Handsworth Currency Competition

Overview

Handsworth Currency Competition 2014 / 2015 commission as as part of New Expressions 3, a major nationwide Arts Council initiative aimed at unlocking the creative … read more

Handsworth Currency Competition

2014 / 2015 commission as as part of New Expressions 3, a major nationwide Arts Council initiative aimed at unlocking the creative potential of museums.

General Public drew upon Soho House’s history as a mint as a context for producing a set of new Handsworth coins.

Between August 2014 and February 2015, they ran a competition to find local people to have their profiles cast on the coins(‘Heads’) and designs for the other side (‘Tails’) – a strategy designed to write the local community into the history of the Soho House site. In this sense, the project aimed to identify and celebrate the achievements of contemporary ‘visionaries’ in Handsworth; individuals who are the modern day equivalents of the Lunar Society. A set of 3 new Handsworth coins were produced featuring local people – Mykal Brown, Merrise Crooks-Bishton and Bhai Ji Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia. Designs by local children featured on the ‘Tails’ side of the coin.

4000 coins were produced and distributed across Handsworth. An additional 2000 coins were ordered by the Nishkam Centre for the benefit of the Sikh community in Handsworth.  The coins had a specific cultural value enabling free access for the coiner bearer and their family to Soho House Museum (this was within the context of city-wide cuts to cultural funding and reduced access to museums in Birmingham).

The coin launch attracted over 700 people, a new record for Soho House Museum. An exhibition accompanied the coin launch and presented archive material related to the three ‘Heads’ (and questioned what actually constitutes the ‘heritage’ of Handsworth).

[The Handsworth publication reflects on the problems/complexities of the wider project].

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