The Commercial value of Culture… I have seen the light!

If you’re a ‘take things in your stride’, ‘cross that bridge when you come to it’ kind of person, then I have to admire you. Unfortunately (for my sanity), I am a Mystic Meg type whose brain never fails to leave me a little anxious after conjuring up yet another future life plan out of nowhere- some realistic and some not so much…hopefully lonely cat lady is one of the latter. Maybe I just need to take a chill pill. I prefer to think of it as ‘organised’ and ‘forward thinking’. Whatever the case, with an imminently approaching final year, the little crystal ball in my head has been hard at work turning my mind to post- graduation possibilities.

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Truth: Reflections

Today was the penultimate day of my dissertation placement at Truth Consulting and I have mixed emotions. I won’t miss the 6:30am trains and I sure won’t miss the rush hour fight for a space on the tube, but I’m definitely going to miss the incredibly hilarious and talented people I’ve been working with for the last two weeks. Ultimately I’ve learnt so, so much over such a short period of time and this is my attempt to summarise it. Enjoy!079ea69

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224,000 hours of stitching, 3 days of photographing

It’s coming to the end of my time here at Guildford Cathedral. Well, it’s not really – I’m just going on holiday to Mallorca and will be busy doing other things until the end of August (rather than looking at kneelers). I will almost definitely be back in September and it wouldn’t be surprising if I’m still around way after my dissertation is handed in.

Anyway, today was the day that I was set to finish photographing and documenting all 1460 of the cathedral’s kneelers. Or it should’ve been. Turns out there were actually 1600. I still finished, just the final remnants of novelty wore off as the count exceeded the expected.


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BREAKING NEWS: Geography doesn’t have to be about rivers

I’ve had a lot of interest in my project subsequent to my last blog post which has been great – unless you are all just being nice. I’ll take it as the former. With all this attention I was hoping to find a kneeler devoted to Europe for a chance to spontaneously pontificate my political views on the EU referendum. Fortunately for you no such kneeler has been found so instead of economics, bureaucracy and immigration, you will be lectured on culture, geography, and textiles.

On a serious note, don’t mess this up Britain (I’ll refrain from expressing my opinion to prevent this becoming a political debate). Continue reading

Me, Guildford Cathedral, kneelers and … a Hovercraft?

Seeing as I started my placement last Thursday, I’m a bit late with this first blog post, but all I would’ve had to talk about was how I have learnt the hard way why people who commute get grumpy. Nevertheless, any chance I get to wear a blazer and brogues I will grasp with both hands and now that I’m not driving a Corsa which is as old as I am, I genuinely feel like I’m ‘growing up’ a little bit.


Guildford Cathedral.

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The end of my placement

I finished my placement at Wildwood Trust about a month ago now, and I am still, more than ever, so grateful for this opportunity. I’ve loved it. Although I guess you’ve got to enjoy something a lot if you’re willing to take tubs of defrosting poo on two trains with commuters and school kids…

Throughout this experience, there have been high points and low points, but there’s always something to counteract the low points. The caramel hot chocolate has regularly been my cure and pick-me-up after two hours of sitting on a picnic blanket in the cold and sheltering under a large umbrella with all my research notes to protect them from the rain.

People (and animals) seem to have found my research interesting: when I’m preparing the hessian sacks, the yard cat is often very inquisitive; on some days people (both visitors and keepers) have come up and asked me what I’m doing – and have genuinely wanted to know about my dissertation, which has been lovely, everyone has a story or piece of information to share. On the cold, rainy weekdays however, sometimes the main company I have are the slugs (not a high point!). Those are the days that even Cara and Shria want to hide in their sleeping quarters.


My company for my research.

This placement has taught me so much about these amazing creatures, and how much the public are fascinated by them. It’s wonderful to think that despite all the technology we have nowadays, and everything that can entertain us, we can all relate well to nature, regardless of age or background.

It’s no surprise we find the lynx so endearing. They are strong, and people are aware of this enough to know that they need to be respected as animals, which is so clear at certain times, such as when they’re feeding or leaping. But they are also cats, and sometimes their behaviour isn’t so unlike that of our pets.

This video shows one of the last repeats I carried out for my research, and I don’t know why they reacted in this way, maybe they were just in a playful mood, but whatever it was, it shows how similar all cats really are (this does not mean I recommend having a pet lynx).

One of the leading questions posed in the debate over rewilding is “can we cope with a wilder Britain?” and I’m starting to think that given enough time, yes, yes we could. We have lived amongst nature before, and, whilst there are exceptions, most people have respect for animals such as lynx, which surely is able to grow and improve over time.

“I love all cats” – The perks of asking the public for their opinion.

I’ve been down to Wildwood a number of times now, and been able to hand out questionnaires as well as do my experiment. There’s two parts to my questionnaires, one side is to be answered before the lynx keepers’ talk and feed begins, and the other side afterwards. Whilst the plan worked in theory, in reality, it’s not so good. People don’t always to think on their day off.  I admit, this is a sweeping statement, and plenty of the people I have asked have answered the questionnaires as hoped. Even when they haven’t followed the instructions exactly, they’ve still taken the time to help me, and I definitely appreciate it!

However, as always, there have been mixed responses, clearly showing how some people don’t tend to listen to the information provided. My favourite of these has to be “If re-introduced to the wild, would they not attack people?”, which is a genuine concern amongst the public, although, with improved education and awareness of the species, this could be corrected. A number of respondents were also clearly concerned with the Scottish independence referendum, and wanted lynx to be in England, not Scotland despite a lack of suitable habitat.

So far, all I’ve talked about are the less helpful responses. It cannot be forgotten that I have had many wonderful answers, from all age groups. It has to be said, that in my opinion, children give the best answers though, as demonstrated by this young boy:

"I love all cats so woul[d] love to see them"“I love all cats so woul[d] love to see them”

The questionnaires are only part of my research though, and I have the fantastic opportunity to do an enrichment-based experiment on the two lynx as well. In my last blog post, (available at:, I spoke about what my experiments entailed, but at that time, had not had the chance to start them. By the end of my placement, I will have done 10 repeats of the experiment, and it will hopefully show that the lynx have a preference for either deer or sheep to prey on. The video below shows part of my experiment (despite the poor quality and my lack of editing skills!). The hessian sack furthest from the fence contains a mix of sheep dung and straw, whilst the closest is the roe deer dung and straw mix.

Here is a far better quality video of the lynx at Wildwood from an episode of BBC’s Countryfile in 2011.

To finish of this post, I just want to thank Wildwood for their continued support of my project. Please go to their website ( and look at the recent work they’re doing, including fundraising £50,000 to rescue two brown bears that are currently being kept in awful conditions.

“They think it’s all over”… but they’re wrong!

It’s been a week since my placement at StreetInvest came to an end. I’ve since moved back home for the summer, allowing plenty of reflection time. This week my internship with Macmillan Cancer Support starts and a new chapter begins on the road through NGOs. But the good news for me is that the previous chapter is still very much open; yes, I’m staying with StreetInvest. I have been offered (and am obviously accepting) a ‘Student Ambassador’ role within the organisation. I’m excited to see how this role develops. Having met with one of their current ambassadors, who has been one for a number of years, I understand the role to be very flexible, above all allowing me to keep in contact with StreetInvest. When I find out in September about my academic work load, I can use any free time that I have to go back and help out. Hopefully as a result, they will gain an extra volunteer and I will gain greater data for my dissertation.

I have created a survey and with the help of StreetInvest, distributed it to organisations who partner in street-work. It focuses on their opinions of communication systems and also includes a structured comparison system which enables them to decide how well different organisations communicate with one and other. I await any replies as of yet. I have created a survey for those who StreetInvest maintain contact with in Britain for awareness-raising. My job this week is to distribute it, which I think will be harder than it sounds. But I’m confident I know what I need to be doing having been educated clearly on how to use StreetInvest’s public communication platform.

Research so far has shed light on the effort NGOs place into PR and Communications. I’ve learnt of the different methods StreetInvest uses to make itself known. They are an NGO keen to constantly gain new ideas. One PR method which StreetInvest do NOT participate in, but which was suggested to the organisation by an outside source, is the PR technique of paying a celebrity to advertise the NGO. This is now accepted as a useful PR tool in the corporate world and if done correctly, could create large amounts of publicity, awareness and increased funds. However the moralities of an NGO deviating too far into the corporate world can be shocking. StreetInvest has a duty to spend the money which people donate, to help in running the organisation in a way which is generally accepted by the donors. Although the boundaries can be blurred, gambling money by funding celebrity endorsed campaigns seems very wrong to me. How would you feel if an organisation that you donated to, then spent that money on PR through payment to a celebrity?

The counter argument is that this is just another PR method, which may have a higher success rate than conventional Facebook and Twitter style advertising and old fashioned banners, posters and attending events, all which I have experienced first-hand in the past two weeks.

Article on Celebrity Tweet Endorsement-

Two weeks ago I thought I would be wrapping up at this point, but I’m very happy to say this is ongoing and will continue to. The next time you hear from me I hope to tell you more about the data I receive back.

Thank you again StreetInvest.

And thank you for reading.

Is Trade, Not Aid the Answer?

Lectures have properly started now, so it’s officially autumn and I thought I’d better write a final post reflecting on my placement.

I want to start by saying I’m really glad I did this placement and I recommend everyone currently at university – first or second year, studying Geography or otherwise – look into getting an internship or placement or something to find out what a realistic graduate work place might be like. It was useful from a careers perspective in both getting experience and finding out more about the ethical trade industry.

What has been playing on my mind throughout the placement and especially now lectures have started back, are the arguments about using trade as development. Fair trade began post-WWII with handicrafts from Eastern Europe, sold in Oxfam to try to help them recover economically. Since then it has blossomed and the phrase ‘trade not aid’ was used in the 1980s (and is still used today) to show the benefits of trading fairly with people from the Global South rather than just throwing money at the problem of poverty.

While this does make some sense, I was quite sceptical ever since I heard the phrase as I think aid is a necessity in some parts of the world for some people, and this phrase seems completely against aid. When I first heard that The Body Shop’s ‘community fair trade’ value was originally called ‘Trade not Aid’, it shocked me. But listening to the people I met, it was clear they all thoroughly believed that the work they did genuinely helped people – as one person said it’s all well and good giving water and food, but people have a right to earn a living as well. 

This is an on-going debate in the literature I’m currently reading for my Fair Trade and Ethical Consumption module, but what do you think? Vote in the poll to have your say. 

The Story So Far…

At the beginning of the year I took the opportunity to take part in a placement with The Body Shop as part of my dissertation research into ethical trading. This is an exciting chance to get experience in a growing sector. So, I updated my CV and wrote a covering letter to show how enthusiastic I was about the placement, and explained how I would use the research for my dissertation.

After this process I had to wait nervously for a few weeks for the applications to be processed and eventually found out that I had been successful!

Since then I’ve been on a field trip with the Geography Department, sat 3 exams and handed in over 16 000 words of coursework and finally celebrated the end of my second year of university.

Yet throughout this hectic time, I’ve planned the core parts of my research with my supervisor (which involves a lot of reading). I also went to the London office of The Body Shop to discuss the direction of research, arrange work dates and locations (my time will be split between the London Office and Littlehampton Head Office). Furthermore I created a questionnaire on ethical trading. I already feel like I need a break and it’s only just beginning!

The beginning of a long reading list

The beginning of a long reading list

My role in this placement is mainly as a researcher: I am interested in what young people think about the image of companies and how they make shopping decisions; in particular ethical trading, which is where The Body Shop comes in. Ethical trading is how companies create a positive social and environmental impact by trading such as paying workers a fair wage, minimising their carbon footprint etc. The Body Shop has been involved with and organised campaigns about ethical trading for over 25 years; they are the perfect company to link with and use as a case study due to the vast amount of data that is accessible about their campaigns.

As a relatively new area of research, there is a gap in knowledge about young people and ethical trading which is why I am focusing on this, as well as ethical trading campaigns for which The Body Shop has an excellent reputation.

I also hope to gain an insight into how an ethical trading company works – as I approach my final year at university I’m becoming increasingly aware of the need to find a job afterwards! I’m interested in this sector and this experience may help me decide if it is right for me to pursue a career in this area in a year’s time.

During the placement look for updates on the blog and twitter (#rhulworkdiss) and wish me luck!