Handsworth Currency Competition



4000 new Handsworth coins were produced in May 2015 featuring the profiles of Mykal Brown, Merrise Crooks-Bishton and Bhai Ji Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia.

Coin Die: Howard Brothers (Engravers) Jewellery Quarter
Coin Stamping: Thomas Ball LTD, Matthew Boulton Industrial Estate

Cultural Value: Exchange this Token for History + Culture at Soho House

Whilst celebrating the three individuals who have all made contributions to improving the social and physical fabric of Handsworth, the coins had a ‘cultural value’ focused upon opening up access to the museum for the local community. How can you create a means for a superdiverse neighbourhood of over 60 different nationalities to interact with a quintessentially ‘British’ museum? There was also the wider context of city wide cultural funding cuts causing a reduction in public access to heritage sites such as Soho House.

Our interest was in the mechanism of the coin as an object with symbolic value and potential for exchange. The value of the coin was negotiated with Birmingham Museum’s Trust, and whilst not an exceptional offer, it had a clear cultural exchange value that included free entry for the coin bearer and their family to Soho House on set days (and half price entry to other BMAG sites).

In May 2015, 2300 coins were distributed via 10 frenzied school assemblies as well as through community groups participating in the project. A further 1000 coins were available to the general public for free on the coin launch.

The project therefore aimed to find new ways for the local Handsworth community to interact with Soho House and in drawing together old and new narratives of Handsworth – the old history of coin production providing a way to celebrate a contemporary Handsworth – the coins ‘use’ value created a new relationship between community and institution.