Fran Hall


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

Fran Hall

‘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


Fran Hall

  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





Fran Hall


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.

Fran Hall


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.”
Fran Hall

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

Fran Hall

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.

Fran Hall

This year’s Long List has just been published, and all the finalists for a 2017 Good Funeral Award can be found on the Awards website here

Or you can skim down the list below and see if you’re on it. Individuals listed first, alphabetically by first name, and companies / organisations listed second. 

It has been another exceptional year for nominations and entries, and the runners up and winners of each category will be announced at the glittering lunchtime awards ceremony at Porchester Hall on September 7th.

All finalists will receive a copy of the logo and the code for a special discount on the ticket price this week. 

Individual finalists

  • Alan Lister
  • Angela Bailey
  • Anna Lyons
  • Annette Furley
  • Barbara Scrimshaw
  • Barry Waples
  • Cara Mair
  • Carol Higgins
  • Cath Pratley / Tosh Abbott
  • Chantal Lockey
  • Charles Muglestone (Right Revd.)
  • Christine Jolly
  • Christyan James (Fr.)
  • Claire Turnham
  • Clive Cappleman
  • Clive Leverton
  • Colette Robinson
  • Colin Liddell
  • David Crayton
  • David Homer
  • David Ledger
  • Dominic Lister
  • Drew Rush
  • Emma Curtis
  • Felicity Warner
  • Frances Tulley
  • Glynes Mewton
  • Helen McLean
  • Helen Williams
  • Howard Hodgson
  • Hugh Milsom
  • Ian Willox
  • James Rogers
  • Jane Morgan
  • Janet Cheal
  • Janet Qualters
  • Jason Kiely
  • Jeremy Field
  • Julia Samuel
  • Julie Hillman
  • Justine Wykerd
  • Kate Tym & Kate Dyer
  • Kathryn Sansom
  • Kirsty Sailes
  • Lara-Rose Iredale
  • Laura Jane Smith (Dr.)
  • Lindis Pattison-Tadman
  • Lindy Irving
  • Liz Alman
  • Liz Rothschild
  • Lizzie Neville
  • Lorraine Aitken
  • Louise Cook
  • Lucy Coulbert
  • Lucy Talbot
  • Lyn Baylis
  • Martin House
  • May Andrews
  • Michael Tiney
  • Natalie Newbury
  • Natasha Bradshaw
  • Nicole Turner
  • Oliver Bird
  • Paul Jansen
  • Pauline Hyde-Coomber
  • Persephone Salway
  • Rebecca Sharp
  • Rhys Askham
  • Richard Hooker
  • Roger Knight
  • Rosalie Kuyvenhoven
  • Rosie Orr
  • Sally Ward
  • Sarah Ellis
  • Sarah Tully
  • Simon Dyer
  • Stacey Pitsillides
  • Steve Stacey
  • Stuart Preston
  • Susie Bearne
  • Terri Shanks
  • Victoria Fisher
  • Victoria McKeegan
  • Wendy Birch (Dr.)
  • Wendy Coulton
  • Yvonne Harper

Company / organisation finalists

  • A. W. Lymn – The Family Funeral Service
  • Amber Valley Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Ann Bates Ceramics
  • ARKA Original Funerals
  • Attwood Funerals
  • Bewley & Merrett Funeral Directors
  • Brighton Death Forum
  • BrumYODO
  • Bungard Funeral Directors
  • Butterfly Memorial Garden
  • C. S. Boswell Independent Funeral Directors
  • Cardiff & Glamorgan Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Cardiff Bereavement Services
  • Classic Flowers Maidstone
  • Coffin Club
  • Compassionate Funerals
  • Cradle To Grave
  • Crescent Funerals
  • Dandelion Farewells
  • Denbighshire Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Earth to Heaven
  • Ecoffins
  • Edd Frost & Daughters
  • Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground
  • Fosters Funeral Directors
  • Full Circle Funerals
  • Funeralbooker
  • Funeral Choice
  • Funeral Zone
  • Collins & Sons
  • Gimcrack Productions
  • Go Simply Funerals
  • Golders Green Crematorium
  • Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief
  • Harrison Funeral Home
  • Harrison Low Cost Funerals
  • Heatherley Wood Woodland
  • Home Funeral Network – Funerals To Die For
  • Holly’s Funerals
  • huunuu
  • C. Atkinson & Son Ltd.
  • Godfrey & Son Ltd.
  • Kettering Crematorium
  • Kirkleatham Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Leverton & Sons
  • Life, Death & the Rest (Arnos Vale Cemetery)
  • Life, Death, Whatever
  • Meadow Wood Pet Cemetery
  • Medfest 2017 – Matters of Life & Death
  • Melville & Daughters
  • Memoria Low Cost Funerals Ltd.
  • Moribund (Gimcrack Productions)
  • Mortlake Crematorium
  • Nelson’s Journey Youth Panel’s Smartphone App.
  • O’Dwyer Funeral Service
  • Only With Love
  • Passionate Flowers
  • Perry & Phillips Funeral Directors
  • Pushing Up Daisies – Things Left Unsaid
  • Respect Direct Funeral Services
  • Rocket Catering
  • Rose Funerals Ltd.
  • Rounce Funeral Services
  • Sacred Stones
  • Scattering Ashes
  • Scraptoft Burial Ground
  • Seven Hills Crematorium
  • Sick Festival
  • South Leicestershire Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • South Oxfordshire Crematorium & Memorial Park
  • Still Loved Documentary
  • Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Services
  • Tea & Sympathy
  • The Art of Dying Well
  • The Good Grief Project
  • The Individual Funeral Company
  • The Natural Burial Company – Scraptoft Burial Ground
  • The Natural Death Centre
  • The Team at Cardiff Thornhill Crematorium
  • Thornhill Crematorium Cardiff
  • Varley & Varley Funeral Directors
  • Veteran Bereavement Support
  • W. E. Pinder & Son Ltd.
  • Waveney Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Westmill Woodland Burial
  • Woodland Wishes
  • Woodvale Crematorium




Fran Hall


Willow, cardboard, veneer. Wool, even. The material in which we choose to be buried may be imbued with cultural, emotional or traditional significance.

We have the benefit of access to so many superb suppliers. We know the options are highly varied now, as are the means of interment. It is important that we don’t take this knowledge for granted, though, being intimately acquainted with our own industry’s gamut of possibilities.

For many families – irrespective of religion – the assumption is that a wooden coffin will be involved. This has long been the case and the exposition of a coffin in Durham this month will do much to assuage any doubts about the benefits of choosing high quality products.

St. Cuthbert’s coffin went on display in Durham cathedral. Hermit; bishop; the saint who inspired the Lindisfarne Gospels. Cuthbert died in 687, probably from tuberculosis, but his body was exhumed relatively shortly after death to be reburied in this coffin, which was made from English oak: tests have confirmed it was manufactured (‘crafted by artisans’ is probably a less anachronistic term), on Lindisfarne in 698.

However, it was lifted again, in 1104, and reopened several times thereafter to allow viewings of the remains. While it was interred for a short time behind the altar of the catherdral, it was also disturbed again – allowing new bacteria in to have their effect on the wood, each time – in the 19th century. This is a coffin that has truly served its purpose. 

Some environments are more forgiving than others. Soil and humidity conditions have an impact; acidity is also an influence. If wood has been heavily varnished, that preservative may act as a moisture-barrier for years. Deterioration depends on the material that a coffin or container is made of and the environment it’s resting in, and archaeologists have even found Roman coffins in reasonable condition. 

It surely behoves us to be transparent about the nature of materials used, and what the reality of material degradation is. Sadly, it’s still a matter of record that families may be offered non-ethical products for use in woodland or natural burials.

But perhaps, tongue in cheek, we can now offer a rather more positive caveat when it comes to ‘how long will it last?’

Fran Hall

We noted The Sun newspaper’s report on a floral tribute this week, pointing a mild gosh-look-at-this finger at a family’s ambition to let funeral wishes be carried out – to the perfumed, petalled letter.

However, it was the throwaway inclusion of another story, further down the page, that caught our eye. Moving on past the report of a Royal Artillery sergeant’s coffin being transported on a gun carriage – de rigueur perhaps – The Sun has a picture of a JCB at the head of a funeral cortège with a coffin secured carefully in its bucket.

A little background research revealed that Tony Law had always worked with plant machinery. As a digger enthusiast, he’d not only specified the mode of transport to his own service but also had his wishes extended by the family: instead of traditional, low-key or formal dress, everyone wore hi-viz jackets to mark the occasion. ‘Tony Law’s Last Ride’, they said.

Happily, in most situations these are far from being seen as irreverent gestures. They are endearing; a little eccentric, perhaps; but intended without malice to bridge the gap between the absent character of the person who has died and people who are coming together to commemorate that person’s unique life.

Flowers, saying ‘BARSTARD’? Traditional limousines on the one hand, but a bright yellow JCB to carry your coffin? It may not be the done thing to suggest it up-front without knowing the family’s background, but if the situation is the right one then – for a good funeral – these gestures are not out of place.

However, specific wishes like these may cause significant dismay, pain even, if they are set out in a funeral plan but not shared in advance. Karen Anstee’s short film, Rachel, brought this into sharp perspective last year. Anstee’s 10-film explored the relationships between religion and family: Rachel had rejected her conservative Jewish upbringing for a more bohemian life and wanted her ceremony to reflect those life choices. Rachel’s family wanted to reclaim her body for burial in the traditional way, and the story unfolds to reflect both points of view.

In the 21st century, diverging preferences are becoming more common. Families are, sadly, more dysfunctional than they once were. Couples of all ages may come together from different cultural backgrounds and pass on new traditions or beliefs to their children. Whereas, once, intimate rites of passage served to bring families and communities together at a difficult time, today the expression of individuality has the potential to stimulate conflict.

Nowadays the expected form for a funeral may bear little or no resemblance to the unique, individual service or ceremony that’s requested either by a partner, a close family member, or – prior to their death – by the persons who have died. And as a result, funeral directors and celebrants may find themselves in a difficult situation.

Questions, then.

We hear much, still, about the importance of making a Will and ensuring it’s valid and kept up-to-date. What more could we do to reappropriate the term ‘funeral plan’, or is it too toxic to contemplate?

Would it not help us all if we could encourage the solicitors or Will-makers we know, locally, to include detailed funeral arrangements as a part of that process, and to highlight the benefit of communicating these details in advance? Or would that be too complicated in itself?

And should we consider ‘how to tell people what’s happening’ guides as an integral part of the information we all provide – or do you do this already?