keynes, recognised that the nature of capitalism is that certain institutions kickstart the circle of production by creating IOUs without pre-existing savings. However as orthodox economics took grip in the 20th century, mathematical models became the favoured means of analysing the economy, many of which were abstract and without regard for money, banks and credit creation. Money was just an advance form of barter, and a neutral entity. And who are we to question? Economists, it is suggested, hold a special place in society. They are seen to have this enlightened expertise about the economy, sacred cows to whom the public – and crucially, politicians – defer. If they are not talking about money, the more likely it exists as a fringe issue.

Central banks too have failed to dispel myths that money creation is of no significance to the economy. In 2014 the Bank of England finally came clean, becoming the first central bank to publicly state that private banks create the majority of money in the economy. This was in no small part thanks to the groundbreaking 2011 book that Josh co-authored, ‘Where Does Money Come From?’ This added to the pressures on the bank which, post-financial crisis, was facing questions as to why this had happened, and one of the main reasons being that certain institutions created excessive amounts of credit.

However, to this day most people still think that governments and central banks create money. Just last week I gave a talk at Lloyds Bank, invited in to speak about currency innovation. How many people working at Lloyds correctly identified that banks create most of the money supply? Zero. It is not just on the shop floor. You will struggle to find a senior leader willing to engage in debate on money creation. The impact of money created by private banks as interest bearing debt – the transfer of wealth from poor to rich, the insatiable need for growth and trashing of the environment, for example – appears obvious, coherent, and urgent. Why wouldn’t anyone with a policy lever be interested in this? It was put forward that it attacks so much of taught mainstream economic theory that many are simply unwilling to countenance it. Then there’s ego at play too; if you’re a senior executive you don’t want to admit to not knowing something that seems so obvious. And when it comes to the financial sector leaders, the fact remains that they can operate in their jobs and be rewarded handsomely without needing to know how it works.

Despite this, there are examples of those in a position of authority who speak out on this. Martin Wolf at the FT is one. But among journalists he is rare. Surely if someone as respected as Martin Wolf is talking about money creation, others will take it up too? Not so, as Brett points out mainstream economics is so closely tied to political power that large amounts of counter evidence does not have to be taken in. There is a dominant narrative that is hegemonic, that doesn’t make room for ideas such as those which question where money comes from. You see the same in academia, where a dominant group of academics publish orthodox papers in journals edited by orthodox economists. Counter arguments do not get published.

Neither Josh nor Brett has come across a coherent rebuttal of the arguments they make. The battle, therefore, is over whether the money system is a bad thing, and what the alternatives are, and recently a chink in the political armour appeared. On 20 November, following lobbying from Positive Money, parliament held its first debate on money creation since 1844. As an indication of the way to go though, one only has to look at the attendance: just 35 members, or 5% of the House.

Ultimately, there is a huge amount of status quo bias; that what exists now must exist because it is better. Any reform or new initiative must prove itself at a higher gradient, ironic since the existing system is heavily subsidised in order to maintain this status quo. In the end, I asked, is it therefore likely that only total economic collapse will bring about the change that campaigners wish to see? Both agreed that encumbered as they are with a behemoth of a financial system (circa 500% of GDP), from a purely lobbying perspective politicians’ hands are tied; they are essentially paid by the financial sector to keep it afloat.

If there is hope for leadership at a macro level, it may come from further afield. In places such as Brazil, and East Asia, where the sizes of the financial sector is much smaller relative to the rest of the economy, one can find development banks, debt-free credit creation mechanisms, and high investment in infrastructure. It appears a path that our leaders won’t take, set as they are on heading towards a cliff edge instead.

This post is part of coursework for a PGC in Sustainable Leadership at the University of Cumbria. The next module, entitled ‘Sustainable Exchange’, takes place in London on March 18-21. Places are available to take this as a stand-alone module. For more information contact iflas@cumbria.ac.uk

Reason to use the Brixton Pound #1

B£ accepted here

#1 It sticks to Brixton

Think of the Brixton as a leaky bucket. Money pours in, but there are large, corporate chain-shaped holes through which this money immediately leaks out.

A local currency reinforces shopping at independent businesses, which are more likely to source local supplies, use nearby services, and employ local people. Money that sticks to Brixton, and makes it a better place to live and shop.

Want more reasons? 11 more are right here.