Anti-homeless spikes: ‘Sleeping rough opened my eyes to the city’s barbed cruelty’

Metal studs outside private flats on Southwark Bridge Road, London. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis

From ubiquitous protrusions on window ledges to bus-shelter seats that pivot forward, from water sprinklers and loud muzak to hard tubular rests, from metal park benches with solid dividers to forests of pointed cement bollards under bridges, urban spaces are aggressively rejecting soft, human bodies.

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How Kids Company feeds Britain’s hungry children

Kids Company is a rare children’s charity in that the people it feeds and looks after are self-referring. Children come to them by themselves, and later they bring others who are also in need. “Between 2011 and 2012 we saw a 233% increase in these self-referrals,” Guinness says. As a result they launched the Plate Pledge, a fundraising drive built around the £2 cost of a meal. While they get some funding from central government they get none from the boroughs of Lambeth or Southwark whose kids they look after, and still have to raise more than £24m a year to keep services running. The Plate Pledge has meant they have been able to serve another half a million meals.

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Boiling point: redesigning the kettle for the 21st century

When Nils Chudy came up with the idea of redesigning the domestic kettle just over a year ago he was struck by how little this vital organ of all kitchens had altered over the years. “Five thousand images, all of the same kettle. Bit of a different shape or bit of a different colour or bit of a different material, but somehow they are all the same,” he said. Along with wanting to change the look of the appliance, Chudy, 24, a designer from Germany, had also become frustrated with the energy waste involved with boiling a kettle when only some of the water is used. The outcome was the Miito, a “kettle” on which you place a cup, mug or jug and heat the liquid inside via a rod immersed in the water (or soup or baby food).

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Battle of the drones: the little guys taking on the tech giants

This weekend, Dubai hosts the UAE Drones for Good award, a competition with a $1m prize for a drone used in a socially responsible project. Hardy has built one of the prize contenders, designed to plant forests in inhospitable terrain. “The drone has something like a paintball gun mounted below it,” he says, “so it fires the seed into the ground.” Lauren Fletcher of Biocarbon Engineering is the designer, and believes it has a good chance of winning: “The drones allow us to introduce industrial-scale reforestation in a way that was never really possible before.”

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Past visions of future cities: where are our flying cars and hoverboards?

One particularly influential idea is the Garden City, first proposed by Ebenezer Howard in 1898. “The Garden City paradigm is one that just keeps re-emerging, with a slightly different remix each time,” says Dunn. He observes that a number of new themes have become more dominant in recent visions of the future city, among them the ecological city and a trend toward what he calls “street-based urbanism” – “human-centred cities; cities that are based on people walking, bikes, neighbourhoods. And that’s very tangible for where we are now.”

Spraying the 70s: the pioneers of British graffiti

“In 1975, graffiti was a shorthand way of accessing the mood of the time,” says writer Jon Savage, who mentioned The Writing on the Wall in his 1992 history of punk, England’s Dreaming. “In the 60s and even the early 70s, music had reflected the environment and how people felt, how people thought about things – and that was almost gone. Pop wasn’t doing its job, it wasn’t the teenage news. Graffiti was like a secret code, the voice of the underdog. It was people telling you things you couldn’t read in mainstream media and wouldn’t necessarily think about. You’d get jokes, stoner and outcast humour, with serious points. It was another kind of language.”

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Don’t have a cow, man: Coke debuts Fairlife ‘Milka-Cola’ in the US

Coca-Cola has launched its own brand of milk, which it claims will make it “rain money” for the world’s biggest drinks company. The new Fairlife milk will cost more than twice as much as regular milk, but the company reckons consumers will be prepared to shell out more as it will contain 50% more protein and half the sugar of normal milk.

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‘Vote British, not Bolshie’: election posters that chart a changing Britain

In a glass case on the first floor of the People’s History Museum in Manchester, there sits a pipe that once belonged to Harold Wilson. The Labour leader – who was resident in Downing Street twice, once in the 60s and once in the 70s – did not smoke it by choice. He preferred cigars. But he and his aides understood that a pipe was a signifier for authenticity, roots and a mind that would not be rushed. Every time Wilson publicly puffed away, in other words, he was indulging in the modern political game we know as spin, long before the word was ever invented.

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