by Bristol printmaker Mary Collett
“When the last tree has been cut down,
the last fish caught, the last river poisoned,
only then will we realise that we cannot eat money.”
— Native American saying
These words are the inspiration behind a new art project called The Last Fish.
The Last Fish is a shoal of over 10,000 fish created from bank notes that will appear in a forthcoming exhibition about the climate crisis at M Shed this summer. It will provide an opportunity for conversations about money, economics and the environment.
All Bristol schools can get involved by registering with the project and adding their fish to the shoal. Schools can also download lesson plans and discussion ideas.
To give you an idea of the background to the project, from 2012 until 2021 Bristol had its own local currency, the Bristol Pound. I am an artist and printmaker and my designs were chosen for the most recent set of Bristol Pound notes created in 2018. The Bristol Pound came to an end last September. The notes no longer have any monetary worth.
Instead of pulping the £33,000 worth of decommissioned notes, Bristol Pound CIC (a Community Interest Company) asked me to use them to create an eye-catching artwork that marks the success of the Bristol Pound project while stimulating critical thinking about money.
The aim of the Bristol Pound was to show people a better economic system, one that helped to serve local communities and local businesses. I hope that this huge shoal of fish, each one cut from a Bristol Pound note, will open up fresh conversations about how we use money in society, and the relationship between money, social justice and climate justice.
I aim to involve as many people as possible, starting with Bristol school children. Each participating school will be sent enough Bristol Pound notes for each child to make at least one fish. Alongside this, there are KS2-3 lesson plans available to download. They address questions such as:
- What is money?
- What is the value of money?
- Could we exist without money?
- What problems does money solve?
- What can’t you buy with money?
If your school or community group would like to take part in this project, please email [email protected]
State the name and address of the school (or community group) and the approximate number of students who would like to be involved. We will deliver the bank notes, and give you a download link for the instructions, the lesson plans and information about the collection of the fish.
The deadline for the collection of the cut-out fishes is 31 May 2022. The shoal of Bristol Pound fishes will appear in M Shed’s climate crisis exhibition from 25 June until 30 October 2022.
Lead image: Fox and Balloons’ lino-print design by Mary Collett – it featured on the 2018 Bristol £10 note.