Reinforcing the local identityFor Maggie Zimmerman, who has spent almost a decade at Brixton Cycles, a workers? co-operative founded in 1983 after the Brixton riots, a resilient local economy is central to the identity of the area. I don’t know if you can just quantify the impact in hard economic terms, conceded Zimmerman. it goes deeper than that. The reason our customers come to us is because we arent a corporate chain. Were their friends and their neighbours and they know theyll get better service because they arent being treated like cogs in a wheel. part of what made Brixton what it is are the local businesses that have shaped the public face of the neighbourhood over the decades, she added. Figures from the Local Data Company revealed that 15 high streets stores closed every day in the first half of 2016, and small independent businesses have been among those most vulnerable with the emergence of ultra-convenient online shopping and rising rents, particularly in an area like Brixton that has seen vast regeneration in recent years. The visible independence? of the high street is a concern for business owners across the country, and something local currencies have been introduced to fight for. there is a massive pressure for high streets across the world to look the same, and were not immune to that in Brixton, said Monro. Zimmerman agreed that economic pressures were an ever-present threat to local business, and said the Brixton Pound acted as a necessary tool for owners battling against larger competition. the economic situation and demographic of Brixton is changing. At the moment, there are large conglomerates starting to move in, so I feel the Brixton Pound is helping the community retain its identity a unique place with its own diverse culture. the Brixton Pound is the stick around which everything crystallises. it’s the rallying cry of the whole neighbourhood ethos. it’s the physical and now virtual manifestation of the community spirit.
Business supportAs with other local currencies, owners can pay business rates and BID levies with the Brixton Pound. The organisation behind the currency has made a range of efforts to support local business owners, including free advertising in local papers and listings on the mobile app. I have nothing but good things to say about the Brixton Pound, said Adrian Turle, owner of a Blue Turtle Oasis, an independent caf? that accepts the local currency. Blue Turtle Oasis occupies a position just outside of Brixton, in neighbouring Loughborough Junction. Turle said the initiative had conveyed some of Brixton’s local identity into his own business. it’s done a great thing for the community, Turle added, theyve promoted local businesses for free.
A future in a cashless society?Following Liverpool’s new digital-only pound, a case could be made that physical local currencies are on the way out. Although it went digital in 2011, the Brixton Pound received a cash machine in April 2016, the first of its kind in the world. Monro was keen to stress the continued importance of hard cash. the physical notes are extraordinary and have a value in themselves rather than just monetary. The cash machine is great, he said. The notes available in denominations of B£1, B£5, B£10 and B£20 feature faces such as Brixton-born David Bowie and former resident Vincent Van Gough and have become somewhat of a collector’s item. the hard currency completely changes the exchange. With a small local trader, you talk a lot more. You take time, converse, it does strengthen those supply chain links, Monro added. Over 250 local business owners are currently accepting the tender, and the excitement surrounding the new cash machine appears to have mobilised a new generation of users. After 11 years in circulation, can it be said the pound really sticks to Brixton? A 1.5 per cent transaction fee from every sale is put back into local initiatives by the non-profit Brixton Pound group, through its Brixton Fund. The organisation has put money intolocal employment opportunities and supported entrepreneurship among young people in the community. A “start your own food business” workshop supported the foundationof the Brixton Brewery and Seven at Brixton tapas and cocktail bar. In 2016, the micro-grants fund put 10, 000 into community business projects and social enterprises. Brixton’s small business owners are among those most threatened by business rates revaluation
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