Rebel with a cause

Hoe Street Central Bank – HSCB – is about to ‘debtonate’

Daniel Edelstyn

Daniel Edelstyn is no ordinary banker

In the UK, as government spending has declined, debt has become acute – reaching over £1.6trillion last year.

Between 2012 and 2017, unsecured credit increased 19 percent, car finance doubled, student debt doubled to £100billion, and council tax arrears increased 12 percent.

Dangerously high levels of debt now affect a variety of age groups and income brackets; although the poorest, youngest, ethnic minorities, and non-citizens, are still disproportionately affected.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – there is hope – the rebel bankers are here! In early 2018 our team of artists took over the former former Co-operative Bank in Hoe Street, Walthamstow, and set up HSCB – Hoe Street Central Bank. Through the sale of the banknotes we have been printing on site, we have raised £40,000 to buy up and destroy £1million-worth of local payday debt. In place of the Queen and famous figures from British history, HSCB’s banknotes feature local organisations at the frontline of a failed economic system – foodbanks, homeless kitchens, youth projects, and primary schools.

These causes get half of the proceeds of the notes they grace. Their faces have now travelled worldwide and are in the collections of V&A, Museum of London, Bank of England Museum, and Smithsonian.

Between Thursday 4th and Friday 19th October the bank opens for a new phase as the team print paper bonds in the collectively-owned and distributed explosion of the £1m payday debt bought through bank note sales.

The bonds are being sold to finance the literal, cathartic explosion of this debt at the end of 2018, pushing the message of the project into public view. Each gilt-edged bond grants the holder the bond itself as artwork and a share in the explosion.

This explosion, entitled ‘Big Bang 2’, entails the ‘debtonation’ of a cash-in-transit van of debt, its transformation into commemorative coins then distributed to bond holders.

Myself along with artist Hilary Powell, the founders of HSCB, have produced a mischievous feature documentary film, Bank Job, bringing together the local community to examine how money and debt are made in our current economic system and to look for alternatives that may work more in the public’s favour.

In the wake of the first ‘Big Bang’ deregulation of the banks, and impact of the last financial crisis, cultural action to challenge the status quo and provoke understanding and questioning of the current system in mainstream discourse and policy is well overdue.

To find out more and to buy Bank Job notes: