We have another Brixton Bonus winner! Kam Nathan, a first time Bonus player, took home B£1,000 on 30th October, which happened to be the day before her birthday! She joins the small crowd of Bonus winners, some of whom are featured in our Winners Gallery – have a look! And make sure youget some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 27th November – just in time for some BriXmas shopping!
Kam lives on the Angell Town estate in Brixton, and first heard of the Brixton Bonus when she came to the launch of It’s Your Local Market, a new, weekly Saturday market created by Angell Town resident Andrea Brown to bring the community spirit back to the area and for residents to sell locally sourced food and affordable clothing and crafts. It’s been funded by the London Community Foundation. Kam came by the B£ stall, chatted to us, and bought a Bonus ticket – which she promptly forgot about… until she got the email from us!
“It was my birthday on 31st so I feel blessed. I will spend some in Morleys, at the make up counter, for sure! And buy some Christmas bits for my family. But most of it will go on me! I would like go to Brixton Village to eat out – with the amount I won I could go every week to treat myself to a meal! That would be nice, I haven’t done that in a long time. And I like how a lot of food in the Village is healthy. I’d rather go there and eat something better than spend money at McDonald’s.”
photo credit: Evening Standard / Matt Writtle
“I work at a nursery. I’m also involved in a few projects at Angell Town – a children’s theatre project, My London which gets people to visit different places around town, to build social and cultural intelligence. These are part of a project Angell Town’s been running at the Evening Standard. I’m a mother of five, my oldest just turned 18 and the youngest is 2. My kids are almost more excited about the prize than I am! My younger son really wants some computer games, can I buy those with Brixton Pounds?”
“I’ve lived in Brixton most of my life, and seen many shops come and go. I think keeping money in the community is a good thing to do – I want to support local shops in Brixton. I used to come to A&C Continental Deli – they had the best carrots and pumpkins around. I haven’t used Brixton Pounds before, but knew about them, I’ve noticed signs in shops and knew that it keeps the money in the community. I will start using them more now! And I’m really glad that B£ keeps their pounds sterling at the Credit Union – I have an account there myself, it’s very good – it helps local people, gives them loans.”
“The best part about winning is that I’m going to treat myself! I haven’t had much chance to do that so this is very exciting.”
Would you like a chance to treat yourself as well? Goget some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 27th November – who knows, it could be you next time! Better yet, set up a recurring entry to never miss a chance for a Brixton Grand – and get some extra goodies as a reward from us.
This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.
Every month the Brixton Bonus provides revenue for the Brixton Fund, our new micro-grants scheme in Brixton for projects looking to create employment, challenge injustice and create community benefit.
Hatch is a free of charge program aimed at helping entrepreneurs aged 18-30 who are looking to start up or grow their own business. Hatch gives them crucial business support through a 12 week long incubator program. The next Hatch incubator scheme is due to start at the end of January 2016 – apply for the next round here. Or maybe you have invaluable info for young businesses? Become a Hatch mentor!
Lots of small businesses and start-ups crop up every year, but they often don’t have access to expert business knowledge or funding, and the need for both is very real – on average only about 20% new enterprises make it past 18 months.
To address this issue and provide early support and guidance, Dirk Bischof started the Hatch incubator program in 2014. It’s been very successful: 90% of the businesses leaving the incubator are still operational 6 months after program end.
B£ caught up with Dirk who told us more about what inspired him to start Hatch, how it works and what it’s already achieved.
“I knew how hard it is to start a business or social enterprise when you’re younger, having started my first business at 24. I knew that support is essential to get off to the right start. I was always fascinated with incubators and accelerators and the way they build an ecosystem of support around the entrepreneurs. I knew that this was what I wanted to provide to early stage entrepreneurs and their enterprises.”
“There wasn’t anything like this locally, and having been in Brixton for over 6 years we knew there was a demand for specialist and holistic support. After a 2-year pilot and my personal experience of going through an accelerator programme (at the Young Foundation), we had a great team together, a solid programme, and the financial backing to get started. We use the lean methodology so every Hatch program is an experiment: we try to improve, make mistakes, learn from them, and be useful to the amazing entrepreneurs we get to work with.”
So farover 40 different businesses have been through the incubator program, ranging from community organisations like Brixton Soup Kitchen to start-ups like Snact. Brixton Soup Kitchen provides food, hot meals, and information to the homeless in Brixton. They joined Hatch’s program to put together a business plan and get their organisation further. Snact are a local social enterprise developing creative solutions to food waste and food poverty, and this is what they said about their Hatch experience:
“Starting a business is fun and rewarding, but it’s also full of challenges, and for those we needed some help. The Hatch incubator came up as the right opportunity at the right time for us to work through some core business issues and get support from the One Planet Ventures team.”
Dirk agrees that there are lots of challenges when starting a business, and it’s not just at the very start that you need support: “Starting a business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. That means we have to keep on building our support ecosystem to be effective for people coming to us with business ideas, to those that have tested it, and who go through Hatch, for our alumni. At the moment we need to ensure that we can deliver Hatch to the best of our abilities, delivering consistent quality, supporting not just the new entrepreneurs on the programme but be of service and use to those that have come through our doors already. We have now tested and piloted Hatch in four other countries in Europe, to learn how it could work elsewhere. We’d like to put Hatch into many more communities in London to support many more people to start their own businesses.”
“Hatch is currently looking for funding that would allow us to provide the early venture support needed to run more business experiments. Some of them will work out, all of them will provide learning opportunities for the individuals and the communities involved. Exciting times really!”
So how does Hatch work exactly? The incubator program is spread over 12 weeks and aims to help start-ups in a number of different ways. Dirk told B£ more about each stage:
The Hatch program consists of 20 workshops. Conducted by industry experts, they cover a range of subjects essential to start-ups.Subjects include: building a business model canvas (BMC), financial modeling, how to get funding, professional storytelling, marketing, crowdfunding.
Hatch will match you with one or two mentors depending on your needs. These mentors generally work at established businesses and have specific knowledge and expertise of the areas you might need help with. Subjects include business development, financial modeling, sales and marketing, and other skills useful to start-ups.
And, more importantly, we want the shop to be a community-focused space. We want to know what you, the community members, would like to see on the Brixton high street. Would you like to run a workshop, host an event in the space, or have other ideas for using it for community benefit? We want to show that a different high street is possible!
We’d really appreciate your thoughts. Please do pop in for a chat – at the moment we’re open on weekdays 9am-6:30pm. Alternatively please feel free to drop us a line on info (at) brixtonpound (dot) org. We’re looking forward to more conversations with Brixtonites!
We have another Brixton Bonus winner! Will Bugler was the lucky person who got B£1,000 in the August draw. He joins the small crowd of winners, some of whom are featured in our Winners Gallery – have a look! And make sure youget some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 25th September – who knows, it could be you next time! Better yet, set up a recurring entry to never miss a chance for a Brixton Grand – and get some extra goodies as a reward from us.
You can set up your recurring entry here. You must have a B£ account, to register for one, go here. Entries must be set to recur indefinitely to unlock rewards (n.b. they can be cancelled at any time).
Brixton Pound met Will at the Market House pub on Coldharbour Lane to find out a bit more about him and his grand Bonus experience:
“I moved to Brixton five years ago with my girlfriend. That time’s gone really quick! I didn’t know anything about Brixton before I moved here. My family left London when I was five, and back then the area had a very different reputation, so I came not knowing what to expect at all. It’s amazing how quickly you build a rapport with Brixton – it rubbed off on me pretty instantly.”
“It’s so vibrant, and such a mix of cultures. Of course I’m aware of how quickly it’s changing. Five years is nothing compared to how long some people have been here, and already it seems like there were barely any restaurants then, and now the whole neighbourhood has exploded with them. I’m aware of that change, but also conscious of the fact that I’m part of it. I think it’s important to have that awareness of being part of the process, so that you can support things that go the other way, make sure you contribute to something good.”
“The Brixton Pound is a great example, it’s an easy and tangible way of contributing to the area, keeping money circulating within it, of being more socially responsible. What makes Brixton great is its diversity, and using B£ is a very practical step towards preserving it. It’s sometimes tough to know how to change things, you often get the sense you’re stuck because it’s all governmental politics with issues such as increasing rent which is currently the biggest factor driving people out of the area. It’s a lot safer around here, but surely that doesn’t mean it has to be at the cost of diversity? You have to put pressure on politicians, but it’s completely different to have this power to do something different in your everyday life, like pay with B£s. It takes a conscious effort, but more people should be aware of their impact, and how they can offset at least some of it.”
“I work in climate change adaptation – not carbon cutting, but advising companies how to change their behaviour, practices and policies because of what we know is already happening to the climate. I was already interested in local currencies, and then I saw the B£ with Bowie on it and thought, that’s so cool! I found out about Bonus from the Brixton Blog and thought it was a brilliant idea: more people will know about the currency, and it’s a way to keep them spending it, keep the money circulating. I already had some B£s in my account so I got tickets, but I didn’t expect to win!”
“I’d like to stay in Brixton. It gets under your skin. It’s such a real location, like its own town, you don’t get the same feeling anywhere else. I love the creative vibe, but also how down to earth everyone is. And it’s always loud, and crowded, and in your face, you get out of the tube station and there’s people playing drums and someone shouting about Jesus and all that is weirdly comforting, maybe because it’s so alive. It’s not sanitised. A lot of the problems are really wider London problems, but I guess they are more noticeable here exactly because there’s such a strong local identity.”
This is a guest blog post by James Duggan and Joe Lindley who conducted research about visible tax in Brixton. Read the full report here.
Sometimes the problems society faces are enough to make you want to hide under the bed, and on closer inspection it seems that at every turn seemingly sensible solutions are blocked by those pesky vested interests and the powers that be. This is why initiatives like the Brixton Pound, what Davina Cooper (2014) calls ‘everyday utopian communities’, provide hope that through imagination and collective action communities can live life in radically different ways.
We were interested in the ‘tax gap’, a £122bn black hole in the country’s finances by the non-payment of tax (Tax Research UK 2012). The tax system is complicated, opaque, defended by highly-paid accountants. The unpaid billions seem to benefit the richest, and penalise everyday tax payers. We wonder if it possible to move things in a fairer direction. What could we do? A question that soon changed to what would the B£ do? Could the Brixton Pound develop a tax system that could work better for the community?
We thought there was something in the way that tax is hidden and unspoken, and that by making tax visible and ‘audible’ in communities that would make companies more likely to pay tax, increase transparency, and help close the tax gap.
To enable us to explore these ideas and develop practical approaches we decided to use design fiction methods with the B£ community. Design fictions are part science-fiction, science-fact, and part designed visions of the near future. The process involves imagining where current trends and technologies might take us in the future, developing products and services, and then wrapping these ideas up in believable stories, so that more meaningful conversations can be had.
So we hosted a series of workshops to discuss tax with people from Brixton, made a ‘story world’ where there was a new ‘Just Tax’ scheme in Brixton. We produced a series of prototypes, promotional materials, and with the help of some friendly Brixtonites we filmed a ‘speculative documentary’ about the scheme set in the year 2017.
The most interesting conversations we had were not about how to make tax visible in communities, but rather how to encourage people in communities to consider different types of relationship, different types of mutual obligations between citizens, and within that reciprocal commitment, alternative configurations of tax collection and expenditure. In the discussions the crucial dimension seemed to be whether design fiction can engender the desire for a better way of being or living and then how to stimulate the collective engagement to make the world otherwise (Levitas 2013).
We’d like to thank all those that took part in the research, the people that attended the workshops and Tom Shakhli for helping organise the events.
Lambeth Country Show is a FREE festival taking place in Brockwell Park, with attractions such as horticultural shows, home grown vegetable and flower competitions, numerous craft & food stalls and even an on site farm. Plus lots of great South London vibe music. And you know what? This year another great attraction is added to the bill: the first ever Brixton Bonus draw! We’ll announce the winner of the main prize: B£1,000 and the 12 runner-up prizes from the main stage at 6pm on Sunday 19th July.
Brixton Bonus is a community prize draw with two winners: you, and Brixton. You can buy tickets for as little as £1/B£1 and you have a chance to win a whole Brixton Grand – B£1,000! Whether it’s a new bike you’re after, some massage therapy or a year’s worth of yams – you won’t be left wanting, and the money you spend will support Brixton’s famous independent shops and strengthen the local economy.
The inaugural draw also includes 12 excellent runners-up prizes to increase your chances of winning:
But that’s not the end of it! Whether you’re a lucky winner or not, Brixton wins every time. Funds generated by the Bonus will be split between the Brixton Fund – a local micro-grants scheme – and the Brixton Pound, enabling us to continue our work supporting Brixton’s businesses and local economy. It’s really a win-win situation!
In short: what are you waiting for?!
Tickets are on sale online (click here if you have a B£ account already, or here if you’re new to this whole thing) until noon on Sunday 19th July. You can buy up to 10 to help your luck.
They will also be on sale at Lambeth Country Show throughout the day on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th July, up until the big draw on the main stage at 6pm!
We hope you can join us there for the big moment – and good luck if you’re playing! (If you’re not, GET ON IT!)
We are very happy and proud to announce that the artist Jeremy Deller has designed a special edition paper B£5 in celebration of the currency being five years old. His extraordinary design adds a significant and provocative message that reflects our intention to raise the conversation of how we understand, use and value money in this time of economic instability and what we could aspire to in the future.
Jeremy Deller won the Turner Prize in 2004 and was selected to represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2013. This special edition B£5 is produced in collaboration with Fraser Muggeridge Studios.
As our own designer, Charlie Waterhouse says:
“These are the most amazing currency notes ever produced. No exaggeration. They’re beautiful and mysterious; spiritual and politicising. In two small sides of paper it provides the most compelling response to the rot that emanates from the Square Mile that I’ve seen since we were all told we had to live under the yoke of Austerity”.
“They’re living proof that while the Establishment can try all they might to take our money, they can’t take our spirit. The pounds Sterling in our pockets are monochrome, dull and in thrall to history and hierarchy – designed to remind us that ‘our’ money isn’t really ours at all. Brixton Pounds are the exact opposite. Joyous and empowering, they remind us that we can all make positive decisions about our spending, and make a real difference to the community around us. They’re wonderful invites to us all to step into a better future.”
The note, each of which has a unique serial number from its limited print run, will be available from 8 July at the evening launch event in central Brixton, and from local stockists and online thereafter. It is available to order on the Brixton Pound website: www.brixtonpound.org/shop
Brixton Pound is a currency which encourages social connections, and so it is our pleasure to be introducing you to B£ traders as well as B£ users on our blog. This week, we’re featuring the creative hub The Turpentine, home to our shiny B£ t-shirts and B£ pay-by-tap pioneers!
“People really like them, especially the purple one!” says Amber, one of The Turpentine‘s co-founders. “They are also really good quality, the design is durable and doesn’t come out in the wash. We’ve had so many happy customers.”
The beginnings of The Turpentine go way back, and start with friends connecting friends. Co-founder Alice, who was living in Berlin at the time, introduced Amber and Jude at a friend’s dinner: “I knew Jude always dreamed of opening a coffee shop, and Amber wanted to set up something of her own, too, so I thought I’d connect them. Some time later I moved back, and they were already working on a project together!” They started will selling artwork at street markets, to then find a temporary home at Effra Social. Jude: “We would do markets there: have 20 tables with the stuff from our artists, workshops, music and dancing. It was such a great way to get to know people, find out what they wanted, what worked well – to get an idea of what our market was, and if what we were doing was falling on good ground.” Then one day Alice walked past the unit where to shop is today on Coldharbour Lane, and noticed it was available: “I called them up there and then, and couldn’t believe our luck when we got it! We never thought we could afford to open a permanent space in Brixton, we expected our offer to be rejected.. so when we actually got it we needed to do some frantic planning, fast!”
The name is a result of three nights’ worth of brainstorming. Jude: “We wanted something that combined a shop space with our workshops, something accessible, catchy, gender-neutral, art-based… and what had a domain name still up for grabs!”, she laughs. “Since then it’s been a constant learning process: the planning was easy, but then actually doing it! At one stage we just had to open, and realised we didn’t really think what was going to happen past that point. Amber had a lot of retail experience, but we didn’t yet have all the little systems you’ve got to have in place to make it all running smoothly.” Alice adds: “It was also a learning experience to work from home, with only one team meeting in the week – we don’t have any office space. But a year after opening, we’ve doubled the number of artists whose work we showcase, from 50 to over a hundred. We’ve seen people wearing our t-shirts at Brixton Academy gigs. Walking around Brixton there’s so much greeting and waving, because so many local people have been to our workshops.And we just hired our first employee! It’s a big milestone. But the best feeling is probably the realisation that it’s actually happening: no more office jobs, this is our life now, and we’re loving every bit of it! We’re building something that’s ours, and since we’re best friends, we’re working with people we love and trust, and that’s amazing.”
“It’s been really great having all the positive feedback from customers. And that Guardian article has helped us a lot! We’re finally at the stage when we can start planning a bit more from the future, not just living from month from month and figuring out. And it never gets old: getting packages with new artwork delivered is like Christmas every day! It’s so exciting to see any new thing or design for the first time.”
The Turpentine’s first own collection of lasercut wood jewellery
Amber is The Turpentine‘s curator, and works to maintain the shop’s distinctive feel: fun, accessible, bright, affordable – and finds new artists who fit into these themes: “We’re always looking for more artists, particularly locals. We’re into nice handmade things for not loads of money – something different to what you can find on the high street.” “But we’re on a high street!”, interjects Alice, “We’re literally bringing handmade to the high street, that’s our motto.”
Three new sets of notebooks available at The Turpentine: feminists, anti-capitalists, and existentialists
Amazing artwork is not all that The Turpentine has to offer: they also specialise in workshops. Jude’s a jewellery designer and teacher, and also “a collector of weird craft techniques, which I like passing on. Lots of people are reluctant to try crafting because it can seem daunting, but most really enjoy it when they try – and it’s not that hard! We’re here to help break that barrier, enable people to use their creativity, give them some key principles they can then take away to do at home.”
Their most popular workshop is called Drink & Draw, and is currently booked out months in advance. Alice: “That was the one featured in the Guardian so it became even more popular. It also slotted well into the New Years Resolutions feel around the time the article was published. But we have lots more! A really awesome one is Wax Casting – you make a ring by carving it in wax, then casting in silver. You can make really unusual shapes, it’s very simple and you come out with an amazing one-off piece. You can also easily do it at home, the tools aren’t expensive which is not a common thing in jewellery design. It’s a really easy access to jewellery making, you should try it!” Watch this space, maybe we’ll expand our B£ collection from t-shirts to rings! 😉
The next big workshops The Turpentine is preparing will be a more in-depth, four week long painting course. “We’ve had lots of interest for life drawing, particularly from local people, so we thought we’d expand into painting too. It’s just great to see these ideas that started in our heads and see them work out! Also to meet customers, hear stories, have all these interactions you wouldn’t otherwise have. Some people do come from afar, even Essex, usually for Drink & Draw of the Guardian fame, but it’s the local connections that matter, and those are the people we’ll recognise and greet when walking around Brixton.”
The Turpentine started accepting B£s pretty soon after opening: “The charming Tom came in one day and offered to sign us up, and we were glad to get involved. We were very flattered when he then approached us for a collaboration. We met with him and the note designer, Charlie, and the ideas for the t-shirts were born. Jude, our in-house designer did the designs, and the rest is history! People love those shirts, some have no idea about the currency so we tell them all about it, and more often then not they leave with a t-shirt in tow. People do B£ pay-by-text a lot, and now we also have the contactless terminal, so we’re excited to have pay-by-tap too!”
The three best friends live in a triangle around the shop: in Brixton, Herne Hill, and just by the Jamm. Jude and Alice first moved South together as flatmates in 2003: to Elephant & Castle, and then to Stockwell. Amber worked in Photofusion at the time. Jude did jewellery design at St Martins, and then taught architecture and 3D design for five years. Making jewellery was her hobby, and now that it’s also her work she finds it hard not to do things that are Turpentine related… “I did just start singing lessons! And I love mooching about in Brixton. I live near Brockwell Park so always go there. And I love Las Americas, a Colombian caf with street food on top of Brixton Station Road. Their shredded beef is incredible.” Amber and Alice: “And why have you not taken us there yet? Sounds like the next Turpentine dinner!” Alice is an avid cyclist, and likes that she can take her bike into the market when she’s buying fruit and veg. “I mainly shop in the outdoor market but Nour Cash & Carry is great too. I like Casa Morita for Mexican food. I finally went to Mama Lan the other day after years of going past it – I just hate queues, and it’s always busy!” Amber had her wedding reception at the Trinity Arms: “It’s an amazing old pub, I love the place, and it never gets so busy you can’t have a conversation. I like the Ritzy too – I’m about to have a baby so it’s less pubs and more cinema. I like Brixton because there’s always something new, like graffiti. Did you see the new one on the back of the library, with the Jurassic Park computer guy?”
“We’re really lucky, it’s rare to have best friends working together, and it’s great that there’s three of us, cause it’s a lot of work to share! The shop is open every day, and we do workshops three evenings each week and they’re usually sold out.. But it never gets overwhelming, we support each other, it’s not like either of us has to do it all by herself, and that’s great. As Brixton residents and business owners we have mixed feelings about the fast pace of some changes. Of course it’s good for our business that Brixton is now a destination and more people come here, but some changes are happening too fast and there’s a danger they will erode the community. For us personally it means that if we have to move, we’ll have to move further away, which is sad – Brixton was so welcoming when we were setting up, people here are so supportive and curious, that sets it apart from the rest of London. Of course we’re part of that change, but we came to Brixton because it was vibrant and different – it’s sad we might lose that. We worry about the spirit of Brixton, but we hope it endures.”
Held at Brixton East 1871 next week, this is an opportunity for small or start-up enterprises to pitch to their local “community of dragons” (everyone!) for support – and not just of money! Everyone can be an investor: of money but also time, resources, skills, enthusiasm, moral support or Facebook likes… With this project, Transition Town Brixton aims to create a culture of community-supported local economy, where the community can invest in various ways in developing the local economy. The audience will include entrepreneurs, potential investors, activists, decision-makers, and community members, and such speakers as the founder of the global Transition Town movement Rob Hopkins, and Lambeth’s Entrepreneur-in-residence, Colin Crooks of Tree Shepherd. The tickets include a seasonal, locally-sourced buffet supper. A one-off special elderflower brew from Brixton Brewery will also be served! And there’s a big discount if you pay in B£s – just text ‘pay ttbrixton 12.99’ to 07797880200. We’ll be there – it would be great to see many of you too!
Back to Duncan: he is an actor and director by training, but he is also long-term concerned about climate change, peak oil, and sustainability, so campaigning on these issues has been his increasing focus: “I went to Climate Camp in 2006 and decided that was going to be my front line activity. I also met Rob Hopkins, who started the Transition Town movement. So in 2007 I converted my local activities with Lambeth Climate Action Groups into Transition Town Brixton. It was more positive, more moving forward, and less fighting against.”
“Climate change affects the viability of the life on this planet, so to me that’s the single most important thing, and that conviction drives me to work on it. I’m also more aware that being angry or scared isn’t galvanising: we need the pull factor, not the push factor, offer people to experience the positive effects of change and work towards a future that’s better, more connected, local, skilled, and fun! It would be fun because people would be actively participating in it and involved in doing it, which would make it enjoyable. It’s much more fun to build a treehouse than to read a book where a character has one. Connecting with local people is one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing according to research done by New Economics Foundation, and doing that in real life rather than online is more rewarding.”
“We did a project called Food Upfront, which was about growing food in front gardens – to be seen, to inspire others, to make sharing the care for them easier (your neighbour could water them for you when you’re away), to change the aesthetic of the streets but also people’s thinking around sharing resources and what ‘common sense’ is. Imagine every house with a front garden full of vegetables, houses covered in greenery and vine, and a swimming pool reservoir in the middle of the street instead of parking spaces because we wouldn’t be using cars – wouldn’t that be brilliant?”
How can you do stuff in your everyday life to contribute to this vision? “I don’t own a car, I cycle. I work on my house to make it as low impact as possible, insulate it, implement positive innovation. I try to be an active part of the rich mix that is Brixton. Getting involved in stuff like the Local Entrepreneur Forum, which is all about what we can do to speed up localisation, to enable people and businesses to be more proactively part of the solution. We want to change how people think, give them more connections to the area and to each other, make them more involved in the local economy, and have people be more aware of the benefits of that. It’s part of the Transition Town movement’s REconomy project – about an economy that’s rethought, reconnected, relocalised. It unifies a lot of the Transition Towns’ projects under a powerful theme that speaks to regular people as well as decision makers.”
“On a Lambeth level, there’s so much that could be done to relocalise. For instance our research has shown that almost the entire spending on Lambeth parks disappears outside Lambeth, when it could be using local suppliers, employing local people. Similarly, our studies have shown that of the massive spending of food in Lambeth most goes to supermarket, and relocalising just 10% of it would double the turnover of local food economy. That would give the area more resilience, and more possibilities for local supply.”
“I’ve been here for 28 years. Sure, it was different in 1987, but also much the same: a sparky, vibrant place where stuff happens. My first real experience of engaging in community building and local networks was when I moved to the top of Brixton Hill and set up a neighbourhood association there. It’s since suffered from many changes in the area, but is now being revived by a new generation of local people, because the area attracts good, community-oriented people still. If I’m honest, I moved here because my brother and I could afford a flat here in 1987, and he worked in Kingston so it was convenient. But I loved it instantly – people just spoke to you in the street, and there was life in the streets, it was open. Now… well, I think lots of that energy is still here. Of course, there’s no salvation from gentrification, but the fat cats in Volvos will move on when they get a better deal somewhere else, and the people who care will stay. I’ve seen so many people get involved in the Transition Town movement, in our group in Brixton. This one guy used to be a corporation worker, he took a leaflet and came to a meeting, and is now a hard line climate activist. People would come to one film screening, and decide they wanted to give significant portions of their time for this. Do I think more people would get involved if they knew some of the things about climate change that I know? Not necessarily. I think knowledge is necessary but it’s not the answer. If you have the eco literacy and can add up causes and effects you’ll realise that however you live in the Western world you will be a high impact person, and lots of people cannot get their heads around it – it sounds so hopeless. What we need is more holistic thinking, and the pull factor: not only show people that living differently is possible and enjoyable, but get them to experience it themselves, the positives rather than the negatives. I’ve taken part in food growing groups and skill sharing groups that changed how I live, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process. It’s about embodying hope.”
“In 1992 we set up a LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) here, and suddenly I was aware of all these great people doing interesting things. I’m still in touch with a lot of them! It was such a revolutionary scheme, enabling people to trade directly between each other. There was a bimonthly catalogue which was just such a delight to read, you saw all these people offering amazing skills, I kept thinking, “I want to meet this person! I wanna know how they came about knowing this great skill they’re offering!” I used to offer high bed advice, because I built quite a few, so I was offering to co-design with people who’d want one. It was great and really connected you to people. And Brixton Pound grew out of that: in 2008 we did a conference called Local Economy Day, about how to do it and why you should, and we trialled B£s for the first time there during lunch break. We printed a bunch of notes called Brixton Bricks, and they represented the LETS credits. And then it all took off and look where we are today!”
“I’m probably one of the most frequent B£ users, I spend it in Brixton Whole Foods, Snugg, Brixi, Morleys, Kaff, C@fe Brixton on Brixton Station Road, at Bushman’s… I mostly use pay-by-text. It all started partly from economic reasons but partly to get people to think and talk about what money really is, and I think it’s still fulfilling that purpose. It’s probably past its “this is revolutionary” phase, and now more people respond to it with slight incredulity, “is it still going?”, but that means they will have heard about it. And if you’ve got some, you’ll spend them back into the local economy. And by using more B£s, people are making it easier to set up local supply chains, maybe even distribution centres…”
“I’ve got two kids – a two year old and a four year old. I spend mornings and evenings with my family. It’s time-consuming, but it’s also rewarding and delightful. That’s also work for a viable future: you can produce powerful people. We try to do fun things together, like cycling around in my Burmese rickshaw, or a bike and bike trailer. We go to Forest School on Mondays in Streatham Common woods, it’s run by a local enterprise called Sankofa to Nature. There the kids play in a way that connects them to nature and they learn natural skills, like watching animals or setting a campfire, or just being dirty and in touch with nature. I don’t really have time for sailing, or reading, or theatre – which used to be a big part of my life, but instead we’ve been camping twice with the Forest School. Did you know there is a campsite on the edge of Dulwich Woods? There’s still bits in London where nature is doing its own work. And seeing the kids do roly polys, playing in the field there – that’s probably the best thing there is.”
Would you like to be featured in our next Meet The User post? We could meet you for a chat over lunch or tea/coffee, or you could write us a guest blog. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Why should you come? If you are in Brixton and use the Brixton Pound, accept it in your business, or are someone who wants to find out more about it and community currencies, this is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge, ask questions, and get more involved.
The Brixton Pound has always been more than just a currency; we know that while it encourages people to buy locally, we also know that it makes Brixton feel ‘special’ and people are very proud of the artwork on the notes so it has a value as community art.
What other values does it have? Does it encourage citizens to participate in their local community or feel that they have a contribution to make? As a means of exchange does it build stronger bonds that make people feel more connected to the area?
These are just some of the questions that will be asked at the conference. Speakers include Nigel Dodd, author of The Social Life of Money, and Brett Scott, author of Hacking the Future of Money, Charlie Waterhouse, the designer of paper B£s, as well as those with community currency experience from France, Holland, Belgium and Wales, Lambeth Council and Brixton Pound.