The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Together in electric dreams

Monday, 30 May 2016

Brahms EcoHearse

We have seen the future and it’s electric.

Back in 2013 we told you about the Brahms electric hearse, the highlight for us of that year’s National Funeral Exhibition.

http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/2013/06/peaceful-ev-feeling/

Three years on, we dropped in on Steve Cousins yesterday to see how business was going. He’s a man who doesn’t give up, even when faced with an implacable wall of disinterest from the funeral industry. Other than Leverton and Sons of course, who have been running their Eco-Hearse and accompanying passenger Eco-car around London for some time. Over 10,000 miles worth of funeral travel in fact. Have a look. http://www.levertons.co.uk/#!eco-hearse/c1ofy

Why aren’t funeral directors flocking to follow suit? Steve doesn’t know. But he’s not deterred. He’s introduced a hire option for funeral directors who don’t want to commit to purchasing one of these really lovely little cars – although at under £30,000 purchase price for a fully fitted converted Nissan Leaf with a walnut motorised deck and additional safety features the price sits quite nicely in comparison with the circa £135,000 for a traditional style gas guzzler…

Oh, and there’s obviously no gas guzzling with an Eco-hearse. Just a recharge of the battery every 80 miles or so. So the running costs are next to nothing in comparison. And the silent glide with no engine noise is just perfect for arriving at a funeral.

We loved the compact size of the Eco-hearse. It’s more intimate, less showy, a really elegant little car, with beautifully thought through adaptations to enable it to function as a hearse. The tilting deck lowers the foot of the coffin so that the driver can see safely out through the glass where the passenger window would have been – now replaced by a sweeping curve of side glass, which allows the entire coffin to be seen as the car goes by.

Maybe FDs are worried about the performance we thought? So we asked an expert driver to take it for a test run. The GFG Stig had never driven an electric car before, but having quizzed Steve and his colleague Andrew in detail about the design and development, he set off for a trial ride – and came back smiling. “Handles very nicely,” said our Stig, “It’s solidly built, the weight of the battery under the floor keeps it sitting beautifully on the road and the tilting deck means there’s good visibility with a coffin in place. And there’s a lovely little turbo whistle just audible as you go along. I like it a lot.”

He liked it so much that he did a few 0-60 accelerations to check the power, and reported back a surprising 10 seconds to achieve that speed. We pointed out that this probably wasn’t high on the criteria of funeral fleet managers when considering a new hearse, but he’d had so much fun that we let him off.

So come on all you funeral directors out there. What’s stopping you from getting an electric hearse? We can’t see any good reason why they aren’t a regular sight queuing silently up crematoria drives. Tell us why they’re not?

Or tell Steve Cousins. He’d love to know. See the Brahms website here for his contact details: www.brahmselectricvehicles.co.uk

 

August Equity out, Montagu Private Equity in. Your local funeral directors.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 17.19.47

Thanks to Robert De Baahr from the London Society of Death for bringing this to our attention – from Insider Media Ltd.

‘European private equity firm Montagu has acquired a majority stake in a Berkshire-headquartered funeral services provider which has more than 130 branches throughout the country.

Founded in 2007 by chief executive Phillip Greenfield, Funeral Services Partnership (FSP) is the third largest provider in the UK. The Reading-headquartered company employees about 500 staff and oversees 10,500 funerals per year.

FSP’s model is based on acquiring independent funeral directors and putting in “investment, training and improved processes”.

Montagu will partner with Phillip Greenfield and his management team to grow the business by making further acquisitions and through organic expansion.

Greenfield said: “We want to continue to grow our presence in the UK market and we are confident that Montagu will be great partners given their previous experience of the sector. We look forward to working with Alex and the team going forward.”

Alex Dabbous, director at Montagu, added: “We are proud to be investing in FSP, a strong brand name in a sector we know well. FSP provides important and essential services, and we will work hard with Phillip and his team to help build the business further in the years to come.”

The financial details of the deal were undisclosed.’

The modern funeral is a grief-bypass procedure?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Fairy-Plant-a-Flower-Coloring-Pages

 

Stewart Dakers is a 76 year-old voluntary community worker with a weekly column in the Guardian. He wrote a piece in last week’s Spectator about funerals. Here’s a taster:

Funerals ain’t what they used to be. Today’s emphasis is more on celebrating a life past than honouring the future of a soul. While I am not averse to a celebratory element, the funeral is morphing into a spiritually weightless bless-fest. This was brought home to me last week at the funeral of Enid, a lady I knew only through our mutual attendance at bingo in the community centre.

I was uncomfortable from the moment we gathered outside the church, where my sombre suit set me apart from the Technicolor crowd of family and friends. The atmosphere was more akin to a wedding, even a hen do, than a funeral, the air drenched in perfume and aftershave. Inside, there was pew-to-pew chatter, wall-to-wall music (Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’, inevitably), not a single moment of silence, and not a single sacred song, let alone a prayer (an inaccurately mumbled Lord’s Prayer excepted). There were two readings, one by a grand-niece of perhaps eight, snivelling, bless, a poem about being only next door; then a nephew offering a eulogy, the main point of which was that his aunt had been a keen gardener ‘and she will plant her flowers in heaven’.

I know I shouldn’t sneer. Religion, the Anglican version anyhow, is a broad church with a wide liturgical spectrum. But I could not help feeling that such celebration missed the point. It somehow connected with a virtual life rather than a real death. It was spiritual displacement activity.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

 

Keeping an eye on the costs

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Pile of Twenty Pound and Five Pound Notes. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.
Hats off to independent funeral booking website Funeralbooker for publishing their findings on the costs of funeral disbursements.
 
Funeral poverty shows no sign of abating as new data reveals the most expensive crematoria and cemeteries in the UK
 
Key points:
 
THE COST OF DYING CONTINUES TO RISE.
 
NEW DATA REVEALS THE SOUTH OF ENGLAND IS ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE PLACES TO BE CREMATED OR BURIED IN THE UK.
 
MASSIVE INCREASE IN COSTS YEAR ON YEAR ASSOCIATED WITH LOCAL AUTHORITY OWNED CREMATORIA AND CEMETERIES.
 
Beckenham in Kent; Crawley and Chichester in West Sussex; Leatherhead in Surrey and Nuneaton in Warwickshire all tie for first place as the locations of the most expensive crematoria in the UK – with cremation costing a staggering £956.
 
The cheapest place to be cremated in the UK is the City of Belfast Crematorium, where it costs just £364.
 
Prices are set by local councils for public facilities or by private companies, like Dignity PLC, for the privately owned  ones.
 
Around one third of the entire cost of a funeral is for cremation; around half if a burial is opted for.
 
They have collated the costs of every cemetery and crematorium for 2015 and 2016 and produced four data-sets with searchable maps.
 
When it comes to burial, London takes the top slot, with four cemeteries in Wandsworth all charging £4,561 apiece.
 
Northern Ireland again is the cheapest place in the UK to be buried.
 
There have also been massive, above-inflation rises in costs for both burial and cremation.  At Crownhill crematorium in Milton Keynes, prices have risen by 29.7%, year on year. The crematorium is owned by the local authority, as are the other crematoria on the list with the largest price rises.
 
It’s the same story when it comes to burials. North Watford Cemetery in London tops the list with prices increasing by 49.1% this year compared to 2015.
 
“Cuts in council funding may mean that many councils are turning to crematoriums and cemeteries to balance the books –  these price increases could be a hidden cost of austerity” said James Dunn, the co-founder of Funeralbooker.
 
 
FOR FULL DATA AND SEARCHABLE MAPS SEE:
 
 
2016 UK Burial Cost % increases from 2015
https://funeralbooker.com/resources/uk-burial-costs-rises-2016
 
 
2016 UK Cremation Cost % increases from 2015
https://funeralbooker.com/resources/uk-cremation-costs-rises-2016
 

Introducing the Pebblewood Urn

Sunday, 15 May 2016

IMG_1320s

 

Davina Kemble’s pebblewood coffin was unveiled at the Ideal Death Show 2013. Reviews were mixed. Some undertakers thought it would be impossible to persuade a dead person to conform to its rounded shape; others reckoned there was no problem. Since then, Davina’s partnership with her manufacturer reached a conclusion, but she’s carried on working away at it and a full-size pebble-shaped coffin will soon be on the market.

In the meantime, she has just launched her pebble-shaped ashes urn. It is taking off nicely. She is selling direct to the public through Etsy – here – and of course she’d be pleased to hear from discerning undertakers. Davina’s website is here and her Facebook page here.

Hats off to Davina. She’s stuck the course – she’s done what she’s had to do and seen it through without exemption, etc. There have been forbidding lows that would have done for most of us.

Here at the GFG-Batesville Shard the consensus is that Davina’s pebble urns are rare and lovely. We hope you like them, too.

How to stay alive after you’re dead

Friday, 13 May 2016

Loggacy 14

 

Posted by Thomas Staley

“All living things seek to perpetuate themselves into the future, but humans seek to perpetuate themselves forever. This seeking – this will to ‘immortality’ – is the foundation of human achievement; it is the wellspring of religion, the muse of philosophy, the architect of our cities and the impulse behind the arts. It is embedded in our very nature” Stephen Cave

So if it is embedded in our nature, what potential do we have to perpetuate ourselves as humans in the 21st century?

In 2011 Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov employed leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems, proposing the transfer of personality to an advanced non-biological carrier at the end of an individual’s natural lifetime. The ultimate objective of this project is the development of a hologram-like avatar with an artificial brain to which human personality is transferred.

Whilst many remain sceptical, and are concerned by the ethical implications of such technological developments, our physical presence in this world remains limited, for the time being, and is set to remain indefinitely so.

This is why the emergence of online digital legacy tools, that provide us with the opportunity to record our lives online and leave an everlasting legacy, provide a meaningful solution to the aforementioned conundrum concerning ‘immortality’.

Such tools have the potential to capture every aspect of our lives, enabling future generations to obtain a complete understanding of who we truly are; including what we achieved, the values we upheld, the causes we represented, and what we held dearest during our time on this earth.

Loggacy is one such digital legacy tool; founded with the intention of connecting generations of family and friends, so that our most precious memories and experiences may be preserved perpetually.

Loggacy was very much born from a personal desire to never be forgotten, as I find it a sad reality that I am only able to remember my ancestors through snippets of physical information, such as photographs or writings that were supplemented by short narratives from living relatives. I hope that my vision now means that when I pass this won’t be the case, and that my children, grandchildren and beyond will be able to learn about everything that I embodied throughout the course of my lifetime.

I contend that this feeling extends well beyond myself, and indeed, I believe that there is an innate human desire within us all to create a personal narrative, to leave something behind, to pass something on and make a mark on this world; which is as much future-oriented as it is an immersion in the past.

As such I created a platform that is available for all to use; because it is a fundamental right to be remembered, to achieve some form of immortality.

The beauty of the tool is that the account provided by Loggacy is yours to control, manage and share; and therefore you determine exactly what people learn about you and what they are subsequently able to remember you by. Whether it be detailing a romantic getaway, your wedding or your child’s first steps, Loggacy welcomes you to create a log documenting your life from birth through to the present day and share it only with those most precious to you.

Many of us make plans for end of life, whether it be in the form of a funeral or pension plan, but little emphasis is currently placed on how we may utilise technology to record our lives, and as such, preserve our legacies. I intend to change this through the creation of a safe, secure and intuitive platform that allows users to record the most poignant moments of their life; so that future generations may truly know and understand their heritage.

Regardless of how seemingly menial our personal stories or achievements may appear to us on an individual level, we all have memories and experiences that are of interest to others and it’s important that these endure.

I therefore encourage you to consider what you might want your legacy to be, and record it with Loggacy; so that we may all stand the test of time, and satisfy man kinds perennial quest for immortality…

Loggacy_Logo

 

 

Nice work if you can get it

Monday, 9 May 2016

 

butler-404_679579c

 

Here’s an attractive sounding job spec for someone considering a career as a funeral director:

It’s providing the service that leaves a lasting impression.

It’s being encouraged to gain new skills. And it’s delivering extraordinary service…

Joining our talented team, you’ll provide a … service to an exceptional standard, both front-of-house and behind-the-scenes.

You’ll prepare for and support functions of all scales. 

Preparations back-of-house will be a big part of your role. 

And front-of-house, you’ll welcome and take care of guests…

You’ll be proud to play your part … as well as supporting some truly spectacular events.

In an environment where development and training is commonplace, you’ll be supported to achieve an accredited … qualification too.

You’ll … challenge yourself to deliver to the highest standard every day. 

Previous … experience is not essential, but you will need to be committed to developing a career in the industry.

It’ll be hard work and there will be a lot to learn, but you’ll be supported every step of the way. You’ll therefore need a proactive approach, a desire to learn and eagerness to tackle new challenges.

You’ll have outstanding team working and time management skills, and you’ll understand the need for these in delivering an overall smooth and efficient service.

Polite, friendly and approachable to all, you can naturally adapt your communication style to suit different situations.

With an eye for detail, you aim for and achieve the highest standards in all that you do.

Thinking of applying? One small snag. This is a job description for a trainee butler at Buckingham Palace. We have always felt, here at the GFG, that there’s a close affinity between undertaking and domestic service.

The soft bigotry of low expectations

Friday, 6 May 2016

keep-calm-and-ctrl-c-ctrl-v-2

 

Posted by May Andrews

“If we can just get through this, then we can get on with our lives.”

I’ve heard it so many times, in so many different ways, but it all boils down to this: many families perceive a funeral to be something they must endure, an unpleasant trial, which they must ‘get out of the way’ before the real process of healing can begin.

And we can’t really blame them. There remains a taboo around death, such that, when called upon to confront it, people still feel a sense of existential discomfort, as if they have stepped onto forbidden soil. As a celebrant, I see it almost every day: the apprehension in the faces of the guests who have just entered the chapel. What is going to happen? To whom has our loved one been entrusted? How should I behave?

If I can break through that dreadful self-awareness and allow each guest to experience a personal journey of memories and acceptance, both of the death and of their grief, then I have done my job.

Yet there are days when I feel I struggle against another great barrier – one that has developed out of this sense that, in a secular world, funerals are no more than trial and tribulation. And that barrier is low expectation.

I meet often with families who shrug and say, “oh, he’d have been happiest if we’d just wrapped him up and chucked him in the ground.” “He always said, once you’re dead, you’re dead.” And other such comments in this vein, usually suggesting that the family are enduring the funeral out of a sense of appropriate etiquette. The ritual has ceased to have meaning and, as such, I am often asked to ‘get it over with as quickly as possible.’

If that is what people want then that is what I shall give them, but more often than not, I find that, once we begin, families find solace, not only in the ceremony itself but in its creation and planning. Seeing them discover this very often gives me a renewed faith in what I do.

On the other hand, I am aware that, if the public continue to have a broad belief that the content of the ceremony is of less importance than getting it done, then our industry has a problem. If the public expect empty ritual, then on the occasions that they ARE confronted with empty ritual, they are far less likely to complain. As such, unlike any other industry, the funeral industry has less motivation to change, evolve and improve. One only has to look at the sharp increase in direct cremations to see where this might lead.

There are celebrants out there who use cut and paste services and only change the name of the deceased. There are celebrants who don’t even take the time to visit the family. There are also excellent celebrants who go above and beyond. But while public expectations from a funeral are low, there will remain little incentive to weed out those of a poorer quality. By way of example, I can paraphrase from a private online group (luckily this celebrant was in the US, so I can but hope they are not representative of the UK): “I always write weddings from scratch, but funerals? I don’t have time for those. I just change the name.”

I use this example because it points to a vast divide in public attitude to tradition and ritual. People rarely just want to get weddings over and done with! They are an important rite of passage, and a time of celebration.

…Which brings me back to my very first quote, “If we can just get through this, then we can get on with our lives.”

The key is in these words, which upon first glance, seem so negative, so lacking in expectations. Yet they are key to understanding, not only what people need from a funeral, but the standards to which the industry needs to aspire, in order to rid itself of the idea that what we do is merely proper etiquette.

As celebrants, we have a responsibility to show people that they need not be passive observers of an empty ritual, but if a funeral is done right, they will be active participants in the very process that allows them to ‘get on with [their] lives,’ by helping them to manage and accept the changes that the death of a loved one can bring.

Don’t miss this!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Thinking Outside the Box

Brighton looks like the place to be for anyone with half an interest in funeralworld this May – GFG favourite Liz Rothschild is performing her one-woman show Outside The Box at the Brighton Fringe Festival from May 14th – 17th.

Billed as ‘A live show about death’, Outside The Box is a spoken word performance of stories collected from life’s finish-line by Liz, a performer, celebrant and manager of Cemetery of the Year 2015, Westmill Woodland Burial Ground.

The promotional flyer reads ‘This groundbreaking show combines mercurial tales and miraculous truths with a hint of history and some pithy commentary on the funeral industry (from one who knows). And there is a chance to share the conversation and add your stories to the show’s repertoire as Liz takes it round the country this year and next.’

At GFG Towers we have seen the script – and booked our tickets! If you can make it along to Village in Islingword Road to see Liz, come and join us – tickets are £8 each and available from the Fringe Box Office here 

If you can’t get to Brighton but would be interested in working with Liz to put on a performance of Outside the Box in your area contact here here

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