In debt to no-one

Douglas Saltmarshe writes on a new bank, and currency, for Walthamstow

Gary Nash, Eat or Heat

Gary Nash, founder of Eat or Heat foodbank, is the inspiration for ‘The Gary’, a new currency

A new bank coming soon to Walthamstow aims to get people out of debt, rather than into it.

The Hoe Street Central Bank will appear for two weeks this October and is part of a wider public campaign to alter policies and attitudes towards debt.

Debt is an issue that affects nearly all of us, be it through mortgages, student loans, credit cards, or payday loans. But this new project is designed to increase financial and political understanding of debt.

The pop-up bank is an integral part of an action documentary called Debtonator: The Movie being made Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell. Spurred on by activists in the United States, Dan says: “When you look at it, we live in a world of strange beliefs – one of which is our financial system.

“Debt is integral to our financial system. It is a consequence of inadequate provision of public goods and social services. Debt stifles individual agency and creativity. It drives people into poverty while they get the blame for being poor.”

The film is an exploration of what debt means for ordinary people. It describes how the issuing of credit and the imposition of debt is used as a means of social control and questions current economic policy.

'The Gary' (credit Daniel Edelstyn)

‘The Gary’ (credit Daniel Edelstyn)

During the brief existence of the Hoe Street Central Bank, Walthamstow artist Hilary Powell will train local people in all aspects of printmaking to professional level. Participants will make limited edition notes of a new currency – the Gary, inspired by Gary Nash, founder of Eat or Heat foodbank. Proceeds from their sale will be used to support local groups concerned with poverty alleviation

That foodbanks are needed by so many illustrates the human cost of austerity and is a measure of how people have been dragged into debt, and consequently poverty. In the evenings and at weekends there will be talks and workshops to increase people’s understanding of the economy and citizen empowerment.

The Hoe Street Central Bank initiative will create a space where what debt means and how it can be dealt with is discussed within wider frameworks. The aim is to shift away from the passive acceptance of the imposed current order towards active strategies such as cancelling rather than ‘forgiving’ debt and to bring pressure to bear on usurious lenders.

The Hoe Street Central Bank will thus be used to generate a public conversation about how we can replace our debt-addicted economy with a different model and to demystify economics and finance.

Through Debtonator: The Movie the project will reach a much larger audience and will demonstrate that we need not fear writing off personal, corporate, or national debt.

For more information about Debtonator: The Movie: