Blog Archives: April 2016

Brighton calling

Saturday, 30 April 2016


Guest post from Cara Mair and Tora Colwill

Hello there! As long time fans of all things Good Funeral Guide we are excited to be featured here in the blog!

We are Brighton funeral directors Cara from Arka and Tora from The Modern Funeral, collaborating as The Brighton Death Festival to bring death interest events and to contribute to making the conversations around death and dying a little louder.

This year for Dying Matters Awareness Week, our event is being held on the afternoon of Saturday 14th May at The Extra Mural Chapel in the middle of the tomb trail on land managed by Brighton council. Since we’re in Brighton, and we are all seeking to find our own language for the conversation, we want to make it as open, fearless and interesting as we can. In a safe, beautiful setting, there will be tranquil spaces set aside for reflection and conversation and we’ve contacted a broad range of people with various talents to contribute to the day.

There will be information about funeral options, including demonstrations of how to make and decorate coffins. There will be musicians and poets to be discovered around the graveyard. A performance about death ritual within the chapel space has been designed to spark off thoughts about what happens to our bodies between the point of death and the funeral whatever shape that may take.

We want the afternoon to be a chance for likeminded people to come and share thoughts and plans that relate death and funerals  – and we’d love your contribution!

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more:

Tora 01273569 052

Cara 01273 621444

You can follow us on facebook:

Or find more information at

A not so quiet revolution

Friday, 22 April 2016


Guest post by Lucy Coulbert, owner of Coulbert Family Funerals and The Individual Funeral Company.

Lucy’s been invited back to Westminster next week. And she’d like your thoughts about what she’s planning to say.

In the aftermath of the Support for the bereaved enquiry, I was not only contacted by a lot of media agencies, but I have also been invited to a meeting with Baroness Altmann next week along with a further meeting with the DWP.

It is my understanding that they will be talking about the issues that have arisen as part of this enquiry and are looking for recommendations on how to make claiming easier.

We have to be very clear that we are talking about funerals for people who are applying to the DWP for financial help. Our recommendations are outlined below.

The enquiry suggested there should be an online checker for people applying to the DWP for financial help paying for a funeral to see if they are eligible. I happen to think this is a good idea.


They also suggested a list of funeral directors should then appear based on postcode with their prices. While in practice this is a good idea, you will never get a like for like quote as funeral directors bundle their charges in very different ways. So one funeral director may charge for the removal fee and hearse fee in one lump sum and others itemise each cost. Therefore, if you don’t want a traditional hearse, you are still paying the same charge.

I think to appear on this website, a few things should happen. The funeral industry has got to agree on what a “simple” funeral should be and that every funeral director should give a price for those services only.

The second thing that should happen should be that funeral directors have the option of opting in or opting out at least twice a year. Therefore, if a national chain are particularly busy in December for example, there should be an easy way to take themselves off the DWP website so the family don’t have to wait weeks longer than they have to for a funeral.

The third point I will be making is that the payment system has simply got to be improved. My recommendation is that there has to be a facility for the funeral director to email their invoice and it should be paid within 14 days of receiving it. That way, we can book the day and the time of the funeral and the family doesn’t have to find the deposit.

The fourth is that there absolutely must be accountability. The report heard of families who after telling arrangers in national chains that they were applying to the DWP for help, were still presented with bills between £5,000 – £6,000.

If you have said you will undertake a “simple” funeral for £1800 for example and then present a bill of £5,000 I think it is fair that the company would be barred from advertising their services on a government website.

I have spoken to funeral directors up and down the country who agree that the following encompasses a “simple funeral” and doesn’t marginalise small funeral directors or home funeral directors.

Professional services

A coffin

Removal of the person who has died

Taking care of the person who has died

An estate car to take the person to the crematorium or cemetery on the day of the funeral

A service in the crematorium or a graveside service at the cemetery

The appropriate number of bearers on the day of the funeral

We also think that the minister’s fee (vicar/celebrant/humanist) should be a disbursement as not all families want someone to take the service and the family want to do this themselves.

We have said an estate car because not every funeral director owns their own, more traditional hearse and it seems to be a trend that traditional hearses aren’t in favour at the moment.

This is our definition of a “simple” funeral and is what we would be proposing to both the Baroness and DWP.

However, I would personally like to take things a step further in light of the growing problem with funeral poverty. I would like to propose a national minimum funeral cost for a simple funeral as outlined above.

While I am all for a free market, the general public haven’t any idea of what a funeral costs. If you are on a low income and not necessarily in receipt of benefits, then what do they do? Still get into debt because they have been presented with a £5,000 invoice?

By having a national minimum, again, funeral directors can opt in or opt out of undertaking funerals for xxx price but at least families would know who they can do to for a funeral that is affordable to them.

Again, there has to be accountability if a funeral director was on some sort database and still gives someone an over inflated bill.

By recommending a national minimum, I genuinely think the funeral industry has done all it possibly can to help the public. From then on, the onus is on them to do their research.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t charge a fair price for our bespoke services. I know I certainly do because of the level of work involved for a bespoke funeral. If funeral directors don’t make a profit, we won’t survive to help more families. However, we simply must offer the funeral we know is affordable to the family that is sat in front of us worrying about a bill for thousands.

There are amazing funeral directors around the country already doing this, but not all.

The Government are looking very closely at funeral directors pricing costs and we need to be proactive. If we aren’t, legislation will soon follow. In fact, I think it is inevitable that it will and it is closer than we think. If we don’t do something significant now, perhaps it will be taken out of our hands.

If Government are looking at legislation, pricing and regulation you can be assured that your future and your business is going to be in the hands of the NAFD and SAIF. It is my personal belief that if we don’t band together now, that these trade associations will possibly try to marginalise home funeral directors, those without their own hearses, funeral directors who don’t hold a Dip.Fd  for example, but are amazing funeral directors.

So a few points then before I go into these meetings.

Am I on the right track with the DWP proposals?

How do you feel about a national minimum price?

Does my interpretation of a “simple funeral” marry with yours?

I will fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure the DWP system is easier for the people it was designed to help and we are paid a fair price for the work we do. I will also fight like a tiger against any legislation or regulation that marginalises the smaller funeral director or home funeral director but I am just one voice.

I already have a few behind me but how many more troops can we rally? If the only way we continue to have a voice and a seat at the table of these meetings, I will happily start a new funeral directors association….in fact, this is already in the pipeline and hope to tell you more about it next week.

An army of voices is always better than a lone one and I can’t keep talking for and on behalf of funeral directors like me if we aren’t all in it together.

So in the words of Susan B. Anthony – “Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”

What do you think?

Why do funeral workers creep people out?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Screenshot 2016-04-19 at 10


Everyone in the death business knows what normal people think of them. They are reminded of it every time they’re asked what they do for a living. I often lie. Perhaps you do, too, sometimes.

A freshly published academic study titled On The Nature Of Creepiness offers us, perhaps, some insights into this unflattering characteristic commonly ascribed to deathworkers – alongside avarice, weirdness, morbidity, shiftiness, cunning, lizard complexion, predation, formaldehyde breath, yellow fingernails, hollow chuckling, inability to meet your eye, etc.

If deathworkers absorb the lessons of this study they may be able in some way to mitigate the adverse esteem in which they are held. It’s called image management.

Here are the headline findings of the study:

1) The perception of creepiness is a response to the ambiguity of threat. Males are more physically threatening to people of both sexes than are females

2) We are placed on our guard by people who are drawn to occupations that reflect a fascination with death or unusual sexual behavior. People who have hobbies that involve collecting things that we are predisposed as a species to fear such as spiders and snakes or things that can only be acquired after something has died (e.g., skulls or bodies to be stuffed) seem creepy to us as well.

3) We do not necessarily assume ill intentions from people who are creepy, although we may still worry that they are dangerous.

I was going to conclude that I have met very few people in the death trade who I’d regard as being remotely  until I read this: Most of our subjects believed that creepy people cannot change, and only a small minority of our subjects (8.6%) believed that creepy people are aware that they are creepy.


Jolly nice cars for sale

Tuesday, 19 April 2016



ED SAYS: The phone rang. It was Chris from Gowrings. Did we want to buy a big black limousine? No, we said, the new boss has just bought herself a Maserati and the rest of us still take the bus. But we felt for Chris, ringing FD after FD looking for a good home for his vehicles, so we said we’d help him out by posting them here. We’re not endorsing them, nor are we taking a cut of the sale price. We’re just nice.

Chris says:

We have 3 new vehicles for sale at discounted pricing for Funeral Directors.


List price £ 18365 NOW £ 15995 a saving of £ 2370 including deposit contribution and must be on FORD CREDIT AT 2.9% APR.


List price £ 24,445 NOW £ 19995 a saving of £ 4450 including deposit contribution and must be on FORD CREDIT AT 2.9% APR.


ACTIVE PARK ASSIST, List Price £ 26805 NOW £ 24155 a saving of £ 2650 including deposit contribution and must be on FORD CREDIT AT 2.9% APR.

For all enquiries please contact Chris on 01635 555300


NDC birthday party

Monday, 18 April 2016

Nicholas portrait 2000 by M.Edwards
Nicholas Albery, founder of the Natural Death Centre
 By Josefine Speyer
The Natural Death Centre was 25 years old on 14 April 2016!
Celebrating this event with two Natural Death Salons to benefit the NDC.
There are still places at the next Natural Death Salon on Sunday 8 May. We will be showing the documentary film Death Makes Life Possible with Marilyn Schlitz and Deepak Chopra, including Rupert Sheldrake and many others, followed by a celebratory Death Cafe, which means conversation about death and including issues raised by the film etc. accompanied by delicious teas, coffee and cakes. We ask for a donation of £30. If you cannot afford it, do get in touch as we do not want you to miss out on this wonderful event. For booking and more info contact me. Places are limited. See flier attached. There will be a second benefit Salon on Sunday 19 June, with Rosie Inman-Cook of the NDC and others, which will be more of a party, celebrating NDC’s story so far and looking to the future. More info on this later.
I am so proud of everyone who has become involved in the natural death movement to bring back power to the people and embrace death as part of life, the place it should have. I believe it is to the benefit of everyone, but perhaps not to the big funeral companies who wish to have their pockets lined by families in distress who are unaware of what choices there are and do not realise there is another way than the Victorian way.  Bring on the 21st century!!!
And thank you to Nicholas, social inventor, writer, editor, poet, activist and mentor for all his work in setting up and running the Natural Death Centre, the Association of Natural Burial Grounds and all his inspiration. Wish he were here to see how massive the movement has become and what impact the Natural Death Centre charity and the Natural Death Handbook have had, not just in the UK, but worldwide! A major toast to everyone who has been involved in the past and is involved now! and everyone who has benefitted!! xx I also love the work of the Home Funeral Network, The Good Funeral Guide, Death Cafe, Dying Matters etc. etc. I could go on, the list is long and growing! xx Thanks to everyone! It is a great legacy to be part of.
Please support the Natural Death Centre it help continue its work!

ED SAYS: You can download the flyer for these events here – NDSalon


Save the date!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Good Funeral Awards 2016

The poshest knees-up for the UK funeral industry is moving to central London. The Good Funeral Awards 2016 promises to be the biggest yet. We’ll be at the grand Porchester Hall in Bayswater for the lunch and ceremony on Thursday 8 September.

Booking a room overnight won’t be necessary. The idea is that most people can afford to get into London for the day. And, as in Hollywood, different groups will be able to organise after-parties in neighbouring venues. Or stay on at Porchester Hall where the bar will be open for the evening.

Click here to buy your early-bird tickets now.

Nominations are now open

We’ve responded to your requests and we’ve increased the number of categories in the funeral awards.

Conscious of the need to accommodate old school/ new school rivalries, we’ve done our best to shape things to respect all parties.

Last year we were swamped with nominations. It took a long time to work out the worthy winners.

This year we’re asking for a lot more information about your businesses because we want to be able to tell the stories of the winners and make the most of the media interest in the awards.

There is a £20 charge to enter for most categories and we’ll use this money to add some razzmatazz to the ceremony. You have until 14 July to submit a nomination – see here for details and entry forms.

Sponsors and exhibitors

Since this is our fifth year, we’re getting better at knowing how to promote those people who support our event. If you’d like to get your business talked about by associating with the Good Funeral Awards click here.

And if you’re interested in being one of our limited number of exhibitors in Porchester Hall for the day please contact as soon as possible for more information.


Why am I still here?

Friday, 15 April 2016


When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

First there was the cancer diary. Nigella Lawson’s husband John Diamond wrote one, you remember. Since the advent of the self-published blog countless people have died out loud.

Next, boomers started writing about the slow and distressing decline of their parents. You’ll find an example here.

Now those boomers are old enough to write about their own dissolution and are doing so to debunk the myth that too-long life is an unmitigated good thing. In last week’s Spectator magazine Stewart Dakers (77), reflecting that the reaper has changed from terminator to tormentor, dwelt on the horrors of longevity with both dread and splendid prose. Here are just a few extracts:

The existential reality of decline is aggravated by the prospect of total physical and cognitive disintegration, the details of which are well known to us, so we live in physical discomfort and mental terror. Old age has graduated into a form of pre-traumatic stress disorder.

We are a waste of space on a seriously overcrowded planet. We are in the way and those who are most impeded are the young. We can see this and are, of course, ashamed of ourselves.

My advice to young people is simple. Eat, drink, even smoke, and be generally merry, because that way you might be spared too many days of misery for yourself and your friends and family. Live short and prosper.

Old-age rational suicide will be with us any day now, just you see.

But on a happier note…

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Observer 14th April 1991

DEATH, says Nicholas Albery between mouthfuls of Neapolitan ice cream, really ought to be a better experience all around.

‘For everyone involved, I mean. Not only for the dying person, but for the relatives too.’

Twenty five years ago today, on 14th April 1991, journalist Joanna Moorhead opened her article in The Observer with these words and a whole new concept was born.

The Natural Death Centre emerged blinking into the light, birthed from the minds of the brilliant and irreplaceable social inventor Nicholas Albery and his psychotherapist wife Josefine Speyer who, together with co-director Christianne Heal, wanted to launch a natural death movement ‘to provoke as much of a revolution as the natural childbirth movement had done in the 1980’s’.

They had three aims in mind –

  • To help break the taboo around dying and death, and to make it a natural topic to discuss over dinner.
  • To bring the dying person back to the centre of proceedings and enable them to die at home if they so wished.
  • To empower people and make them aware of their legal rights and choices, taking the power away from institutions.

Quarter of a century on the vision and passion that created the NDC, that spark of inspiration, has been passed on like a baton in a relay to hundreds and thousands of people around the world.

The natural death movement is international, hundreds of natural burial grounds have opened around the UK and in the USA, the iconic Natural Death Handbook is in its fifth edition and serves as the one must-read for anyone with an interest in dying, death and funerals. Death midwifery, the Death Cafe movement, Dying Matters, bespoke undertakers, home funerals – our society is moving forwards in the direction that Nicholas was trying to steer us in – although probably nowhere near as fast as he would have liked. Maybe in another 25 years we’ll be closer to death really being ‘a better experience all round’.

Here at GFG Towers we owe an immense debt to the founders of the NDC. We can truthfully say that we wouldn’t be here without them. Not one of us. And very possibly nor would many of the readers of this blog.

Happy 25th birthday NDC. We hope there is much cake and celebration at the bunker today. And Neapolitan ice cream.

Raise a glass to Nicholas’s memory from all of us. And keep up the good work.

Bet his is bigger than yours

Thursday, 14 April 2016



Dignity’s figures are out. All going swimmingly, obviously. Mike McCollum looking good on his salary of £50K a week.

Find the report here.

Repairing the dead

Saturday, 9 April 2016

travelers 2



In Shanghai a funeral home has started using 3D printing technology to replicate parts of the face of a dead person whose head has been badly smashed and disfigured.

Chinese people reckon it to be of paramount importance to present a dead person at their funeral looking good.

The 3D printing process is reckoned to achieve at least 95 per cent resemblance. It is achieved by scanning a photo of the dead person and taking a 3D scan of their head. The new part is then printed and slotted in. The printer can reproduce hair and even a moustache.

It takes hours to do this. Conventional reconstruction using wax and clay can take days.

The value of embalming is hotly debated, the value of reconstruction not so. The value of being able to present to parents the reconstructed features of a child who has died violently is inestimable. The skills of the best embalmer-reconstructers are marvellous, their dedication amazing.

They could soon find themselves being superceded by a soulless machine.







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