Patching up – Mavis, PhD researcher, Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery

I keep small art pieces that remind me of home. I sometimes pay little attention to them, but subconsciously knowing they are there keeps me grounded. The day my ‘family’ sculpture fell and the head broke off felt instantly unsettling. It felt as if there had been a detachment from home, I mean, I am always knocking these sculptures over, at least once a week…but they have never broken up before. To add to this, my teabag holder also broke within a few months – what was going on? Getting confirmation that I could fix these was surprisingly emotive, happiness and relief flooding into me. These pieces are very characteristic of my culture, the colours and the shapes reminding me of where I come from and who I am, of home – far away and yet near.

Fixing them was symbolic of my connection with my homeland and my family.  My world and the world had been feeling a lot crazier over the last few months, and seeing my ‘family’ sculpture and my teabag holder complete made me feel that everything is going to be okay. I am, however, moving them to a safer place where I stop knocking them over but can still see them everyday. Just in case.

Mavis patching up 1


Mavis patching up 2

Words: Mavis
Pictures: Mavis

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.

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. 

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