Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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I no longer blog on this site. You can now find me, my general blogs, and the work I am doing researching my forthcoming book on imagination, on my new blog.

29 Jul 2009

The Lewes Pound Expands, with the Most Beautiful Notes You’ve Ever Seen

Lewes PoundsI’ve written about the Lewes Pound here before, but here is a piece by Adrienne Campbell about the recent launch of the new notes, which are absolutely gorgeous.  It is fascinating to see how this initiative continues to develop and to innovate.  Congratulations all.

“The Lewes Pound was relaunched by Transition Town Lewes at a celebration on Friday 3 July. The new notes, designed by people from the Lewes community, include higher denominations of Five, Ten and a Twenty One Lewes Pound note.

The launch Do was a magnificent event, held at an empty building and yard, Harvey’s Brewery Depot. The currency group set out to be very inclusive at this event, since previous launches tended to be rather cerebral. Teenagers, who helped design the 1LP note, were much in evidence, supporting some local teenage bands. Furniture Now, a charity training people to fix donated furniture and sell it affordably, brought a lorry full of sofas, tables and chairs – and the sofas were used to watch Wimbledon and a range of relevant films. The local butcher carried out a hog roast, and the local brewery Harveys, donated beer. A poet waxed lyrical about alternative realities and children were kept busy with circus skills. Several stalls there were selling second hand and recycled fashion and local groups with similar aims, as well as other Transition Town Lewes groups, were invited to have stalls. All this created a buzzy party atmosphere that will long be remembered.

So far the single Lewes Pounds have been a great success, more than meeting our initial aims, which were to build confidence in it as a viable local currency and to raise awareness about the nature of money and the need to spend it locally. As well as that, we’ve had a huge amount of international media coverage. And several communities around Britain – including Brixton – are creating their own local currencies, which continue to be discussed as one of the solutions to the problems of globalisation. It’s not clear yet whether the larger denominations are going to be accepted as widely as the one pounds – but we’re doing our best to engage the traders and encourage its use – still with us all being volunteers. The larger denomination will be a reality check; but if they don’t circulate, that’s just a fact, not a failure. We see this as a collective experiment.

Initially the group decided that any trader wishing to turn Lewes Pounds back to sterling would pay a levy of 5% which would go to a community fund, Live Lewes, for micro-grants to help people become more resilient. It was also intended to encourage traders to keep Lewes Pounds circulating, as change, or to discover new links to local suppliers. However a number of traders felt that while the aims of the 5% donation were very honourable, its practical application meant that traders would be struggling to pay this contribution, especially in the current financial situation and so it remains exchangable for one pound sterling.

Lewes Pound Group, plus Hannah and Josh from the Brixton Pound and Sharon from Calgary Dollars (middle front)

Lewes Pound Group, plus Hannah and Josh from the Brixton Pound and Sharon from Calgary Dollars (middle front)

We’re finding here in Lewes that we’ve engaged about 5% of the population in accepting the reasons behind the need to transition, and looking at their own energy descent. As the western world is still trying to keep the oil party going, that’s probably quite a good percentage. But we can engage loads more people in the transition without them necessaily buying in to the reasons, or even knowing that they are in transition. The Lewes Pound has been successful in getting a conversation going across all social and age groups here in town. It’s accepted at the small shops on the estates, as well as the organic shops. It’s still small fry compared to Tesco, who takes two thirds of all retail spend – 33 million pa. But it’s a tool that’s now embedded in our culture, ready to scale up, along with other transition ideas, when the world wakes up.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Pete North
29 Jul 1:00pm

Inspiring stuff – the notes are really beautiful – just what you need to get people to see the full potential of a local currency in building a resilient local economy. 5% of people using them is great – next stage, giving out loans to local businesses to develop the range of things that are produced locally?

29 Jul 3:52pm

I’m interested in local currency and have researched to some degree in association with some colleagues in East Anglia. It is the disassociation with national currency which interests me particularly, i.e. backing the currency with food (e.g. Mendo Credits) or something else tangible and of enduring value. Is there a discussion along these lines in the Transition movement? Or any other sources of shared interest?

Pete North
29 Jul 5:13pm

The challenge with backing a currency with food is if the price of that food changes in value,so will the value of the currency unless you have a wide enough basket of food commodities that have a stable value. Its probably better to have wider basked of everyday needs – energy, food, metals. An interesting experiment to this end was Ralph Borsodi’s Constants in the 1970s. see:

30 Jul 5:08am

Jct: As long as you link to the Time Standard of Money like Ithaca Hours linked to the $10 bill, Hours earned locally can be intertraded with other timebanks globally! In 1999, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with an IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours. U.N. Millennium Declaration UNILETS Resolution C6 to governments is for a time-based currency to restructure the global financial architecture.

David Partridge
30 Jul 1:38pm

Here’s a recent article from a US Newspaper, the Burlington Union (Mass) on local currencies, US Style:

Pete North
31 Jul 10:36am

I am just completing the manuscript for my forthcoming book ‘Local Money’ which is aimed at the transition movement.

Here you might be able to help me – the publishers want lots of quotes in it from current LETS, Time Bank and other local currency network members and organisers about what they think the best things about their currencies are, how they’ve benefitted.

They want to know about future plans.

I’d like to be able to show how vibrant the local currency schemes out there are, and especially feature short examples of case studies of local currencies engaging with climate change and peak oil. Are you involved with transition towns at all?

So little vignettes/quotes/case study paragraphs would be really helpful.

Would you be able to write me or supply me with a quote or tell me a little more about your plans, so I can include it in the book? if we use it, of course you will be credited.

if you want a chat about this, give me a call on 0151 794 2849

Pete North

Hazel Burgess
5 Oct 7:39am

Good morning,

A kind friend in Sussex sent me a Lewes pound a couple of weeks ago together with ‘Thomas Paine in Lewes: 1768-1774’. I think the note is splendid and shall put it on display with our personal ‘treasures’.
By the by, I have a book of formerly unknown writings by Thomas Paine due for release by Palgrave Macmillan before the end of the year.
Best wishes
Hazel Burgess