I had wanted to make a data visualization on knife crime for the whole of the United Kingdom and knew I wanted to visualize the data using the Union Jack flag. Sadly, data for both Northern Ireland and Scotland is much harder to get hold of than data for  England and Wales, (Ireland and Scotland’s data is not harvested by the ONS) so I decided to use the data for England only,  taking out the Welsh data-set.

Analysis of the data would not have been possible without Miriam, whose ability to see patterns and make sense of the data with her understanding of square roots and logarithmic number system is the material of nightmares for me. Knife Nation is most definitely a collaboration between the two of us.


The Union Jack “combines aspects of three older national flags: The red cross of St George of the Kingdom of England: the white saltire of St Andrew for Scotland (which two were united in the first Union Flag), and the red saltire of St Patrick to represent Ireland.” Wikipedia

This meant that England could be represented using the St George’s cross, a red cross on a white background. This also happens to be the very symbol used by  International Committee of the Red Cross whose mission is to “alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies.” The idea that a red cross could have two meanings really appealed to me.

The ONS data set showed that there were 38 regions in the UK , too many for me to represent so I decided to represent the following regions.

London : 10,076*
Greater Manchester: 1643
Essex: 531
Devon and Cornwall: 301
Surrey: 43



In order to make better sense of the data, we visualized the region with highest number of incidents which was London with 10,076* and the region with the lowest recorded incidents, which was Surrey with 43. It was decided to show three others,  that being Greater Manchester with 1643. (Note: West Midlands had only 16 more incidents)  Essex with 531 and Devon and Cornwall with 301.


So, a stitch for every crime committed,  but how did we get round the issue of London being so much bigger than Surrey and therefore displaying seemingly more crime?  The result is the number of stitches per flag corresponds to the absolute number of crimes per region, while the relative area of the flag corresponds to the crimes per 100,000 population.IMG_4027

The needle penetrating the fabric as the knife may have done added another layer to the project each and every stitch has the name of a person behind it. By stitching the data and leaving threads trailing it tells a story is not over,  as the data changes more stitches can be added.

Knife Crime

Knife Nation is just the beginning, I am interested in representing violent crime globally and so I thought I would start with my homeland first. If after reading this you have any ideas of whom might like to exhibit Knife Nation, know of a journalist who might like to write about it,  or even know of a commission I could apply for in order for myself and Miriam to keep working on this  topic, then please do contact me. To get hold of me quickly,  tweet me at @debbiedavies  or send me an email via the contacts page.