Paul Melbourne, who got 20 of his friends to sign up for pay-by-text B£ accounts in November, was consequently the winner of our #BriXmas competition, and received B£250 to spend during one Saturday – and not just any Saturday! 6th December was officially Small Business Saturday – though if you’re using B£, every day is Support Your Local Independents day.
Paul says there wasn’t a particular secret to his successful sign-up approach – he didn’t promise his friends any perks or parts of his winnings. “I like a competition! For this one, you had to put a bit more effort in, so I was emailing and texting friends, sending them Facebook messages – everyone who lived around this area, so that setting up an account wouldn’t just be for the competition, but useful for them as well. It’s really easy to sign up, you just need your name and phone number and you’re pretty much good to go, so people just did!”
Paul first signed up himself about a year ago, but has always just used paper B£, so this was his first time spending by text. We met at Rosie’s for a coffee, and he was very surprised that when he paid, the waitress barely looked at his phone to check. That’s the special B£ trust to you! “I’ve definitely given the paper notes as gifts. When my friends were getting married recently and asked for cash, I gave them B£s – it’s nicer that way, a bit more personal, and they’ll be able to come to Brixton and have a good meal.” Paul’s wife Lindsay joined us later in the day, and said she also gifted B£s recently to her friend’s newborn: “Baby’s first Brixton Pounds!” Saturday was an opportunity to buy gifts for family and friends too. Paul said he doesn’t always buy friends birthday gifts: “Usually it’s just a pint! So though I didn’t offer them anything for signing up, I’m buying a few friends birthday gifts today.” 20 Storey was offering a special Small Business Saturday 20% discount to B£ users, so Paul picked up a few items there, and also went into The Turpentine for a few more gifts.
Paul lives in Crystal Palace and works in Brixton. He’s been in London for 6 years, and always around this area. He’s been coming to Brixton even before that, mostly for gigs. He first moved into a room a friend had going in Tulse Hill. Now him and his wife are buying their first flat in Crystal Palace, so on Saturday they were looking for things for their new home – the enamelled plates and pots in Cornercopia were a great choice.
Paul often wanders around Brixton at lunchtime, on his break. “Before I worked in Victoria. There’s lots of big office buildings, but absolutely no character, so you go on your lunch break and there’s just chains. Here I can roll around for an hour, it’s got character and a good mix of people. Bushman Cafe is always good for lunch, although you have to come in early because they sell out! And have you been to the jacket potato place opposite Rosie’s? It’s fairly new, has only been there for a month or two, but they’re great jacket potatoes and that’s exactly what I wanted to find around here. They have some great fillings: jerk chicken, vegetables. And it’s also a record shop! There are a lot of places for eating – so many good restaurants. Franco Manca, The Joint. I always say I want to go somewhere new, but end up in the same places because I like them so much. I go to 20 Storey for every birthday ever – I can get a good gift for less than B£10. Oh, and Barber de Seville – I cut my own hair, but about once a year it needs tidying up, and that’s where I go. I didn’t know before there are so many places that take B£s. Now I had a chance to find out because of this competition, I’ll definitely start using it more. I’ll chuck B£50 into my account every month and keep spending locally.”
Paul’s a busy man: he works as a fundraising manager for Housing For Women, a small charity which shares a building with Lambeth Council opposite the Brixton Academy. It provides homes and support for London’s women with the greatest need, and its roots go back to the suffragette movement. Paul and Lindsay are also the publishers of The Unofficial Crystal Palace Calendar, a wall calendar for 2015 where each photo represents something meaningful for the local community:
“We’ve been living in Crystal Palace for a while now and just love it, not just how much there is to do to but the real community feel there is here so we wanted to create a calendar that didn’t just capture the really nice bits of the area (the amazing park, the dinosaurs, the famous transmitter), but also the things that we love about the area, familiar faces and some of the funny stories which have come out of the Crystal Palace Local Facebook group.”
If you live in Crystal Palace, you don’t have to pay for postage – Paul will deliver the calendar on his bike! And if that wasn’t enough for the power couple, they are also launching a food business: Get Wurst, selling bratwurst and curry wurst to hungry South Londoners. “Just today I couldn’t come down earlier because we were at the Crystal Palace food market – I still left early, Lindsay had to finish off.” The official launch is happening on Friday at the Windmill, Paul’s favourite venue: “I love the Windmill, I’m always up for a night out there!” They know Seamus, the owner, and are fans of the Windmill’s own beer Roof Dog. This Friday, Lindsay’s indie band Listening Party are playing their last ever gig, and she has also designed a tropical photo booth for the Windmill’s guests. And then on Saturday they’re wursting at the Gypsy Hill Brewing Co.’s Xmas party. Talk about busy!
“It’s been a really exciting year for me. I got married, bought a house, won a bunch of B£s!” Paul has asked not to reveal what gifts he bought, not to spoil the surprise for his friends and family, but thanks to local photographer Gavin Freeborn we’ve got a few snaps of him on Saturday, spending his prize money and supporting Brixton’s independent businesses. Him and his wife also enjoyed a few drinks at Three Eight Four (with 15% discount!) and some food at Bukowski Grill. Paul tweeted in the evening with a photo of his shopping bags:
— Get Wurst (@getwurstbrats) December 6, 2014