HSCB ‘Bank’ rebels against banking system

You may never have heard of Walthamstow in London, although if you’ve ever listened to the band E17, that’s where its members come from. The area is not particularly well known for being revolutionary, but today The Guardian published an interesting story about a ‘rebel bank’ calling itself HSCB. This stands for Hoe Street Central Bank, and of course has an uncanny similarity to a famous international bank.

HSBC is part art installation, part media stunt and part charitable organisation. It has taken over the old Co-Op Bank building where the organisers, Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn, are printing the bank’s own notes, exchanging them for legal tender and using the proceeds to buy back debt.

Why are they doing this? They believe that the conventional banking system has put ordinary people into significant debt after a period of offering easy loans. The pair are “printing money featuring the faces of people behind four local services – a primary school, a foodbank, a youth project and a soup kitchen,” according to The Guardian report.

The aim is to ultimately buy out around £1 million in debt owed by people living in the E17 postcode as well as raising money for local projects. Walthamstow is the 35th most deprived borough in the UK and as Powell told the press, “We see it as a community heist taking on the economic discourse.”

One of the greatest ironies of this venture is that HSCB may only need to raise £20,000 to pay off the £1 million of the local community’s debt, “because bad loans are often written down to a fraction of their face value in the secondary market.”

As Powell commented: “The system forces people into debt for basic needs,” and HSCB hopes to be part of a bigger movement for debt abolition.

One of the artists working on the HSCB banknote designs explained his reasons for getting involved in the project: “My parents lost their home during the recession. Anyone can get into debt. It doesn’t matter how rich you are to start with.”

HSCB was open until 25th March and is hosted a series of talks, including ones for classes from local schools visiting for talks on the economics of debt. It’s an interesting contribution to the conversation about one of the great challenges of our time – debt and how to resolve it as a global problem.




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