[Foreword to the book ‘Local Money‘]
The power of holding your community’s own money.
September 2009, Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton. On a beautiful evening with just the first hint of autumn in the air, hundreds of people are packed into the large room for the launch of the Brixton Pound. In the days running up to the launch, the media was full of stories about the currency; it even made the front page of the BBC website on the day. Alongside explanations of how it is intended to work and interviews with advocates were mainstream economists who, somewhat patronisingly, assured readers that this could never really work and that it was all tremendously naive and foolish. Clearly that was a sentiment that those gathered in the hall, and the 70 traders already keen to accept the notes, had chosen to overlook – or, more likely, would fervently disagree with. This event was both a celebration of the new currency and, perhaps most importantly, of Brixton itself.
Derrick Anderson, the Chief Executive of the local council, which had partly funded the initiative, told the audience that he would be using Brixton Pounds, that he hoped they would become ‘the currency of choice for Brixton’, and that he was delighted that this was a good news story about the area. When I spoke to him later, I explored with him how deep the commitment of the council to this new currency would actually run. Would it accept the currency in payment of Council Tax? Would it accept rent from stallholders in Brixton Pounds? The answer to both questions was yes: a national first.
At the end of the evening, the notes themselves were unveiled to rapturous applause. Each note featured a prominent Brixtonian, chosen via a community-wide ‘Vote the Note’ poll. They showed Vincent Van Gogh on the £20 note; C. L. R. James, a local historian, political theorist and cricket writer on the £10 note; Gaia theorist James Lovelock on the £5 note