The Bristol Shop leads the way by taking Bristol Pound online payments

Written by Michaela Parker

In an age where electronic and online transactions are taking prevalence over the exchange of cold, hard cash, it was only a matter of time before the Bristol Pound went online. And the city’s new hub of local design talent, The Bristol Shop have been the lucky ones to take them there.

Having previously supported the currency through another project, Guide2Bristol, Rudy Millard, a partner at The Bristol Shop was adamant that he wanted to accept payment in Bristol Pounds as soon as the shopping site went live on January 29th. “What we hadn’t expected was to be selling Bristol Pounds as souvenirs!” he told us. “But they are very popular with collectors, so people can buy them as well as spend them.”

As well as buying our lovely notes (“the best looking notes in the country” according to Rudy), customers can use the existing Bristol Pounds in their accounts to buy anything from locally produced art prints and jewellery to music and garden furniture on The Bristol Shop site, all through an online transfer or the simple premise of TXT2PAY.

Given a choice of payment methods at the checkout stage, customers choosing either of the Bristol Pound methods are then given either full TXT2PAY instructions or guidance on how to do an online transfer through the Bristol Pound website. “When we receive the payment, we fulfil the order, it’s as easy as that,” exclaims Rudy. “We’ve found that it’s been really easy to implement, so we hope we are going to encourage other online retailers to accept it for purchases too.”

As Bristol Pound is only the second local currency in the UK (Brixton being the first) to have an online setup and text-based payment system, accepting the currency for online transactions is a crucial step in their success and Rudy is positive they can make an impact through online commerce. “One of the ideas behind the currency is to stop money disappearing into faceless global bank accounts and online spending is one of the main ways that happens. Online commerce is only going to increase so Bristol Pound needs to establish itself as a viable online currency.”

With such an easy to use system such as TXT2PAY and a wealth of fantastic local businesses and individuals passionate about our currency and it’s success, the Bristol Pound is at the forefront of a whole new way of shopping online. Think local, and whether you’re buying that souvenir teatowel for your Mum or treating your walls to a print, visit The Bristol Shop and keep your money in our lovely city.

Less waste, more flavour – Poco Bristol wins Sustainable Restaurant of the Year Award for Environment

Written by Carolyn Hair – of Culture Darling fame. Photo from Poco’s website.

Simply creating vibrant flavours that make diners smile and clear their plates isn’t enough for Poco Bristol. Sustainability, locally sourced organic food, and a zero-waste endgame need to be on the menu. That’s why Poco Bristol won the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s (SRA) Restaurant of the Year Award for Environment presented earlier this month by its President, Raymond Blanc.
The SRA is a not-for-profit member organisation that helps restaurants improve sustainability whilst also raising awareness in those dining out. Poco’s methods of sourcing, community engagement and environmental impact were analysed, and after reaching 87% overall, they were awarded the highest of three stars for their commitment to sustainable practices. These environmentally-focused foodies were also highly commended in the categories for the best food waste strategy and the most sustainable restaurant of the year.

Poco Bristol was created by Tom Hunt, Jen Best, Ben Pryor and Pip Ritchie in November 2011 after success at festivals with Poco Loco and Poco Morocco. The ‘festival city’ vibe of Bristol, and in particular Stokes Croft, made them feel right at home. Recipes are a culmination of Tom’s world travels – think Anglo-Latin-American cuisine… Start your day with a New York style brunch, savour a super-food salad to avoid an afternoon slump, and let a British twist on tapas takeover in the cocktail hour and beyond.

Indeed this fusion restaurant has an impressive sourcing policy with 90% of all produce from the UK, and 75% of that must be from within a 50 mile radius. The other 10% of ingredients come from Europe but not via air freight. Their impressive (almost) zero waste is a result of continually trying to improve methods, from recycling, upcycling, and reducing packaging to offering food for free as pinchos before it comes to the end of its shelf life.
The SRA Awards are hugely important in publicising businesses leading the way in sustainability, and to show that taking an environmental approach isn’t just rewarding ethically, but also on your balance sheet. With inspiration from Antonio Carluccio and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the team left the Awards eager to improve even further. One of Poco’s creators, Jen Best told us:

“The awards ceremony was just an incredibly inspiring atmosphere. So many successful businesses are not only taking huge steps to maintain a sustainable ethos, but continuing to drive a healthy profit. Having a strong sustainability ethos can sometimes mean you have to spend more (i.e. buying organic produce), but it’s about ingraining the mentality into everything you do so it becomes part of your business.”

As a business concerned about keeping it local, it’s not surprising that they were keen to sign up to the Bristol Pound. The TXT2PAY service is working particularly well, and as they source locally, many of their suppliers are Bristol-based and using the currency themselves, so the money circulates back into the local economy. Jen explained how the Bristol pound fits into their sustainability ethos: “I would say the Bristol Pound is definitely part of our sustainability strategy. It is a way of supporting Bristol’s economy and engaging in the community. From an individual point of view, you are supporting the independent businesses in your area. From a business point of view, you are encouraged to spend the currency with local suppliers, and this has many positive consequences, such as reducing transportation to get supplies from elsewhere in the country.”

Sustainable, locally sourced, and full of flavour, Poco is our kind of business, so we’re happy to hear that a second restaurant could be coming soon…

You can find out more about Poco’s sustainable practices in this video from the BBC Food team, visit them online (new website of its way – www.eatpoco.com), or follow @Pocobristol on Twitter and Facebook. Better still, pop into Poco to sample their eco-delicious food at 45 Jamaica Street, Stokes Croft (and don’t forget to pay in Bristol Pounds to keep it local).

Bristol Pound sends you some Brazilian ‘Kisses’ this St Valentine’s Day!

Written by Chris Parsons

This Valentine’s Day, mon amour, if you’re lucky enough to be in the right local shop at the right time and the moment comes to cough up what you owe, you might find yourself given the alternative of sealing the deal with a kiss or two…

But before you charge down to your friendly local retailer and invite the owner to pucker up in exchange for your savoy cabbage, please pause. You might get in trouble. This isn’t, in either sense, your standard smacker and nor is it the overly amorous Bristol Pound team inviting you to sign off using a couple of cheeky, digital Xs with your next purchase using the fabulous TXT2PAY system. This my friends, is Brazil.

And we all know they do things differently in Brazil, right? Great Britain loosened off its tie a tad and went without the starched collar during 2012’s summer of sport, but we’re all expecting something hotter, something sexier, from the Latin land of samba and capoiera at Rio in 2016.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that when the eastern coastal community of Vitória in Brazil set up their local currency à la Bristol Pound, they chose to name their new notes beijos – or kisses, to those of us still struggling with disc one of the Portuguese Linguaphone boxed set. Now that’s how to get people to take notice.

As it turns out, local currencies are all the rage in Brazil. The nation may be one of the fastest growing world economies but not everyone experiences that growth equally – more than 16 million citizens meet the UN’s criteria of living in extreme absolute poverty and in the favelas that ring Brazil’s big cities, some of those citizens are taking steps to control their own destinies.

There are now more than 50 community banks operating social currencies in Brazil under the principle of a solidarity economy that helps neighbourhoods to come together and keeps money local.

The granddaddy of these schemes is Banco Palmas, set up in 1998 to provide banking  services to the suburban poor of Fortaleza, Brazil’s 5th largest city. Two years later and Brazil’s first social currency, palmas, was born, existing alongside the national currency just like Bristol Pounds do in the UK.

Small, interest free loans in palmas are offered to both local businesses and local people and, crucially, applicants aren’t confronted with a maze of red tape and piles of banking forms – they simply ask neighbours to vouch for their trustworthiness.

Banco Palmas hasn’t spent the last 15 years resting on its laurels either. Just as Bristol Pound has developed TXT2PAY, allowing users to instantly pay traders with a few clicks of a mobile phone, the Brazilian bank has developed the PalmaCard; essentially an interest free credit card that re-affirms the bank’s commitment to keeping money in the community.

So if you pop out to your favourite café today and watch the barista grind the beans for your espresso (Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, after all), when you grab your phone to pay, just think that 5,000 miles away, those beans could have been helped on their way to you courtesy of a few kisses. And, this Valentine’s Day, as your eyes meet the barista’s over a romantic text transaction, who knows where that thought might take you…?

FACT FILE

  • There are more than 50 social currencies in Brazil, including beijos (kisses)
  • Over 16 million Brazilians live in absolute poverty.
  • Social currencies support many of these people by keeping money within local communities
  • Banco Palmas started the first, palmas (palm trees), in a favela of Fortaleza, Brazil’s 5th largest city, in 2000
  • The bank offers interest-free loans to applicants if neighbours agree they’re trustworthy
  • Whilst Bristol Pound uses the innovative TXT2PAY system, Banco Palmas has introduced the PalmaCard, an interest-free credit card that keeps money local

 

Chris Parsons was born in Southampton, now lives in Horfield and is studying for a Bsc in Environmental Studies. On days when he’s allowed outside, you’ll generally find him either riding his bike up and down Gloucester Road and hanging around outside Joe’s Bakery or Pearce’s Hardware – two fine, Bristol Pound-accepting, local establishments – or digging up his garden, thinking about the films he could be watching instead. Chris narrowly avoided going to school with Craig David and is bored of Lance Armstrong.

 

Local currency, tick. But what about our national currency?

Words By FRANCESCA WAKEFIELD. Photos by Cintia Rezende / Positive Money.

Local currencies for local economies. Since the launch of the Bristol Pound there can be no doubt that it’s been a tremendous success in raising awareness of shopping local, supporting independent retailers and strengthening connections between local businesses and people in Bristol. But what about the national economy?

In any realistic vision of the future there will always be a practical need for a national currency. What that currency might look like is a question monetary reform campaign group Positive Money have been thinking about since they launched their campaign in 2010.

The problem with how we issue money

The crux of the problem, according to Positive Money, lies in in the way we let our money be created – not just in the UK but all over the world.

Currently private banks actually create a staggering 97% of our money supply here in the UK – leaving just 3% to be created by the Bank of England as physical notes and coins. If you think this sounds a bit like being allowed to have a printing press in your spare room, you wouldn’t be far wrong. But there is a catch.

Money as debt

Private banks can’t just credit their own accounts, they can only create new money as debt; meaning they have to make loans to make money. Contrary to popular belief and urban myth, when you go in and apply for a new mortgage, the bank manager isn’t checking his system to see if he’s got that money in the vault to lend you, he’s simply typing new numbers into your bank account – to be repaid with interest.

Providing you don’t default on your mortgage, this interest is pure profit for the bank – since they should already have at least some money in the proverbial vault to cover the risk of potential losses. Set up in this way, our money creation system just incentivises banks to create ever more money – and ever more debt.

The recent government announcement that the UK economy has started its inevitable slide towards a triple dip recession is testament to how serious the problem with our monetary system really is.

Modern banking system: 19th century laws

Sitting in a packed London hall at this year’s conference and listening to Director and Founder of Positive Money Ben Dyson explain all this, it’s impossible not to wonder how policymakers didn’t see this problem coming a country mile off. Turns out, they did.

Ben tells us that way back in the middle of the 19th Century policymakers actually passed a law prohibiting banks from creating new bank notes. The problem? Policymakers from the 1840’s didn’t foresee the rise of cheque books and internet banking. Never mind actual bank notes, banks could just create electronic money – but they could only create it as debt. The rest, as they say, is history.

Monetary reform and full reserve banking

But instead of just criticising the way things are, Positive Money has a positive solution: stop letting private banks create money and enforce a policy of full reserve banking. What this means in practice is that the Bank of England would have sole responsibility to create money, and private banks wouldn’t be allowed to lend out any money they didn’t already have in savings. They would literally have to use the money in savers deposit accounts to be able to make loans (the way many people think the system already works).

New money created by the Bank of England would then be transferred directly to the Government who could use the money to supplement tax revenue, support government spending or they could even give it back to citizens through tax cuts (we can but hope).

Positive Money have put their proposals into draft government legislation, addressing any problem you can think of from how to insulate the new process of money creation from political influence to how you protect citizen’s current accounts.

Spreading the word

Questioning the very basis on which our economy is based seems a bit like economic blasphemy in many circles, and getting prominent politicians and bankers to even consider their proposals has been an uphill battle for Positive Money. But now with over 10,000 supporters, which include MPs and leading academics, plus thousands more on Twitter and Facebook, they are definitely making progress.

Launching and supporting local currencies is a great way to support our local economies, but if we want to address the problems at the heart of the wider UK economy, we also need to think national.

Printing press, anyone?

You can find out more about Positive Money’s proposals on their website – http://www.positivemoney.org/ – and through their uTube channel – http://www.youtube.com/user/PositiveMoneyUK

Meet the artists: Matthew Price

Originally from Cadbury Heath and now a resident of Cliftonwood, Matthew Price has always lived near or in Bristol. His perfect day in Bristol consists of walking around taking photographs and ending up sitting outside the Arnolfini drinking cider with friends – in the summer, of course. At the moment he’s working in admin, but he studied ceramics at Bower Ashton and is a keen photographer, and despite working fulltime for the last ten years, he considers himself an artist at heart. I met up with him at The Grain Barge, a boat in Hotwells owned by Bristol Beer Factory, who accept the Bristol Pound.

Matthew is obsessed with the history of Bristol, and he hosts historic walks of Bristol for members of the LGBT community and more recently of the deaf community. I asked him to tell me about some of his favourite bits of Bristol history. I learned some fun facts about Bristol, for example that wheeled carriages were not allowed in the medieval city centre because of the wine cellars that used to sit underneath the streets. Instead, sleighs were used for transportation which polished the cobbled streets. Most interesting, however, are the stories of Matthew’s grandparents who lived in Bristol during the blitz in the second world war, which evoke images of blown-up buses and burnt christmas cards floating in the air.From those of his family to those of the city more generally, the stories of Bristol are one of Matthew’s great passions, and eventually he hopes to write a book on the topic.

Matthew found out about the competition to design Bristol Pound notes through the BBC website. At the time he had been entering photo competitions for the Guardian Camera Club, so he decided to enter this one too. Why not? Originally, he was going to submit a photograph for the “Our Environment” category. However then Matthew decided to put together a design without using photography. He thought about the images of Bristol that he recalled popping into his head when living away from the city. Such places as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Harbourside in the sunshines as well as the coloured houses on the hills of Totterdown and Cliftonwood. He decided to create a design using the colourful terraces reflecting Bristol’s diverse communities living alongside each other. To symbolise this Matthew chose to decorate his houses with flags made out of coloured tissue paper. The flags of represent nationalities of people Matthew has known, which paints a snapshot of the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of Bristol. He wanted his design to scream “Bristol” and convey a positive message, and the flag-covered houses do just that.

Eventually Matthew hopes to live off his art, and in the mean time his experience with the Bristol pound has given him the confidence to return to this pursuit seriously. Since having his work on the £B10 note he has gone back to his art, experimenting with painting and continuing with his photography. He has hired a studio in Hamilton House, where he is now known as “the Bristol Pound person”, which is hopefully the start of a new stage in his artistic career. Soon you’ll be able to find out more about Matthew’s work in his website: www.matthewpriceartist.com

Written by Laura Márquez Perez