The Bristol Pound is launched to help independent retailers

Organisers hope currency will encourage shoppers to buy locally

"Is it the green one with the fox and the bike, or the pink one with the tiger in a hoodie painting graffiti on a wall? It's like being on holiday abroad," says Lee Peacock from his drinks stall as he flicks through a wodge of Bristol's unfamiliar new banknotes, trying to work out which one he needs to hand back as change for my iced tea.

The West Country city launched its own local currency to great fanfare yesterday with the Lord Mayor handing over a £B1 note in symbolic exchange for a round loaf of granary bread made by local baker Joe Wheatcroft, who said he would put his first piece of Bristolian cash towards buying a dairy cow.

Inspired by similar schemes in Totnes, Lewes, Stroud and Brixton, the organisers of the quirky not-for-profit project hope the notes – designed by local artists and coming in denominations of £B1, £B5, £B10 and £B20 – will encourage residents to buy locally produced goods from the independent retailers which accept them rather than chains and megastores. With a steady queue of residents soon lining up to swap their pounds sterling for "Brizzle" quids – with an exchange rate of 1:1 – the early signs are good.

The level of interest is far more than just local, too. Television crews from as far afield as Russia, China, Ukraine, Belize and Singapore were keenly questioning the organisers, and other towns across the UK are watching with interest to see if local currencies could be the answer to their own high-street woes.

Lynn Andres, from Guy Fawkes Hair & Beauty, was bullish that the Bristol Pound is not a gimmick and will bring new custom to her premises, saying the city needed to fight back after a mall heavily populated with chain stores opened recently.

"It's hit trade," she says. "What we want is to get more people shopping here in the independent shops because we've got a lot to offer."

Around 300 independent businesses have signed up so far, but the organisers hope that more than 1,000 will soon be involved.

The limits are obvious when The Independent was left disappointed after trying to buy a pastry from a pie stall that doesn't accept the new currency. There was more luck at the Royce Rolls Café – though as there's no coins and no such thing as Bristol pence, the change is given in conventional copper and silver.

One of the most attractive features of the scheme for small shopkeepers and stallholders is the ability of customers to pay for goods by text message – allowing independent retailers to accept non-cash payments without having to go to the expense of setting up a credit card machine.

The idea of spending money simply by showing a membership card to the seller and texting the cost of the item, the name of the shop and a personal pincode to the Bristol Credit Union, which is overseeing the system, might seem a little vulnerable to crime.

But James Berry, the co-operative's chief executive, points out that the typical choice of items is unlikely to persuade Britain's aspiring fraudsters to move into the city.

"It's hard to imagine that someone who got hold of both your card and your phone would then think, 'I'm going to go and buy some local independent goods'," he says.

Quids in: How the scheme works

Who is issuing Bristol Pounds – and who can use them?

Circulating alongside sterling, Bristol Pounds have been launched by a non-proft partnership between Bristol Credit Union, which is regulated by the Financial Services Authority, and a community interest company founded by local business leaders. Anyone can buy Bristol Pounds banknotes at issuing points across the city or online, but only traders who are independent and based in or around Bristol can become sell items under the scheme.

How many Bristol Pounds are in circulation?

£B125,000 in printed cash has been made available in watermarked paper with ultraviolet graphics and foil logos for security purposes. It is hoped that £B500,000 will be in circulation within a year.

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home