The Bank of England today announced that the design of the next £20 note will depict a figure from the visual arts, with the public asked to nominate candidates in accordance with the bank’s new character selection process. So, who would you choose?
The bank has featured historic figures on the reverse of its banknotes since 1970 but, since then, only a handful have represented the world of culture: namely, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Sir Edward Elgar and Sir Christopher Wren. Other featured characters range from Sir Issac Newton and Florence Nightingale to George Stephenson and the Duke of Wellington, while the reverse of the current £20 note features the economist, Adam Smith.
Launching the call for nominations from the V&A in London, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, welcomed three visual arts experts to the Banknote Character Advisory Committee who will consider the suggestions put forward by the public: artist and film director, John Akomfrah; design writer, Alice Rawsthorn and art critic, Andrew Graham-Dixon.
The character selection process was changed in 2013 following a campaign led by Caroline Criado-Perez of The Women’s Room which highlighted the lack of female faces on the notes in light of the news that the figure on the reverse of the £5 note – social reformer Elizabeth Fry – was set to be replaced by Sir Winston Churchill in 2016.
This led to a petition and a meeting with Carney and the subsequent announcenment that author Jane Austen would be installed on the £10 note in 2017, replacing Charles Darwin. A review of the entire character selection process was then initiated which resulted in the establishment of a new set of principles to guide the choice of historical figures.
These included avoiding divisive personalities, picking characters for which there was a “usable representation” that could work on a banknote and, most tellingly, that the bank would “take account of its past decisions. This is because,” the bank claimed, it “aims to celebrate achievement and contribution across a wide range of skills and fields, and aims, through time, to depict characters with varied personal characteristics, such that our choices cumulatively reflect the diverse nature of British society.”
The Bank of England site suggests that nominees for the reverse of the new £20 banknote could be architects, artists, ceramicists, craftspeople, designers, fashion designers, filmmakers, photographers, printmakers, or sculptors. In a video posted to the insitution’s site, Victoria Cleland, the Bank of England’s chief cashier states that “We’re very lucky in the UK, there’s a whole wealth of characters and individuals we can choose from.” She also noted that “the visual arts” is an extremely broad field.
So, who to suggest? Who has respresented the visual art world and “shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society”?
Well, first off – the bank cannot consider living or fictional characters, apparently.
It’s also worth noting that there can be more than one character depicted on the note – so a partnership would qualify, perhaps even a studio or collective.
And there’s already been an architect – Wren was on the reverse of the £50 until 1996.
According to the bank, the governor will make the final choice from the shortlist of names put forward by the Advisory Committee and the list will only contain individuals nominated by members of the public. The selected character will be announced during spring 2016. The new £20 note will be introduced in the next three to five years.
Nominations must be made by July 19 2015. To suggest a name (and a reason why you’re nominating them), go here. Alternatively, you can also send your nomination via post to Banknote Education Team, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.
More details on the process, here (PDF).