When Art Weds Economics: The Brixton Pound

Image from brixtonpound.org

Economics and design rarely co-exist, but when they do, the results are well worthwhile. Take for example the Brixton Pound, a new currency designed specifically for London’s Brixton neighbourhood.

£2,000 ($3,300 USD) was spent on designing and printing the small works of art that have been circulating in Brixton since late September. The notes are brightly colored and adorned with portraits of iconic figures in Brixton history, such as the Jamaican civil rights activist Olive Morris; the environmental scientist and activist James Lovelock; and Vincent van Gogh (who lived in Brixton for two years while in his 20s).

The new currency is more than a pretty piece of paper. The Brixton Pound project was launched with the intention of encouraging local consumption and helping shrink carbon footprints. It works like this: if you make a purchase at one of the 120 participating businesses in the area, you are offered your change in B£ notes. These can then be used at any participating business as an alternative too, or in combination with, standard sterling notes. Many businesses have begun offering discounts to those using B£ notes. To make things even easier, any B£ note can be exchanged for the same value sterling note at one of two participating locations.

Forty thousand B£ notes are currently in circulation, in denominations of one,five, 10 and 20 notes. Although it is too soon to measure the impact of the currency, many argue that with a world moving so quickly towards a global economy, the economics behind the B£ project are backwards. Yet, the powerful sense of community the concept invokes leaves us crossing our fingers that the project will prove the economic skeptics wrong.

Regardless of the economics behind the idea, we’re happy to see that notes have been offered to collectors on eBay and that the artistic value at least is being appreciated. 

– Alexa P Gray


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Filed under Art/Design, Economics

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