Brixton Pound - Virtues and Vice

Local Currencies in Britain are all the rage these days. Bristol recently launched its own legal tender to great fanfare, but good old Brixton was the first urban area to embark on the scheme, following the Totnes Pound in Devon, the Lewes Pound in Sussex and the Stroud Pound in Gloucestershire.

According to the Brixton Pound website, ‘The B£ was initiated by a group of volunteers from Transition Town Brixton(TTB), a community-led organisation for action on energy issues and climate change. The B£ story is a great example of local traders getting together to support each other and maintain the diversity of the high street.

Over 80 businesses accept the currency which you can exchange for the traditional pound in locations dotted across Brixton. Many people can’t see the point, but the reality is that these new projects are less to do with currency issues as they are a bid for a community based localism. Multi nationals and chain shops obviously don’t accept them, so they encourage trading with local businesses who have their roots in the area, and symbolically create a community thread of shared exchange – bringing high streets together in an age where they are homogenising into one big neon multi-national and local shopkeepers are being forced out of their own areas.

Enter Vice magazine. With a mandate to be controversial and ‘cool’ – what did they do? They ran a piece to see if Brixton drug dealers would accept the currency. Fairly infantile you might say? Apart from raising the spectre of stereotypes – both social and quite frankly racial, it was just such a pointless exercise. Of course drug dealers don’t accept the Brixton pound – they need to pay suppliers in other parts of the world – they aren’t resident businessmen but necessarily flexible on location – and the whole idea is obviously ludicrous. Nevertheless – the author did manage to smuggle in some sensible analysis and the oxygen of considered engagement with the idea before apparently needing to justify a sensible article to the editorial desk by bringing drugs into the story.

Written by Cyrus Bozorgmehr - Google+ Profile - More articles by Cyrus Bozorgmehr

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