The first city in the UK to turn its back on sterling today rolled out its own currency – in a bid to take on multinational chains killing small business.
Hundreds of firms began using the Bristol Pound and it is hoped the tender – which can only be used in Bristol – will boost the local economy by supporting independent shops and traders.
The Bristol Pound is available in #B1, #B5, #B10 and #B20 notes which are technically vouchers but are interchangeable with sterling.
Fittingly, one of the images shows a rebellious creature daubing graffiti on a wall – just like the city’s most famous artist Banksy.
Shoppers and traders can also make quick transactions using the Bristol Pound on their mobile phone and online.
More than 350 firms in the city – from market sellers to supplier – have signed up to the scene and organisers hope 1,000 other businesses will join by the end of next year.
The currency was launched in Bristol at 12.11 today, the time when the sun is at its highest in the city.
Lord Mayor Peter Main was due to carry out the first transaction with the new money by buying a loaf of bread in Corn Street, Bristol.
Ciaran Mundy, director of the Bristol Pound, has been working towards the new currency for the last three years.
He said: “This scheme maintains the money supply in Bristol.
“If we spend more money with independent traders, then that helps the local economy instead of money leaving the city.
“If we spend the money with each other, then we have a healthier money supply in the city, which is particularly important in these times of economic recession.
“I’m not suggesting it is going to solve the global financial crisis but it is something we can do for ourselves.”
Users must open an account with the Bristol Credit Union and will then be able to spend the money in shops and businesses who are part of the scheme.
There are other systems for local currencies – including in Brixton in London and Totnes in Devon – but these are much smaller and do not use mobile phones.
The notes feature winning designs from a competition held earlier this year, with budding artists, design artists and schoolchildren submitting entries.
Each design includes an element of Bristol’s character – from architecture to cultural diversity – as well as security features to prevent counterfeiting.
Lucy Wheeler, 44, who runs a stall in St Nicholas Market selling t-shirts with Bristol designs, is part of the scheme.
She said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea, because it’s going to encourage people to shop locally.”
“The notes are beautiful, lovely to look at and to hold. I can’t wait to get hold of some myself and spend some.”
The redemption fee for converting Bristol Pounds back to sterling is three percent, with traders paying a small fee for each transaction.
It is run as a note-for-profit scheme, with surplus revenue being refunded to members or used to improve services.
The Bristol Pound is an independent, local initiative and not linked to the Bank of England or Bank of England notes.
Local currencies are not legal tender but can be accepted as a means of payment by the mutual agreement of the parties to the transaction.