Bristol Pound officially launched across city
BRISTOL'S own currency was being launched in the city today, to help support independent shops and traders.
The Bristol Pound – with its £B1, £B5, £B10 and £B20 notes – was officially in use from eleven minutes past noon, the time when the sun is at its highest in Bristol.
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.
Ciaran Mundy, director of the Bristol Pound, said: "This scheme maintains the money supply in Bristol.
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"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."
The new currency has generated interest from many different European countries as well as Russia, Ukraine and even China.
Mr Mundy said: "I'm surprised it has grabbed the attention of places that don't really have any connection with Bristol. I think it has captured people's imagination because they can see it is something they can do for themselves."
One trader who has already signed up to the new currency is Lucy Wheeler, 44, from Horfield, who runs a stall in St Nicholas Market selling T-shirts with Bristolian designs.
She said: "I think it's a brilliant idea, because it's going to encourage people to shop locally."
Ms Wheeler did not think it was a problem to be dealing with sterling as well as the new currency in her till.
She said: "The notes are beautiful, lovely to look at and to hold.
"I can't wait to get hold of some myself and spend some."
More than 300 traders and businesses have now signed up to the new currency, which was the organisers' target as it was seen as the critical mass needed to make the currency work.
The new target is to persuade 1,000 traders and businesses to sign up by the end of next year.
People who open an account with the Bristol Credit Union will be able to spend the money in shops and businesses which sign up to the scheme.
Technically, Bristol pounds are vouchers, not banknotes, but they are interchangeable with sterling.
Shoppers and traders will also be able to make quick transactions by using their mobile phone.
The unique currency system will be the largest of its kind in Britain.
There are other systems – such as Brixton in London and Totnes in Devon – but they are much smaller and do not use mobile phones for buying and selling.
The designs for the notes are winners in a competition held earlier this year which invited budding artists, professional design artists and schoolchildren to submit entries.
Each of the designs capture some element of Bristol's character, reflecting its architecture, history, creative spirit and cultural diversity. The new notes also feature a number of security features to prevent counterfeiting.
Each person who opens an account will receive a five per cent bonus in Bristol Pounds over and above the amount of sterling deposited (limited to the first £100,000). The redemption fee for converting back to sterling is three per cent. Traders pay a small fee for each transaction.
The Bristol Pound is run as a not- for-profit scheme and surplus revenue will either be returned to members or used for improving the services offered.