The Knife Angel is a sculpture made from 100,000 confiscated or surrendered knives. The sculpture can be requested by a city or town, set up for a fee (minimum £5000), and used as a focal point for knife crime and carrying education.
In March 2022 an online survey was created to collect the public’s view on whether the Knife Angel should be brought to Sheffield. The launch was featured in the Sheffield Star, who also shared the link to the survey.
This report contains a summary of the results.
The majority of respondents thought that the Knife Angel was useful, that they would go to see it, and that they wanted it in Sheffield. However, the minority who did not support it expressed strong opinions in opposition to it.
- When asked how the Knife Angel made them feel, the most common response was to say it made them feel “sad” or similar words (49%).
- A majority of respondents suggested targeting Knife Angel and education packages at 16 to 18 year olds (87%), 19 to 21 year olds (84%), 11 to 15 year olds (70%) and 22 to 25 year olds (70%).
- 67% of respondents thought that the Knife Angel would be “extremely” or “very” useful for changing attitudes towards knife crime in their target age group.
- 83% of respondents thought that an education package that accompanies the Knife Angel would be “extremely” or “very” useful at tackling knife crime.
- 90% of respondents said they would be “very likely” or “likely” to come to see the Knife Angel.
- In an open question, the most common comments were that the Knife Angel was a powerful piece of art (23%) and that they wanted to see it in Sheffield (19%).
- Though less common, comments questioning the effectiveness of the Knife Angel (6%) and saying they did not want it (4%) were strongly worded, suggesting a minority who are strongly opposed to the Knife Angel.
The survey received 1116 responses, of which 88% were complete responses. 84.2% of respondents were female, and 90.5% of respondents were aged 22 and over.
The majority of respondents had heard of the Knife Angel (64.5%) (see figure 1).
Figure 1. Responses to “Have you heard of the Knife Angel before?”
The survey asked respondents to summarise in one word what the Knife Angel made them feel. We then coded these responses to group them. Figure 6 shows all codes which contributed more than 1% of responses.
The most common response from respondents was that it made them feel “sad” (48.6%). This included terms like upset, sorrow and heartbreak. The next most common response, but far less prevalent, was that it made people feel “inspired” (6.7%). This was generally an inspiration to change, take control, or show determination.
4.3% of respondents used “fear” terms, suggesting the sculpture made them more afraid of knife crime.
Note that in Figure 2, “positive” and “negative” were in relation to the artistic merits of the sculpture. “Positive” responses were those who called it beautiful or similar terms, negative responses were those that called it ugly or similar terms.
Figure 2. Responses to “In a single word, what does the image of the Knife Angel make you feel?”
Age group to target
The survey asked respondents what age group they think the Knife Angel should be targeted at. Respondents could pick multiple answers. 141 respondents selected all age groups.
Younger age groups were selected more often than older age groups (see figure 3), although no age group was picked by less than 20% of respondents. 87.0% of respondents selected 16 to 18 year olds, which we know are also one of the most at-risk groups for knife crime and carrying.
Figure 3. Responses to “Which age group do you feel the Knife Angel should be targeted towards?”
Respondents were asked how useful they thought the Knife Angel would be in changing attitudes towards the age group they picked.
Respondents were optimistic about how useful the Knife Angel would be. 36% of respondents said that it would be “Extremely useful”, followed by 31% saying it would be “Very useful” (see figure 4).
Figure 4. Responses to “If the Knife Angel was in Sheffield, how useful do you think it would be for changing attitudes towards knife crime in the age groups you picked?”
The host of the Knife Angel must provide an education package to the public at the Knife Angel, as part of the agreement. Respondents were asked how useful they thought this education package would be.
Similar to the question about the usefulness of the Knife Angel for changing attitudes, most respondents were positive towards the idea of the education package. A majority (53.1%) said it would be “Extremely useful”, followed by 30% who said it would be “Very useful” (see figure 5).
Figure 5. Responses to “How useful do you think the education and awareness sessions would be in tackling knife crime in the age groups you have picked?”
Likely to go
Respondents were asked if they were likely to go to see the Knife Angel. The majority said they were “very likely” to go to see it (65.0%), followed by “likely” (24.7%) (see figure 6).
Figure 6. Responses to “How likely would you be to visit the Knife Angel?”
Other comments on the Knife Angel
The final question asked if the respondents had any other opinions on the Knife Angel. Because this question is broad, the answers varied considerably.
Respondents who were positive to the Knife Angel often emphasised how impressive, beautiful, or impactful the artwork was. On the other hand, some respondents thought the angel was ugly, creepy, or even offensive.
“The Knife Angel is a powerful sculpture and I think it will play an important part in fighting knife crime in Sheffield”
“It’s absolutely vile and quite scary to be honest”
A concern when bringing the Knife Angel to Sheffield is that it might increase fear of crime. This was supported by a few respondents, who either cited concerns that the Knife Angel glorifies knives or makes people more afraid of the problem.
“Not sure this is a wise approach – does it make knives seem cool? In order to tackle knife crime I suspect systemic change is required – tackling poverty and creating more opportunity”
More respondents mentioned wanting to have the Knife Angel in Sheffield in their response than not. Some went a step further, and said that it was “shameful” or “disappointing” that Sheffield had not had it before.
“I was lucky enough to see the Knife Angel in Chester and couldn’t believe that at the time there were no plans to bring it to a city the size of Sheffield”
Others stated they did not want the Knife Angel in Sheffield. This was often for financial reasons, with respondents suggesting the money go into other projects to reduce violence. Others simply thought it would not meet its intended aims.
“It’s pointless. Waste of money. Nobody involved with knife crime will care. You are so out of touch it’s laughable”
The majority of respondents may be in favour of the Knife Angel, but the opinions of those against it are strong. Some respondents who were in favour of bringing the Knife Angel to Sheffield expressed that they were willing to try anything to reduce knife crime. The implication here was that they were not sure whether the Knife Angel would work or not, only that something was better than nothing.
“Please bring this awesome statue to Sheffield. If it only makes one person think about not carrying a knife that is a good start”
“It’s worth a try but the focus needs to be aimed at gangs and drug crime, which seems to be the main problem”
Overall, this survey presents a complex picture of public support for the Knife Angel. There is overwhelming quantitative support for the Knife Angel coming to Sheffield, but some of this may be out of a desire to “try anything”, and there is potential for opposition from a minority.
You can view the full report here.