To celebrate five years of the Brixton Pound, the capital’s only local currency, the organisation commissioned artist Jeremy Deller to design a new B£5 note. The result is both psychedelic and political and continues to challenge more traditional approaches to banknote design…
A handful of other local currencies currently exist in the UK – in Totnes, Lewes, Stroud and, from 2012, Bristol. “It’s a simple premise – [it’s a] local currency that can only be used in independent local businesses,” explains Charlie Waterhouse, creative director of This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll, the studio that designed the second series of the Brixton Pound notes in 2011 and oversaw the new Deller note.
“You buy a coffee in an independent café and the money probably goes to the people who are serving you,” Waterhouse adds. “You buy a coffee in a chain, and the money probably goes to City shareholders. It’s a more virtuous circulation of cash.”
The Brixton Pound initiative was started by volunteers from the Transition Town Brixton community-led organisation. In TARR’s redesign of the currency in 2011 – see our story here – the studio incorporated images of some of the areas most respected sons and daughters: David Bowie features on the B£10 note (above); Chicago Bulls basketball player, Luol Deng, on the regular B£5; and WWII spy, Violette Szabo, on the B£20. Len Garrison, the co-founder of the Black Cultural Archives appears on the B£1 note.
The special edition B£5 has been produced in collaboration with Fraser Muggeridge Studios under the creative direction of TARR. Each note has a unique serial number from its limited print run and is now available from local stockists and online via brixtonpound.org/shop.
For the reverse of the new B£5 note, shown below, Deller chose to feature a quote from Karl Marx’s Capital.
In a forthcoming blog post about the project, Waterhouse asks Nigel Dodd, Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics to offer his thoughts on the design: “On the reverse side, Marx reminds us of the dangers of treating money as a fetish, and of viewing it as a thing that can create value all by itself,” writes Dodd.
“He taught us that money’s value depends on the very social relations that such treatment denies, and these are the social relations that a local currency such as the Brixton£ brings to the fore, and which are represented on its front side. What I really like about this note is the way the image on one side speaks to the text on the other.”
According to the Brixton£, Deller’s new 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”.
“On two small sides of paper it provides an utterly compelling response to Austerity Kool-Aid,” adds Waterhouse. “It simultaneously challenges and inspires, perfectly enunciating the positivity inherent in much of the grassroots response and resistance to the current economic situation.”
The new design also reflects some of the innovations that the Brixton Pound has brought in over the last few years, such as pay-by-text and contactless payment across the 300-odd independent businesses that take the currency.
“The new Brixton Pound fiver drives home the simple fact that we can all make positive choices around our spending,” adds Waterhouse.