David Bowie is money in the bank for one tough London borough
By D’Arcy Doran
"At a time when one in six shops on Britain’s main streets are boarded up, London’s Brixton borough has found a way to fight the hard times — printing its own money. But instead of the Queen, you’ll find David Bowie on Brixton’s bills.
Pubs, fish-and-chip shops and even lawyers and architects are among the more than 200 businesses accepting the Brixton pound, which is worth one British pound.
“With every transaction that occurs locally, more wealth is generated for the local area,” Annalisa Dorigo, the project’s manager explains. “The whole point of the Brixton pound is to increase local transactions.”
When people shop at a national chain, about 90 per cent of the money leaves the community, Dorigo says. The Brixton pound is billed as the money that sticks to Brixton.
Around 40,000 pounds’ worth of Brixton pounds have been circulating, but the total impact is hard to measure because the bills are passed on and on, Dorigo says.
However, judging by the new businesses and lack of empty shops, sprinkling a little Ziggy Stardust on Brixton’s economy hasn’t hurt.
Brixton-born Bowie is on the 10-pound note, while the fiver features former Brixton Basketball Club star turned Chicago Bull Luol Deng. The 20-pound note is graced by World War II spy Violette Szabo, who inspired the 1958 film Carve Her Name with Pride.
It is Britain’s fourth community to introduce a complementary currency, but the first urban area. At Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market, traders have been trying a similar project — Toronto dollars.
But Brixton, which has a reputation as one of London’s toughest areas, is an unlikely place for such an experiment. The punk band the Clash sang of the borough’s violence in “The Guns of Brixton,” which described the police heavy-handedness that set off the Brixton riots in 1981 and 1985.
In August, rioting returned to Brixton. But the day after, the community spirit behind the Brixton pound showed itself.
Mellissa Morgan, the Mississauga-born owner of Ms Cupcake, stood in the street at 7 a.m. giving away her day’s stock as residents assessed the damage.
“You need a cake,” Morgan, who has lived in Brixton for 10 years, recalls telling people. “Today is a day to show there is love in Brixton.” (snip) ...
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