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Posted 14.03.19

Tackling debt with art and explosions: a guest lecture from Bank Job

By Kat Peberdy
Bank Job is a feature film and art project pushing for economic change - operating out of a former Co-Op Bank on a High Street in Walthamstow, North East London as HSCB (Hoe Street Central Bank) and led by artist duo Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell, who introduced the project to students during a visit to the college.

The Guardian called them “The Rebel Bank” - as they first printed their own artistic banknotes, produced using shredded returned bank notes, and sold £40,000 worth of them. They used half of the proceeds to fund local projects - their local food bank Eat or Heat, homeless kitchen Pl84U-Al Suffa, youth project The Soul Project and Barn Croft Primary School.

Dan and Hilary from Bank Job, in a promotional image for their project.

Identifying payday loans as the most predatory type of debt, the team also used the rest of the proceeds to buy £1million worth of local payday loan debt for just £20,000. They were then able to write to the owners of the debt, and informed them that thanks to the art project they no longer owed any money, inviting them to visit the HSCB to find out more.

Describing the project as anarchic creativity, Hilary described how participatory making will lead to collaborative demolition as they prepare to explode a van full of debt with a backdrop of Canary Wharf.

We caught up with first year BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking student Nathan Stark to find out more...

Hilary Powell joined Painting, Drawing and Printmaking students with an open invitation to other students across the college to talk about herself and Dan Edelstyn’s most recent work: Bank Job. A collaborative piece between themselves and people from the Walthamstow community.

Inside the Hoe Street Central Bank, where the Bank Job team operates.

They are working to sell their art to abolish the debt in their local area after purchasing the payday loan debts through specialist vendors. They have featured notable people from each of their selected four causes on their hand printed bank notes, raising awareness of the organisations. Alongside abolishing the debt in their area they have donated a significant sum of the earnings to these four causes.

"We knew we wanted to print money. Having the space in the bank really made this project possible and allowed it to develop in a sustained way. We had so many different people volunteering on the project, from retired teachers and sixth form students to local artists, and they all had their own story." – Hilary Powell, Bank Job

Over the course of the morning, we were introduced to Hilary by Painting, Drawing and Printmaking lecturer Robert Manners, who had organised the talk. Powell confidently described what Bank Job had achieved so far, and what they were planning on doing in the future. Her presentation detailed the previous projects she and Dan had worked on, which led to some great exposition for the reasoning behind Bank Job.

Powell progressed onto talking about the team behind the project, and their base of operations in Walthamstow; an old closed branch of the Cooperative bank which they transformed into a printing HQ of sorts called HSCB. It was inspiring to hear that the team were able to really make it a community effort, seeing the local people joining in, school children for example, it really shows that this collaborative effort really made a difference.

£500 HSCB BOND produced using screen print, letterpress, foil blocks and company seal with a gilt edge.

Powell went on to then take as many questions as possible, it was great to be able to directly ask her political opinions and influences, and her thought processes for the inception of the project, and it was a great way to spark conversation between the students.

Students will explore whether a similar project can be orchestrated in Plymouth, as they continue to explore the meaning of debt and the economy in relation to their artistic practices and the effects on the community.

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