Ambitious Bristol

Jen at the exhibition launch

The Bristol Pound is proud to be included as one of the most ambitious projects in Bristol, as part of the ‘Bristol: Ambitious City’ exhibition at the Architecture Centre on Narrow Quay.
The exhibition demonstrates the visionary nature of Bristol, showcasing many ground breaking projects making waves of positive change. Because of projects like these, Bristol is more connected, empowered, enterprising, healthy and a great place to visit. The exhibition is based on these themes.

The Bristol Pound is helping to drive Bristol forward in terms of enterprise. Bristol Pounds spent with independent local traders keep money recirculating within Bristol’s local economy. The vision is one of a unique, diverse range of local businesses, actively supported by a network of traders and the local community, where communities can spend with their values and creatively provide for their wants and needs.
Pop in to the Architecture Centre from now until 28th July 2013.

Many thanks to the Architecture Centre

 

Bristol for European Green Capital!

Written by Carolyn Hair – writer of Culture Darling.

What do Bristol, Brussels, Glasgow, and Ljubljana have in common? They’re all in the running for European Green Capital 2015 awarded to a city on its environmental performance and capacity to inspire. Congratulations to all the cities, but only one has its own local currency and only one has you… (We’re secretly confident.)

So just what would winning mean for Bristol? Darren Hall, Manager of Bristol’s Green Capital Bid, told me that it would put green issues into the mainstream: “Inward investment and green jobs is a tangible thing, but it will also be a call for collaboration, to get green groups to work together more and bring some new people to the table.”

Building a more sustainable Bristol is what makes us tick, so we were pleased to hear that the Bristol Pound played a prominent role in helping the city make the shortlist. For Darren (who puts his £B where his mouth is): “It’s part of the vibrant bottom-up culture of Bristol that gets us noticed… Bristol Pound is one of the projects that attracted world-wide attention. It’s innovative, exciting and challenging the status quo – and demonstrates our ability to work in different ways, showing top-class leadership.”

This innovative, forward-thinking spirit, which makes things happen, is central to the bid. Our independent streak was evident when Bristol opted for a directly-elected mayor, and the combination of top-down investment with grassroots activity gives Bristol a competitive edge. Darren Hall again: “We have some of the best stories in Europe to tell about how to do things from a bottom-up perspective –Europe is in a recession, and Bristol has achieved amazing green things with very little major investment. George (Ferguson) is now bringing much bigger investment to the green agenda – so we can do the top-down and bottom-up.”

Darren Hall, Manager at Bristol Green Capital Partnership.

Darren Hall, Manager at Bristol Green Capital Partnership.

Active local food movements, such as our Farm Link Initiative and community-led energy cooperatives and schemes, like Switch and Save, are already happening across Bristol, and you can spend your Bristol Pounds in businesses with sustainability at their core, such as Poco. Darren went on to tell me how Bristol’s very own currency helps us to work towards a more sustainable future: “It really helps in two ways – directly supporting the local economy, but secondly, and perhaps more importantly, helping people understand some of the issues about consumerism, globalism and where their money goes.”

Another innovative project which helps to inform people about greening the city is Future Bristol 2050, launched by Dr Rose Bailey (UWE) stemming from her PhD research, and part of the engagement strategy for the Green Capital Bid. She set out two possible low carbon futures for Bristol – broadly, X is based on being a major player in the global market, whereas Y is more about re-localisation from food to jobs – you could say “more Bristol Pound”. The website is interactive and allows you to have your say on Bristol’s future, so why not head over there and stand up for the local? Dr Bailey hopes that winning the bid will bring high-profile green projects to the city (that we may have missed out on to London) and be “a springboard for all sorts of activities, and an acknowledgement of the passion, independent nature and strong grassroots in Bristol.”

Sustainable solutions are also evident in the buildings where we work and play. Take At-Bristol, the first attraction to sign up to the Bristol Pound, and one of the UK’s most sustainable buildings, winning several awards for its outstanding achievements.

Chris Dunford, At-Bristol’s Sustainability Manager said: “Just as everyone should be, we’re trying to lead the way with our own efforts for a more sustainable way of working; taking responsibility for our water, waste, energy and procurement.”

You can get involved by taking part in their behind-the-scenes events and workshops, and of course spend your Bristol Pounds. Chris continued on the benefits of our local currency: “Supporting the local economy, people and environment fits well with our sustainable aims, and as a key player in Bristol it is important that we work together to support an initiative which champions the local economy by utilising more local jobs, skills base and using less transport. It’s going really well – we’ve had great feedback from customers using the scheme. It’s fantastically well set up, and very easy to use, so we’re very happy to be a part of it.”

The nomination for Green Capital is certainly a huge endorsement of the way the city is working towards a sustainable future, whether council or community-led. An independent panel of experts has already monitored the four finalists on 12 key criteria, ranging from climate change to energy consumption. The next challenge for Bristol is to present its green vision to the Jury in Brussels on 24 May. Bristol has made the shortlist three times, just missing out to Copenhagen last time round. The winner will be announced on 14 June in the current Green Capital, Nantes in France. Let’s hope it is third time lucky…

Show your love for Bristol and back the bid

All of you, and the inspiring, good, green work happening across Bristol has brought the city this far. But now Brizzle needs your help to spread the word:

–        Share your green stories on the Back the Bid website.

–       Or email: green.capital@bristolgreencapital.org

–       Get social on the Bristol Pound’s Facebook page and on Twitter with #greenbristolbid

Bitcoin and the $2.6 million pizzas

Written by Chris Parsons.

Fact File:
– Bitcoin is an electronic alternative currency created in 2009
– There’s no fixed exchange rate so its value fluctates rapidly
– One bitcoin equalled a peak value of $266 in April
– Bitcoin exists entirely outside the standard banking system
– The first ever formal bitcoin transaction was to buy two pizzas
– Now bitcoins can be used to buy anything – absolutely anything

Everybody loves pizza, right? Where’s your favourite takeaway? How about a fine establishment like Hotwell Road’s The Red Pizza Company, or The Sportsman on Nevil Road which, oh look, both just happen to accept payment using the fabulous £B TXT2PAY system. Awesome.

What toppings do you like? Black olives. Green peppers. Anchovies? No way, gross. How about pepperoni? OK, cool. How about getting two, they’re always amazing cold for breakfast aren’t they? Don’t lie, I’ve seen you do it!

Now just dial your order through. Thank you sir, that’ll be $2.6 million please. Er… what?

That may be how much two pizzas cost Laszlo Hanyecz exactly three years ago today. But on May 21st 2010, Hanyecz was doing something extraordinary and groundbreaking – he was making the very first real world transaction in bitcoin.

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency created out of nothing. Bear with me, I’ll try to make this as painless as I can.

In 2009, an unknown developer built the digital infrastructure that gave anybody with a computer the ability to find and own bitcoins. The idea is that bitcoins are created by computer servers joining into a network and solving complex mathematical puzzles in a process called mining. Whichever server solves the puzzle first is rewarded in bitcoins.

But before you rush out and buy 1,000 high-powered computers to make your e-fortune, note this: bitcoin has a finite money supply discovered at a pre-determined rate. The more machines there are mining, the harder the puzzles get to solve, so that a set number of bitcoins are created every ten minutes. Take that, quantitative easing.

For the first 18 months, bitcoin mining was, well, for a handful of geeks (don’t take that the wrong way, everyone knows geeks are cool nowadays). Unlike the Bristol Pound, there’s no fixed exchange rate against another currency; a bitcoin is worth whatever someone thinks its worth, and for a year or so nobody thought it was worth very much.

Hanyecz’s proposition

The bitcoin pizzas – all $2.6 million of them

Which brings us back to Laszlo Hanyecz, who’d been mining bitcoins from his Florida home and acquired a reasonable enough stash that he idly posted the below note on a forum:

I’ll pay 10,000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas.. like maybe 2 large ones so I have some left over for the next day. I like having left over pizza to nibble on later. You can make the pizza yourself and bring it to my house or order it for me from a delivery place, but what I’m aiming for is getting food delivered in exchange for bitcoins where I don’t have to order or prepare it myself, kind of like ordering a ‘breakfast platter’ at a hotel or something, they just bring you something to eat and you’re happy! …

If you’re interested please let me know and we can work out a deal.

Thanks,
Laszlo

Hanyecz agreed a deal and transferred 10,000 bitcoins to a recipient in the UK who then phoned through an order for a Floridian store to deliver two pizzas to Hanyecz’s house.

At that point in time, one bitcoin was worth about one cent, meaning Hanyecz paid around $100 for his pizzas. That’s quite a lot for a pizza, I hope he enjoyed them. Since then however, interest and speculation in bitcoin has increased and the exchange rate  skyrocketed, reaching a peak last month of a staggering $266 to one bitcoin.

So had Hanyecz held onto his 10,000 stash for three more years, he could have cashed them in for over $2.6 million (£1.7 million).

How much do you like your pizza now, Laszlo?

In truth, it was Hanyecz’s pizza transaction (which is now so much a part of monetary folklore, today’s notional exchange rate is constantly available at the Bitcoin Pizza Index) that kick-started the rapid rise in popularity of bitcoin.

The currency’s principle is based around a very different model to other alternative currencies like Bristol Pound. Bitcoin is unapologetically a global currency existing outside the banking system and that’s the key attraction for some. Users aren’t limited to pizzas, there are sites allowing consumers to indirectly shop from huge corporate monoliths like Amazon, should they so desire, and indeed purchase absolutely anything else besides – quite literally, if some of the more scandalous reportage is to be believed.

Bitcoin, therefore, is not set up to promote your friendly, local independent retailer in the same way as Bristol Pound. Had Hanyecz been a Bristol citizen using TXT2PAY to procure his pizza, he might have supported a number of local businesses in a transparent supply chain that sourced the flour, cheese, tomato and more with the minimum of food miles.

On the world currency markets, things are still quite volatile for bitcoin, with huge price increases and subsequent crashes relatively frequent, so only time will tell whether it will provide a genuine alternative to the traditional monetary model or not. In the meantime, who fancies pizza?

‘Bluffer’s guide to bitcoin in 104 seconds’


Meet the Artists: Alex Lucas

Written by Francesca Wakefield – founder of The Ideas Arcade.

Alex Lucas lives in a Bristol landmark. Bright red and adorned with white flowers, birds and a huge sign welcoming you to the area, Alex’s Montpelier home can’t be missed – and can’t help but make you smile when you walk past it.

“I like to think I’m the opposite of Banksy” she tells me “–when something just appears and people wonder how it got there. With my house I was up there for days!” Five days, to be specific, and with such lovely results that it was featured in The Times newspaper as one of the 50 best places to live in the UK. Alex muses that there’s a real respect and “ownership” of the house with local people, something she believes in part because of the total lack of graffiti the mural has suffered in the two and a half since she painted it.

Her beautiful home is also where we meet to drink liquorice tea and chat about her design for one side of the B£5 note. But before we get to that I discover that, as well as a brilliant artist, Alex is also a font of Picton Street trivia. I learn about old Police ‘Charlie Boxes’, tunnels under the road and which number Cary Grant used to live at (No 21, you can add it to your next walking tour of Bristol for visiting relatives).

Bristol born and bred, Alex studied Multi-Media Textiles at Loughborough University before finding her own unique style painting and printing her own predominantly animal focused designs, for private clients or to sell through the ‘window shop’ she created in her front room – Bristol Pounds obviously accepted.

“I use animals a lot, particularly ones that get up to mischief – I draw animals a lot more than people” she says. “When you look at a drawing of a person it’s much harder to see anything other than that person – but with animals you’re opening up a massive range of possibilities for the viewer. One animal could remind you of 8 different people”.

Animals are the most obvious theme in Alex’s work, but her design for the B£5 note – an image of a tiger spray painting ‘O Liberty!’ onto a wall – taps into other important ideas for her as well. Ideas such as the importance of play, the ability of art to affect us people and the untapped potential of a more positive street art culture.

“I’ve loved being involved in the Bristol Pound!” she says. Her B£5 design, framed in a colour coded mount in her front room (“it had to be pink”), has appeared in The Sun national newspaper and always makes Alex smile whenever it pops up on Google.

Student power! Bristol University students shine at FoodCycle event

Report by Haley Pearson. Photography by Richard Brown.

An astonishing amount of edible, delicious food is binned every day in this country. We have lost the ability, as animals, to use sight or smell to assess the goodness of our food, and instead rely on the sterile “best-buy” numbers printed on the packaging of the foods we buy. In truth, the numbers are there to protect manufacturers and supermarkets from accusations of selling less than perfect foods. Plenty of people will bin a full pot of yoghurt on the best buy date, regardless of it’s smell or colour, or refuse an apple because of a small bruise.

There are slow steps being taken to mitigate this mindless waste, including a plan to remove “best-before” dates from milk (it’s pretty plain, smell-wise, when milk has gone off!) and in 2008 the EU lifted restrictions on selling perfectly wholesome vegetables and fruit considered “misshapen.” But in the meantime, we have FoodCycle. The premise behind FoodCycle is pretty simple. Volunteers and chefs get together to source, re-process and beautify the excess food unfairly ejected from supermarket shelves and serve it to those at risk of food poverty and social isolation. Everyone has heard of “skipped” food, or “freegans” nowadays, but the heart of the matter is that this food really is delicious and edible, and the effort and energy that has gone into to growing and transporting it demands that it not be wasted. And what better way to recover it than to use it in support of those less fortunate?

On Monday night Bristol Pound joined forces with FoodCycle Bristol to raise money for the Community Kitchen in Easton. We arrived in time to assist with laying tables, hanging art, lighting candles and slathering the tables with £B materials. Over a hundred students were paying £6 for the chance to eat reclaimed food prepared by the legendary Barny Haughton, founder of Bordeaux Quay, and listen to some really amazing local spoken word talents.

The evening was BYOB and we set up an exchange point so dinner guests could take £B across the road to Bristol News, an off license in Jamaica street that accepts £B and TXT2PAY (they do not accept any other electronic payments! AWESOME!). They weren’t perhaps expecting dozens of students to turn up with £B notes so it must have made a really cool impression on them! We gave a great presentation to the assembled crowd, explaining and promoting £B and TXT2PAY with my favourite slogan: Keep Bristol Weird!

The meal started with mezze of roasted aubergine and tomato, cold curried cauliflower salad and tzatziki dip with beautiful hot herby garlic tiger bread. Main dish was rice, vegetables and salad, full of flavour, the pudding was watermelon and mint with a berry coulis. Sacks of bread were strewn around the room, so it was obvious that many more than 100 people could have been accommodated for the garlic bread, and all of it had been destined for the bin! Mind-boggling.