The Good Funeral Guide Blog

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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.







Help yourself to some of this

Friday, 8 April 2016



When John Taplin of Open Prepaid Funeral Plans first proposed that we work together to create a GFG funeral plan I told him to f*** off.

Not in so many words. I was icily polite. I was practised in the art having previously spurned the seductive sweet talk of another funeral plan pedlar which wanted to fly me to Scotland and show me how shiningly ethical it is. In their case I explained (courteously) that I failed to see how it could be a good deal for the consumer to lavish hospitality and double-jointed accountancy on an innumerate dingbat like me.

John persisted. What did we want a funeral plan to look like? I fired impossible specifications at him and hissed “See what I mean? Can’t be done, cannit?”

And he replied, “Oh I think it can.”

So (finally) we met and the rest is, as they say, the present and the future. We showed our freshly-minted prepaid plan to a fifth-generation funeral director of impeccable credentials and all the risk aversion you could ask for. He mulled and he mused and finally he spoke: “With this plan I get to charge every funeral at the full at-need price.” I’d been blind to that because John and I had focussed exclusively on the interests of the consumer. But you can see why our heritage FD liked what he saw when you consider this from Golden Charter’s Ts and Cs:

“Upon completion of the Beneficiary’s funeral arrangements the Selected Funeral Director will be entitled to payment from us … The Selected Funeral Director will have no recourse against us or the Trust in the event that the sum so intimated by us is lower than the relevant parts of the original Funeral Plan cost”

Yes, what an absolutely crap deal for consumers. I pay for a £3500 funeral and get one costing hundreds of pounds less — a bit like finding myself in a 2 star hotel when I’d paid for 4.

And yes, what John and I had created is a thing of unparalleled and luminous beauty which is also very badly needed. We call it GFGPlan. 

Your conventional prepaid funeral plan is beginning to look as dated as the mullet. Imagine a restaurant that serves only fixed 3-course meals cooked to recipes first published in Woman’s Own in 1958; that’s what you get with a conventional funeral plan.

Today’s funeral buyer wants cafeteria service – a bit of this, some of that, no limousine thanks.

Today’s funeral director doesn’t want to have to shoulder the risk of its plan provider finding itself a bit short.

The beauty of GFGPlan is its simplicity. It’s a pot. Into which you put money. As and when. It grows at 4% pa. None of the money is spent on salaries, commissions or freebies for noisy bloggers. It empowers the consumer to buy what they want and no more than they want. It pays a proper price to funeral directors. 

Is it risk-free? If there was a total global financial meltdown, no. But if every GFGPlan-holder died today, the trust fund would be able to cover every single one of them. Can any other prepaid plan provider can say that?

If you’ve not yet studied GFGPlan, we strongly recommend that you do so. Start here.




Boxing clever

Wednesday, 6 April 2016



It’s not just Donald Trump who gives Americans an undeserved reputation for dangerous lunacy. Restrictive practices in the US funeral industry have been doing that for years.

In Alabama the owner of a natural burial ground is currently fighting the state law that allows only licensed funeral directors to sell coffins. The burial ground owner, Sheila Champion, said: “I could make you a cedar chest and sell it to you all day long as a piece of furniture; however, if you call me and ask me to make you a coffin using the same pattern, I could be prosecuted.” – here

Fighting her corner for her is the fearsomely libertarian Institute for Justice which, in 2013, fought for the right of St Joseph’s Abbey to sell their monk-made coffins to the public. It took them 6 years – here.

Over in Poland the coffin maker Lindner – famous for its naughty calendars – has brought out a naughty flat-pack coffin and it’s (according to the Telegraph) been damned as unethical by the Polish Chamber of Funeral Homes on the grounds that “Treating a coffin like an ordinary piece of furniture or a DIY-cupboard from a shop undermines respect for the deceased.”

Here in the UK hardly an undertakerly eyebrow is raised any more if a client says they’re buying their own coffin on the internet. Some of them are paying more than the FD would have charged them. In Nottingham, AW Lymn charges nothing (zilch nada) for a cardboard coffin.

Last week here at the GFG-Batesville Shard, where we’re all working our butts off to impress the new gaffer, we received an email from someone who can’t get hold of a woodchip veneer coffin for anything like as little as £150. We’d like to help her, and anyone else who wants to buy an inexpensive veneer coffin. What’s the cost price of these nowadays? Sixty, seventy quid? Any coffin maker out there willing to keep us supplied, please get in touch.


First day in the new job..

Friday, 1 April 2016


So the GFG has a CEO. Who’d have thought it!

With thanks to the lovely Barbara Chalmers at Final Fling for making the announcement today – see blogpost here.

Looking forward to good times at GFG Towers as we continue celebrating the best in funeralworld while keeping a watchful eye out for the less than worthy.

Onwards and upwards!

Not a Good Urner?

Friday, 1 April 2016

Guest post by Tim Morris


The House of Commons Work & Pensions Committee report published on 31st March contained evidence that a funeral director had refused to hand over the ashes of a deceased person to the family concerned until the funeral account had been settled. It should be noted that the ashes of a deceased person have the same status in law as the body of a deceased person, both being the ‘remains of a deceased person’. This is amplified in law in England & Wales in respect of exhumation as lawful authority, via Faculty from the Church of England or license from the Ministry of Justice to exhume, is required in respect of exhumations of both ashes and the body of the deceased.

In the Court of Appeal in Hunter [1974] Q.B. 95 CA (Crim Div) it was held that:

…if it is a crime for the person responsible for burial to prevent it, there is no reason for regarding the act of a stranger in preventing burial as any less reprehensible. We think that in this connection burial means lawful and decent burial. A ‘stranger’, in this context, could include an undertaker. Therefore, whilst there is no direct duty upon an undertaker [funeral director] to dispose of a body after death (that duty lies with the administrator the deceased’s estate, the local authority or hospital), undertakers and any other ‘stranger’ have a duty to not prevent the lawful and decent burial of an individual.

Surely it would not be in the interests of a funeral director to withhold access to ashes as it is unlikely that a person that can’t or won’t settle an account would make an approach. Over time this could result in a cupboard overflowing with urns and caskets as there is no lawful mechanism for a funeral director to dispose of such ashes.

Similarly, grave deeds should perhaps not be made out in the name of a funeral director who then transfers the grave ownership to the family once the account has been settled? Is this not a contract debt that should be chased in the courts as payment of disbursements by a funeral director is part of a contract? The Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 basically states that no [further] burial can take place in any grave nor memorial erected on any grave without the written consent of the owner of the right.

Whilst the majority of good funeral directors would not contemplate nor want to adopt any of the above it does pose a cautionary note for those considering them. Doesn’t it?

Frankly speaking

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Frank Field Labour MP

In a report published today the Work and Pensions Committee says the UK Government should follow the lead of the Scottish Government and conduct a broad review of burials, cremations and funerals, with a view to making changes that have a long-term impact on funeral inflation and reduce funeral poverty.

The Committee also says evidence it heard in its recent inquiry into publicly funded bereavement support suggests the funeral industry may not be operating in a way that serves bereaved, vulnerable people well. This evidence on the operation of the funeral industry has been passed to the Competition and Markets Authority.

Frank Field MP, chair of the Committee, said: “We did not set out to inquire into the funeral industry but it soon became apparent that the interaction between an opaque and outdated public system of bereavement support and a market in funeral services which simply does not operate “normally”, is causing problems.

Read the full report here

The NAFD has issued a statement in response calling into question ‘some highly inflammatory and unsubstantiated remarks made in the report’ – read it here

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