March's Sustainable Bishopston meeting focussed on our Bristol Pound, the new complimentary currency in the city.
Ciaran and Sarah from the project came to explain the background and workings of the currency at local trader La Ruca, who kindly provided their cafe for the evening, having just fully registered for the currency.
We heard the origins of the idea to bring a local currency to Bristol as a positive way to strengthen the local economy, in response to the damage it suffers from large scale business supply chains and the takeover of our high streets by chain stores. Ciaran explained how this largely volunteer led project had negotiated all the issues needed to get a currency into existence and launched in the city - an event which gained substantial international media exposure as it's the first city-wide currency in Britain. Sarah discussed how the project is very much a community effort, with users, traders, and supporters all playing their part to get the use and growth of the currency in place - thinking of new ways to increase the circulation and to strengthen bonds between traders, users. We discussed ways to encourage offering it as change, asking for it during transactions, and getting new businesses on board. "Are you taking the Bristol Pound yet?"
The tourist aspect was one topic - how it brings visitors off the beaten track into the independent sector of the city when they visit. Also the day to day use by businesses who can trade between themselves once they accumulate Bristol Pounds. We can all explore new ways to support he local economy, and buy spending £B we discussed how this keeps funds circulating locally far more times than just shopping in traders with £ sterling. The £B can be used to pay business rates, offer for staff wages, and traded to get a wide range of business and professional services too.
They suggested it's often helpful if a regular Standing Order from your bank account to your £B account with the Bristol Credit Union is made to allow funds for monthly shopping
Making a text payment was demonstrated - something that uses a simple mobile phone between 2 users or a customer and trader (you text to the person's user name, instead of the usual trader name)- and is far cheaper than electronic payment options.
The importance of TXT2PAY being that it takes the currency into new payment methods and free from the beautiful £B notes - all 4 denominations designed in a community competition - but expensive to produce. The on line accounts are held through Bristol Credit Union, who host the system, and are partners with the new currency.
We were told that in 2 years there will be a new issue of the notes as the current 'vouchers' in circulation will be withdrawn into collectors items.
We left thinking this is a great local success story with many more aspects than at first obvious - and one that needs us all to play our part.
http://bristolpound.org/ - to register an account and for all the info needed.
https://www.facebook.com/BristolPound?fref=ts - has links to many traders' pages.