In December 2013, the Bank announced the new principles and processes that it would use for character selection. The principles (see below) set out the Bank’s aims when using characters on our notes. The process and principles draw more heavily on the public and external experts (via an Advisory Committee) and ensures that decision-makers consider the equality implications at relevant stages.
This process was used for the first time in deciding who should be on the next £20 note. Between May and July 2015 members of the public nominated visual artists who they believe helped to shape British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society. These were considered by the Banknote Character Advisory Committee and from the final shortlist the Governor chose the artist J.M.W Turner to appear on the next £20 note.
Through its depiction of historic characters on its banknotes the Bank seeks to celebrate individuals that have shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society. We do this by representing a person or small groups of individuals whose accomplishments or contributions have been recognised widely at the time, or judged subsequently to have been of lasting benefit to the United Kingdom and, in some cases, beyond.
In choosing the character or characters to appear on a specific note, the Bank takes account of its past decisions. This is because the Bank intends to celebrate achievement and contribution across a wide range of skills and fields and aims, through time, to depict characters with varied personal characteristics, such that our choices cumulatively reflect the diverse nature of British society.
Banknotes are designed to be universally used and accepted, so the Bank will seek to avoid individuals who would be unduly divisive. The Bank will not represent fictional or living characters on its notes, with the exception of the Monarch. Banknotes are designed to be easy to authenticate and difficult to counterfeit and for this reason the Bank will only choose characters for whom it is confident that it can include a recognisable and usable representation within a banknote design.
The process for selecting the historic character to appear on future banknotes is summarised in this diagram:
Character selection process
The process begins with the Advisory Committee choosing a field from which nominations will be sought. For example, for the next £20 note, the Advisory Committee asked for the public to nominate characters associated with achievements in the visual arts.
Following this the public will be invited to nominate characters from this field, whether an individual or a small and connected group of individuals during a two month nomination period. The eventual character choice will come from the set of nominations.
Subsequently, and as part of the process of narrowing down the field, a small number of public focus groups, representative of UK society, will be held. These focus groups will give the Committee a deeper understanding of likely public views: helping to both identify characters that would resonate particularly strongly with the public and any that might be seen as unduly divisive. They will also guard against the risk that the initial nominations could be unduly influenced by a particular segment of society.
The Advisory Committee will then reduce the initial long-list of characters identified during the nomination period to a final shortlist. The Governor will choose from the final shortlist.
Other character suggestions
Outside public nomination periods, members of the public can continue to suggest characters to the Bank at any time, these will be added to the list of nominated characters when the relevant field is chosen for a future banknote.