Speech: Dr Nick Wilson at launch of Towards cultural democracy report

Last week, King’s College London launched its fourth Cultural Enquiry. Towards cultural democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone investigates the UK’s cultural ecology, highlights the importance of ‘everyday’ creativity and calls for a more inclusive approach to building the networks and partnerships that enable creativity in the UK.

At the launch, Dr Nick Wilson, Reader in Creativity, Arts & Cultural Management, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s and one of the report’s authors, gave a speech to invited guests from across the cultural, academic and policy sectors that formally launched the report: 

Any talk of ‘cultural democracy’ carries with it the danger, however unwitting, of reinforcing rather than eradicating or overcoming division: unfortunately, of course, we’ve heard so much in the last few days and weeks about the haves vs. the have nots; the rich vs. the poor, and so on; it is easy to see how this report might threaten to add a long list of additional dualisms of its own – high culture vs. popular culture; professional vs. amateur; culture vs. commerce; London and the South East vs. the North; the arts vs. everyday creativity; and so on. The cry goes up that we should be re-directing attention and resources towards the ‘other’ – the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the excluded – and what is termed a ‘deficit’ model quickly ensues. So what of this Cultural Enquiry and its call for the arts and creative industries to take everyday creativity seriously – is this just another well-intentioned but ultimately flawed agenda which, if implemented, would merely see hugely stretched resources being re-directed from one group to another – a zero sum game?

It will come as no surprise that my answer to this is a resolute ‘no’. I firmly believe that the ideas and recommendations we are presenting today offer a different, necessary and pragmatic way forward that is in everybody’s interests. But, in the same breath, I want to stress that this is just a starting point; its big ideas need to be discussed and debated; we don’t have all the answers.

So, what are these big ideas; what do we mean by cultural capability – and why do we think this is this so important? I want to answer these questions very briefly in reference to 5 ‘C’s, the first two of which are Culture and Creativity:

Over and above Get Creative’s specific aim, which the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall, at the campaign launch described as ‘inspir[ing] everybody, and I mean everybody, to make art; to do something creative’ it has placed even more firmly on the map the importance of thinking more deeply about the relationship between culture and creativity.  Through our research we have glimpsed just some of the plethora of creativity that is happening across the country, but which is not recognized or supported at a cultural policy level. Bringing attention to this ‘everyday creativity’ is of itself not new, of course. The Warwick Commission; 64 Million Artists’ report for the Arts Council England; John Holden’s work on the significance of ‘home’ and ‘amateur’ culture, as part of a cultural ecology; the AHRC Cultural Value project; and the Understanding Everyday Participation research project – to name but a few – have all made important contributions. But what we think IS new, is our findings about the interdependencies and interconnections that exist between everyday creativity, the arts and creative industries, and what this tells us about the nature of cultural opportunities  – which crucially extend well beyond the over-arching cultural policy goal of increasing access to already existing publicly funded arts.

The report argues that we need to pay much greater attention to the Connections (my 3rd ‘C’) between everyday creativity, arts and creative industries. These are vital – not just to inspire people to try something new, or encourage more everyday creativity, but rather as representing the (often invisible) conditions and pathways into the arts and creative industries, and moreover, crucially, as the ways in which people get to lead fulfilled lives. This brings me to where I think the report is most innovative – in respect of its re-thinking how we do ‘cultural policy’ not so much, as I have said, in terms of access to currently existing publicly funded arts, or even the equitable distribution of resources across the country (important though these are), but in respect of promoting the potential, the opportunity the freedom, or in the language of Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen, the ‘capability’ to do or be what we really value. Cultural Capability (my fourth ‘C’) is the real freedom or opportunity to co-create versions of culture. Commenting on a draft of this report, Alex Ferris (formerly of the Old Vic Community Company, now at West Yorkshire Playhouse) said: “Culture can provide the agency, confidence and platform that communities need to survive – giving them a route to be heard, a sense of belonging, a compassion and empathy for each other no matter where they fall in society.” Cultural capability matters because not everybody has this socially embedded freedom: and if you are still struggling to see just what I mean by these words – think of ‘co-creating versions of culture’ in terms of the very real and lived freedoms (or not) to speak, to express, to be heard, to make, to build, to create. When everyone has this freedom we will have cultural democracy.

The obvious question arises: How might we promote these cultural freedoms, this cultural capability for everyone … in practice? In the report we outline 14 recommendations – the most central of which is to make the promotion of cultural capabilities for everyone an interlinked policy objective – by which we simply mean that we encourage everyone across all scales of policy decision-making – from national policy makers (across Government), theatre chief executives, funders, foundations, to knitting club organisers – to embrace this focus on cultural opportunities, as discussed in the report. Other recommendations include exploring the best institutional arrangements through which this can be done; reviewing how this policy complements rather than negatively impacts existing policy directions and priorities (as I said at the start – we really don’t want to unwittingly reinforce division; access to ‘great art’ and cutting edge creative industries remain central within this vision of cultural democracy); as well as a range of other more focused recommendations, including supporting creative citizens; encouraging arts organisations to develop their own cultural capability strategies; local (city-wide) initiatives; exploring the role of digital platforms and social media in enabling new partnerships and collaborations; and developing new connections with non-arts groups.

All of which brings me to my 5th and final ‘C’ – Change. Starting this evening, but very much in the spirit and practice of Get Creative – we hope that through joining together in an inclusive conversation about how to promote cultural capability for everyone, we really will be able to bring about change for the good. The arts and the creative industries are best-placed to lead this conversation – but it is one that should embrace many voices, and bring us into contact with people and views we haven’t heard from (or perhaps haven’t been heard) before.

And on this note – you will find a piece of paper on the desk by the window, which invites you to reflect on and share,– what you have heard this evening. We should like to hear from all of you – so do please take a few minutes to jot down any helpful thoughts and contributions and post in the box by the doors before you leave.

To conclude, let me just say: for us – the research continues. We are currently planning a follow-on research project that asks ‘what interventions (if any) are needed to bring about cultural democracy?’ We will also be taking this agenda to South Africa in September to make the case for cultural capabilities on an international level (to the Human Development and Capabilities Association). We very much look forward to talking with you further in due course.

Words: Dr Nick Wilson

For more information about and to download Towards cultural democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone, see the King’s website.

Further information about King’s programme of Cultural Enquiries, is available on the King’s website.

CiF’s first Annual Creativity Lecture: a farewell to Sir John Sorrell

Declan Sheahan. a Masters student at King’s studying Arts & Cultural Management, went along to the Creative Industries Federation’s (CiF) first Annual Creativity Lecture where members were saying a fond farewell to the organisation’s Chair and founder, Sir John Sorrell. Here Declan writes about the event and Sir John’s address to the Federation. 

I was incredibly lucky to be invited to Sir John Sorrell’s farewell address (many thanks to Ruth Hogarth at King’s Cultural Institute), touted as the very first Annual Creativity Lecture. Consequently I was keen to arrive promptly, calm and looking relaxed. A short monsoon on my 10-minute walk from King’s College London Strand Campus to The Hospital Club close to Covent Garden ensured I arrived quite the opposite. As I dried myself, my mind turned to the prospect of Sir John Sorrell’s address that evening. How do you balance the end of one chapter whilst welcoming another?

Hair dried and drink in hand, I took a seat and eagerly waited for Sir John. I opened a tiny envelope on my seat which concealed a business card with ‘Creativity’ printed on one side, and the dictionary definition printed on the other. Many hours had been spent debating and trying to pin down definitions of ‘creativity’, ‘the arts’, ‘art vs. craft’ and so forth during my Masters seminars (Arts and Cultural Management at King’s College London). The definition on the card was so neat that it seemed to mock me, so I stuffed it in my wallet for safekeeping. It’s still there.

biz card

I was familiar with The Virtuous Circle, co-authored by Sir John Sorrell, which makes an incredibly compelling case for the value of creativity in the educational setting and provided one of the sparks of inspiration for my dissertation topic. Needless to say, any case put forward by Sir John this evening would be preaching to the choir. Surrounded by Creative Industries Federation members who looked on to someone who had worked hard to bring a previously disparate collection of industries together to talk with a more ‘united voice’.

My attention soon turned to Sir John as he took to the stage and began a talk that mapped the story of The Creative Industry Federation. This was so inextricably linked to his own story that I sometimes couldn’t tell which was which –  where friends ended and colleagues began, where his vision turned to hard graft, determination and action. His talk spoke to me as a struggle for recognition that the creative industries, before they were termed as such by policy, needed leadership and organisation if they were to ever be taken seriously by government. He praised the DCMS mapping document and the more recent work of Ed Vaizey for understanding and supporting the ‘cause’ of the UK’s creative industries, their value to the UK economy but also to the fabric and texture of British society.

Sir John dedicated a large amount of his talk to  the importance of the link between creativity and education. From my perspective as a Theatre grad, creativity and expression of individuality is only made possible through arts subjects. However, Sir John’s vision of creativity imbedded as a process or way of thinking across all subjects is a vital step, as it would certainly have changed my perception of STEM subjects being a place for my creative endeavours had this been made explicit to me at a young age. His speech outlined that there was still much to do to enshrine creativity within our education system to ensure that not only the Creative Industries talent-pipeline doesn’t run dry, but that Britain continues to drive innovation across many sectors.

The evening had struck a powerful balance, successful in gathering the creative industries together to celebrate Sir John’s long career and legacy and also welcoming the very first Annual Creativity Lecture. As I headed out from the Hospital Club, into the pouring rain again, I felt energized and ready to begin a new journey of my own. The infrastructure installed by Sir John Sorrell and those who worked with him demands a new generation of creative sector leaders to come forward and continue his work.

DSC_0447BW

 

Declan Sheahan is a Masters student at King’s studying Arts & Cultural Management. To contact Declan, email: declan.sheahan@kcl.ac.uk.

 

 

The Creative Industries Federation is the national membership organisation bringing together all of the UK’s arts, creative industries and cultural education to provide an authoritative and united voice in a way never done before. For more information about the course, please visit  the King’s website. More information about the Creative Industries Federation can be found on the organisation’s website

Words: Declan Sheahan
Pictures: Declan Sheahan

King’s alumna, Rosanna McNamara, talks about her role as Production Assistant on King’s Dear Diary exhibition

If you’ve seen King’s current Inigo Rooms exhibition Dear Diary, you’ll realise how much work and research went into its production. The Programming team at King’s manage the university’s flagship exhibition space and we managed to find a small amount of downtime to speak to Rosanna McNamara, King’s alumna and Programming Assistant, to find out about her role and why students should take the time to look around Dear Diary.

How did you end up working for King’s and what does being a Programming Assistant entail?

After finishing my MA at King’s in Christianity in the Arts, I faced the inevitable task of finding work. I had some gallery experience, having previously worked for The RYDER Projects, a contemporary gallery in East London, so when I saw an invigilator position on the King’s Talent Bank I applied. My first position was for the By Me William Shakespeare Exhibition, during this time I got to know the team, and ended up taking on extra shifts and becoming a supervisor. I then started helping out with office support and now I’m on a fixed term contract.

My current role is to support the Programming Team, which can mean a diverse array of tasks. For example for Dear Diary I have helped recruit gallery staff, organise the private view and even ordered some furniture. I’ve learnt you have to throw yourself into all the different elements of the job.

Why do you think diaries make an interesting topic for an exhibition?

Six months ago I don’t think I would have thought so, my idea of a diary was limited to a teenage one. Now I know more about the subject matter I’ve realised how the form of ‘life-writing’ or diary writing has changed. The Dear Diary exhibition explores the ‘digital descendants’ of the diary, and I’m addicted to my phone and social media so I’ve realised how connected I am to these newer manifestations of the diary form.

Has anything surprised you in terms of the content of Dear Diary, and what is your favourite part of the exhibition?

Yes! The most surprising element is probably Kenneth Williams’ ‘Bum Chart’ – which records his bowel movements after surgery. Although shocking and funny, it is also interesting in terms of ideas around privacy and self.

On a more personal level, I am really interested in post-human studies, so the ideas within the exhibition around prosthetic memory are really exciting. For example the exhibition asks questions about how now we seem to almost upload parts of our mind and memory to a machine.

Why should students come to Dear Diary?

Well, firstly, the exhibition is free, which is so great, and it is based at the Strand Campus – so easy for King’s students to get to: they can even pop down between lectures or during their lunch break.

In terms of the content, there is such a variety of objects and artworks on display. One of our gallery assistants, who is a King’s student herself, described the exhibition as ‘accessible’, as diaries are something that everyone can relate to, even if they don’t actually keep a diary themselves. Even if you don’t keep a written diary, you might well use social media and different apps which keep track of your life.

Thinking about my time as a King’s student, I almost see the content I produced during my course as a type of academic diary. The opinions I formed and the essays I wrote in an academic context are indicative of my life and, in a way, this work becomes like a type of diary or record of thoughts and interests.

Thinking back to secondary school as well, I remember we all had planners where we would have to write down when our homework was due and anything else we wanted to keep track of… It would be really interesting to find my old planner. Perhaps after students have seen Dear Diary they will feel inspired to share their own planners or diaries, that’s something I would love to see.

Dear Diary: A Celebration of Diaries and their Digital Descendants is on in the Inigo Rooms, King’s College London, Somerset House East Wing from 26 May – 7 July 2017, Weds–Sun, 11.00-17.30. Entry is free.

Twelfth night at the National Theatre – a student review

MA Arts and Cultural Management student Alex Talbott took in Simon Godwin’s production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. Here she offers her perspective on the latest production of this much loved play:

The dynamism of Godwin’s production was unfaltering. From the moment the show opened Soutra Gilrmour’s pyramidal set slipped seamlessly from shipwreck to backstreet to palace via a nippy sports car. Music accompanied, adding to a somewhat carnivalesque atmosphere, with musicians switching on and offstage. While this provided a captivating setting for the show, the real innovation lay in Godwin’s ability to shift the focus of Twelfth Night towards the usually secondary character of Malvolio – here Malvolia – played by Tamsin Greig. As Olivia’s rigidly humourless steward, in the first half of the show Malvolia – complete with angular fringe and black culottes – trails ‘her lady’ eradicating fun. Yet as the play goes on, Greig portrays the complexity of Malvolia through a tragically comedic performance. What begins as light hearted slapstick morphs into a moving portrayal of vulnerability, as Malvolia’s love for and desire to please Olivia leave her an object of ridicule rendered insane. The treatment of Malvolia in light of her sexuality too highlights a more serious and sobering point.

Doon Mackichan’s Feste stood out, with another gender twist, Mackichan brought an occasional gravitas to the comic role, moving the audience with melancholic song before switching back to sharp sarcasm and knowing comments. Intermittent moments of hilarity also came from Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby played by Tim Mcmullan and his partner in crime the dimwitted Sir Andrew (Daniel Rigby) whose flourescent pink socks remain etched in my mind.

While I sometimes feel on seeing another advert on the tube for Macbeth, Hamlet or a Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s hold over the capital is monotonous and staid, productions like Godwin’s continue to prove me wrong. In a sense this production seemed to be out of kilter for the Leading Culture participants, having travelled across the globe to discuss and debate the promise of culture in the 21st century, they were faced with the work of a celebrated 16th century male playwright – but really this is indicative of great culture’s promise. Under new direction works like this are open for reinvention, at the National Theatre just a few minutes stroll from the original location of Shakespeare’s Globe, this performance might just have sparked some ideas that could be hanging around a few more centuries down the line.

King’s College London are screening a National Theatre Live production of Twelfth Night at the Strand Campus on Wednesday 26 April

Wednesday 26 April 2017 at 19.00

Arthur & Paula Lucas Lecture Theatre (S-2.18), Strand campus

Tickets: £5 King’s students | £10 standard students | £12.50 King’s staff and alumni, Northbank Card holders | £15 standard  To book tickets click here

Discover, collaborate and revisit your academic practice through culture

Dr Barbara Bravi is a post-doctoral researcher in statistical mechanics and mathematical biology at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. She completed her PhD at King’s College London last year and, while studying, applied to the Innovation for Early Career Researchers Scheme. As part of the scheme she collaborated with one of the university’s cultural partners to produce a mobile app. Barbara then went onto become a Cultural Knowledge Exchange Associate at King’s. In this blog Barbara reflects on how and why she engaged with culture at the university.

Getting involved with King’s College London’s Cultural Institute was simply a great experience: the Cultural Institute is space for innovation and the mutual exchange of ideas across the university and the cultural sector. While focused on culture, it gave me the chance to grow, both as a scientist and as a person.

My first contact with cultural activity at the university came when I was awarded support to develop a cultural collaboration through the King’s Early Career Researchers scheme. Working with Design Science, NETADIS and other researchers, we created Random walks with pirate and parrot, an educational mobile app to help a young audience understand how mathematicians and physicists build models of the real world. Such experience was not only intellectually rewarding but, as I soon appreciated, the project had the potential to inform my academic practice.

Creating an artwork out of my research, through a collaboration with a cultural partner, made me simplify the language I use to communicate as well as changing my whole way of thinking. The need to express complex notions via graphics, rather than equations, and to appeal to the players’ intuition, rather than using technical jargon, shed new light on my ideas and made me find new ways to communicate my research.

Later, I had the honour to be recruited to the Cultural Knowledge Exchange Associate Network at King’s. Within this role, I followed the organisation of outreach projects, exhibitions, performances and alike. It turned out to be an opportunity of intense learning.

I learned how the synergy between computer algorithms and piano players can shape unprecedented Soundscapes, I reflected upon the recent ‘big data’ explosion and how it can be explored through an interactive art installation. I discovered more about the properties of colour and light with glass artworks explained by a physicist. During an exhibition I found out about the ‘utopian’ features of non-equilibrium phenomena and tissue engineering.

Furthermore, supporting the promotion of these events helped me establish a stronger connection with the protagonists of ‘culture’ – from art to science and technology – at King’s and more generally in London. Through this, I acquired an expertise important for my future. Representing the Cultural Institute and its interdisciplinary, collaborative spirit led me to build a new awareness of my academic profile and to revisit it under a new perspective.

Being a Knowledge Exchange Associate was also personally challenging because we constantly tried to answer the questions: what is ‘culture’ for King’s students and staff? How can we improve their experience of culture? Working with people who are extremely committed to this effort of building bridges between academia and the ‘cultural’ world was personally motivating as well.

Last but not least, working with the Cultural Institute team was fun: the discovery and contamination of practices were such an amusing yet constructive way of complementing my duties as a researcher at King’s. I am enormously grateful for this enriching, beneficial experience.

Artist Dave Farnham: 3D printing, medical data and art

Lungs front‘One thing I would like to come out of this show is for someone to contact me and say, “I’ve got a set of dodgy lungs, would you like to 3D print them?!” That would be quite cool.’ Morbid curiosity is too strong an expression to describe Dave Farnham, but there is a subtle humour to this artist.

Previously known for his dazzling photography, where he used pyrotechnic fuse wire and toy soldiers to recreate battle scenes in his series ‘Dulce Decorum Est’, his 2015 work, combining medical data and 3D printing, made it to the finals of the Wellcome Trust Image Awards and brought him to the attention of Space to Breathe producers, Shrinking Space.

Lungs is a series inspired from very personal experience, as Dave explained:

‘A friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to make a piece of artwork that represented her journey and she was good enough to allow me access to her medical data. From that I was able to print pretty much any part of her body, but I chose her lungs. Fortunately, she likes the artwork!’

The sculptures will next be shown at Somerset House as part of the weekend festival exploring air pollution in the capital, which over the past week has seen a ‘very high’ warning issued for the first time.

Although other artists who will exhibit at Space to Breathe work more closely on environmental matters, there is a beautiful utopian element about Lungs, ‘I quite like the fact that I put a set of lungs that are healthy into the exhibition.’

For Dave, air pollution is a new but pressing concern: ‘I hadn’t really thought about it much myself until I had kids and then you think, “Actually we live in quite a dirty city, with diesel cars constantly chugging up the road.” His immediate solution? ‘I guess move to the country?!’

If the longer commute does not appeal, the philosophy of beauty in Dave’s work might. When creating Lungs he was adamant that the cancer should not eclipse his friend, Caroline.

lungs side 2

‘I never wanted to print anything related to the cancer; I wanted to move away from it and make it a bit more beautiful for her. But now, since doing the 3D prints and discovering the medical advantages it offers, I would love to start printing things that are about lungs with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or lung cancer; maybe try and put some of that medical stuff into the art work.’

‘But then you get the risk that it’s either too medical or it’s too arty because there’s a fine line between what is simply medically advanced and what is simply too arty.’ Although pleased to have mastered the use of the medical software to built the prints of body parts, he does not believe he would be ready to operate on people…yet!

With this boundary in mind, what does he think of the marriage between arts and science? ‘I think it’s great, but since doing these 3D prints I’ve realised I am going to have to accept being asked medical questions. I do research but mainly I come from an aesthetic point of view, and it just happens that every time I get new medical data the person I am dealing with is quite ill because you don’t usually get a CT scan of your head or your lungs if you’re healthy!’

Beyond Space to Breathe the view is busy, if not entirely bright: ‘A friend of mine had a brain tumour, so I have been doing some 3D prints of his head with the tumour in it, and I am also going to talk about my practise of using medical data in 3D printing on the weekend that the show opens. At the moment I am not trying to move away from the medical stuff but it is quite hard to get hold of medical data because you can’t get hold of people’s personal records.’

lungs side 1

Keen for more volunteers to provide data, in exchange he hopes people take a simple message about ‘the fragility of life’ from Space to Breathe, ‘Because I suppose I didn’t really question it until my close family and friends start getting affected by these things.’

Space to Breathe is a free-to-visit weekend of installations, talks, workshops and creative action in response to London’s air pollution crisis. Hosted at Somerset House, Space to Breathe is curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group.

Space to Breathe

Dates:  28 -29 January 27
Open: 12.00 – 18.00
Tickets: Free, drop-in
Address:  River Rooms, New Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

To find out more about Dave Farnham or to volunteer your medical data for use in his work, visit his website here

Supported by: Arts Council England, The Physiological Society, King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group and Somerset House Trust. 

Interview by Ottilie Thornhill, Masters Student, King’s College London.

Social media and the arts

I am a self-confessed social media addict. The very first thing I do every morning is check my Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, looking to see what I missed out on in the past few hours, checking to see what’s going on. This routine is also the last thing I do at night, and something I do throughout the day probably more times than I would care to admit.

For all its downsides, (it’s made master procrastinators out of us all), social media has changed the way we communicate, and changed the face of marketing, allowing companies to reach ever greater audiences. It’s where I find out my news, where I find out about events that are going on in London, and where I like or follow the pages of my favourite theatres, museums and galleries to find out about their latest productions and exhibitions. Put simply, social media is where I find the majority of my information about what’s going on around me.

So I was pretty dumbstruck when I read that the ‘2014 Digital Culture survey reported that 51 per cent of arts and culture organisations said that digital technologies were important or essential to their business models’. This meant that 49% of organisations had not thought that digital technologies were important for their business model. In 2014!

I decided to test my assumptions about the importance of such technologies for arts and cultural organisations with data from the Nielsen tracker, a survey of around 2000 people, being conducted twice each year since 2014 and commissioned by King’s College London. The data justified my surprise. It found that 39% of the population say that they use social media several times per day. The young are overall, much more frequent users, with the figure leaping to 60% when we consider just those aged 16-29, which stands in comparison to only 20% of those aged 55 and over accessing social media several times per day. Large numbers of us are using social media an awful lot, and it is an important channel for reaching the younger generation in particular.

There are disparities between what different age groups use social media for, but evidence enough to suggest that social media can act as an important marketing tool for arts and cultural organisations. For example, 21% of those aged 16-29 say they use social media to get information about arts events in particular, but this is compared to just 13% of those aged 55 and over. So, in addition to frequenting social media platforms in high numbers, we are also using it not just to chat, and share content, but to find out what is going on and to find information about arts events.

The data also shows that those who are frequent social media users are more likely to regularly attend live arts and cultural events. Those who are less frequent users of social media are also less frequent attendees at live arts events. This all confirms that social media has the potential to be utilized to help increase engagement and attendance for arts and cultural organisations and specifically for trying to draw in new and younger audiences.

Figure 1 - social meida acess

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=204 and n=2279)

In light of this, organisations might want to take note of which social media platforms are the most popular, and the Nielsen tracker reveals that overall Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are the most accessed, respectively. Facebook was the most used platform across all age groups, with 84% of 16-29 year olds reporting accessing the social media platform in the last 12 months, whilst 57% of those aged 55 and over said they had also done so. For an organisation specifically in the business of targeting younger groups, it may be worth noting the rise of other social media platforms, particularly more visual ones, which are especially popular with them. Instagram, for example, was used by only 2% of 55s and overs, 6% of those aged 45-54, but by a much higher percentage of young people, with 41% of 16-29yr olds using the platform.

Figure 2 - instagram ages

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=645)

Many arts organisations have already thrown themselves head-on into attempts to draw new, young audiences and engage with them online. For example, The Royal Opera House, for example, as well as having official Facebook, Twitter and Youtube accounts, manages social media that appeals especially to young people, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Tumblr, and has distinct ‘ROH Students’ social media pages.

Here, they urge followers to share selfies from their events – taking selfies, of course, being the favourite pastime of young people. The Royal Opera House has fully understood that the young are their future audiences, essential to their future success, and that courting them is therefore key to their business model. They have understood, as the data suggests, that social media is fast becoming the most effective way to reach this generation, and they have understood exactly how they must do this, mastering the necessarily playful, personal and visual interaction.

This is ultimately what this is all about: realising, or perhaps accepting, that the audiences of tomorrow will overwhelmingly be dedicated social media users, who daily scroll through Twitter and Instagram feeds rather than read the newspaper. More visual forms of social media, like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Youtube will be increasingly key to reaching this group, as well as sharing visual content and being interactive on the more traditional social media sites. To refuse to exploit these things will be to waste the opportunity to reach increasingly large numbers of people.

Many have already, like the Royal Opera House, learned these lessons and acknowledged the trends that the Nielsen data confirms. Yet there remains that stubborn 49%, who, for their own sake, must follow in their footsteps.

Words by Georgina Chapman, undergraduate, Department of Liberal Arts, King’s College London. Georgina worked with the Culture teams at King’s to analyse and reflect on the results of the Nielsen public opinions tracker, a survey of 2000 people that is conducted twice each year and has been running since 2014. The tracker survey is commissioned by King’s College London.

Inequality in arts consumption related to income

There’s a story that makes its rounds on the internet that when Churchill was implored to cut arts funding for the war effort, his response was to ask, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’

A lovely story, and an admirable Churchillian response, except he never actually said it, or, at least, it seems difficult to find any proof that he did. Wherever the words have come from though, the impulse to continue circulating them in ‘Churchill packaging’ speaks volumes, as they tap into wider feelings about the importance of the arts. From Picasso lauding the benefits of art for the soul, to Ken Danby declaring that ‘Art is a necessity – an essential part of our enlightenment process’ and Bobby Jindal maintaining that culture is ‘vital to uniting us as a nation’, there is a clear sentiment, no matter our inability to articulate by what means, that arts and culture are powerful, and good for the individual and for society as a whole. But for all we shout about these benefits, we should ask ourselves what the real value is if they are reaped by only a select group? For society to truly profit, surely we must see equal levels of participation across its strata. The problem, of course, is that currently, this is not reality.

Using data from the government’s Taking Part Survey, Dr Aaron Reeves, Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, highlighted that active involvement in arts (for example, actually doing a singing class, rather than going to the opera) was strongly correlated with education, not class. But data from the Nielsen tracker, a survey of 2000 people, conducted twice each year since 2014 and commissioned by the Culture and Major Events Consortium at King’s, lends itself more to tracking passive arts consumption (watching the opera rather than actually taking a singing class) in asking participants how often they attend live events. The data shows how this kind of consumption remains strongly correlated with levels of income, highlighting vast inequalities.

Nielsen shows that those who have lower incomes are much less likely to attend arts events as frequently as higher earners. For example, 32% of those who earn between £0 and £6500 per annum attend live arts and cultural events at least several times each year. But this figures stands at 47% amongst those earning £37001 – £50000 and rises again to 52% for those who earn over £50000 per year. The pattern works in reverse when we look at those who say that they never attend live arts and cultural events. Only 11% of those earning over £50000 say that they never attend such events, but 19% of those earning £22001 – £37000 say the same and this jumps to just over a quarter (26%) of those who earn £0 – £6500 each year.

1 attended several times per year

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=2391)

2 never attends

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=1322)

Asking respondents why they do not attend arts and cultural events more often, further underlines the inaccessibility of such events for those with lower incomes, with 59% of those earning £0 – £6500 saying that it is too expensive for them to do so. Half of people earning £6501 – £22000 also give this reason, in comparison to just over a third (36%) of those who earn between £37001 and £50000.

All this is set against the government’s cuts and although the Chancellor of the Exchequer has assured the Arts Council and our national galleries and museums that their funding will remain the same in cash terms until 2019-20, local government funding will have seen cuts of over £6 billion by the end of the parliament. This means local authorities prioritising more money on core services and less money for the arts. When The Stage newspaper contacted a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government for comment on the cuts, he declared that ‘councils have to play their part in tackling the deficit’. The results of all of this will be the hiking of ticket prices, less varied programmes and those organisations with fewer wealthy patrons finding it increasingly difficult to get by, further limiting accessibility for the least economically advantaged.

All the while, the government, in their Culture White Paper are extolling the value of arts and culture for everyone, announcing, ‘we will ensure that children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are inspired by and have new meaningful relationships with culture’. There are lots of vague statements in this paper; lots of promises and wants, and most of the explanations of how they will achieve these things are just as woolly – ‘To deliver this we need strong leadership and better collaboration’.

The reality of all the cuts to local government and subsequently to arts funding, is that more private funding will be required and as they say, he who pays the piper calls the tune. It’s hard to see how this will have any effect other than ensuring that those at the top are increasingly the ones shaping the tone and the narrative of artistic production. The data already shows that 40% of those who earn more than £50000 say that they are very or extremely interested in the arts, compared to just 26% of those who earn between £0 and £6500, and perhaps this is telling us something about the relatability of much artistic production for many from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Actors like Octavia Spencer and Will Smith have highlighted the importance of people being able to see representations of themselves in creative ventures, and it’s often suggested that we look to find ourselves in art. But with more private funding and even more of the agenda set by the people with the ‘big bucks’, those whose participation we seek to increase are unlikely to be able to find themselves. Participation with arts and cultural events, as the data shows, is already characterised by inequalities, stratified by income, and with more cuts on the way, this is only likely to get worse.

Words by Georgina Chapman, undergraduate, Department of Liberal Arts, King’s College London. Georgina worked with the Culture teams at King’s to analyse and reflect on the results of the Nielsen public opinions tracker, a survey of 2000 people that is conducted twice each year and has been running since 2014. The tracker survey is commissioned by King’s College London. 

Mapping international cultural partnerships at King’s

King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowships gives undergraduate students the unique opportunity to learn alongside leading King’s academics and experts. This blog, written by undergraduate International Literature student Natasha Daix, reflects on the experience of working alongside the Culture teams to map and explore King’s international cultural collaborations.

As a King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow (KURF) working with Ruth Hogarth, Director of Cultural Partnerships & Enquiry at King’s, my role was to explore the landscape of the university’s international cultural collaborations. This entailed mostly desk research: I was to comb through the King’s website and promotional materials to catalogue all of the university’s international partner HEIs and record them in an Excel table, labelling their department, global region and the type of partnership they had with King’s (such as student exchange, research, joint teaching etc). Once this was done, I selected a few other UK universities and rummaged through their websites to find information about their cultural partnerships. The end goal was to find partnerships that King’s could either learn from, or potentially participate in.

The result is quite satisfying. It was quickly visible that King’s has more substantial partnerships with Asian, American and Australian universities, a multitude of smaller partnerships with European HEIs, and only few partnerships within South America and Africa. Furthermore, information on other universities’ international cultural collaborations was hard to find. My finding suggest that, amongst its closest competitors, King’s is the only university to have such a developed infrastructure around the production of culture and partnerships. Or, perhaps, King’s is the most transparent about its cultural collaborations.

I was attracted to this KURF assignment because of the international and cultural aspects of the project. Being a student of International Literature, it was interesting to find out about King’s involvement with international universities through its exchange programs and joint teaching. It was also exciting to imagine ways King’s could be involved with international universities culturally in the future, because these partnerships have the potential to directly impact on students’ experience of higher education.

However, for me, working in the Inigo Rooms in Somerset House East Wing was one of the best parts of the Fellowship. Every time I walked out of the office, a new addition had been made to the gallery space, bringing together, piece by piece, King’s recent exhibition, Paths to Utopia. We watched a black and white painting full of strange mythological creatures cover the walls of a neighbouring room and the creation of an immersive cave-like structure containing deformed mirrors popped up in the corridor space. Truly here the worlds of artists, academics and policy makers collide, sometimes quite literally because of all the construction.

As an admirer of visual arts, I could not hope for a better place to work during a month of my summer break. The experience has sparked my interest in a sector I was barely aware of until now, and that I would like to be more involved in.

The Fellowship was greatly enhanced by the bright, passionate people I worked with in the office. I enjoyed their live commentary on the recent Referendum and it was lovely to have Ruth as a supervisor, as she was always encouraging and trusted my decisions. The autonomy I was given felt very empowering. Overall, it was a great first experience in the working world, which has had a powerful impact on my outlook. Indeed, even as I meet students on my Summer Abroad Program in Shanghai I am thankful to King’s – I cannot help but catalogue all the HEIs Fudan University is partnering with! Perhaps they could be interested in future partnerships with King’s.

Words by Natasha Daix.

 

Reducing stigma around Autism Spectrum Disorder

Hidden challenges: a day in the life of a young person with Autism Spectrum Disorder is a project that aims to improve public understanding of autism spectrum disorder in young people by producing engaging visual illustrations to depict their day-to-day life. The project was led by Virginia Carter Leno, a PhD student in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s. Victoria writes below about her motivations for the project and the research that went into the production of the cartoon vignettes that were produced in collaboration with Dominique Sherwood, an independent graphic designer.

This project started for me after a conversation with a parent of a young girl with autism. She was explaining that her daughter has extremely sensitive hearing, and so to her even people talking quietly can sound like shouting.

She said this can cause her to become distressed and sometimes shout at people in public, including in their local supermarket. She said thankfully everyone there was very understanding, but she worried this would not be the case elsewhere. This got me thinking about how parents of children with autism might feel that the general public may not understand why their child can become very distressed in certain situations, and at times may cast negative judgments.

Therefore I wanted to make a piece of work that would educate the public about why some young people with autism might behave in slightly unusual ways, with the hope of increasing public understanding about what life is like for a young person with autism.

Stephen Final

I spoke to clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and people who work in autism research, and also consulted with parents of children with autism, and adults with autism. This allowed me to get a really in-depth idea of the types of situations young people with autism might find challenging, and how this can lead to behaviours that the general public might find confusing or unusual.

I decided the best way to convey this information to the public was to create a series of short stories or vignettes about four young people with autism, and a certain situation they might find stressful. Next I teamed up with a graphic designer called Dominique Sherwood, who helped me to sketch out what the scenes for each story would look like, and then created colourful cartoon-like graphics for each story.

When we had our first draft of the scenes, I consulted with the parents of children with autism and adults with autism I had spoken to when I started the project, to make sure what we had created echoed situations they had experienced, and asking if they had any feedback on the way the vignettes looked.

Tom Final

After taking their advice on board Dominique made any necessary changes and created the final four vignettes. I hope you like them, and most of all I hope they will help the public understand the everyday challenges young people with autism can sometimes face.

Find out more about the project on the Culture web pages.

Words by Virginia Carter Leno, a PhD student in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s.

Images by Virginia Carter Leno and Dominique Sherwood