Category Archives: Good Funeral Awards

2017 Death Oscar anyone?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Last year’s awards ceremony in central London

It’s that time of year again – nominations open today for this year’s Good Funeral Awards, the Oscars of the death trade. Since 2012, the Good Funeral Awards have been celebrating excellence in the funeral world and have championed the pioneers, the bold and the brave, as well as the under-sung hard workers behind the scenes.

Last year there was an unprecedented number of entries, and the awards were presented at a glittering lunchtime ceremony attended by hundreds of people from across the country.

Coverage of the event in the media was overwhelmingly positive, see a piece in The Independent here and an article in The Guardian here, with national and local newspapers and radio stations all fascinated by something that journalists perceive as peculiar, but that we feel is richly deserved – recognition of outstanding work by those involved in caring for the dying, dead or bereaved.

Once again, there is an opportunity to nominate anyone who you feel deserves recognition or appreciation for their work in what is often a much misunderstood or maligned industry, or to enter yourself or the company you work for. 

To enter for an award, simply go to the Good Funeral Awards website and you will find the entry form at the foot of the ‘Nominate’ page. Download it, complete it and send it in along with the entry fee* if applicable.

Every entry is carefully considered before The Long List is published in August. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in September.

To nominate a person or company, please write to the organisers at info@goodfuneralawards.co.uk and tell us why you feel they deserve to be a winner. Please ensure that you include their contact details including their e-mail address, and the category you would like to nominate them under.

All nominees will be contacted and invited to submit an official entry in the category they feel most appropriate, along with the entry fee* if applicable.

*The entry fee applicable to most categories is intended to help save the organisers from sinking under the weight of administering over 600 nominations and associated entries. If you want to nominate someone and pay the entry fee for them that’s absolutely fine, this happened quite a lot last year and nominees were both touched and very grateful. 

You have plenty of time, nominations close in July. And tickets aren’t yet on sale for the awards ceremony. But you know what they say about the early bird.

This year’s categories are listed below. Aficionados of the Good Funeral Awards will notice a few new titles – we’ve tried to reflect the changes we are seeing in the world of funerals and to make sure that there’s a category for everyone. 

The 2017 Category List

  • Most significant contribution to the understanding of death
  • Best death related public engagement event
  • Most helpful funeral advice website
  • Doula of the year
  • Anatomical pathologist technician of the year
  • Care of the deceased award
  • Coffin supplier of the year
  • Funeral florist of the year
  • Minister of the year
  • Celebrant of the year
  • Gravedigger of the year
  • Best burial ground in the UK
  • Best crematorium in the UK
  • Crematorium attendant of the year
  • Best direct cremation provider
  • Best low cost funeral provider
  • Most eco-friendly funeral director
  • Funeral arranger of the year
  • Most promising new funeral director business
  • Most promising trainee funeral director
  • Best modern funeral director
  • Best traditional funeral director
  • Funeral caterer of the year
  • The ‘what to do with the ashes’ award
  • Lifetime achievement award

Lifetime Achievement Award

Thursday, 20 October 2016

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Josefine Speyer, wife of the late Nicholas Albery and co-founder and patron of The Natural Death Centre Charity

 

“Despite the list of contenders for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award being jam packed with luminaries from the death world, the judges were unanimous in their decision that this year the award would be given in recognition of a visionary pioneer, the architect of social change, without whom the Good Funeral Awards would probably never have come into being.

In appreciation of his memory, and in tribute to those dedicated individuals who continue to fulfil his dream 25 years on, the judges humbly, and gratefully, and with the greatest of pleasure announce that the Lifetime Achievement Award 2016 goes to the late Nicholas Albery and the Natural Death Centre charity.”

 

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Bridging the Gap Award

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

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Julian Atkinson, managing director of J. C. Atkinson & Son

The ‘Bridging the Gap’ award was introduced this year specifically to acknowledge the work being done by this particular industry supplier who is doing the most to move the funeral business forward.

Julian Atkinson was given this special award in response to the way his company, J. C Atkinson & Sons Ltd, traditionally a manufacturer of wooden coffins has embraced new, greener products into his range.

Wicker, willow, wool, banana leaf and cardboard products to name a few, coffins made from these materials are often branded as ‘alternative products’, but have now started to become accepted as the norm at funerals.

Along with offering such coffins for sale, J. C. Atkinson’s has invested time and money in educating the funeral industry, encouraging the provision of greener products as part of the normal range, making it easier for families to have a wide variety of choice and enabling individuals to have the type of coffin most suited to them, not just a choice from a selection of veneered or highly polished hardwood coffins for their love one.

Julian’s work in this area has been a large part of the reason other smaller, ‘alternative’ manufacturers have been able to bridge the gap across the funeral industry and enable the public to be given a far wider choice as a whole.

Crematorium Assistant of the Year

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

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‘Brass boy’ aka Steve Biggs, of Mortlake Crematorium

 

Steve Biggs has worked as a Chapel Attendant and Crematorium Technician at Mortlake Crematorium, London for three years. There are a great many people in crematoria throughout the country doing Steve’s job and, like Steve, many of them are unsung heroes, too.  It was a hard choice for the judges to choose one from the deserving nominees, but finally Steve was chosen as this year’s Crematorium Assistant of the Year on the strength of this touching testimonial from a colleague:

“Steve is affectionately known as Brass boy! When Steve is on chapel duty you will see him rubbing the brass door handles, door plates and brass on the catafalque vigorously before the first service in the chapel.

“Steve is particularly sensitive to the needs of bereaved parents. Little baby coffins used to be placed on a very old wooden oak board. He transformed this by carving a heart into the solid oak and cleaned and polished it. For each baby funeral he carefully places tea lights and flowers around the board. He selects appropriate and different music for each and every funeral when parents are unable to attend.

“There was an old wooden cross that used to be placed above the catafalque. The cross was often removed for one service and then need to be put back for the next service. This was done by athletically leaping onto the catafalque and placing on a ledge. This does not look respectful in the chapel and was dangerous. Steve cleverly altered a beautiful oak 5’candle holder to hold a brass cross which could be moved easily and looked in keeping with the chapel and lecterns. Of course he polished it too!

“If nobody is attending the service Steve will select music for the person and attend the service, showing respect by bowing as the curtains close. Of course if someone has asked for no music and no service he carried out their wishes. He carries out the family’s or indeed the deceased’s wishes to the highest standard he can, without judgement or opinion.

“Whilst working in the crematory he cleans and polishes the stainless steel. Having a clean chapel and crematorium shows respect for families and the deceased.

“His colleagues love him because he bakes great cakes and sausage rolls. So the numerous diets that are started often come to an end if Steve appears with a tub of homemade chocolate shortbread or freshly made bread. Steve may be 6’2 with a booming voice but he is a gentleman and more importantly he is a kind and caring. He is moved on many occasions by the grief he comes across. His response to this is to do everything he can to look after those people, often these little touches go unnoticed but not by us.

“In the three years he has been at Mortlake Steve has completed his Crematorium Technicians Training Scheme, passed his advanced Cremator Technicians certificate, and passed 3 modules of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management diploma all with distinctions.”

 

Runner Up in this category: Carolyne Reeve of Teesside Crematorium

Mortuary Assistant of the Year

Sunday, 9 October 2016

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Louise Milligan

Louise Milligan, bereavement services and mortuary manager at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, is a shining example of caring mortuary assistant whose behind-the-scenes role means that her work is rarely seen by members of the public.

In the case of Louise, the testimony of one member of the public explains why she is this year’s award winner:

“Whilst my mother was at the Christie hospital in Manchester, following her death, we met an amazing lady called Louise Milligan. She was the manager there but I have been told she has now left to work as the mortuary manager at Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport. She sat down with me and listened as I vented all my emotions at her and then offered me a cup of tea, which made everything seem better, which makes me smile now! The post mortem was done by her and we couldn’t tell mum had even had one. I asked Louise to show me the stitches as I didn’t believe it and she showed me that the cut was made to the side so that mum could wear her blouse for her funeral. I was so grateful as my mum looked amazing and no cuts or stitches were seen by anyone, it made the post mortem worries go away.

I spoke to two other doctors at Christie about her and was amazed how she has fought for better care after death for patients and physically goes to the wards to help and train staff in care. If requested she dresses the deceased and makes sure that they leave in a very high standard. It amazes me how one person can have so much passion and commitment to a job and care for their patients. Louise called them her patients as she sees them as people and I’ll never forget when she said ’Everyone deserves the highest standards of care. I treat everyone as if they were my own as everyone is somebody’s someone’. She is so warm and caring it is a pleasure to be in her company and you can see that she genuinely cares for everyone she meets.”

NOTE: The correct term for a someone who works in a mortuary is an Anatomical Pathology Technician (APT). Louise is shining example of caring APT whose behind-the-scenes role mean that her work is rarely seen by members of the public. APTs support doctors during post mortems. They need a strong stomach for unusual sights and smells. In 2016 Louise won a Christie Award for her work – http://www.christie.nhs.uk/professionals/work-with-us/you-made-a-difference-award/

 

Runner Up in this category: Lara-Rose Iredale of Guys & St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

Most Innovative Death Public Engagement Event

Saturday, 8 October 2016

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Bristol Culture

‘Death and the Human Experience’ & ‘Death, is it your right to choose?’

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Lavish, visually stunning and highly accessible for people of all ages, Death and the Human Experience was conspicuously successful in spurring people to think and talk about death and dying.

The death exhibitions and events programme were amongst the most successful the museum service has seen with almost 63,000 visitors to ‘death: the human experience’. Several thousand people attended the events in person, and listened to recordings on-line, such as the Assisted Dying debate, ‘What is a good death?’ talk, Death Professionals in Conversation, and the Day of the Dead celebration and Death Fair

People in the UK are reluctant to talk about death and dying. They are also reluctant to record their funeral wishes and to make financial provision for their funeral.

By means of stunningly visual exhibits this exhibition encouraged visitors to start the conversation. They were urged to consider ethical issues, differing attitudes to death and how different cultures deal with the end of life – and have dealt with death from earliest times.

The exhibition displayed a diverse range of objects, from a modern Ghanaian fantasy coffin to a Victorian mourning dress, and revealed captivating stories from cultures across the world.

 

Runner Up in this category: Brum YODO

Traditional Funeral Director of the Year

Friday, 7 October 2016

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Trevor E. W. Hickton

 

Trevor EW Hickton Ltd cleaves to funeral traditions and justly prides itself on its ceremonial excellence. The firm is also open-minded about new trends and works in a mutually supportive spirit with other independent funeral businesses.

Cradley Heath-based funeral directors Trevor E.W. Hickton have been carrying out the funerals of Black Country folk since 1909. Hickton’s is an inseparable part of its community and the family firm is now into its fourth generation.

The Black Country is proud of its funeral traditions – as it is of all its distinctive traditions – and Hickton’s gives Black Country people precisely the service they want and expect. The firm says of itself: “We uphold age-old funeral traditions our family have always used still to this day. Top hats, tail coats and paging the funeral cortège is policy.” In everything they do, Hickton’s employees are smart and dignified and the firm’s funeral vehicles are always immaculate.

Traditional in outlook the firm may be, as the vast majority of their clients expect, but Hickton’s also has a genuine passion for and interest in new ideas, opportunities and choices for families. Instead of being threatened by this they are – and this is rare in the funeral industry — embracing it. They are willing to offer families a whole range of choice of services and products which can help make funerals special and personal.

In an industry in which best practice-sharing is patchy and funeral directors regard competitors with hostile suspicion, Hickton’s is laudably and conspicuously collegial. The firm supports smaller independent funeral directors by renting out mortuary space, vehicles and staff. This has created a genuinely supportive community of independent funeral directors in the West Midlands who work to help each other.

Trevor E.W. Hickton’s 5 funeral homes cover the Black Country and Birmingham.

 

Runners Up in this category:

Albany Funerals 

Suzan Davies of Abbey Funeral Services

 

Modern Funeral Director of the Year

Monday, 3 October 2016

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Fran Glover & Carrie Weekes of A Natural Undertaking

Carrie and Fran run a funeral business in Birmingham where they have enjoyed rapid success by facilitating highly personalized, non-traditional funerals.

Carrie Weekes and Fran Glover launched their business in Birmingham in 2014 because they felt that current funeral and commemorative practices in Birmingham, where funerals remain very traditional, don’t meet the needs of everyone. Social change, Carrie and Fran reckon, means that people now live less formal lives; their views and commitment to religion have changed. Carrie and Fran said: “We live our lives as consumers, demanding products and services that add and hold value and which reflect our individuality. The internet is used intensively to research and review. And yet the funeral industry on the whole doesn’t seem to have acknowledged any of this.”

Neither Carrie nor Fran comes from a funeral business background. Their previous experiences of the industry were as consumers and mourners. They felt that the funerals they had attended were a poor reflection of the people being farewelled.

So they set out to disrupt the pattern of ‘conveyor belt’ funerals by making a wide range of choices available and involving mourners in both planning funerals and also encouraging them to process their feelings better by playing their part in a really personal farewell on the day – if they want.

Carrie and Fran’s goals are to:

  • Create meaningful funeral events which reflect the personality and values of the person who has died
  • Encourage the involvement of those who knew them
  • Create an understanding that there are many different ways to hold a funeral
  • Help bereaved people to break away from the norm.

Among many supporting testimonials received for A Natural Undertaking, the judges felt that this one speaks most appropriately:

They are passionate advocates of a funeral to suit the deceased and their loved ones. Their business model is truly modern in an industry that is otherwise very staid.

My uncle died earlier this year and although he was in his sixties, he was by no means an ‘old man’. His death was a shock to the family and we were unprepared. We only knew he wanted to be cremated. After that, we were at a loss as to how to best honour his spirit and celebrate his life.

As is my usual default when looking for information, I turned to the Internet. Among some frankly appalling examples, the fabulous website of this company stood out a mile and really resonated with me. It is a modern, clear and concise site which has been very thoughtfully designed – detailed prices are given, along with other information that I really needed to read before making the important decision of who to employ to handle my uncle’s funeral.

From the first time I spoke to one of the owners, she became a trusted and valuable friend. Crucially for me, she was available by text and email (as well as by telephone). Her calm empathy and understanding helped me more than I can say.

With their warm support we discarded the ‘rule” book’ and thought about the person who counted – Trevor. My once vibrant, gorgeous, wonderful – and completely modern – uncle. His funeral was all about him and everything was perfect thanks to the vision and ability of these two women to offer a bespoke service. I think that Trevor’s service will prove quite the inspiration for anyone who was there and might find themselves arranging a funeral in the future – and that is a lovely thought.

They might run a funeral business, but for these two is so much more. They are, in my opinion, modern-day pioneers. Aside from their day-job, they spend a great deal of time out in the local communicating educating people about end of life decisions and encouraging discussion. Their dedication to this side of their business is remarkable as, let’s face it, most busy people don’t generally place such importance on going the extra mile for the good of society.

I thank my lucky stars that they happen to be based in the place where my uncle lived. I know that we would not have gotten the same funeral in my own local area. It would be wonderful to see the their business model spread nationwide. What a difference this could make to people’s perceptions and experiences of death and funerals. In my personal opinion, they deserve every award and accolade available.”

 

Runners Up in this category: The Individual Funeral Company & Wallace Stuart

Most Promising New Funeral Director

Friday, 30 September 2016

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Judith Dandy of Dandelion Farewells

Judith is an outstanding example of a new wave of breath-of-fresh-air funeral business owners – what the Good Funeral Guide terms ‘artisan’ funeral directors. Some people call them alternative funeral directors. Typically, they reject what they regard as the arcane traditions and mystique of funeral service, presenting themselves as people first, funeral directors second.

Dedicated to transparent business practices and a highly flexible and personal service to bereaved people designed to enable them to create a bespoke funeral which best expresses their wishes and values, Judith’s humanity and intelligence place her at the forefront of this new wave of funeral directors

Having worked in two large corporate funeral companies in 2014, Judith set out to create a personal, flexible, thoughtful and cost-moderate service to support bereaved families. Dandelion Farewells was founded in January 2015, reflecting principles of client-centred support and professional standards of care derived from her previous career as a social worker. Judith is involved in all the aspects of care for the person who has died and their family. The business has gone from strength to strength.

Judith has dedicated much time and energy to travelling nationwide to learn alongside the very best in the industry – those with many years’ experience and others who themselves have begun their business a few years earlier. She has developed strong, mutually supportive relationships with other professionals and is able to draw upon a valuable network of colleagues, suppliers and mentors. In the same spirit, she has been called upon to support the work of other funeral directors who have identified her professional and interpersonal strengths. Coupled with valuable empirical learning alongside others, Judith has completed formal training programmes to provide a firm theoretical and professional foundation to her work. In March 2016 achieved the BIFD Certificate of Funeral Services and is now on the pathway to achieve the Diploma qualification in 2017.

Judith operates from a unique village premises from which she provides modern funeral care.

  • Judith has developed a planning workshop for small groups, called My Wishes My Way. This was launched during Dying Matters Week this year. The core of this session is to freely provide information about end of life choices and funeral planning and encourage people to write down their funeral wishes.
  • Dandelion Farewells provides personal, meaningful funeral occasions whatever form this may take for each individual family. It is an unhurried approach. Time is spent listening and working alongside the people making the funeral arrangements to ensure that their decisions resonate with their lives and preferences. The person who has died is cared for with tenderness, kindness and dignity.
  • Judith continues to support families beyond the day of the funeral. This may be through meeting at intervals after the funeral and if necessary sign-posting them to appropriate bereavement services.

Mary Hughes, Director of Affinity Funeral Services Ltd, said: “Judith’s enthusiasm for creating the perfect farewell is matched by her wealth of knowledge and her patience and availability to her families. Nothing is too much trouble. Dandelion Farewells is a rising star.”

A client said: “Judith immediately understood what I was going through, she was very approachable and kind, extremely patient and knowledgeable. Judith was always available, reassuring me in every way. Her attention to detail was touching. Judith continued her care wonderfully after the funeral too.”

 

Runners Up in this category:

Edd Frost & Daughters

Final Journey Funeral Directors

Young Independent Funeral Services

Funeral Arranger of the Year

Thursday, 29 September 2016

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Sarah Lee of Holmes & Family Funeral Directors

Sarah offers an exceptionally caring service to bereaved families and has carried on doing so while coping and coming to terms with the sudden death of her mother.

There are hundreds of superb funeral arrangers throughout the country but Sarah stands out from the rest of them this year.

Sarah works for a funeral director, David Holmes. The employer-employee relationship is not characterised by deference on Sarah’s part. Exceptionally dedicated and caring, she makes sure her bereaved families get what they need and deserve, no matter how many extra miles that might take. She spends all the time she needs with her families – a very great deal of it – and helps them to arrange exactly the right sendoff for their relative.

Sarah is always focused and uncompromising. She has an eagle eye for detail. She is warm and caring. She supports and guides the arrangers in the firm’s other two offices. She juggles her work with her two teenage children. David Holmes’s two boys, Toby and Oliver, are like sons to her.

Just a few weeks ago, Sarah lost her own Mum. The death was unexpected and the two of them were very close; they were a part of each other’s day-to-day lives. Not only did Sarah arrange the perfect send-off for her Mum, (of course) she carried on dealing with the funerals already in hand, hardly missing a beat. Her emotions were – are – all over the place, but you’d never have known.

David Holmes said: “I have been a funeral director since 1989 and in that time, I have known and employed some amazing people. However, it is impossible to think of anyone better at her job, more dedicated or caring than the woman I call our pain in the ass funeral arranger, Sarah. If she ever left our little firm, she would be truly irreplaceable.”

Runner Up in this category: Angela Bailey of Harrison Funeral Home

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