Category Archives: Uncategorized

QSA is hiring

Monday, 6 October 2014



Quaker Social Action is looking for two exceptional people to join our team.

Down to Earth development worker

Full time, £26,522pa, Bethnal Green, London.

Down to Earth is a unique project which works with those on a low income in east London who are face planning and paying for a funeral. We step in where end of life services step back and bereavement services have not yet engaged to help people with the practicalities and processes of planning an affordable and meaningful funeral.

As a development worker you will engage with people to help them understand their options and  work through what is sometimes a maze of family expectation, form-filling and financial decisions at a time when their ability to cope can be clouded by grief.

The need is very real. The price of a funeral has risen 80% since 2004 and the cost takes many by surprise, especially as the issue crosses two taboos, money and death. Those whose finances are already finely balanced (maybe through having spent time caring for an unwell relative, or living on a fixed income such as a pension) can be tipped financial difficulty and unmanageable debt by the cost of a funeral.

Joining a small team you will be able to make a real difference to people from day one, as you work with compassion and a level head alongside people at a vulnerable time in their lives. You will also have the scope to stretch yourself and grow with the project within a supportive organisation.

To apply download our job pack,and application form and return to us at no later than 10am on Monday 6th October.

The FBCA – an apology

Monday, 6 October 2014



In the light of the Report of the Infant Cremation Commission by Lord Bonomy, 17 June 2014, I invited Ken West, a former manager of Emstrey crematorium, to give his interpretation of the training and practices which had led to the events which the Report investigated. At the same time (28 June 2014) I sent identical emails to Tim Morris of the ICCM and Rick Powell of the FBCA inviting their response. Here is what I wrote to Mr Powell:

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Gone splashing

Friday, 18 July 2014



The GFG is on holiday. Posts will be intermittent for the next fortnight.

One better than Webster

Tuesday, 15 July 2014




Posted by Vale

‘Webster was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin’

Today 21st century body art offers the opportunity to go one step further and actually put the skull there. It’s called a sub dermal implant and it’s what you can do when a tattoo just doesn’t go far enough. Skulls are only the start. Lots of examples here if you’re interested. 

Where to be

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Dead Social Logo


Dying Matters Awareness Week kicks off next Monday. Over at DeadSocial, James Norris is getting his awareness-raising in early. He’s holding another of his pop-up shops — venue: 69 Camden High Street, London.

On Tuesday, there was an art exhibition.

Yesterday, the Natural Death Centre did its thing — lots of good stuff about thinking ahead (before you’re brown bread), cutting costs and achieving a more personal funeral. All the big guns blazed. I bet it was good.

Today it’s all about palliative care and carers.

Tomorrow it’s the turn of the Reclaiming Funerals Collective, whose “work is all about helping people to reclaim the funeral as a community event, as an authentic grieving ritual that calls upon natural imagination, authentic emotions and collective resources.  Affordability and practicality is at the core of what they do, supporting those with minimal resources to help create beautiful funerals for their loved ones.” We’ll be there for that.

On Friday, Leverton’s are hosting an Ask The Undertaker session followed, in the evening, by Save The Male, a “comedy, poetry and music showcase, raising awareness of the male suicide prevention charity CALM. Compered by stand-up poet Jack Rooke and curated by Cecilia Knapp, the showcase aims to encourage and inspire people of all ages to engage in creative expression. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) are a charity working endlessly to tackle the statistic that suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK.”

On Friday, from 8pm til late, there will be “live music, drinks and industry networking aplenty” at the DeadSocial Party

This is an amazing achievement by James Norris, who we’re looking forward to getting to know better. To us he looks very like the future.

Full details of all events here.


New trade assoc sides with consumers

Tuesday, 22 April 2014



The National Federation of Funeral Directors, “a professional, self-regulated body, committed to increasing consumer choice and cost transparency within the funeral industry,” has become very active lately.

It has launched Funeral Directors Register, which claims to be “the UK’s only comprehensive funeral care resource … a single point of reference for consumers seeking funeral directors reviews, reputable, qualified, and approved funeral director services.” It has ambitions to be the industry equivalent of TripAdvisor and will be backed by television advertising.

It is also “leading the way in revolutionising the independent funeral industry”. One way in which it is doing this is through its Fair Price Charter, which it invites funeral directors to sign up to. Those who agree to charge “a fee that the NFFD confirms is fair and reasonable” will get “a web-link and enhanced advertising on both the NFFD website and our new Funeral Directors Register stating that your pricing strategy aligns with the principles of the Fair Price Charter, but we will also signpost to you enquiries that come in from members of the public seeking more affordable services in your local area.” 



The gravestones are laughing

Thursday, 17 April 2014



In Winwick Churchyard by Josh Ekroy

 The gravestones are laughing. They tilt
at each other’s shoulders, droll tears of lichen
blotching their honourable faces. Seated in uneven
rows in their auditorium they note church-goers
squinch the gravel path to the embossed door.
Some lean backwards in mock amazement,
others forward, study the half-mown grass
or slap their thighs, whisper behind their hands —
only one stares in vertical — at man that is born
of woman, a joke they refuse to explain.
But the upright rectangle between the medlar
and the lych-gate, marbled in its twenty-first
century is excluded from the pleasantries,
is bullied after lights-out by the listing seniors,
its jar of wilting pansies the butt of scorn.
A much missed mum and nan? Don’t
make them lurch. Get real: become obscure.
An ancient resident is so amused he’s face down
on the turf and you can hear the subterranean
echo of guffaws, no sleep allowed in this dormitory.
Better have a witty answer when they taunt:
got any pubic moss yet? Wm. Blott, born
Oct 3rd,1756, died it’s not clear when, affects
a desire to know. So does his wife Mary
or is it Maura. Sissy Sally Evans, d. 2006,
has years to go before she stoops to see the joke.

Clarissa Tan

Friday, 4 April 2014



If you came to last year’s Good Funeral Awards weekend, you will remember Clarissa Tan. She was the journalist from the Spectator magazine. She had breast cancer. The piece she wrote afterwards inspired the name of this year’s get-together in Bournville: the Ideal Death Show.

Clarissa has died of breast cancer aged 42. 

‘I am a reporter,’ I say. ‘I’ve come to cover this event. But don’t worry, I won’t report what you share in this yurt. Also, I have cancer. I have been in treatment for one year, but now the treatment is over. I take one day at a time.’

There is silence, then hugs. I thought I would cry, but I don’t. Instead, I feel acceptance and a strange kernel of satisfaction.

I arrived expecting a weekend of black comedy. This is what I find, but there’s something else — a sincerity and straightforwardness that takes me by surprise.

It is not at all a fashionable point of view, but I believe in God — and a good one, at that. The belief fills me with healing, wonderful hope. It is the hope not that I will live. It is the hope that I am loved.

I realise that although I am frightened of dying, there’s a also a tiny part of me that’s always been scared of living. The finality of death is hard. The uncertainties of life can be harder.

Lighten our darkness

Monday, 24 March 2014


Last Friday I met the theatre lighting designer who’s interested in helping undertakers light their chapels of rest more effectively. I shall call him Wayne, for that is his name. 20 years in a senior position with the Royal Shakespeare Company and now freelancing in Europe and beyond. Our venue was the chapel of rest at Hemming and Peace, Alcester. Thank you, Nigel Peace, for your indulgence and hospitality.

Wayne had not visited a chapel of rest before and was expecting something much bigger — even though the chapel we saw is twice the size of most. He took everything in, photographed it and then we adjourned to a coffee shop to chat some more. We talked about how it is possible to use light positively rather than negatively — to create an experience based in light rather than gloom. We talked about mood and how lights can achieve that. Bread and butter for a theatre lighting expert, of course. I asked Wayne what mood he thought would be appropriate in most cases and he said spiritual. We talked about personalising the experience according to the variable expectations of bereaved people and the age of the person who’s died. Some families are likely to prefer a simple scheme, others something more elaborate and, if you like, Disneyfied, with images projected onto the wall (a symbol, a photo of the person who’s died) and a more florid use of colour.

It’s all perfectly doable and, once the lights are in place, not at all difficult for an undertaker to create an appropriate lighting design. The opportunities are extremely exciting. Wayne knows that most undertakers don’t have a lot of money to spare and he’s gone away to price up equipment. If he can come up with something affordable, our next stop will be the chapel of a leading undertaker who has expressed a strong interest.

We’ll keep you posted.


Keep the red flag flying

Friday, 21 March 2014

Bristol City v Gillingham 010314


Posted by Richard Rawlinson

The late Tony Benn and I share in common Bristol City FC, a team in League One, the third tier of the English football league system. Known as the Robins  due to their red home strip, I came late to their fan-base as a part-time resident of Clifton, whereas Benn supported the team during 50 years as a Bristol MP.

Unknown-1In the first game since Benn’s death, the Robins drew 0-0 against Swindon at Ashton Park, the grounds in the shadow of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Earlier this month, a terminally ill fan was allowed to meet the team in the dressing room before they played against Gillingham. Mark Saunders, 54, with days to live due to lung cancer, berated the squad for their recent lacklustre performance, which has left them under threat of relegation. His dying wish was they’d reverse their fortunes. They went on to win 2-1.

Both Saunders and Benn would no doubt recall more dramatic ups and downs over the years. Between 1980-82, the Robins had a staggering three relegations, and were declared bankrupt. Benn’s Old Labour was in trouble, too.

But such is humankind’s indomitable spirit of optimism, we keep the faith: that our team will regain its mojo; our party will rediscover its principles; our religion will be guided by truth; our estranged loved ones will return to the fold; and that we ourselves will do better.

Gods, saints, angels and ancestors are called upon to guide us through life’s successes and failures. Their symbols and rituals, from crucifix to family crest, aid this dialogue. In football, fans like to touch the mascot for luck, Bristol City’s being a man dressed up in a cartoon robin suit.

UnknownThis leads me to a subject of great import. Bristol City FC changed its badge from the red robin to the City of Bristol’s official crest: unicorns mounting a shield depicting a ship. Ditch the friggin’-in-the-riggin’ slave galleon and bring back the robin, please.

Legend has it this beautiful little bird has a red breast after he chirped into the ear of Christ in order to comfort Him while suffering on the Cross. The robin’s breast has ever since proudly borne the stains of the Lord’s salvic blood.

On the all-too infrequent occasions when Bristol City players show bird-like agility and ‘bounce’, supporters sing, ‘Red robins bounce around the ground’ to the tune of thye Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, while themselves bouncing up and down continually in the stands.

Chants, rituals and symbols. Angels and even mascots. They’re all signs of man’s wonderful reliance on things other than pure reason.

POLITICS Iraq Benn 1

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