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University supports local teenagers’ research project

18/02/2021
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Academics from the University of Wolverhampton have helped a group of young people in Telford to complete a peer research project relating to the Knife Angel.

Peer research is a form of participatory research where people with non-research experience play the role of researcher in a study.

The project, entitled ‘Hearing Our Voices: Young People’s Participation in Understanding the Public Experience of the Knife Angel’, was supported by Telford and Wrekin Council and West Mercia Police.

The Knife Angel is a state-of-the-art, 27-foot sculpture, made of more than 100,000 confiscated knives, which was created by artist Alfie Bradley, along with the British Ironwork Centre.

The co-created peer research project was set-up to understand the public response to the Knife Angel exhibition in Telford, during the Knife Angel’s visit to the town as part of its UK tour, and whether there were any wider lessons to be learnt.

University of Wolverhampton’s Director for the Institute of Social Work and Care Dr Elaine Arnull led the project with the young people from Telford. They were supported by community support workers Sian Makin and Sarah Durnall and West Mercia Police.

Dr Arnull said: “The nine young people were trained as peer researchers and played an active part starting from research design, questionnaire creation, interviewing participants and agreeing the findings of the results of the study.

“Some of their results were shared in a series of social media posts shared at the end of last year. They received very positive levels of engagement, which was great to see.

“They did a fantastic job, especially as it involved a great amount of learning, including ethics to be able to create the survey.

“The survey provided an excellent insight on participants’ views on the Knife Angel exhibition, knife crime awareness, factors related to knife crime and criminal justice systems.

“The peer researchers were so successful that they have inspired other projects, which will now take place in Telford, My colleague Dr Mahuya Kanjilal and I will work with Telford and Wrekin Council and Telford and Wrekin Police on these.”

On the day the survey was conducted, the vast majority, 94 per cent, of those interviewed had heard about the Knife Angel before their visit, although only 41 per cent of them had specifically come to see the Knife Angel exhibition that day.

The survey showed that the Knife Angel exhibition helped people to think about violence in society and particularly knife crime. The vast majority of interviewees, 96 per cent, believed that the exhibition helped to raise awareness about knife crime in the community.

The vast number of confiscated knives on display made a significant impact on the viewers.

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