Blog Archives: March 2015

Elephant in the Room event success

Monday, 30 March 2015

 The Elephant in the Room free event, Plymouth Central Library.


Posted by Wendy Coulton


The elephant had well and truly left the room when the first event of its kind about dying matters was held in Plymouth to challenge the taboo which comes with the D word.

A positive unexpected outcome came from bringing together likeminded people under one roof which has now planted the seed for a professional forum whereby we will meet again, perhaps quarterly, in a social setting to find out what eachother is doing and identify how we can mutually support our efforts to improve the experience for the bereaved.

When I read the feedback cards afterwards I got tearful though that may have just been from exhaustion and relief! There genuinely was overwhelming support for the purpose of the event and calls for similar opportunities to be repeated.

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth and Lady Mayoress attended the launch with a keynote talk by George Lillie, South West representative of The Dying Matters Coalition. All the talks were well presented, thought provoking and informative. The free advice hub was visited by people who were just curious and others with specific questions.

We had no idea what response we would get because dying matters are not a topic people are comfortable with and tend to avoid but the elephant had well and truly left the room by the end of our event. There was respectful open discussion about a wide range of topics including organ donation, legal and money matters, hospicecare, green funerals and carer experience of death. It was a fantastic team effort.

The large red papier mache elephant centrepiece in the advice hub has been garaged…until his services are required sometime next year!

Pictured: The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Plymouth, with event organiser Wendy Coulton and George Lillie, SW representative of The Dying Matters Coalition.

What to wear for a funeral

Monday, 23 March 2015




Guest post by Wendy Coulton

Choosing what to wear when conducting a funeral is an important aspect as a professional and for the bereaved I am serving.

Advice which stuck with me when I was trained as a funeral celebrant was that I am not mourning and therefore it is not a requirement for me to wear black.

The bereaved decide the dress code

First and foremost I find out from the bereaved client what the dress code is for the funeral when we are planning it together. Some prefer the traditional black mourning attire so that will influence my wardrobe choice for that funeral – a dark purple, charcoal grey or dark blue. But if the family make it clear everyone is to wear black then I will respect their wishes.

Sometimes a specific colour is chosen as an accent colour for its personal relevance to the person who has died or to reflect the tone of the funeral focussing with love and thanks on the life that was lived and how that person enriched the lives of those who knew them. Increasingly funeral directors wear different colour ties to acknowledge the colour preference of the bereaved. I have a growing collection of scarves as a more cost effective way of introducing a chosen colour to the dress code.

I generally tend to wear bright jackets but for the more conservative clients I may tone it down. For example for the funeral of an elderly traditional lady I favour a pastel pink with grey.

Personal touches

My clients always appreciate the simple extra touches which reflect the careful thought given to the individuality of their funeral ceremony.  For example I wore an understated blue thistle button hole on my jacket at the funeral for a man who was very proud of his Scottish heritage. His family were really appreciative of my nod to his patriotism.

The city football club colour is green so I invested in a dress in the same shade which I wear when the deceased was a Plymouth Argyle supporter.

Standing out from the crowd

From a practical point of view it can help the next of kin find me before we go into the chapel, particularly if there is a high attendance and everyone is wearing similar clothes. 

As a ‘neutral’ person without a uniform or universally recognised dress code like the clergy it is important that I am recognised easily as the person who is responsible for conducting the funeral ceremony.

My brand

I want to come across as warm, approachable, professional and kind. What I wear reflects this. I do not want to come across as efficient, formal and detached. Often I wear a Dragonfly brooch or necklace by way of a discreet image which may stay in the sub conscious of people attending the funeral so they relate that to my business name Dragonfly Funerals.

Classic Commercials Enthusiasts’ Day

Monday, 2 March 2015


Posted by David Hall

Every March, David Hall of Vintage Lorry Funerals attends the Classic Commercial Enthusiasts’ Day, which is held at the Three Counties Showground at Malvern. Jason Lunn, of Independent Event Management, who manages the Enthusiast’s Day is always happy to help David by giving the Leyland Beaver a prime position where the lorry and its display will receive many visitors. David uses the show as an opportunity to test the roadworthiness of Themes that will feature in the future for people planning their own final journey.

It is also an opportunity to test the reaction of the general public and provides the facility for David to demonstrate his creativity. To date the Themes displayed at Malvern have included a ‘Doll’s House’, a ‘1950’s TV Set’ with the Lone Ranger and Tonto on the screen, and in 2014 an ‘Only Fools & Horses’ Theme with Del Boy falling through the bar. This working model created a lot of interest with David impersonating Del Boy, ‘We are on a winner here Trigg, stay cool, stay cool.’ David then lifted the hatch, pulled Del Boy through the bar and then allowed Del Boy to spring back into position. Trigger then asked, ‘Are we going to speak to these birds? And Del responded, ‘You’re cramping my style, I just want to go home.’

Over 30 presentations took place with between 1 and 10 recipients and David thought that he should have sign saying, ‘Next Show in 15 minutes,’ like the Punch & Judy shows at the seaside in the 1950’s.

At the rear of the deck David displays 24 pictures of previous funerals highlighting how a funeral can be personalised. This provides people who were unaware of Vintage Lorry Funerals to have a more detailed understanding of the service. It also enables Families whose Loved One’s funeral is featured on one of the 8 ft x 4ft boards to see their Loved One’s memory preserved. Touchingly some people come to Malvern each year from locations as far afield as Kent and Lancashire primarily to see a picture of their Loved One’s funeral exhibited within the display.

Going to Malvern involves a big day getting up at 0330 hours and not getting back until 1900 hours. The early start ensures that the Leyland Beaver is one of the first vehicles into the site at 0700 hours and prior agreement with the Managing Agents allows Vintage Lorry Funerals to have a prime position adjacent to the main walkway, next to the Restaurant and Toilets, which ensures a steady and high footfall to look at the display. There is always a small delay as the Marshalls check the credentials of the entrants. Last year as the 1950 Leyland Beaver rolled towards the gates an attractive young lady came up to David and asked him for his number. David jokingly said, ‘It’s a long time since such a stunningly attractive lady has asked me for my number!’ The lady smiled and said ‘It is the entry number I’m interested in at the moment, I’ll come and see you later about your telephone number.’

As David sits in his cab from 0730 hours waiting for the gates to open to the public at 1000 hours he often reviews how the year has gone. David often ponders why is it that he can count on one hand the number of his funerals which are within 10 miles of his base where his cost is the lowest and yet Families are often happy to pay almost three times the local price for locations such as Stockport or Maidstone. In the 30 minutes before he starts to listen to Sounds of the 60’s on his radio he often reflects back to the 1970s when he was working in Europe and Van Morrison had left Ireland and was trying to establish himself in America. At the time Van’s Astral Weeks Album sold less than 7,000 copies worldwide and his records never appeared on the radio in Britain or America. However, when David was travelling in Europe he noticed that wherever he was a Van Morrison song came on the radio, so it was ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in Calais, ‘Gloria’ in Brussels and ‘Bright side of the Road’ in Dortmund. So, just as Van Morrison was ignored locally but very popular abroad, then Vintage Lorry Funerals business seems to have followed a similar pattern. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is now a Classic Album and Van now has worldwide acceptance, filling out concerts in the UK. Will Vintage Lorry Funerals business eventually follow that of the grumpy guru who snarls at the band, changing the order of songs with a wave of his hand?

Just as Brian Matthews, who hosts Sounds of the 60’s, says, ‘That’s your lot for this week, see you next week!’ David notices that a huge number of people are approaching all with their plastic bags which contain a programme and handouts provided by Jason’s staff at the gate. It is now time for David to take out his ear-plugs and meet the public.


A lot of people ask David for a price for their Funeral, however, to date there is only one example of a funeral directly emanating from contact at Malvern. A young man rang David one evening asking if David could help him solve a mystery, as he had found pictures of the 1950 Leyland Beaver on his Dad’s computer. When the young man described the Theme at the front of the deck and the display of pictures on the rear of the deck David could deduce that he met his Father at Malvern two years previously. On the strength of these discussions David was awarded a funeral in Birmingham.