The Bristol Pound is rooting itself in the city and helping turn Bristol into a local economic incubator, reports Clare Goff
On the front of Bristol’s Corn Exchange is a clock with two minute hands. One hand shows Greenwich Mean Time and the other displays ‘Bristol time’, eleven minutes later.
It’s a throwback to the early 19th century, to a period before railways and standardised time systems. Overlooking the city’s old trading quarter, it serves as a reminder that this is a city that likes to march to the beat of a different drum.
It was here three years ago that the Bristol Pound was launched. On the 19th September 2012 the city’s Lord Mayor stood by one of the four pillars outside the Corn Exchange – known as ‘nails’ – that are ancient sites of exchange in the city and asked ‘What will anyone give me in exchange for a Bristol Pound?’ Someone came forward with a loaf and exchanged it for a Bristol Pound and thus the currency was launched.
‘It draws people into a community with
shared values that is playful, creative and diverse’.
Since then the Bristol Pound has shown the difference a local currency can make on a city scale. It can be used in around 900 shops and businesses across the city; the salary of the city’s independent mayor George Ferguson is paid in it; bus and train companies accept it; business rates and council tax can be paid in it, and Good Energy has recently signed up, becoming perhaps the first energy company in the world to accept a local currency.
It has become an icon of the city – helping it win the Green Capital 2015 award – and is now being copied in places from Exeter to Liverpool.
Run as a partnership between the Bristol Pound community interest company and the Bristol Credit Union, it has the backing of the Financial Conduct Authority, and the support of the city council and mayor George Ferguson who says, ‘It marks us out and shows an attitude’.
Chris Sutherland, one of the founders of the Bristol Pound, says that while it may not yet have gone to scale it gives an interesting feel to the city and ‘draws people into a community with shared values that is playful, creative and diverse’.
Clare Goff is former Editor of New Start magazine