5 ways to help you be a hero this Christmas – take the Bristol Pound Christmas Challenge!

There’s no denying it: ‘tis the festive season. And for many of us that means getting gifts for loved ones and gathering goodies to enjoy over the festive period. Bristol’s streets are a-buzzing with merriment.

There’s something you can do to make the season of gift-buying and goodie-gathering a whole heap more fun for you, better for Bristol AND the global economy.

Use Bristol Pounds!

Take up the challenge and spread the love this season. Switch that Sterling for beautiful Bristol Pounds, then when you go spend it you’ll be building and protecting what we all love about Bristol, and helping make our city fairer, greener and more vibrant.

Here at Bristol Pound HQ we want to make this as easy as possible for everyone so we’ve put together 5 ways to help you be a hero this Christmas. I’ve added links, so if you like what you see, give it a click to find out more:

  1. The Bristol Pound advent calendar. We’re putting together a giant advent calendar and popping it in the St Nicks Market foyer. Each day, we’ll open the next door to reveal a special deal for Bristol Pound users to help you with your shopping! What’s that? You won’t be able to join us in the St Nick’s foyer every morning throughout December? Well okay, we’ll post it up on social media each morning too! Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date.
  2. The Bristol Pound Christmas market. We’re arranging a day of festivity on the 10th December at the Bristol Energy Hub on the waterfront. We’ll have: local craft and produce stalls; live music; free mince pies; Caring at Christmas are doing a wrapping service; you can win a Real Economy hamper; you can pick up the latest Bristol Pound business map and you can find out more about all the things you can do with Bristol Pounds (I can guarantee you don’t know all the things you can do with Bristol Pounds!). Plus, we’re right next to the Harbourside Market, where plenty of folk take the Bristol Pound. More info here.poster-for-christmas-market-620px 
  3. Our new Bristol Pound Map of central Bristol – more detailed than ever, stretching from Temple Meads to the Grain Barge and from Wapping Wharf to the Bear Pit, you’ll find 128 shops, pubs, cafes, hair dressers, homeware stores, florists, and much, much more. We’ll be handing them out at the market, but also sending one out to every Bristol Pound member.img_20161122_122219
  4. Indies in Bristol – a brand-new, city-wide event to celebrate Bristol’s amazing independent businesses and encourage Bristolians to shop local for Christmas. The main hub is in the Station courtyard (The Old Fire Station) in the city centre, where a central traders market of gifts, street food and a bar will be based. We’ll have a Bristol Pound ‘bank’ at the entrance of the event for your to switch to Bristol Pounds. Plus, we’re also doing a talk at 12.45. See you there! More info here.indies-in-bristol-poster-web-620px 
  5. Bristol Pound Trail – as part of the Indies in Bristol event, we’ve put together a pretty special little trail for you to follow – it’s a neat little trip in and around St Nick’s Market. Start at Beast Clothing to pick up your Bristol Pounds (they’re a ‘cash point’) – you can switch Sterling notes, pay on card or withdraw from your Bristol Pound account. Then visit a bunch of businesses waiting to give you discounts and offers if you use Bristol Pounds! More info here.bristol-pound-trail-banner-620px 

It’s easier than ever to do the Bristol Pound Christmas Challenge this year – so let’s change our money, change the world and have ourselves a jolly good time doing it.

Adam and the Bristol Pound team

 

The Big Short Film – abstract economy, real economy.

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It was great to see the Cube Cinema packed out with around one hundred people on Sunday 6th November, all wanting to learn about and discuss the causes of the 2008 financial crisis and whether anything has changed in the finance industry since. We watched The Big Short Film, which I was pleasantly surprised to find, offered a fairly accurate portrayal of what happened leading up to the 2008 crisis, well-acted by a cast of highly regarded celebrities. The incredibly dramatic and testosterone fuelled financial industry was well suited to a fast-paced drama. In amongst the drama, the film used models and actresses to explain the key economic terms in a casual way, while taking a bubble bath or drinking a glass of champagne. This was an attempt to make things like Collateral Debt Obligation and subprime mortgages understandable to the everyday audience – however, despite the attempt, the film left with more questions than they had answered.

My main question was articulated well by Kit Beazley, the UK Head of Finance and Risk at Triodos Bank, in the passionate and informative panel discussion between himself and Molly Scott Cato, (the Green Party MEP for the South West) chaired by the Director of Bristol Pound CIC, Ciaran Mundy. He asked, “Why didn’t anyone notice? Or was everyone too tied up in it to do anything about it, and therefore they hid it instead.” Molly also explained that it is very easy to get sucked into the excitement of money creation and gambling on debt, so that many people in the industry lose sight of morality and the reality of what they are doing. She is very keen to keep her moral compass when working in politics.

This theme was demonstrated in the film when Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt, said “‘Have you any idea what we just did? We just bet against the American economy which means that people will lose their jobs, people will lose their retirement savings and lose their pensions. Do you know what I hate about f***ing banking? It reduced people to numbers. A 1% increase in unemployment equals 44 thousand people dead.”

Kit explained that banking had lost its purpose – “Banking is supposed to be the life blood of the economy – the mechanism whereby the people who have got some money and want to do something worthwhile with it can lend it to some people who have got a good idea. When you get into CDO’s and synthetic credit swaps and synthetic CDOs that is just about making money out of money, it is not about the real economy.”

So, although the film had left me feeling confused – after the panel discussion I knew that my confusion had been caused by a certain disbelief that so many people were part of the creation of the financial crisis without being aware of what they were doing. I think the problem lies in the fact that things like CDOs and synthetic credit swaps are so far away from the real economy, and what banking and money are meant to be about, that many people working in the industry are ignorant of what the things they are dealing in represent in real terms. Their work becomes something totally abstract, and it is easy to be flippant about the abstract, as it doesn’t seem to mean anything. But in the real economy, money is worth what you pay for food, for fuel, for clothes. Savings and pension funds are a result of real people’s time. They are not to be played with.

This shift in mindset from the abstract to the real, all three panellists agreed, is the most crucial thing for the financial industry in creating a more fair and sustainable economy. It is difficult for the majority of us to tell whether that has changed at all since 2008 – so it is our role to make the change and shift money back to what it is meant to be, to bring our economy back to the real economy.

Laurie King is the Community Liaison Manager at the Bristol Pound. You can find her profile on our team page

A very warm welcome to Bristol’s own energy company: Bristol Energy

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That’s right, Bristol is now the first city to have both its own money and its own energy company!

It gets better: Bristol Energy is a force for social good, a gas and electricity company that will reinvest its profits straight back into the city, supporting essential services and local communities. It’s the first of its kind in the South West. We’re chuffed to bits to come together with Bristol Energy and work to keep money circulating locally, protecting Bristol jobs and creating a fairer, greener local economy.

Peter Haigh, Managing Director of Bristol Energy, had this to say:

“We believe energy companies have the power to make a positive difference. If you pay your bills with Bristol Energy, your money doesn’t just disappear into the pockets of private shareholders, it will help us to support your city. As a Bristol-born company we’re very proud to offer our customers the chance to pay in Bristol Pounds, helping even more of the money made in the city, stay local to the city.”

So, now you can pay for Bristol Energy using Bristol Pounds. But it gets even better than that. When you switch electric and gas quoting BPOUND001, Bristol Energy will give you £B20 and give us £B10! (Or £B10 for you and £B5 for us for one fuel)

Switch now and be the change we all need!

Click here for the full info on how to make the switch and how to pay your bills in Bristol Pounds

There’s a new sterling £5 note out – so let’s celebrate… why Bristol’s is better

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In celebration of the UK’s new £5 notes, let’s remember why Bristol’s are better

This month the Bank of England has launched the new sterling five pound note. It will be stronger and more durable, with better security features: it is said to be “cleaner, safer and stronger” – so says the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.

In celebration of the new, durable £5 note, let’s remember why Bristol notes offer a cleaner, greener, fairer alternative

The Bristol £B5 note reflects the colourful cultural diversity of our city and was lovingly created by local artist and musician Yoshino Shighara. It features an Aye-Aye; a highly endangered nocturnal lemur exploring Hotwells (or is it Totterdown?) with its colourful houses and bright lights.

Carney’s comments about the new sterling fiver are of course about the physical note itself, but we couldn’t help but think that the way money works today is far from ‘clean’. It is very easy for bankers to gamble our wealth away,  for multinationals to dodge tax and for arms and drugs dealers to plié their trades. It encourages unnecessary transport of goods that could be sourced more locally and so polluting the air and causing climate change. Is this money clean?

How ‘safe’ is our money when it is wisped out of our pockets and out of the city by chain stores while distant shareholders and inappropriately disproportionate pay CEOs stockpile this wealth? Is this money safe?

And how ‘strong’ is the system of making this money? It is based on debt and interest charges (Yes, 97% of money is created this way by profit seeking banks). In fact if us ordinary folk ever repaid all our debt the economy would instantly collapse. We are still paying for the collapse of banking in 2008. Is this money strong?

The new sterling fiver also features both an unelected head of state and the face of Winston Churchill; most see Churchill as a national wartime hero, and who can argue with needing to stand up to the Nazis? But Churchill was also a divisive figure who’s undoubted national achievements come with some serious flaws: as referenced in this BBC source Churchill was a self-professed racist, favoured genocide and let 3 million people in India die of starvation*.

So in celebration of the new sterling note, let’s remember why Bristol notes are better!

This city is created by all of us, in every action we take. In which projects, businesses and cooperatives we support and in who we choose to respect – Bristol’s £B5 note has not one, but a dozen influential figures on by local artist Stewy: DJ Derek, J.K. Rowling, Robert Wyatt (of Soft Machine), Blackbeard, Tony Benn, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Tricky, Elizabeth Blackwell M.D., Banksy, Alfred the Gorilla, Colin Pillinger CBEClaudia Fragapane.

I know we’re talking about the Bristol fiver, but while we’re here did you know, the £B10 shows Bristolian suffragette Annie Kenney; a working class member of the Women’s Social & Political Union. Kenney was a leading figure in the Suffragette movement and was imprisoned for assault and obstruction in 1905 following a heckling incident in the struggle to gain women the right to vote. Annie Kenney features on our £B10 note in an inked pen portrait by local artist Juraj Proda painted between 1997 – 2004.

Also depicted on our £B10 note is a celebration of the successful Bristol bus boycott of 1963. Local civil rights campaigner, Paul Stephenson OBE, can be seen picketing against the racist refusal of Bristol Omnibus Company to employ Black or Asian drivers or conductors. His campaigns were instrumental in paving the way for the Race Relations Act in 1965. The artist is Luke Carter, Bristol based illustrator.

All in all, we think these historical figures make for much better role models (except maybe Blackbeard!) and better represent the people and history of our progressive, inclusive and creative city. So here’s to our Bristol fiver, cleaner, safer and stronger!

B£ 2015 (3d)

Find out more about the Bristol Pound paper notes here: bristolpound.org/new-bristol-pounds

*You can read about ‘the 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill’ here: bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29701767

Written by Ruby Szarowicz and Adam Rich

Bringing Bristol Pound to Massive Attack at the Downs

IMG_277127,000 Bristolians braved the storm on Saturday to watch Massive Attack perform at the Downs and we were very proud to be there promoting a fairer economy to soggy gig-goers. We sold a whopping £B4,284; breaking the record for most cash in one day since our launch in 2012.

The ethos of the festival was political, outlining the 21st century chaos of Brexit, racism, plight of refugees and growing inequality. We felt really encouraged by the response from the crowd, who listened and understood our message; if we change money, we can change the world.

So massive thanks to Team Love for inviting us to be the official currency of the festival. Also, a thanks to Fairphone for being our card payment tech and to Bristol Wood Recycling Project for pallets that were our ‘bank’ counter. Most of all a huge thank you to Bristol for being such a progressive, open minded city looking for a fairer, more equal future.

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Can Bristol Pound bridge the Divide?

The Divide ScreeningThe post-film discussion with (left to right): me (Ruby Szarowicz), Cleo Lake (Green Party), Kat Wall (New Economy Organisers Network), Mary Rivers (the Equality Trust) and  Chris Sunderland (Bristol Pound).

Using local currencies isn’t going to defeat neoliberal capitalism, but it is a positive change anyone can make to support a fairer, more equal society.

Over 75 people packed into the Wardrobe theatre on Thursday night to watch The Divide, a film inspired by the critically-acclaimed book The Spirit Level. The film examines global inequality, following seven individuals in the USA and UK, where the top 0.1% earn as much as the bottom 90%. The crowning message of the film tells of a failed experiment: neoliberalism.

The film paints a bleak picture of the world we have created; a wall street psychologist misses his daughter’s bedtime and struggles into work the morning after back surgery, thinking only of the big house beyond the security wall. On our side of the pond, care worker Rochelle is also missing her children’s bedtime to make up enough hours on minimum wage to pay off £4000 of catalogue debt. This economic disparity has created dangerous social division, and the consequence is that neither side of the scale can truly be happy.

A panel joined us from the Green Party (Cleo Lake), the New Economy Organisers Network (Kat Wall), the Equality Trust (Mary Rivers) and Bristol Pound (Chris Sunderland) to discuss what meaningful changes we can make in our community to tackle inequality and make Bristol a fairer city. There are key small changes we can make which can lead to a big difference.

We ask people to choose independent businesses over corporate ones because we know that big corporate businesses can be really bad for communities; we know from the Panama Papers that these companies aren’t paying taxes on their profits, sending them to offshore tax havens and not contributing back to the social infrastructure they are benefiting from. The owners of these businesses often earn four or five hundred times more than the lowest person on their staff role. The work they create is often repetitive, low-skilled and often workers’ rights are diminished with zero hours’ contracts and minimum wage. These companies exacerbate inequality whilst giving us a false sense of choice as they monopolise whole industries.

By spending Bristol Pounds, you are passing on a pledge for an independent business to source their products locally, with less carbon footprint. Circulating money in our local economy prevents it from being lost to offshore tax havens; even the council are accepting it for council tax and business rates, which means more of our taxes are being spent in Bristol. Strong local economies can protect jobs, stimulate growth and make Bristol a fairer, more equal place to live.

So if you want to do one thing to fight inequality in Bristol, use the Bristol Pound!

Ruby Szarowicz is the membership manager at the Bristol Pound CIC and chaired the discussion at the screening of ‘the Divide’ on the 18 August 2016

The August system upgrade and how to reset your online account password and PIN

Like any piece of equipment, the Bristol Pound’s online system occasionally needs a bit of essential maintenance. The system is used by Bristol Credit Union to look after all the Bristol Pound personal and business accounts, and to manage payments.

On 9 August our technical teams upgraded the Bristol Pound system.

Following the upgrade your login password and text payment PIN number will need to be reset. This is a quick and simple process – and it’s described below.

Important changes
We’ll let you know all about the added features over the next few months – if you don’t discover them yourself first. In the meantime, we’ve updated our online guides to reflect the upgrades. Click the links to learn more:

How to log in to your account – now with automated ‘reset your password‘ link
Setting up regular payments – with brand new recurring payments function
Paying your council tax – you can now set up variable instalments to allow for that pesky higher payment in April!
Paying your business rates – now with much higher maximum payment

The Bristol Pound App
Sadly, there has been a slight (and temporary) casualty of the changeover: the Bristol Pound app has lost a bit of its functionality. You can no longer log in to the app, which means you can’t check your balance or make online payments. However, you can still use the app to:

  • locate businesses and cash points
  • find information on businesses
  • see special offers
  • make text payments

Withdrawing paper Bristol Pounds direct from your online account
When withdrawing paper notes from cash points you must now use the text command ‘exc’. So, assuming you want £B50, your PIN is 1234 and you’re at the Tobacco Factory you would write:

exc 1234 access6tobfac 50

Resetting your password

Go to www.bristolpound.org/login Click on the ‘Click here to reset your login password’ link in the bottom right hand corner Bristol Pound login page Enter your login name or the email address you used to sign up for the account.
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You’ll receive an email with a link to reset your password. Make sure to check you junk or spam folders. Click on the link, which takes you to the reset password screen. Set your new password. Make it memorable and secure. Bristol Pound password reset Success! Now login using your new password and your username (if you’ve forgotten it, it’s in the email you just received). Next you need to reset your 4 digit security PIN.

Reset your PIN number

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be prompted to reset your PIN. Click on the ‘Click here to proceed’ button. Bristol Pound password reset Click on ‘Create’ next to PIN. Bristol Pound PIN reset Set your new four digit PIN. Bristol Pound PIN resetThat’s it – your new password and PIN have been set. Now you can explore the new online account system. Bristol Pound PIN reset This upgrade means we’re offering the most up to date and secure technology available. It will also bring some new features to make using the Bristol Pound even easier. If you’re having any trouble, call the Bristol Pound team on 0117 929 8642 or email the Bristol Credit Union team on bristolpound@bristolcreditunion.org.uk

Inequality: the nexus of wealth and debt by Frances Coppola

Debt

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/frances-coppola/inequality-nexus-of-wealth-and-debt

Frances Coppola hits the nail on the head in focusing on the impact of debt on our lives and how unnecessary it should be. He describes many ways to avoid the debt structured economy we have, which ends up dictating and impoverishing so many people. The solutions are out there for national governments through taxation and governments investing in its citizens’ education and general well-being, but in truth the evidence is that most governments in rich countries actively encourage the build up of personal debt.

David Graeber’s video on the relationship between government debt and private debt is a must see on this issue too. Debt, for millions of ordinary people, forces people in to work which they may not have chosen to otherwise do, and for much of their lives . When debt with interest is not a choice for most people who need a home and to get an education, I think it is immoral and probably makes for poor productivity too.

This piece is highly recommended reading, with one caveat – I think he misses the issue of interest on debt almost completely. The matter of interest changes fundamentally the nature of debt and is something that at Bristol Pound we hope to take head on in the near future through giving zero interest credit or loans to businesses that join our scheme.

Ciaran Mundy  – CEO Bristol Pound CIC

New for avid Bristol Pound users – the Bristol Pound User Group

User Group

Where: The Hub room, Roll for the Soul, Bristol, BS1 2JL
When: Wednesday 10 August 2016
Time: 19:30 – 20:30

The Bristol Pound is run by the people of Bristol, for the people of Bristol. Having our own currency offers us all the unique opportunity to take control of our money for the benefit of our city. In June, Bristol Pound users came together for the first Bristol Pound User Group: members attended a round table discussion about the successes and the challenges of using the local currency.

The group will now meet every two months, with members of the Bristol Pound team, to feed back on on-the-ground use of the currency, and offer ideas and support, giving the people of Bristol a firm grip on how our money works.

We would like to invite you to the second meeting of the Bristol Pound User Group.

Our User Group is open to everyone and is a way for us to gain better influence from our members. Join us on 10 August from 7:30 – 8:30 to discuss exciting service and software updates and talk about how we can subscribe more of our favourite independent businesses to the scheme.

The Users Group will be a space for collective leverage over our local currency, making the Bristol Pound more responsive to our users. It will also be a great place to network and meet other Bristol Pound users who share an interest in improving our local economy.
Light refreshments will be available and space is limited to 15 attendees. Priority will be given to group members who are already registered but newcomers are encouraged and welcomed.

If you’re an active Bristol Pound user and want to get more involved in the running of our money, please RSVP by email to Ruby at ruby@bristolpound.org. You could also send us agenda suggestions for the group to discuss!

Varii Promotions is latest business accepting the Bristol Pound

Varii Picture

Thriving Bristol based promotional staffing agency is the latest business to accept the Bristol pound. The Keynsham based agency registered with the Bristol pound at the beginning of this month as part of a focus to give back to the Bristol community.

Varii is a young business which started in 2014 through the support of Prince’s Trust Bristol. Since launching, the agency has provided promotion and event staff to a number of well-known brands within Bristol and the surrounding areas, including Bristol Credit Union, which provides fairer banking for local people, and Bristol Leaflet Delivery.

Simon Porter, Managing Director at Varii says, “the Bristol Pound is a great way to support our exciting business sector. Bristol is really unique; it’s vibrant, creative and has a strong sense of community, which is sometimes lost in large cities. We’ve got our roots here, and it’s important that we take steps to help support independent businesses and the local communities they serve.”

To celebrate Varii’s commitment to the Bristol Pound, they have agreed to provide a 10% discount on all bookings paid using Bristol Pounds.

Additionally, if you’re based in Bristol and you would like to become part of their promotions and events team then you can register with them directly through their website.

Find Varii on our directory here