Launched last week, bought on Monday afternoon at Bristol Credit Union, these beautiful Bristol pounds (£B) are still in my purse this morning despite several attempts to part with them. Although a number of businesses on the Gloucester Road are part of the scheme they were not the ones I needed to visit. Still, I’ve had fun flashing the cash at bemused check-out staff and hopefully a few more shops will sign up.
Fortunately, although burning a hole in my purse, £Bs won’t depreciate in value if they aren’t spent unlike their German counterparts, the Chiemgauer – one of the most successful alternative currencies in the world, and possibly the model for Bristol’s system.
Anyway, I have high hopes that all the independent traders on the Gloucester Road will soon be taking £B. It will be interesting to see whether or not it boosts the local economy as planned, or proves to be nothing more than a nice idea that never quite takes off.
A the moment the £B is worth £1, and it can be ‘bought’ in a free, straight exchange at various points around the city including The Tobacco Factory and Bristol Credit Union.
The idea, I suppose, is that in exchanging sterling for £B one is committing to buying locally and, crucially, from independent businesses rather than national or international companies such as Tesco or Asda* (Walmart). Local farmers based outside Bristol, but who sell at the various farmer’s markets around the city, are also being encouraged to sign up, which is great, as I think the success of the system will rest on there being the widest possible range of goods available to currency holders.
I will report back on my future attempts to spend my squeaky clean Bristol notes, which, I must point out, are really very, very lovely, especially the fiver which was designed by the wonderful Alex Lucas whose house I wrote about here.
NB Personally I don’t have a hang-up about these companies – sometimes they are the only source of whatever it is that I need. Some weeks I do an entire shop on the Gloucester road and other weeks I go to… whisper it … Tesco.