Like many other places in the country, Cumbria is wrangling with a problem of modern living – how do we stop the loss of local, independent shops? How do we stop the encroachment of multinational companies and online megastores, to ensure that the shop owners who live and work locally can survive?
Unlike most other places, however, Cumbria is a place where community values are still cherished, and where its residents feel they can make a difference in supporting local businesses. That’s the thinking behind the Lake District Pound, the local currency that can be used interchangeably with sterling across the Lake District, but is only accepted by local, independent businesses.
The project, which was introduced last year, has now unveiled the 2019 designs for the notes, which will be valid until 2020 and feature four legends of the Lakes: Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter, National Trust Founder Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington, and educational pioneer Charlotte Mason.
The aim of the currency is to keep wealth within the region and has, so far, been a roaring success. Since its launch, around LD£140,000 has gone into circulation with more than 350 businesses accepting the currency – proving that the people of the Lake District are more than willing to do what they can to help out local firms.
‘It’s been an amazing year for the project and we’re so happy that tens of thousands of Lake District Pounds are now in circulation,’ says Ken Royall, founder and director of the Lakes Currency Project. ‘We can’t wait to carry on pushing the project forward this year, growing the number of places you can use the Lake District Pound and supporting more and more local businesses.’
The old 2018 notes will only be valid until the end of January. After that, only the new 2019 editions – which display bold artwork by up-and-coming local artist Rebecca Gill – will be accepted, but until that point all 2018 notes can be swapped for the equivalent 2019 notes at no extra cost.
Lake District Pounds are worth the exact amount of their sterling counterparts, and can be exchanged at a number of LD£ Exchange Points across the area, including most major Post Offices and tourist information centres.
The picture painted here is one of a community – led by a small group of local organisers, who introduced this initiative; digging their heels in, determined to protect their friends and their future in the face of the advancing multinational behemoths.
However, the currency shouldn’t be seen merely as an example of bloody-mindedness in the face of large corporations – it is also a celebration of the beauty of life in the Lakes. With unique illustrations by local artists – whether it be Rebecca’s bold colours this year, or Holly Acland’s wonderful watercolours in 2018 – depicting some of Cumbria’s most stunning landscapes, as well as a selection of local heroes who are honoured with their portrait on the notes, this is a currency that speaks for the region, celebrating and protecting all that makes Cumbria special.
The demise of the local community is one of the most mourned aspects of modern living, and rightly so, considering the wealth of benefits that come with a sense of societal belonging. However, it appears as though community is not something that is lacking in the Lakes, and this currency scheme is a fantastic way for people to support their area by keeping their spending within the region, while celebrating their unique heritage and culture.