Edinburgh Fringe show asks audience to shred banknotes

"Crash," Gary McNair's one-man Edinburgh Fringe show, asks audiences to rethink their relationship with money, and culminates with audience members feeding banknotes through an office shredder:
McNair promises a "five-step programme" to "release you from the terrors of the financial system". En route he takes in the history of monetisation, the notion of the collapse of trust in money (the bank run); and orchestrates a vigorous bidding war for an unspecified number of banknotes contained in a sealed envelope. Bids have, in the past, reached £100, although on his opening night in Edinburgh the bidding stopped at £26.50.

He also bartered with an audience member for her treasured necklace – her eventual price was a tour round Edinburgh, a bike ride, home-cooked lunch and the promise that he would come round and assemble her flat-pack furniture. Afterwards McNair said: "I wasn't expecting her to say she lived in Austria but if it's viable, yes, I will go to Austria and put up her shelves."

The climax of the show was, however, the moment when he suggested members of the audience feed their hard-earned cash through an office shredder, "as a vaccine against the disasters of the future, so that money and greed will lose their grip on you". Five did, with £10 notes as well as £5 notes returned to their owners as useless slithers of paper. (Destroying banknotes is not an offence, as commonly believed, though defacing them is.)

Crunch time at the Edinburgh festival: audiences step up to shred cash (via We Make Money Not Art)

(Image: downsized thumbnail from a photo by Murdo Macleod)


  1. Step 1: Build trick shredder that outputs pre-shredded-strips and stores input in hidden compartment.

    Step 2: Call it art

    Step 3: Profit

  2. Destroying things that you have an attachment to, or that you see as valuable, can be very liberating.  Simple example – I once destroyed a packet of cigarettes by hand to demystify my curiosity, and have since never had a desire to try one.  I’ve also destroyed art that I’d spent weeks on – I didn’t like the final result and felt that I should it to smash it to bits to move forward.  I now create better art.

    More obvious example – destroying stuff that was given to you by your ex.

    If you don’t understand why, then you really need to try it.  Ideally you should have a reason and purpose in mind when you do it though.

  3. Most Edinburgh fringe shows cost a lot more than these people shredded. And this show was free (for both artist and audience) thanks to the Forest, Edinburgh’s main alternative arts space.
    If anyone feels that money is better given to a good cause than put in a shredder, then the Forest (charity number SC038234) is raising money to find a new home, as PricewaterhouseCoopers, the building’s receivers, want the Forest out of its current location.

    Interestingly, the main creditor for the Forest’s bankrupt landlord is the Royal Bank of Scotland, run by Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin, until it had to be rescued by the taxpayer.

  4. Were I doing this show, I’d have been really tempted to set up the “shredder” to capture the bills and dispense fake shreddings. Instant bonus payment.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Similar to the ‘money machine’ con artists and magicians have been using for years.

  5. Think twice before doing this in the U.S.. Can’t say for the U.K., but we’ve got laws against that sort of thing: “In the United States, burning banknotes is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. § 333: Mutilation of national bank obligations, which includes “any other thing” that renders a note “unfit to be reissued””(courtesy of wikipedia)

  6. Burn expensive things that matter to you…  Wait a minute — didn’t Savonarola pull this stunt a while back…?

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