Local visionaries celebrated by launch of memorable new coins

Merrise Crooks-Bishton, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and Mykal Brown

Merrise Crooks-Bishton, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and Mykal Brown

Inspired by the innovations and technical breakthroughs in coinage at Matthew Boulton’s Soho Mint in the 18th century, Birmingham Museums Trust, Soho House and artists Chris Poolman and Elizabeth Rowe launched ‘Good Money – A Currency Competition for Handsworth’. The launch event on Saturday 23rd of May attracted members of the community from all walks of life. The event saw Sikh, Christian, Afro-Caribbean, Muslim and many other traditions and denominations come together to celebrate the launch of three new coins.

Following a public vote, the three winners from a shortlist of 15 were selected. They included:

  • Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE, Chair and Spiritual Leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha UK, who has added so much to interfaith, social justice, regeneration and creating harmony.
  • Mykal Brown, who has helped thousands of youngsters back into education through music;
  • Merrise Crooks-Bishton, who has worked in community education in Handsworth for more than 40 years,

The artists worked with Soho House, the former residence of industrialist Matthew Boulton, and by drawing on the site’s history decided to produce a set of new Handsworth coins. The competition was to find local people to have their profiles cast on the coins and designs for the other side, a strategy that will write the local community into the history of the site. At the event the coins were handed out to the local community. For the tail side of the coins, 235 entries were submitted from the local Handsworth community including five local schools – Holyhead School, St. Theresa’s Catholic Primary School, Grove Primary School, Future First School and Handsworth Girls’ School.

Fun packed day at Soho HouseThe fun packed day at Soho House, in Handsworth, included speeches exhibitions and photo opportunities for people to celebrate the launch event. Handsworth is now a densely populated super-diverse area of Birmingham. Historically though, it was located in the county of Staffordshire and remained a small village from the 13th century to the 18th century. When Matthew Boulton lived at Soho House he set up the Soho Manufactory in 1764. The Soho Manufactory was the largest factory in the world. Handsworth today is regarded part of Birmingham and home to many cultures, identities, faiths, languages and traditions.

At the launch, 300 free coins were given away, and there was an opportunity to witness the handprint project archive and a Nishkam display, the Wassifa sound system and archive, the ‘Tails’ exhibition as well as enjoy live Kirtan – Sikh spiritual hymns. There was also plenty of food to sample and tempt people.

Whilst the coins are cherished by many they also have a ‘cultural value’. Visitors who bring one of the coins to the museum are entitled to half price entry until 1st November to Soho House. Furthermore, half price entry to four other heritage sites in Birmingham (Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Sarehole Mill) until 1st November.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE coin

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia OBE – Chairman of Nishkam Group of Organisations

Mykal Brown

Mykal Brown  coin

Mykal Brown – founder of Wassifa Sound System

Merrise Crooks-Bishton

Merrise Crooks-Bishton  coin

Merrise Crooks-Bishton – Soho Road Handprint project

Oliver Buckley, Curator Manager at Soho House said: “New Expressions 3 is about uniting heritage sites, their local communities and contemporary artists – unlocking creative potential, and placing museums at the heart of their local areas. Chris Poolman and Elizabeth Rowe enticed local people to find out more and participate in events celebrating local heroes and the history of Soho House. What more fitting a way to celebrate this creative exchange than a special series of coins, minted in Birmingham, the ‘workshop of the world’, to be used as tokens symbolising local achievement and entitlement.”

Notes to Editors:

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