What will 2019 bring?
In 2018 we began the Bank Job amid huge uncertainty - at least one of our team members was convinced we were headed for calamity when we moved into the bank and geared up for the launch of our money printing venture. There was a wide spread doubt that anyone in the general public would be able to understand what the artwork was - or that we were sending up the real banking system. Our PR person at the time described the project as 'too lofty' and told us that when she spoke about it to a friend at the Guardian she didn't understand what we were on about! She wanted us to write a business plan and provide debt advice - she felt that the idea of blowing up debt was crazy.
But we felt in our bones that she was wrong, and that she was underestimating the power both of our local community - as well as the British public - and the huge appetite in Britain for change and for economic justice. Also we felt that she was playing into the widespread popular prejudice which we are trying to debunk, that somehow only the people in the city understand finance - and that economy should be left to a narrow field of specialists. Also, she was propagating the view that personal debt was automatically the fault of those that were in it - and she had an unwillingness to entertain the idea that the British personal debt overhang could in any way be linked to the 10 year anniversary of the 2008 crisis which we have just lived through - and the ensuing cuts to public services and welfare that have come in the wake. Allegedly introduced to repay the national debt, we argue that the austerity program itself has been a violent harbinger of poverty and inequality.
With a feeling of trepidation and huge uncertainty, we held to our plan. The bank opened in March - and despite the fact that by then the PR person had left, leaving us with no coverage at all, an amazing journalist who lived in Walthamstow called Anna Leach came past the bank - and decided to pop in for a chat. The resulting piece in the Guardian was shared almost 19,000 times - and at the height of the viral upsurge, there were queues out the door and down the street. The British, it seemed, did get it - people traveled to Walthamstow from across Britain, they were attracted to the optimism of the project - and the fact that a group of local people were saying that enough was enough and we could hold onto our sense of hope that something better could be achieved than the slew of hopelessness which was currently the main offering of our mainstream media conversations and political realities. This spirit of optimism was not accidental, rather it was the very spring from which the project had been irrigated. The people who came to us - both at the bank and online wanted to support the project by buying the art we were making, and stand up with us to say to the people who run our financial system, 'enough is enough' - and that though they consider themselves the unassailable leaders of our time, and architects of our reality, we actually believe that we can create something better ourselves.
As the year progressed, we continued to work at the bank every day. The viral energy from Anna’s piece may have dissipated - but our determination to make sure the work and the story got out there remained undimmed - and we were learning how to bolster that community by reaching out further into Britain through this using Facebook ads to grow this mailing list - and ultimately improving the reach of the film and the distribution of the artwork, collecting new subscribers every single day. So while the mainstream story of Britain continued to be filled with a rudderless sense of despair and chaos, we felt that the Bank Job was gaining momentum and traction, moving steadily towards a climax. We know that Facebook has been part of the reason the far right have achieved their successes, but we have felt that it’s been vital to finding like-minded Bank Jobbers and can be used for the good.
We learned during the year of shocking statistics and analyses from well respected sources. The UN's inspector Philip Alston visited Britain and decried the levels of poverty - arguing that our welfare state was being systematically destroyed. It was also the year that The Independent reported a 13% increase in Food Bank usage, from statistics derived from the Trussel Trust. With Brexit around the corner, along with markets that are showing signs of strain, we don't start the new year with huge optimism in terms of a magical turning point in our collective economic fate. There are huge dramatic questions hanging over the fate of the British economy - and most respected pundits argue that the repercussions of Brexit will hit the poorest people hardest - despite the fact they’re already weakened and desperate after 10 years of austerity. But within the clutches of this despair, we believe that a movement for fair economics will grow and get stronger and we remain as determined to use our imaginations and voices to forward this end, allying with other grass roots organisations whose important work is inspiring us to not only dream of changing the world - but to make a difference in the here and now.
Thanks to all of you for joining the mission, for remaining part of our community - for bearing with us - to make an independent film of this scale, and to produce an artwork like this takes time and a lot of resources. We have had almost zero financial backing from outside agencies - but since the Guardian piece, we've been covered in the FT, BBC One Show and Open Democracy, The Big Issue as well as loads more - but it’s very much the foundations - we believe that 2019 will be the year the Bank Job breaks through and gets into the mainstream debate. We feel like we're in the right place, doing the right thing at the right time. We’re proud of everyone on this list - and those who will join us tomorrow, the next day and on.
So while the world around us falters and the chaos unfolds, let us remain clear about the common threads that bring us together - and move forward with the focus the situation demands. We’re embarking on 2019 with a similar amount of precarity and trepidation - but the difference is you - the community. We are united by a common belief that this economy is unfair - and that we can do better than this - and we will have to, for the sake of our common humanity - and for our children. We wish you all the best for a prosperous and happy 2019 -and will look forward to exploding the £1m of debt in due course and kicking up an almighty stink. Let's change the story around debt and financialization together in 2019 - and help to usher in a happy new year for all of us.
very best, Dan and Hilary - and all at HSCB!