As the rest of Europe struggles to keep their cooperative currency (the Euro) afloat, the city of Bristol has set its path in the opposite direction: this week Bristol broke away from the pound sterling in favor of the "Bristol pound". The clever logo, a pound sign that curls to form the letter B along the right edge, graces high tech bills that have been printed to meet the newest security standards.
Buying LocalThe local currency promotes local businesses. For example, it is expected that the local coffee shop will join the currency, while Starbucks will not. Since the bills are technically not legal currency, the program requires that businesses sign up to voluntarily participate.
The first £100,000 will be offered at 5% discount to speed up the influx of the currency into the local economy, after which 1 Bristol pound will cost 1 pound sterling to acquire. Businesses will be charged a 3% fee to convert their Bristol pounds back to legal tender, which should keep the bills in circulation by discouraging conversion and encouraging local sourcing of retail goods as well as consumer use. However, "primary producers" -- such as local farms -- can accept the currency and turn it back into pounds sterling without penalty, in recognition of the fact that the primary producers have little option to source locally and therefore make efficient use of the currency accepted.
It is also expected that a lot of the purchasing power of the local currency will be exercised in virtual money used for electronic purchasing.
Tributes to Banksy and the EnvironmentThe artistic designs on both the backs and fronts of each denomination were selected by contest.
- On the £B1 note appear two themes in the environmental category: ‘Bicycle’ by Bristol illustrator Jethro Brice and a graphic collage of critters by Phil West design;
- The £B5 note has been cleverly called a "banksy-note": it features 'Graffiti tiger', a tribute to local grafitti artist Banksy, by Alex Lucas, whose original art showed a tiger spraying "five powns innit", an observation which was changed to "O Liberty!" on the actual bill. On the reverse is 'St. Paul's Carnival' by photographer Mark Simmons;
- On the £B10: 'Houses' by Bristol artist Matt Price and 'Hannah Moore & Bristol Old Vic' conceived by Anthea Page and designed by Juraj Prodaj;
- On the £B20: 'Balloons' by Jemima Blench, 10, of Westbury Park Primary School and 'Concord' by local artist Kim Short.
Full Set of Security FeaturesThis local currency is no monopoly money. The security features built in to prevent falsification include fluorescent and thermochromic inks (the latter changes color when heated, for example by the friction of rubbing it between finger and thumb), holograms, serial numbers, UV light sensitivity, and etched foil.
Clearly this is no coupon game, but a serious long term commitment to a local currency. Experts predict that Bristol marks a turning point in the alternative currency movement. Local employees will be given a choice to have part of their salaries paid in the local currency.
The movement is also strongly embraced by environmental activists, due to the association with local purchasing. One solar panel business will issue dividends in the local Bristol currency.