Last night saw the launch of the Brixton Pound (B£), a new local currency that as of today will circulate in Brixton only, alongside the Sterling Pound.
The event was the culmination of the efforts of a team of local volunteers, who for 18 months worked incessantly engaging businesses, the community and the council to implement their vision. The Mayor unveiled the new notes to a jam-packed Town Hall, amidst a buzzing crowd of local (and non!) residents and businesses, the council, as well as representatives from other Transition Towns, the New Economics Foundation, and national and international media.
The buzz was infectious. The significance of the scheme for a local, greener economy was captured by the speakers on the night, including Transition Town veteran Rob Hopkins, and David Boyle, alternative currencies specialist at the New Economics Foundation.
Shoppers can buy Brixton Pounds (£1 = 1B£) at a number of issuing points in Brixton and use them within local independent traders: currently some 70 businesses have decided to accept the Brixton Pound, with many more interested and watching. Businesses can benefit by offering promotions to those paying in B£, especially useful during quieter trading times, and consumers can also benefit from promotional deals. And because the b£ is only accepted by independent traders, it won’t leak out to distant shareholders. Indeed the next step for the scheme is to engage local traders’ own supply chains, with additional positive repercussions on the environment.
No doubt the economic benefits of the scheme will be closely monitored by supporters and sceptics alike, yet before these can truly be measured, if at all using mainstream indicators, it will probably take some time. In the meantime, the important psychological impact of such a scheme on the local community cannot be underestimated. On the notes, photos of personalities with local connections, such as black and women’s rights activist Olive Morris, and ‘Gaia’ theorist James Lovelock, remind people of the creativity and talent that exists within communities and give local residents a sense of pride: this a welcome boost during current economic hardship and given the environmental challenges ahead.
In his speech, Lambeth’s Chief Executive’s Derrick Anderson wished that the Brixton Pound would one day become the ‘currency of choice’ in Brixton, and pledged Lambeth council’s full backing to the scheme.
By Annalisa Dorigo