Hilary Powell and her partner Dan Edelstyn started HSCB to help other Londoners get out of debt

A radical, independent bank in London is selling art to help support families in debt, it has emerged.

The Hoe Street Central Bank (HSCB) is not a typical bank but has been set up for what its founders call “an act of citizen money creation”. It creates its own currency in the form of beautifully designed banknotes and sells the banknotes to people in exchange for legal tender.

It plans to use the proceeds to buy back £1 million of debt owed by residents living in the E17 postcode.

Artist Hilary Powell and her husband, filmmaker Dan Edelstyn, launched the project in a former Co-op bank on Walthamstow high street earlier this year.

They hope to raise £50,000 in order to buy back the debt, and have already passed the £30,000 mark. So-called ‘bad loans’ can be written down to a fraction of their original value when they reach the secondary market.

In an interview published by Positive News, Edelstyn said: “We want to demystify economics. Knowledge and community are power.”

Replacing the Queen, the HSCB ‘Bank Job’ currency features the faces of leaders of a local food bank, a homeless kitchen, a youth project and a primary school.

The bank should of course not be confused with HSBC – a well-known corporate banking institution, with far less charitable aims.

The team has printed notes in denominations of one, five, 10, 20 and 50 using screen print, letterpress and foil block techniques.

Bank notes printed by HSCB

According to Edelstyn, some museums have already brought the banknotes.

HSCB is also running public workshops and discussions with leading economists and experts. The rebel bank will form part of the pair’s documentary film Bank Job, which will explore how money and debt are made in our economic system. The film is due to be premiered in early 2019.

US projects Strike Debt and Rolling Jubilee work on a similar basis: buying debt and then abolishing it for ethical reasons.

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