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 CBE, Claudia 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!
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