Blow Up The Debt

At the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge there’s an exhibition on defacing money as an act of protest. One of the exhibits is a blown up van. The point of it was a protest against payday loans.

The poorest people pay the highest interest for loans. They can’t get a loan from the bank, so they go the payday companies that lend them money for a very short term (until the next payday) at a high interest rate.

The term of the loan is so short that the actual pounds and pennies of interest doesn’t seem too bad. But if the person has to borrow again until the next payday, and then the next and the next, then the interest mounts up.

An art collective decided to help out poor people who had payday debts. They advertised for people to pay off the debts. People did and then the owners filled the van bits of paper that represented the total of all the payday loans.

From the exhibition:

Punched, scratched, engraved, over-printed or digitally manipulated, there are many reasons people decide to ‘take it out on money’.

‘Defaced!’ is the first major exhibition to explore a 250-year history of protest, using currency as a canvas and a vehicle for rebellion. Passed through many hands, cash is the ideal way to circulate a message while having a go or poking fun at those in power.

The exhibition seeks out the stories behind the damage, which reveal some of the personal and hidden struggles experienced during major world events – from the French and American Revolutions to the First World War and the Nazi concentration camp system to the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Objects of rebellion made by the radicals of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, like Thomas Spence and the Suffragettes are shown alongside works by contemporary artists and activists including Banksy, Aida Wilde, Hilary Powell, kennardphillips, J.S.G Boggs and more

Photo Information

Shot with a Ricoh GR III at ISO 1600, 1/50th second, f3.2, and -0.7 exposure compensation.


  1. Tamara says:

    Interesting part of a great exhibition, although I preferred seeing all the defacing and messages on the itsy-bitsy fronts and backs of coins. Fascinating!


    1. Me too. The van was the most photogenic. As we said, the Fitzwilliam has some wonderful exhibits in its repository. And some talented people in charge of acquisitions over the years.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tamara says:

        I see, that’s true, everything was so miniature in size. Yes, as we have been saying – the curating particularly of that exhibition was terrific,

        Liked by 1 person

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