What a banker centrepiece

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The Independent Culture
While speculators rub their hands at the thought of yet more mergers among the big building societies, Tim Harrison, a journalist (right), also has more than a passing interest. With every new twist his 113 passbooks represent a more valuable historical source. His collection is one of a diverse range featured in "The People's Show" at the Gunnersbury Museum.

Sue McAlpine, curator of the exhibition, wanted to provide a showcase for people's interests from coal-hole covers to honeypots. "We wanted to show that our museum isn't only for the rich, the rare and the beautiful," she says. "Everybody has the chance to show off whatever they like in a museum setting."

More intriguing than the exhibits themselves are the stories behind them. Tim Harrison became hooked on passbooks when he was at school. Since then he's opened more than 100 accounts in order to acquire them. "I don't do anything by post so if I find myself in some strange part of the country I'll look up the local one-branch building society and put my pound in," he says. "I mourn the passing of ones like the Aid to Thrift building society. They used to put service before profits unlike the present big boys."

He has even managed to travel around Europe using a Portman passbook instead of a passport. But a trip to Ireland last year, when he decided to open two accounts in one day (putting a punt in each), did not go so well. "I was arrested at gunpoint by Special Branch, bundled into a car and interrogated for half an hour," he explains. "It took me half an hour to persuade them that it was just a hobby."

From today, Gunnersbury Park Museum, W3 (081-992 1612)