Afterword

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In 2018, the UK Treasury held a public consultation on whether or not to cease making 1p and 2p coins. The strongest and most successful opposition came from the charity sector, arguing that the penny is vital as it makes up the largest percentage of coin donations. 

 

In 2021, the Chinese government systematically froze the financial accounts and assets of Apple Daily, forcing the pro-democracy tabloid-style newspaper to permanently cease all operations due to an inability to pay staff and costs.

Consider these two events as key incidents in an unfolding social experiment on value, freedom and the politics of finance.

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August 28th, 2018

A letter addressed to the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge is hand-delivered, declaring an intention to clean and repair the neglected Millennium Fountain located in Quayside, a public area owned by the college.

 

The letter proposes that the fountain will then be the site for a temporary intervention, Pence Sterling, which will involve depositing 100,000 pennies into the empty fountain for 48 hours. Afterwards, all of the remaining coins in the fountain will be donated to the Cambridge-based charity Wintercomfort for the Homeless.

 

It is explained that the intervention will be part of a weekend of public art works commissioned by Other Ways and funded by Cambridge City Council, Arts Council England, Cromiard and Cambridge BID.

 

Magdalene College does not give an official response. 

A follow-up letter is emailed on September 5th. This email is forwarded to the Quayside property manager at Cheffins, who denies permission and expresses concerns about the pennies causing engineering issues or possibly damaging the (non-functioning) fountain. 

The intervention goes forward as proposed.

September 6th - 7th, 2018

The Millennium Fountain at Quayside is cleared of debris and the stagnant water is drained.

 

The fountain basin and fixtures are hand-scrubbed and sanitised. The broken lighting system is cleaned and re-set, with the covers re-secured.

 

The exposed pipe-work and drains are temporarily sealed with metal mesh to offer additional protection from foreign objects.

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Saturday, September 8th, 2018

8:00am

100,000 pennies are deposited in the Millennium Fountain.

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Saturday, September 8th, 2018

8:00am - 8:00pm

The pennies have many visitors.

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Saturday, September 8th, 2018

8:00pm, onward

By 11:00pm all of the pennies have been removed.

 

Eye-witnesses describe a 3-hour systematic effort led by three men using buckets and bicycles, during which they carried off all 356kg of the pennies to an unknown location. 

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September 9th, 2018

Over the remaining 24 hours of the intervention, people continue to visit the fountain. On seeing it barren and in disarray, many add their own coins to its empty basin.

 

These coins disappear, too.

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September 10th, 2018

8:00am

A total of £1.66 (and €0.02) is collected from the fountain, along with two plastic bottles, several cigarette butts, and a butter knife.

 

The money is bagged and donated to Wintercomfort.

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September 11th, 2018

News articles about Pence Sterling are published by BBC and The Sun.

September 12th, 2018

The UK news stories are picked up and published in China.

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September 13th, onward

Online and print news stories about Pence Sterling are published in Taiwan, Macau, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Netherlands, India, Israel, Turkey, Croatia, Poland, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and the United States.

September 15th, 2018

On reading about the penny incident, DS Mazur (2393) of Cambridge City Police makes contact to follow up a crime report (Incident 87) filed on September 11th, 2018.

 

The report details a phone call made on the evening of September 8th by the branch manager of a Sainsbury's near Quayside, who at the time, was concerned about a group of three "homeless-looking" men who were repeatedly returning to the store with buckets full of pennies to use the Coinstar cash converter machine.

DC Mazur's suggested course of action to file an official theft report is declined, with the reason given that the intervention was a social experiment and therefore no theft had taken place.

September 2018, onward

Print and online articles, blogs and videos about Pence Sterling continue to appear around the world, with the majority of the digital content earning revenue from pay-per-click web traffic. 

An archive of the international media coverage is assembled, which includes a short animated video posted by Chinese tabloid Apple Daily.

The digital stories about Pence Sterling will continue to generate income for the news sites for as long as the content remains online.

Pennies for pennies.

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May 14th, 2021

The Chinese government freezes the accounts and assets of Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Limited, along with accounts owned by Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai.

June 17th, 2021

The Apple Daily Hong Kong headquarters are raided by the Chinese police, leading to multiple arrests and a further HK$18m (£1.64m) of the companies' assets are frozen.

Despite strong criticism from around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Unionthe Chinese government rejects accusations that national security law is being used to suppress freedom of the press.

June 21st, 2021

Apple Daily announces it will be forced to close unless the Chinese government unfreezes their accounts. 

June 23rd, 2021

The digital version of Apple Daily goes offline at one minute to midnight. 

June 24th, 2021

The final print version of Apple Daily is published. 

Pro-democracy activists rush to back-up thousands of Apple Daily online articles on various blockchain platforms, ensuring that the content is still available and free from censorship.

August 2021

The original 2018 Apple Daily article about Pence Sterling is currently hosted on a Taiwanese server, where it continues to generate income.

Images

Video

hk.appledaily.com (originally sourced 15/09/2018)