The Hoe Street Central Bank (HSCB) in northeast London, England is trying to eliminate debt in its suburb of Walthamstow.
Described as “part art installation, part stunt and part charitable endeavour” in a story published this March by The Guardian, the HSCB is printing its own fake banknotes and selling them as art in an effort to purchase so-called “predatory” debts. Organizers have already hosted two weeks of money printing and events, and they are slated to open again from June 5-23 as they countdown to their final goal of £50,000 (about $90,000 Cdn.).
Local people of all ages and backgrounds worked with artist Hilary Powell, printmaker Spike Gascoigne and designer Phil Seddon to print the artful currency in denominations of one, five, 10, 20 and 50. In place of the Queen, leaders of the local foodbank, homeless kitchen, youth project and primary school grace HSCB banknotes. As they are exchanged for pound sterling, they raise money for each banknote cause and the HSCB debt abolition fund—enabling the purchase of one million pounds worth of local “predatory” debt.
The banknotes depict:
- Gary Nash, of the Eat or Heat Foodbank;
- Steve Barnabas, of the local youth initiative The Soul Project Youth Space;
- Tracey Griffiths, head teacher of Barn Croft Primary School; and
- Saira Mir, of the charity service L84U-AL SUFFA.
The bank is a key part of the feature documentary film Bank Job, which examines how money and debt are made in the current economic system and looks for alternatives that could work in the public’s favour.
In regards to any legal complications arising from the printing of fake banknotes or the use of the word “bank” on their building, HSCB organizers said they have little to worry about.
“Someone wrote to me saying that using the word bank on your building is illegal and Bank of England would be obliged to come and shut us down at some point in the future,” reads the HSCB website. “We are not legal specialists in this – and haven’t sought out legal advice on this point. Our money is not legal tender – so we believe we are perfectly entitled to print it, we’re not pretending it’s pound notes, so there’s no counterfeiting here. And our cultural message is clear and honest too.”