Brixtopia: Scaling the Brixton Pound - RSA

Brixtopia: a new nation-state-of-mind


  • Picture of Charlie Waterhouse
    Charlie Waterhouse
    Empathy! Honesty! Artistry!
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In a world where international walls are going up, can those of us with empathy design a better place to live?

In the wake of Brexit and the resurgence of the right, and with social media seeking to ever-narrow our horizons for commercial gain, two RSA Fellows from London are employing their design skills to create an experimental utopia: Brixtopia.

Described as a nation state-of-mind, Brixtopia was created by This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll in September 2016, as part of the London Design Festival.

Intended as a counter to both populism and neoliberalism, Brixtopia was inspired by a fundamental question facing community organisation the Brixton Pound, namely how to scale. 

This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll’s Charlie Waterhouse (who is also a Brixton pound director) explains: 

”The Brixton Pound is by definition small. It’s a community organisation. So how does it expand? If we move into Clapham, or Waterloo, do we stop being the Brixton Pound? Brixtopia is our experimental answer. Rather than expanding ‘economically’ – being accepted in more shops, spreading our geography – what would happen if we expanded our values, exported our mindset?”

“What if we started acting a bit more like those big corporates, international brands and 1%ers? They circumvent the restrictions of traditional borders all the time for their economic benefit. Could we do the same – but with values instead of money?”

“One of the other factors that limits the ability of small organisations to join forces is our inevitably single issue-driven nature. How does an environmental activist link up with a tech-focused alternative finance programmer for instance? An organisation that looks after elderly locals seemingly has little in common with people working with gangs, or the homeless, say. The ‘alternative’ and caring space is fractured and disparate, but shares many fundamental values – and Brixtopia seeks to unite that space.”

Brixtopia is applying art and identity design principles to get its message across. It has graphic icons, colours and a bespoke typeface; there is a flag, and a number of appointed Brixtopian ambassadors drawn from prominent figures through history. There is a tone of voice… All of which is designed to allow varied supporters to happily gather under its banner.

So far there have been four Brixtopian happenings. Two at London Design Festival 2016 & 2017, and Lates at the V&A and Tate Modern. They have mixed art, poetry, music and activism – and at each the 18-point Brixtopian Manifesto has been read.

In October, Brixtopia moves to Hackney, taking up residence at Dalston’s Acqua7 Bar and Gallery with an art exhibition from 6-29 October. There is also a special celebration at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden on Sunday 8 October from 2–6pm, where the Brixton Pound will be the only currency accepted all day.

Charlie says: “Brixtopia coming to Dalston is a statement of intent. It’s about reaching out to London, about exporting some of Brixton’s attitude and tolerance to new areas. Come to the exhibition, and to the Curve Garden, and meet some like minds!”

He adds: “We’d also love to link up with RSA Fellows who believe art and design and attitude can help make the world a better place. We really want to take Brixtopia to the next level.”

Exhibition details:

BRIXTOPIA: Acqua7, 7 Balls Pond Rd, N1 4AX
Friday 6th – Sunday 29th October 2017

Private views @ Acqua7: Friday 6th/Saturday 7th October

Brixtopia @ Dalston Eastern Curve Garden: Sunday 8th October, 13 Dalston Lane, E8 3DF

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