Posted by: Mike Grenville | 21 July 2009

Lewes Pound ReLaunched

Following the success of the first issue of The Lewes Pound, launched in September 2008, Transition Lewes have relaunched it with higher denomination notes making it easier to use. Adrienne Campbell reports on the launch Do:

Lewes Pounds

The Lewes Pound was relaunched by Transition Town Lewes at a celebration on Friday 3 July. The new notes designed by local students include higher denominations of Five, Ten and a Twenty One Lewes Pound note.

The launch Do was a magnificent event, held at an empty building and yard, Harvey’s Brewery Depot. The currency group set out to be very inclusive at this event, since previous launches tended to be rather cerebral. Teenagers, who helped design the 1LP note, were much in evidence, supporting some local teenage bands. Furniture Now, a charity training people to fix donated furniture and sell it affordably, brought a lorry full of sofas, tables and chairs – and the sofas were used to watch Wimbledon and a range of relevant films. The local butcher carried out a hog roast, and the local brewery Harveys, donated beer. A poet waxed lyrical about alternative realities and children were kept busy with circus skills. Several stalls there were selling second hand and recycled fashion and local groups with similar aims, as well as other Transition Town Lewes groups, were invited to have stalls. All this created a buzzy party atmosphere that will long be remembered.
TTL-pound09-004

So far the single Lewes Pounds have been a great success, more than meeting our initial aims, which were to build confidence in it as a viable local currency and to raise awareness about the nature of money and the need to spend it locally. As well as that, we’ve had a huge amount of international media coverage. And several communities around Britain – including Brixton – are creating their own local currencies, which continue to be discussed as one of the solutions to the problems of globalisation. It’s not clear yet whether the larger denominations are going to be accepted as widely as the one pounds – but we’re doing our best to engage the traders and encourage its use – still with us all being volunteers. The larger denomination will be a reality check; but if they don’t circulate, that’s just a fact, not a failure. We see this as a collective experiment.

Initially the group decided that any trader wishing to turn Lewes Pounds back to sterling would pay a levy of 5% which would go to a community fund, Live Lewes, for micro-grants to help people become more resilient. It was also intended to encourage traders to keep Lewes Pounds circulating, as change, or to discover new links to local suppliers. However a number of traders felt that while the aims of the 5% donation were very honourable, its practical application meant that traders would be struggling to pay this contribution, especially in the current financial situation and so it remains exchangable for one pound sterling.

Lewes Pound Group, plus Hannah and Josh from the Brixton Pound and Sharon from Calgary Dollars (middle front)

Lewes Pound Group, plus Hannah and Josh from the Brixton Pound and Sharon from Calgary Dollars (middle front)

We’re finding here in Lewes that we’ve engaged about 5% of the population in accepting the reasons behind the need to transition, and looking at their own energy descent. As the western world is still trying to keep the oil party going, that’s probably quite a good percentage. But we can engage loads more people in the transition without them necessaily buying in to the reasons, or even knowing that they are in transition. The Lewes Pound has been successful in getting a conversation going across all social and age groups here in town. It’s accepted at the small shops on the estates, as well as the organic shops. It’s still small fry compared to Tesco, who takes two thirds of all retail spend – 33 million pa. But it’s a tool that’s now embedded in our culture, ready to scale up, along with other transition ideas, when the world wakes up.


Responses

  1. how does your experience compare to the LETS system…. which im trying to establish here in malaga spain

  2. I think it would be very interesting and useful to get direct feedback from the local traders on issues that others may need to consider:-

    1: did it increase trade after the initial novetly wore off?
    2: how did they cope with two currencies?
    3: any accounting issues?
    4: any practical issues? money to pay staff? vat accounting? paying suppliers? giving out change? exchanging for Sterling? dealing with petty cash?
    5: who is funding the relauch if local traders cannot afford the 5% levy?

  3. In response to Mark’s questions:

    1. After the initial enthusiasm which included large numbers of people wanting to get their hands on 1 note, trade has stabilised and been constant. It’s fair to say that a small but growing number of people are using the Lewes Pound on a regular basis for a large proportion of their purchases.

    2. People have not really had an issue dealing with 2 currencies. Those people that understanding the reasons for the Lewes pound use it together with Sterling.

    3. No accounting problems: Lewes pounds are vouchers worth their Sterling equivalent and are accounted for as such

    4. The main practical issue we face is to get traders to find ways of using their Lewes pounds rather than exchanging them. This is a long-term process. As more and more traders their supplers and customers use the Lewes Pound, novel ways of using it will increase.

    5. The printing costs are funded thanks to the support of local businesses and the ‘leakage’ of Lewes Pounds (i.e. pounds that will never be spent or exchanged in Sterling (Tourists, souvenirs, collectors, …) while the donations to the Live Lewes fund are funded through leakage.

    In answer to David’s query:
    A LETS is particularly useful for the exchange of services and in times of cash shortage. It allows the local economy to continue functioning without the need for cash.
    A local currency’s primary aims are to support local trading and production to help the local economy and reduce the carbon footprint.


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