Amanda Woodward of Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service
Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service is leading the way in working with their local community to understand the myriad of emotions and potential difficulties they may have to endure during a bereavement.
Around six years ago, the company took the bold decision to invest in this area of communicating knowledge, and opened a bereavement service in the centre of Tamworth. This was launched in the local press, inviting people who had any type of question relating to a future or past bereavement to simply walk in their door and ask. Initially there was much skepticism over the idea, but in a short space of time, with regular newspaper prompts reaffirming that free advice is just a phone call or step through a door away, many people of Tamworth use the bereavement centre for guidance and advice. Cheryl Dutton, who mans the centre is not only part of the dedicated staff, but also a trained counsellor available to offer a listening ear and gentle support when needed.
Tamworth Co-op also use social media as a way of linking with the local community, not just as a vehicle for promoting their business. They offer innovative awareness raising events, support local organisations working with bereaved families and host many physical events that encourage bereaved people to come together, giving a greater understanding of perspective and in turn helping individuals find some company and comfort.
The judges felt that this low key, community based, thoughtful approach to bringing the difficult subject of death and bereavement into general awareness is of huge value, and believe the work being done by Tamworth Co-op deserves to be widely applauded.
Runner Up in this category: Beyond Goodbye
Gordon Tulley of Respect Bentley
Gordon’s 1948 Bentley Birkin Special is this year’s classiest and most distinctive addition to the range of alternative hearses available to bereaved people who want to personalize their funeral.
Gordon Tulley is a restlessly entrepreneurial innovator in the funerals business. He owns natural burial grounds, is a specialist in direct cremation and direct burial and he is inventor of the Respect Everybody shroud – http://shrouds4all.blogspot.co.uk/
Gordon’s hearse is a 1948 Bentley Birkin Special, one of only 20 survivors. The bier is from a 1912 Viceroy carriage and is suitable for most coffin sizes. It is available nationally.
In launching his vintage Bentley hearse, Gordon has married his love of motorcars to his commitment to offering bereaved people imaginative ways of personalizing the sendoffs of their loved ones.
Gordon is a huge character.
Runner Up in this category: Harrison Funeral Home Electric Vehicle
Sandy Weatherburn accepting the award on behalf of Dawn Thompson of Claret Catering
What sets Dawn apart is her vocation to create and cater for appropriate and meaningful funeral after-parties.
Dawn is unusual among caterers in having a special calling to cater for funeral after-parties – wakes, teas, call them what you will. For Dawn, catering is not just about feeding people on happy occasions. It has always been her ambition to be the person whom families call to cater for all the special occasions of their lives from birth to death.
Dawn said: “I am not afraid to talk about death, nor do I shy away from those who are bereaved and grieving. It is my policy to always visit the family members who are arranging the wake. I am happy to sit for as long as is needed, talking and more importantly, listening to stories and memories of a person I will never meet but who will be the centre of my attention, making sure that ‘what he/she would have liked’ is catered for and taken care of. A wake is part of the rite of passage which, after the funeral, gives people “permission” to move on with their lives again.”
Dawn has even looked after the family dog whilst the bereaved family is at the crematorium.
Runner Up in this category: Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service
Jonathan Davies of MuchLoved.com
MuchLoved, the UK’s best and most ethical memorial website, is ten years old this year, and has facilitated more than £25 million of donations to charities. The award celebrates these achievements together with the unpaid input of co-founder Andy Daniels.
Andy Daniels, who founded MuchLoved.com with Jonathan Davies, and is the technical brains behind the platform, is stopping day-to-day work with MuchLoved this year after more than a decade of unpaid volunteer work helping to create and then develop the service. He’s lost thousands of hours of sleep in the meantime. Andy has played a leading part in getting MuchLoved.com to where it is today.
MuchLoved was conceived and founded by Jonathan Davies after he suffered the sudden death of his brother Philip aged just 21 whilst at University in 1995. MuchLoved is the working name of the MuchLoved Charitable Trust which was awarded registered charity status early in 2007. It is run by a board of trustees.
Jonathan Davies said: “In the mid and late 1990’s I lost both my brother and mother in quick succession. My brother’s death at the young age of 21 was in particular sudden, unexpected and overwhelming in shock.
“I was keen to create some sort of online memorial to him, a legacy that could show many of his happy years and make it easy for his school and university friends in particular to view, make contact and send in pictures and thoughts of their own. After some research I found however that there was no appropriate service available and I also felt that the technology and cost needed to create the type of tribute I wanted was prohibitive.
“I was also preoccupied with my own grieving and sense of loss and imagined that people were maybe not yet ready for the idea of an online memorial. After a few years my life started to move on again in a positive direction, with marriage and children, but the idea did not go away. In March 2000 I registered the domain name MuchLoved.com and a couple of years later started to meet with my friend and computer programmer Andy Daniels to discuss actively making the idea a reality.”
MuchLoved.com is a labour of love. Andy’s volunteer work is matched by the commitment, hours of unpaid work and thousands of pounds of his own money that Jonathan Davies himself has poured into this project.
Runner Up in this category: Funeral Stationery 4U
Martin Birch of Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff
This year’s winner is particularly praised for addressing funeral poverty in imaginative ways, not least through participation in the pioneering initiative of the local authority funeral scheme, which challenges the rising cost of funerals, while making the funeral purchase more transparent. Approximately 12% of cremations carried out at this crematorium use this service.
Performing around 2,700 cremations annually, Thornhill Crematorium has a 98% satisfaction rating from families who choose it
Rated as providing gold standard provision for both cremation and burial under the Charter for the Bereaved criteria, recent outstanding improvements to their premises have included refurbishing both chapels and changing the structural layout at no additional cost to the Authority through an innovative budget strategy.
With strong environmental awareness and a comprehensive recycling scheme, this year’s winner has attained Green Flag status, an acknowledgement of being one of the best green spaces in the country.
Runner up in this category: Mortlake Crematorium
Category sponsor: Scattering Ashes
Mohamed Omer from Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery
Against all the odds the Trustees of the Gardens of Peace have transformed wasteland into a beautiful and sustainable burial ground.
The story of the creation of the Gardens of Peace is one of gentle heroism.
The shortage of burial space in and around London is of great concern to many, and particularly to those faiths that forbid cremation.
The Garden of Peace Cemetery was originally a concept devised by a small group of people within the area that was able to identify an available piece of barren land and gain planning consent for a cemetery.
The small group enlisted others to form a Trust/registered charity and commenced the purchase of the land and its initial design. This was not without many problems in relation to the land itself being waterlogged, fly-tipped and in an appalling condition. A polluted stream also ran through the site.
There was also some local opposition and one instance of serious vandalism in the early days. Notwithstanding this the Trustees pressed on and were able to overcome these early difficulties. It should be noted that the Trustees sought no funding from the public purse and hence the project is a true community venture.
Donations were received from the community that enabled the laying out of the cemetery and the erection of buildings, all of which have strong environmental benefits, for example:
- The buildings are constructed of natural timber and are as open as possible
- The largest building roof has a green roof so that neighbours’ view is pleasant.
- Buildings are clad to reduce noise.
- Water is provided from a borehole.
- Buildings are heated via solar panels.
- Extensive landscaping to protect the green belt and wildlife and natural habitat
- All the burials are conducted without the use of coffins.
- Graves are covered with a sedum mat giving a natural country look rather than graves.
- All the excess spoil is recycled using a soil grading machine
- The once polluted stream that was void of any life at all received detailed attention to a point where plants and wildlife had re-established themselves. Unfortunately the stream was polluted by a business upstream, however the Trustees simply started again and restored the situation.
Recognising the need for support for Muslim Women who lose a child at any stage, Gardens of Peace set up Muslim Bereavement Support Service and work closely with all the national organisation as well as NHS so that spiritual bereavement support can be provided to mothers of the Muslim faith.
The Gardens are run entirely by volunteers headed by a lady Muslim GP.
Runner up in this category: Higher Ground Meadow
Nominated by many of the funeral directors he works with, this year’s winner set up his own grave digging business in 2007. David has quickly become the favoured contracted gravedigger for many funeral directors, both corporate and independent, in the Midlands area.
Digging by hand, and completing around 300 graves a year, and around 150 plots for cremated remains with his small team, David is highly praised by those nominating him for his professionalism and perfectionism.
Nothing is too much trouble and any time or distance is never a problem, nor the amount of time a family takes to say their final goodbyes.
An example of his thoughtfulness was a recent burial where one of the mourners was in a wheelchair. On learning of this, our winner laid lengths of his grass matting all the way from the pathway of the Churchyard to the graveside to ensure as smooth a journey as possible. He has a huge pride in his work and the highest of standards.
Runner up in this category: Martin House of Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground
Debbie has a particular personal passion and an unrivalled gift for creating floral displays for funerals. She has supplied flowers for the sendoffs of celebrities.
In an outstanding field, Debbie stands out because funeral flowers are her specialism. This is a matter of personal predilection rather than business opportunism: what Debbie loves most is creating floral tributes to people who have died. Her reputation for excellence has spread. Among recent celebrity clients she counts the late David Gest. Although she didn’t know she was creating the floral tributes for his funeral when she received the order, it was only when she delivered them that she found out.
Based in Rotherhithe, East London, Debbie works at the heart of a community that still believes in a proper sendoff – with banks of flowers. She recently supplied flower arrangements for the funeral of Bermondsey undertaker Barry Albin-Dyer. People love what she does. A characteristic testimonial sent to the judges reads: “The arrangement was SO impressive that a member of public en route called through the window and said how beautiful it looked!!!!!”
Debbie has been working with flowers for over 40 years. For 25 of them she was Head of Floristry at Southwark College.
Runners up in this category: Flowers by Susan, Inspired Flower Design & Tuckshop Flowers
Bereaved families in the Oxford area may be a little less pleased to know that the cost of having a relative cremated at their local Dignity owned crematorium will be £999 from next week onwards.
Just a short journey towards London, a cremation at South West Middlesex Crematorium will cost £490 (source Funeralbooker report on UK Cremation Costs here).
We wonder whether it is just Oxford, or all 43 Dignity owned and operated crematoria that are hiking up their prices?
Quoting from Dignity’s Annual Reports & Accounts 2015:
“We are the largest single operator of crematoria in Britain with a growing portfolio of well-established and state of the art crematoria that meet the needs of the local communities we serve. In 2015, we carried out 57,700 cremations representing 9.8 per cent of total estimated deaths in Britain”
57,000 x £999…… just under £56 million according to the GFG intern who was a whizz at maths.
Funeral poverty anyone?
Andy is an outstandingly accomplished embalmer whose knowledge and professional skills are matched by his humanity and respect for people who have died.
Overwhelming endorsements from many of the funeral directors that he works with were the reason why Andy has been picked as the Embalmer of the Year. Unfailingly he was described as ‘a credit to his profession’, compassionate, dignified and dedicated, someone for whom nothing was too much trouble.
One lengthy handwritten account told how Andy was willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, responding to a desperate text at 3.00am from a funeral director who urgently needed help to restore the appearance of a lady he had just collected before her daughter arrived to see her. Another account told how he made an 80 mile detour while on holiday with his son to assist with an urgent repatriation case.
The only thanks Andy ever receives are from funeral directors, as families rarely if ever ask about who has tended to their loved one, but it is clear that the he is highly regarded by the funeral profession, and indeed really well liked for his deep respect for the deceased and his happy, helpful and positive nature.
Andy’s phone message humorously informs callers that he is “embalmer to the rich and famous” and indeed he has embalmed some big names – eg George Martin. But the vast bulk of Andy’s work has been for ordinary people who will forever carry a beautiful memory picture of their loved one as a result of Andy’s handiwork. Great embalming is part science, part skill and part art. Andy is an outstandingly accomplished and artistic practitioner. He always does his best, carefully and compassionately, whatever the circumstances or the time of night. He’s a great embalmer and a really lovely guy.
Andy is, in industry jargon, a ‘trade’ embalmer, i.e., a freelancer who works for several funeral directors.
Runner up in this category – Angie McLachlan