The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Anatomical Pathology Technician of the Year 2017

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

This category had one of the smaller number of finalists, something that the judges found disappointing because the work carried out by APTs is so important.

What goes on behind the mortuary doors is clearly still something of a mystery, but the runner up and winner this year are both working hard to change this.

The runner up will become fully qualified this month, but she already has extensive experience, not least with the work involved with the victims of the Westminster Bridge and the London Bridge terrorist attacks earlier this year.

The winner has many years experience in the mortuary, and is now Anatomy Laboratory Manager as well as a forensic consultant. She is an expert in decomposition and the preservation of human remains. She is passionate about passing on her knowledge to the thousands of students she encounters, and also lectures for the public, along with the many other aspects of her work.

The winner is Dr. Wendy Birch

Runner up: Lara-Rose Iredale


Photograph by Jayne Lloyd

Category Sponsor: Funeral Zone

The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations

Doula of the Year 2017

Monday, 18 September 2017

Introduced for the first time this year, the Doula of the Year category is intended to acknowledge the invaluable work done with people approaching the end of their life by those trained as end of life doulas and soul midwives.

End of life doulas are non-medical individuals, who help those who are dying and their families to feel safe and supported as they make the transition from this life to whatever is next.

With just five entries for this category, the judges felt that each of these people deserved recognition for this very important work which so often is unknown or unnoticed. By its very nature, supporting the dying is not work that is likely to elicit testimonials from clients, nor do doulas generally seek acclaim for what they do, the reward is in knowing they have helped make a difference at one of life’s greatest moments, both to the dying person and to those left behind.

For this reason, the four runners up as Doula of the Year have been named as Lizzie Neville, Nett Furley, Jane Henderson and Anna Lyons, with the winner in this category being Felicity Warner, founder of The Soul Midwives School for her additional work training others in this unique work.


The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations

Most Helpful Funeral Advice Website 2017

Sunday, 17 September 2017

            Nelson’s Journey receiving their award

This year there were nine contenders for this award, illustrating the growth in useful information available for bereaved people on the internet.

The judges decided that, while price comparison sites and information sites about options available for funerals are all welcome contenders as finalists, this year they wanted to acknowledge two more specifically tailored sites for their work.

The runner up in this category is a not for profit organisation run by volunteers for a particular group in our society, offering full access to a specialist support network both before death occurs and at the time of bereavement. With around 50,000 visits to the website each year, this service is growing rapidly and serving the needs of many veteran’s families around the UK.

The winner in this category is an innovative platform created by a charity that is designed to enable bereaved young people to have a safe place to remember the person who died, as well as addressing their feelings and emotions. This is hugely valuable, and will undoubtedly have a real impact on the emotional health and wellbeing of thousands of young people worldwide.

The winner is Nelson’s Journey Youth Panel’s Smartphone APP  

Runner up: Veterans Bereavement Support Services


Photograph by Jayne Lloyd

Category Sponsor: Much Loved

The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations

Best Death Related Public Engagement Event 2017

Saturday, 16 September 2017


Anna Lyons & Louise Winter from Life, Death, Whatever with Annabel de Vetten-Peterson from BrumYODO

Another popular category, this year there were 13 finalists reflecting death related events from around the country.

It is wonderful to see such diverse and creative ways of encouraging conversation about death in the public domain, and the judges were encouraged to hear about such innovative projects.

Again, we ended up with two joint winners, chosen this time because the judges could not decide between them. Both events reached large numbers of people, both were creative and inspirational, and both deserve recognition for their ground-breaking impact of bringing the subject of death to public spaces in a non-threatening, stimulating way.

The runner up in this category was an event that reached a smaller number of people with a more specific remit, but the content of the day will have resulted in spreading valuable information to communities around the country.

The joint winners are Life, Death, Whatever and BrumYODO

Runner up: Home Funeral Network for the Funerals to Die For conference.


Photograph by Jayne Lloyd

The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations

Special Award for Innovation 2017

Friday, 15 September 2017

‘The judges decided to introduce an additional award not listed as a category in the 2017 awards, in response to an entry for the Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death.

This award is going to a product which, in the judges’ opinion, will impact positively on the experience of bereaved families by encouraging much closer involvement in the design and creation of the coffin.

This product has been designed to bring family members and close friends together in the shared experience of directly participating in the design and creation of a truly personalised coffin.

It turns the coffin into a focal point for celebrating the life of the deceased and enables a far greater number of people to come together to contribute to the final appearance of the coffin.

We feel that this new concept in coffin design will bring about really positive benefits for those families who choose it, and applaud the insight and innovation of those behind it.

This award is going to J. C. Atkinson for the Pathway coffin


Photograph by Jayne Lloyd

The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations


The Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death 2017

Thursday, 14 September 2017

  Photograph by Jayne Lloyd

While it might look like there is a serious game of ‘swapsies’ happening here, the joint winners of The Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death Award 2017 (Lucy Coulbert, left and Liz Rothschild, right) are actually making sure they receive the correct statue from presenter Louise Winter.

From ‘The Judges’ Decisions’:

With 18 finalists, comprising people, projects, organisations and events, this was a particularly difficult category to judge. We finally decided that we would make a joint award to two individuals, both of whom have been outstanding for their dedication to changing perception of death, albeit in very different ways with the runner up chosen for the impact they have had on communities in Scotland.

Our first winner has spent years challenging the biggest taboo in our society through her work in many different fields; celebrancy, creating events, organising festivals, running death cafes, teaching, performing and at the same time managing a natural burial ground. Her one-woman show has reached thousands of people, provoking thought, discussion and change in attitude.

Our second winner has set herself the task of cutting through the c**p and reaching the decision makers in government to try and drive change to the current, inadequate support for families needing financial assistance with funerals. Her experience of helping people on benefits and her straight talking approach has earned her the respect of all of those she encounters.”

This year’s joint winners are Liz Rothschild and Lucy Coulbert

Runner up: Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief – It Takes a Village



The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations





The judges would like to say…

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


Miniature coffins provided by the generous sponsor of this year’s awards, Greenfield Creations 

Photograph by Jayne Lloyd. 

Over the next week or two,we’ll be publishing on this blog the reasons for the judges’ decisions in choosing the winners and runners up in the 2017 Good Funeral Awards.

We’re starting off today with a word from the judges in their introduction to the announcements:

With an overwhelming number of nominations, entries and supporting testimonials, the 2017 awards have been even more difficult to judge than in previous years. This year, many categories have ten, twenty or even more finalists, and each one is deserving of congratulation.

It is a thankless task to select the most deserving winners from so many outstanding entries, as we know that in doing so we are disappointing so many, so we apologise in advance to those of you who won’t be leaving today with a statue and a certificate.

The whole process has been extraordinarily difficult and involved long discussion and deliberation before we arrived at our decisions.

We are confident that those who have won an award today are deserving of it, but we would like to say on record that we have been immensely impressed by the calibre of all the entries we have read.

All the finalists in this year’s Good Funeral Awards deserve an accolade, so on behalf of the families that you serve, we would like to thank you all for what you do.

Standing ovation at The Good Funeral Awards

Monday, 11 September 2017


The former editor of the GFG, Louise Winter, brought the packed room at Porchester Hall to their feet at the close of the 2017 Good Funeral Awards with a powerful emotional tribute to the late Jon Underwood.

Everyone present joined in a standing ovation in recognition of Jon’s pioneering work in starting the Death Cafe movement, and in honour of the memory of an unassuming, gentle man who was an example to us all.

Jon’s sister, Jools Barsky, bravely took to the stage to accept the award for Outstanding Contribution to Society on Jon’s behalf in an emotional ending to this year’s honours list.

In response to a number of requests, we are proud to share Louise’s words with you below.

On Tuesday 27th June, Jon Underwood did not pass away; he died – that difference in wording is an important distinction that Jon would have wanted us all to make; his work with Death Cafe helped to reclaim the words death and dying and placed importance on us all being unafraid of using the actual words and not speaking in euphemisms. 
Jon brought together tens of thousands of people who began to talk openly and honestly about one of life’s toughest subjects, over tea and cake. 
Since the first Death Cafe was held in Jon’s front room in Hackney in 2011, there have been over 5000 Death Cafes in over 50 countries. Death Cafe has received unprecedented press coverage including the front page of the New York Times, Woman’s Hour, BBC Breakfast News and pretty much every other major news outlet around the world. 
Jon also painstakingly built and managed Funeral Advisor in association with the Natural Death Centre Charity and worked on many projects for Dying Matters. 
My colleagues in the death and dying profession, including so many of the people in this room, have been devastated by Jon’s untimely death. We are honoured that we were able to call him both a colleague and a friend. 
In the beautiful setting of the Jamyang Buddhist Centre and with the generosity and creativity of some of the 
people in this room today – including Hasina, Allistair and Sarah from Compassionate Funerals, the team at Ecoffins, Andrew and Steve from Brahm’s Electric Hearse and the members of the Good Funeral Guild who carried Jon’s coffin, Jon’s funeral ceremony took place on Thursday 6th July. It had been Jon’s dream to hold 
funerals at the centre and with an irony he would have relished, his was the first. 
A perfect reflection of Jon, his funeral was brave, pioneering and groundbreaking. 
Jon was a source of invaluable advice, support and encouragement to everyone in the fields of death and dying, always generous with himself and his resources. He was one of the good guys – the most genuine, well intentioned, humble, kind hearted and gentle person, both professionally and personally. 
He was a mix of quiet determination, loving kindness, extreme modesty and belief in the importance of the work he was doing as a self-confessed death activist. His commitment to making the world a better place 
through his work was unwavering. 
Since 2011, Jon funded Death Cafe entirely through his own personal savings and small freelance 
projects. He had recently begun trying to fundraise so he could pay his bills and support his family. 
As a community, we wanted to support Jon’s young children, Frank and Gina, and set up a JustGiving page 
in his memory. We’ll be auctioning the infamous gold cake at the end of today’s awards ceremony, and all 
proceeds will go directly to Jon’s family. 
So in Jon’s own words: “I’m motivated to do this work because I believe that engaging with death is both important and overlooked. My experience tells me that death can play a role in helping us enjoy life. I also believe that focusing on death can play a part in helping us get to grips with some big challenges – like supporting older people, climate change, a broken economic system and chronic global inequality. This may not 
immediately make sense but if we can face up to death we can face up to anything. I am very proud of 
my work – I don’t think there has ever been anything quite like it!”
On behalf of everyone here today, the wider death and dying community and Death Cafe hosts and 
attendees all over the world, I’d like to ask Jon’s sister Jools Barsky to collect an award in Jon’s honour – the Good Funeral Award for Outstanding Service to Society.”

The Good Funeral Awards 2017 Winners

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Good Funeral Awards 2017 sponsored by Greenfield Creations

The winners of this year’s Death Oscars were announced at the glittering awards ceremony in London today.


Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death

Joint Winners: Liz Rothschild and Lucy Coulbert

Runner Up: Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief – It Takes a Village.


Supplementary Award for Innovation

J.C. Atkinson for the Pathway coffin


Best Death Related Public Engagement Event

Winners: Life, Death, Whatever and BrumYODO

Runner up: Home Funeral Network (Funerals to Die For)


Most Helpful Funeral Advice Website

Winner: Nelson’s Journey Youth Panel’s Smartphone APP  

Runner up: Veterans Bereavement Support Services


Doula of the Year

Winner: Felicity Warner

Runners Up: Lizzie Neville, Nett Furley, Jane Henderson & Anna Lyons


Anatomical Pathology Technician of the Year

Winner: Dr. Wendy Birch

Runner Up: Lara-Rose Iredale


Care of the Deceased Award

Winner: Cara Mair and the team at ARKA Original Funerals

Runner Up: Kirsty Sailes


Coffin Supplier of the Year

Winner:  Ecoffins

Runner Up: Earth to Heaven


Funeral Florist of the Year

Winner: Rebecca Sharp of Dazzle Me Daisy Do

Runner Up: Rosie Orr, of Flowers by Rosie Orr


Minister of the Year

Winner: Fr. Christyan James

Runners Up: The Right Revd. Charles Muglestone & Emma Curtis


Celebrant of the Year

Winner: Justine Wykerd

Runners Up: Kathryn Sansom, Stuart Preston & Wendy Coulton

Highly Commended: Terri Shanks


Gravedigger of the Year

Winner: Martin House of Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground

Runner Up: Julie Hillman of The Eternal Forest


Best Burial Ground in the UK

Winner: Heatherley Wood, Greenacres

Runner Up: Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground


Best Crematorium in the UK

Winner: South Oxfordshire Crematorium and Memorial Park

Runners Up: Kettering Crematorium, Mortlake Crematorium and Seven Hills Crematorium


Crematorium Attendant of the Year

Winner: Richard Hooker at Mortlake Crematorium

Runners Up: Paul Jansen at Golders Green Crematorium and the team at Cardiff Crematorium Thornhill


Best Direct Cremation Provider

Winner: Holly’s Funerals

Runner Up: Respect Direct Funeral Services


Best Low Cost Funeral Provider

Winner: Fosters Funeral Directors

Runner up: Memoria Low Cost Funerals Ltd


Most Eco-Friendly Funeral Director

Winner: Leverton & Sons

Runner Up: Woodland Wishes


Funeral Arranger of the Year

Winner: Lorraine Aitken (Youngs Independent Funeral Services)

Runners Up: Barbara Scrimshaw (Edd Frost & Daughters) & Persephone Salway (A. Monger Funeral Directors)


Most Promising New Funeral Director Business

Winner: Compassionate Funerals

Runners Up: Crescent Funerals and O’Dwyer Funeral Directors


Most Promising Trainee Funeral Director

Winner: Sarah Ellis (Bewley and Merrett Funeral Directors)

Runners Up: Rhys Askham (Rosedale Funeral Home) and Sarah Tully (Compassionate Funerals)


Best Modern Funeral Director

Winner: Full Circle Funerals

Runners Up – Dandelion Farewells and Bewley & Merrett


Best Traditional Funeral Director

Winner: A. W. Lymn – The Family Funeral Service (with especial mention of two staff members, Louise Cook and Dominic Lister)

Runners Up: Bungard Funeral Directors and Southall Funeral Service


Best Funeral Caterer

Winner: Rocket Catering

Runner Up: Tea and Sympathy


The ‘What to do with the Ashes’ Award

Winner: Sacred Stones Willow Row

Runner Up: Ann Bates Ceramics


The Lifetime Achievement Award

Clive Leverton


The Outstanding Achievement Award

Jon Underwood

No grave concerns

Friday, 11 August 2017

A funeral may need organising at a moment’s notice. But how much notice do you think is advisable, or reasonable, for renovating and repair a gravestone? And what should the relevant institution do to accommodate health and safety concerns, if you don’t take action fast enough?

Many churchyards monuments are, by anyone’s measure, on the unsafe side of upright. Land settles; time passes; some might say it’s the higgledy-piggledy appearance of headstone in an expanse of church ground that actually provides quintessential Britishness to our countryside.

For the most part, ‘caveat visitor’ is the adopted position of the Church. Being aware of surroundings and taking care to avoid situations of peril seems like common sense. However, we have seen at least one death reported this century in Glasgow as a consequence of young children playing, unsupervised, among unsteady headstones.

Now, in Kilsyth, notifiable family members are being served 21 days’ notice when headstones in Kilsyth Cemetery are deemed to be ‘unsafe’.

Not surprisingly, the health and safety measures being implemented in the interim are causing as much concern as the need for remedial action: plastic orange hazard barriers are always an eysore. It is debatable, as to whether or not they provide enough deterrent for the people who would be most at risk.

This is a balancing act. For the Church; the local authorities – in this case, North Lanarkshire Council – insisting on regular risk assessments; heritage and preservation societies; and the families themselves. What’s not being reported in such large typeface, are the steps then being taken to remedy these situations.

The notices make this clear: “It may be necessary to lay this stone flat or trench (set lower part of memorial place into the ground) or support it to prevent injury or damage”. Or in other words, if the family does not come forward with contractors who’ve been commissioned to take remedial action, then the headstones will be laid flat on the ground instead. Like so many others.

In actual fact, stories like these hide the facts rather well: the local authorities are taking appropriate action, which reflects what’s happened for hundreds of years. Whether anyone’s given 21 days’ notice or not, when a headstone falls over, it falls over and usually stays on the ground.

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