Patching up – Fiona, Mental Health Nursing student

This was a fifty minute break within a ‘wheel of care’, whether at home with my gorgeous kids, at placement, or at college learning about how to care within mental health, the wheel keeps turning. The time spent with Angela was a change from the usual and in itself brought refreshment, with stimulating chat and a focus on repairing some socks. Poignant and necessary just by fact that the activity was not as essential as my children, the residence where I find myself on placement or the next e-learning/ lecture that is scheduled.  I love repairing the old and finding second hand options, rather than buying new. This 50 minutes was all about that interest. I particularly loved Angela’s words about repairing:  ‘that always the item being repaired turns out different / changed, never is it returned quite to its original state’.

Patching up 4 Fiona - Mental Health nursing studentWords: Fiona
Picture: Fiona

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.

Patching up – Bethan, midwifery student

When I don my leopard print cardigan with shell buttons, I become a little more ‘Georgi’. Despite the huge gape in the left sleeve, I wear this cardigan regularly and keep it rolled up in my jumper box for those days I need a little extra confidence or to brighten my mood with thoughts of the precious friend who handed it down to me.

Whilst working with Angela to repair the sleeve I reflect on the extent to which my midwifery training and passion is blotting into all areas of my life and soaking it with previously unexplored meaning. I think of my King’s College Uniform in the same way as this cardigan – it presents me to the public as something I aspire to be and in the imitation I become just so. I choose colours of embroidery thread that appeal to me and suddenly they seem to represent a bright and healthy umbilical cord. As I admire the ease and lightness with which Angela creates the first stitches then create my less delicate replication, I am reminded of all the skill being passed onto me by other midwives and how some things just take practice.

Although the repair of my cardigan is visible and imperfect, I have added value and meaning to the cloth by using my hands and tools to gently bring it back together. I hope that whilst I care for women they will be transformed by their own courage and with my help, they can be brought back together as something even more beautiful and more whole.

Patching up 2 Bethan

Words: Bethan
Picture: Bethan

Patching up – Ellie, midwifery student

Ellie, midwifery student

I have decided to repair a woollen jumper that I stole from my boyfriend. The jumper is grey with patterns in cream, blue and pink. It is warm and cosy and very moth eaten, it has about 15 holes in total. I like to wear it when hiding in my bedroom.

I am looking forward to mending it as I like the idea of adding to it. I will try and set myself a certain number of holes to fix per week. As I am midwifery student the time spent sewing can be a chance for me to reflect on my practice.

patching up 1 - ellie (Angela Maddock)


Words: Ellie
Picture: Angela Maddock




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.