The Kettle Count

World Cup Semi-Final, England vs West Germany, 4 July 1990. Source:

I’ve been meaning to post this graph ever since Stephen Taylor came to speak to us and showed the chart of water consumption in Edmonton during the Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Game in 2010. The above diagram is quite well known in the UK and it’s interesting because the graph demonstrates both the cultural similarities and differences between two audiences for a sporting event.

Despite the fact that the graph shows electricity as opposed to water usage and that it was during a football (soccer) match as opposed to an ice hockey game (in Britain the term “hockey” used alone generally refers to field hockey) both diagrams show remarkable correspondences.

According to the UK National Grid website the huge surges in demand during the course of and at the end of a football match are called TV pick-ups and reflect consumers turning on lights, opening refrigerators and, perhaps especially British, switching on electric kettles to make a cup of tea. Indeed they refer to this as “the kettle count”. The largest ever TV pick-up in the UK was during the 1990 World Cup semi-final between England and West Germany after a nail-biting penalty shoot out when demand shot up to the equivalent of 1,120,000 kettles being turned on simultaneously. Of the top ten pick-ups in the UK all except one were during football matches. The only exception was during the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, England v Australia

Apparently there is also a similar effect at the end of episodes of popular soap operas during major story lines. Although interesting in themselves the importance of such patterns lies in the use energy analysts make of  them to predict demand and regulate generation. See for a more detailed examination.

Regarding my own project I think the take away is that I know my map needs to be more than simply an archive of vintage photographs and newspaper articles linked to each other through the URT by their proximity in time and space. This in turn goes to the heart of the question “What arguments am I hoping my map will make?”

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