The Rebel Bank Printing Its Own Notes and Redeeming People’s Debts | World news


Ffirst there were the banks. Sending credit cards through the mail, providing easy loans. They stretched out, wavered. Then came the billion dollar bailouts, recession, austerity, poverty and payday loans.

Then slowly came the movement: a piecemeal and sporadic effort to buy out the debt of ordinary people.

Today, in North East London, a business that is part art installation, stunt and charity, has brought all the threads together: a bank that prints its own currency, sells it for a real price and uses the proceeds to redeem the debt.

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Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn have taken over a former cooperative bank on a main street in Walthamstow and print money with the faces of the people behind four local services – an elementary school, a food bank, a youth project and a soup kitchen .

In addition to raising money for these projects, Hoe Street Central Bank aims to raise enough money to buy back £ 1million in debt held by people within the E17 postcode, in a London borough ranked 35th on most disadvantaged in the country.

“We see it as a community heist taking the economic discourse,” says Powell.

Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn, who created the bank. Photography: Alicia Canter / The Guardian

One of the delightful ironies of the business is that the ‘bank’ might only have to raise £ 20,000 to buy back £ 1million of local debt, as bad debts are often reduced to a fraction of their face value in The secondary. Marlet.

“The system forces people to go into debt for basic needs,” says Powell. “We are the forerunners of what we hope will be a larger movement for the abolition of debt.”

As the bank did its unusual business this week, schoolchildren were invited to watch a batch of artistically designed £ 5, £ 10 and £ 20 banknotes, all rolled off the presses. After all, it’s not every day that you see your manager’s face on a five.

Banknotes featuring Tracy Griffiths were pegged on a string across the gap to dry. The creative husband and wife partnership was influenced by the Strike Debt and Rolling Jubilee initiatives in the United States, which began to buy debt and abolish it for ethical reasons.

Printed Notes
The names and pictures of the local people appear on these “banknotes” in place of the queen. Photography: Alicia Canter / The Guardian

In 2014, Strike Debt bought $ 3.8 million in student loans and spawned other ad hoc initiatives: in 2016, TV host John Oliver bought and wrote off $ 15 million in medical debt. held by 9,000 people. The Rolling Jubilee campaign raised over $ 700,000, enough to buy back over $ 30 million in debt.

One of the artists who works as a money printer at the Walthamstow “bank” (paid London living wage) on the project was drawn to this project because he is local and has personal experience. debt. “My parents lost their home during the recession,” says Alistair Gentry. “Anyone can get into debt. No matter how rich you are to begin with … it’s really good to roll up your sleeves and get inked literally, but also metaphorically, to do something. Not just sit and moan.

The bank is open until Sunday March 25. Artists will print money during the day and there will be a series of lectures in the evening.

Mother and child in bank
Emma Zipfel with her three-year-old son Bowyn, who came to visit the bank. Photography: Alicia Canter / The Guardian

Edelstyn and Powell are making a film about the project, the debt and the economic system called Bank Job. “Imagine if we could get it in every economics course at every college or every sixth year of economics,” says Powell. “Then the reach of it goes beyond this main street to the whole country.”

The project has had the advantage of helping to strengthen community ties as most of the people involved are local. “We live right down the street and that’s a real draw to her,” Edelstyn says. “I felt like I didn’t have time to get to know someone in the community. We are all so stressed out trying to make ends meet. The idea of ​​political engagement with groups in your community seemed like a good idea, but slightly scary and impractical.

“But when I started to research and connect with local projects, I found that everyone had a good sense of humor and that they are all normal human beings. We created this conversation across the borough and connected different people together. This is essentially what it is. It’s just a way of speaking.

This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the world’s most persistent problems. What else should we cover? Write to us at [email protected]

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