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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Shared Interest: Lending with a difference

Written by Zofia Walczak

FAK 2

Since hearing First Aid Kits debut album The Big Black and The Blue we’ve been incredibly impressed with the sibling duo. The album is full of lush harmonies, this moody melodies and lyrical narratives which tell a story. I was able to catch up with Klara and Johanna before their gig at Rough Trade East. The girls were eating dinner at a curry house on Brick Lane with their father Benkt before the gig and I dropped in afterwards to ask them a few questions.
FAK 2

Since hearing First Aid Kits debut album The Big Black and The Blue we’ve been incredibly impressed with the sibling duo. The album is full of lush harmonies, what is ed moody melodies and lyrical narratives which tell a story. I was able to catch up with Klara and Johanna before their gig at Rough Trade East. The girls were eating dinner at a curry house on Brick Lane with their father Benkt before the gig and I dropped in afterwards to ask them a few questions.

Andy Devine. How’re you finding England?

Klara. Oh we just got here but we’re already enjoying it. It’s like coming home because we spent so much time here last year when we were on tour.

AD. You have a three month tour coming up. Is that something you ever imagined doing when you first started recording songs?

Klara. I guess, we imagined it, but not so soon. It was definitely in the plan, but we thought it’d be in about five year’s time. It’s happened really fast, but we’ve always wanted to make music.

AD. On the Whichita site it says that you were finishing school while you were recording your debut album. How did you manage to find the time to do both.

Johanna. We recorded it during weekends and holidays and at night when we were finished with homework.  It was really stressful.

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AD. How long did it take you to finish recording it?

Klara. From November 2008 to the summer 2009. It was because we were at school that we couldn’t do it quickly.

Johanna. Yeah we didn’t have all the songs; they were finished gradually.

Klara. Yeah, along the way.

AD. How do you approach your song writing?

Joanna. Well they all just pop out eventually

Klara. Yeah

AD. You’re both from Sweden but all of your songs are sung in English. Is there any particular reason why?

K. We both went to English school

J. Yeah, for four years

K. So it made sense. We’re also really into American and English culture and almost all the music we listen to is in English so when we make songs that’s the way they come out.

firstaidkitsinglepackshot
Banks, approved bonuses, buy unethical investment…it’s all so sickening and frustrating!  But yesterday evening I went to a talk by a lending society with a difference.  While a lot of the focus of my research recently has been on community groups and organisations, it is also good to hear about initiatives working to change our current economic system from within.    The talk was at the Howies Carnaby Street shop, as part of their regular programme of their Wee-do talks on sustainability.
alice
(Alice Mwelu shows off a bag that the women at Bega Kwa Bega have weaved. Korogocho slum, Nairobi.  All photos courtesy of Shared Interest)

Shared Interest, Sally explained, work along strict ethical principles, lending money to community-based businesses that have attained fair trade certification, allowing them to purchase raw materials, tools, develop their businesses and work their way out of poverty.  The businesses they are approached by for finance range from design and printing companies to tea-growers and arts and craft cooperatives, like the Nairobi-based handicraft cooperative Bega Kwa Bega whose photos are included here.

sewing

Individuals, businesses or organisations (at the moment only from the UK) can invest money into Shared Interest.  They currently have 8,700 members who have invested more than £24million in total.  A member can withdraw his or her investment at any time, meaning it is almost like a bank account, but there is no interest paid on your investment.  “The huge returns on your investment are social, rather than financial”, Sally said, and this is what most drove her to work for the cooperative.  Sally explained that it is almost a no-brainer for companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, as all they have to do is invest money (that they are actually free to withdraw at any time if they wish).  Most investors at the moment are individuals however. 
women weaving

(Women weave baskets at Bega Kwa Bega in Korogocho slum, Nairobi)

Shared Interest works through fair trade offices around the world, allowing them to get more immediate contact with people who apply for a loan.  They also have their own offices in Kenya, Costa Rica and one recently opened in Lima, Peru.  They have found a huge rise in the number of people applying for loans since they opened their international offices.
 
sisal

(Women weave baskets while freshly dyed sisal dries in the sun (which will be weaved into baskets) at Bega Kwa Bega, in Korogocho slum, Nairobi.  Photo courtesy of Shared Interest)

I asked Sally what the criteria for receiving a loan were and she explained “Shared interest isn’t a microfinance company, so we do actually lend to business that have existed for three years and have gained the fair trade certification.  Once they have applied for a loan we work out a business plan with them.  Once this is done, we work out together what interest rate the business can afford in their repayments.”  Sally stressed that this part of Shared Interest is important to her personally.  They work in partnership with the people they lend money to.  If there is difficulty or delay with repayments, the people from Shared Interest will work with the business to see what they can do to help. 

material

(Lucy Nyambura measures out material with which to make a bag at Bega Kwa Bega, in Korogocho slum, Nairobi)

As for future plans, Sally hopes more people will find out about Shared Interest, and that they can build up more partnerships with schools, thus teaching children more about trade, economics and Fair Trade.  Some schools have already participated in Shared Interest by investing the profit they make from their Fair Trade tuck shops.
bags

(A display of the bags and dolls that are made by the women at Bega Kwa Bega)

The Shared Interest Foundation also funds training and education on Fair Trade and many community-led schemes.  I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about them this year….and also seeing Sally in her banana costume as she promotes Fair Trade throughout the UK…!

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