Put your money where your mouth is

Artists Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell didn’t just want to comment on the exploitative nature of austerity Britain, they wanted to do something about it. As Bank Job, the pair have written off a phenomenal £1m in predatory payday debt through a community project soon to culminate with a documentary and one hell of an explosion.

A whitewashed former Co-op in Walthamstow with utilitarian sans serif branding, from the outside HSCB (Hoe Street Central Bank) looks innocuous enough. But inside filmmaker Dan Edelstyn and artist Hilary Powell have been running a year-long programme of radical and compassionate economics called Bank Job.  
The aim has been to educate the local community (me included!) on how the economic system is rigged against ordinary folk and about the screwed up nature of predatory debt, which is bought and sold between companies for only a fraction of the amount owed. 
Alongside a talks programme, Dan and Hilary enlisted a crew to screenprint a new currency at HSCB,which was sold to write off local debt as well as raise money for nearby charities. Instead of bearing the Queen’s face, these notes celebrated local heroes like Gary Nash (who set up Eat or Heat foodbank), Steve Barnabas of youth space The Soul Project, Saira Mir of PL84U-AL SUFFA (which provides hot meals for the isolated, elderly and homeless) and Tracey Griffiths, the head teacher of Barn Croft Primary School, which brings students, teachers and parents together to share in decision making.

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Laura Snoad
Freelance journalist