In the Community: Brixton Pound
Fri 04 Aug 2017
When you think of Brixton, you think of its dynamic community and thriving culture. It is an area where both locals and non-locals come together to keep this spirit alive. The Brixton Pound (B£) was launched in September 2009 as a paper-based currency, followed by the development of the electric pay-by-text platform in 2011. It is a complementary currency which is accepted alongside pounds sterling in 250 businesses around Lambeth. It aims to keep the money that is spent in Brixton in local circulation, supporting local independent businesses and keeping the diversity of the area alive. Businesses that accept the currency are offered free advertising and the chance to be part of an exciting network of growing businesses who all share a common love of Brixton.
This interest in maintaining a diverse and resilient community, whilst generating awareness of the socio-economic state of Brixton, gave way to the opening of the Brixton Pound Café in July 2016. This is the first ‘pay-what-you-feel café’ in south London, giving customers of all backgrounds an affordable experience, or the opportunity to be generous for a good cause. Using only surplus food to create delicious, healthy meals, this café is a real life example of the B£ ethos, with all revenue being used to support the local community via the Brixton Fund.
Keen to get involved in the community, Marsh & Parsons became a bronze partner of the Brixton Pound (B£) in 2017, donating £5,000 to the cause. This money was used as part of the funding project outlined below and to support the vital services that the B£ provides.
Stemming from the B£ initiative, the fund provides a platform for local businesses to apply to in the hope of receiving funding for projects that strengthen the community, increase employment opportunities and take action for social justice. The fund is financed by revenue from the Brixton Bonus (a community lottery), sales of B£ merchandise and the transaction fees when people spend B£ using their phones. It is further supported by contributions from partners, the Brixton Business Improvement District (BID) and the Brixton Neighbourhood Forum (BNF).
As a bronze partner, we were recently invited to join the judging panel and attend the June 2017 awards where the funding of six shortlisted companies was announced. These organisations were selected from over 30 that applied by a panel of local ‘Brixtonites’, including our Brixton Lettings Manager, Adam Garner.
The panel was given a selection of the projects that applied and were asked to distribute 56 points among them, with the highest amount of points given to the projects they felt most strongly about. These scores were then collated and the six with the highest overall scores were invited to the event.
Hosted at Pop Brixton, the evening was attended by over 120 local supporters - an impressive turnout! The attendees were given the opportunity to speak with each of the shortlisted projects, before being invited to vote for which they felt deserved the biggest portion of the funding. Each attendee was given 10 beans which they were asked to divide between the six projects in whichever way they wanted. The funding was then split accordingly.
Congratulations to the six projects who all received funding on the evening!
Older people in Brixton are at ‘high risk’ of loneliness according to the charity Age UK. Loneliness has been found to be closely linked to depression, self-neglect and mental illness. The Spacecraft aims to reduce social isolation by bringing the elderly together to craft beautiful and unique gifts.
The Spacecraft received £1,500 from the fund which will help them to launch their first project - ‘Brixton Booties’. The local older people involved will knit a beautiful range of baby booties with all profits from sales being reinvested to sustain the work. Head to their Facebook page to find out how you can get involved.
Supporting those at risk of exclusion and isolation, Vintage Voices aims to increase arts participation and give those involved the chance to share their experiences with other generations. This is done in the form of two-hour writing workshops that encourage Lambeth elders to share their past and passions whilst learning new writing and story-making skills.
Vintage Voices received £1,100 from the fund which will help them to run the workshops. The main focus of these is to develop a presentation about Brixton’s recent past through memories and experiences. This will take place on Saturday 25th November.
Vintage Voices is supported by Sixteenfeet Productions, who specialise in alternative site-specific theatre. Find out how you can help the initiative here.
Chaigaram aims to help refugees who are living in Brixton to rebuild their lives by creating employment opportunities in selling specialist Indian chai tea in London food markets. They work alongside local residents, which encourages the groups to interact with each other and instil the sense of community that Brixton is famous for. Working together allows the refugees to practice their English and learn about the British way of life, whilst the locals learn the same about the migrants. This UK employment experience is of huge benefit to the refugees when they move forward in their searches for jobs here.
Chaigaram received £1,000 from the fund which will go towards the running of the scheme and the recruitment of refugees. They already have their licence from Lambeth Council and are working towards approval from the markets on Electric Avenue, Pope’s Road and Brixton Village.
All donations made to the charity go towards paying the refugee’s salaries. If you would like to help to empower refugees through employment, you can donate here.
Focusing on the younger generation, Brixton Design Trail provides professional training and work experience in journalism to 16 and 17-year olds in the community. The program is run by Raw Talent and lasts a week and at the end of their placement their work is published in the Brixton Bugle, on social media and on the Design Trail online listings.
Brixton Design Trail PressGang received £700 from the fund which will help them run the scheme in July and September. With such an abundance of creative talent in Brixton, the scheme aims to help those who are restricted by wealth and a lack of opportunity and give them the vital skills to help them develop and build their confidence, leading to heightened employability in their future.
There was a large split in opinions across the country after the recent referendum result. Lambeth More in Common aims to bring people together with conflicting views and celebrate what we have in common in spite of these.
The organisation received £510 from the fund which will go towards a coach trip to Boston, Lincolnshire (the area with the highest Brexit Leave vote) which they hope will challenge media stereotypes of division. Brixton and Boston share common problems, so the idea of the trip is to allow those involved to set up joint activities such as young people’s projects and anti-racism initiatives in order to work towards their shared hopes for the future. Visit their Facebook page to find out more about the coach trip and other More in Common events.
With over 80,000 visits a month, the Rec in Brixton is an integral part of the history of the area and is used by many Brixton/Lambeth sports groups. After threats 10 years ago that it was going to be knocked down, the Brixton Rec Users’ Group formed as a voice for the users and successfully campaigned against its closure in 2012. They still face ongoing threat from the council who want to sell the large site to developers.
Brixton Rec Users’ Group received £190 from the fund which will be spent primarily on campaign and information materials. Due to the nature of their work, this is integral to the continued success of the project, and will pay for printing of posters and materials. For more information on how you can get involved in the work that the Brixton Rec Users’ Group do, click here.
We’re extremely excited to see how the projects develop and are looking forward to supporting them however we can. Using our wide network of contacts we plan to promote these and other local businesses.
After hearing glowing feedback from local residents at the Brixton Fund event, our Brixton sales and lettings teams now host regular morning meetings in the Brixton Pound Café and we are currently establishing a volunteer schedule among our south-west teams for the Brixton Soup Kitchen.
As part of our referral scheme, we will be donating to the B£’s crowdfunding project which aims to transform the café into an accessible platform for community activity. In order to do this they are hoping to raise £13,000 through donations. If you would like to recommend our services to a friend or family member, then get in touch and we’ll donate up to £500 per referral to the fund when they sell or let their property through us.