How do we choose who gets to feature on banknotes?
If you look at the back of your banknotes, you will see one of a number of famous people.
The Bank of England has featured characters on the back of banknotes since William Shakespeare appeared on the £20 note in 1970. It allows us to celebrate people who have shaped British society through their innovation, leadership or values.
Some of the characters who have appeared on banknotes in the past include:
What do we consider when we choose a new character?
We want the characters who make it onto our banknotes to come from different backgrounds and fields. When selecting a new character, we take into account who has featured on notes in the past. This means that our choices can reflect the diversity of British society.
Of course, banknotes need to be universally accepted. We therefore look for British characters who are widely admired and who have made an important contribution to our society and culture. We also avoid fictional characters, or people who are still living (except the monarch on the front of the note). Finally, we need to have a suitable portrait of the person which will be easy to recognise.
Who is involved in selecting a new banknote character?
In 2014, we introduced a new method of selecting banknote characters: A Banknote Character Advisory Committee selects the field that we want to represent and we ask the public to nominate people from the chosen field.
For example, in 2015, we announced that we would feature someone from the visual arts on the next £20 note. There was a huge response to the call for nominations:
These included painters, sculptors, printmakers, craftspeople, designers, ceramicists, architects, fashion designers, photographers and filmmakers.
From these nominations, specialists in the chosen field join the Committee and create a long-list of candidates.
How is the final selection made?
We run focus groups to help us identify which characters on the long-list would resonate strongly with people, and which might cause concern.
The Committee then agrees a final shortlist, based on the focus group feedback and detailed historical research about each of the characters. The shortlist also reflects our intention to portray a diverse range of characters over time.
The final decision about who will appear on the next banknote is made by the Bank’s Governor. In 2016, we announced that the artist JMW Turner would appear on the next £20 note.
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