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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

Poppy’s is hiring

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Poppy’s Funerals is an award-winning, ambitious, young company – with a mission to revolutionise the funeral industry one funeral at a time. Would you like to join us?

Great. Because we’re recruiting. We’re hugely proud of the fact we do not look, sound or act like traditional funeral directors – so it’s highly likely our new recruits will not come from the funeral industry. We’re looking for people who are enthusiastic and evangelical about our work. You must be an excellent and organised all-rounder, and a confident, friendly communicator. You’d need to be up for the almighty, exciting challenge of helping us to grow the business and to change the landscape of the industry for families across Greater London and beyond. You probably never imagined working for a funeral company, but if you’re looking for more meaningful work we promise you’ll find it with us!

If this sounds like it could be you – drop us a line. We can’t wait to meet you. Call us on 020 3589 4726 or email

Isabel Potter, Poppy’s Co-ordinator, joined four months ago from a background in Marketing and Communications: “It has been an incredible adventure so far, and I have loved every minute of it. It is not an exaggeration to say that working for Poppy’s Funerals has totally transformed my life.”

Read what Families say about us here.
Read what the Press say about us here.

Now that’s job satisfaction.

Calling all family FDs who’d like to be on telly

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Screenshot 2014-02-18 at 17


Posted by Sarah Rubin of Dragonfly TV

Dragonfly Film and TV are currently developing a brand new observational documentary series about a family-run funeral business. We want this to be a warm, sensitive and very moving series, capturing the different ways in which people say goodbye to their loved ones and recognising and celebrating the crucial role the funeral parlour plays in the lives of families and the wider community.

We would like to get in contact with family-run funeral parlours and, if possible, businesses where several members of the same family work alongside each other.

Dragonfly Film and Television is a BAFTA award-winning, independent television production company, specialising in factual programmes.  We work across all the major UK and international broadcasters, such as the BBC, Channel 4, Discovery and National Geographic. Dragonfly’s programmes have a reputation for dealing with important and often sensitive subject matters, with warmth and integrity. From giving birth in One Born Every Minute to crashing a plane in Plane Crash, we always tell stories in an honest, thought-provoking and sensitively handled way. 

Dragonfly have worked with many people, places and institutions – including maternity wards, hotels, schools and families in their homes, to create celebrated access-based series like The Hotel, The Family and Extreme A&E for Channel 4.

If you are interested in putting your business forward and want to find out more information please email

It’s what they don’t tell you

Thursday, 13 February 2014



Two questions sent by the GFG to Nottinghamshire CC registrars on 30 Jan 2014. The first relates to the marketing of Notts CC civil celebrants. The second relates to the proposed ‘Living Eulogy’ service as outlined here.

Question 1

In your bereavement guide you advertise (pp 25 28) the services of your in-house funeral celebrants. In the text there is no reference to the existence of independent, freelance funeral celebrants. Inasmuch as there exists a free, open and competitive market in funeral celebrant services, I would be grateful if you would explain to me why this should not be construed as anti-competitive behaviour on the part of the Council amounting to a restrictive practice, which I understand to be, according to the Oxford Dictionary: “an arrangement by a group of workers to limit output or restrict the entry of new workers in order to protect their own interests”

Question 2

The proposed ‘Living Eulogy‘ service will invite people to: “allow individuals to work with registrars to make their own choices about their funeral ceremony”. If this project goes ahead, does the Council intend to make it absolutely clear that funeral wishes are not legally binding on the person who undertakes responsibility for the disposal of their dead body; that that person may make such disposal arrangements as they desire and are under no legal obligation to hold a funeral? This being the case, should the project go ahead, I hope the Council will urge clients to negotiate their funeral wishes with their close family, the people with whom they need to reach an understanding. I hope also that the Council will urge clients to take into consideration that any funeral ceremony is for the benefit for the living as well as the dead; that un-negotiated, prescriptive funeral wishes can have the effect of disempowering the living and inhibiting them from creating a funeral which is meaningful and emotionally and/or spiritually valuable for them. I would be grateful to have your reflections on this.

Reply from Robert Fisher, Superintendent Registrar:

Question 1 – regarding our ‘Bereavement’ publication:

The publication makes clear from the outset that it concerns the services offered by Nottinghamshire County Council.  The Council is able to provide these under the provisions of the Local Government Act 2000 and the Localism Act 2011.   Nevertheless, in the interests of providing comprehensive information, we do include a section on ‘Funeral Options’ including  religious and humanist ceremonies, plus ‘Useful Contacts’ section.   Also, we are happy to accommodate advertisements by others who offer related services, and for example, there is a two-page advertisement of A. W. Lymn Funeral Service.   This is the first time we have produced this particular document, and we will be keeping it under review with a view to possible further expansion and improvement of the information in future editions.  Consequently, I am asking our Service Development Manager to be mindful of your message when reviewing the document.

Question 2:

Thank you for your observations and helpful suggestions regarding our proposed ‘Living Eulogy’ Service.  We have only just now received approval for this service , and so we have yet to take our first booking.   However, feedback from users of our other services indicates there is significant public interest in asking registrars to help individuals to record the sentiments they wish to pass on to family and friends after death.  I understand fully your point that any funeral ceremony is for the benefit for the living as well as the dead, and I will ensure that our lead manager has embraced this point in the detailed operating procedures for delivery of the service.  Equally, from my own personal experience, I know there are occasions when the existence of a record of the deceased wishes would  have been very helpful in settling disagreements amongst relatives regarding the format and content of a funeral service.  Consequently, it is my sincere wish that the County Council’s ‘Living Eulogy’ service will make a useful contribution to the range of options available to the public when planning for and experiencing bereavement.



All that we are not

Friday, 24 January 2014



Back in the day – it feels like pre-history but it’s only 5 years – there was very little buzz around death (poor metaphor, I know).

Now there’s an ear-shattering din.

Back then, in a spirit of open-minded curiosity, I’d blog up anything that caught my eye — arty stuff, Goth stuff, silly stuff, serious stuff, funny cartoons… something for everybody. There’s no trick to it, just a preparedness to slog through Google Alerts, Pinterest, Vimeo, etc. Back then, people liked that – because there was virtually nowhere else to go for death stuff. It was a bit like being the only bar in a quiet, tiny fishing village way off the beaten track. Life was uncomplicated.

The little fishing village became Benidorm. There’s thousands of us, now, it’s got very competitive. Facebook’s been the game changer, the crack cocaine of social media, the essential promotional tool for everybody. The appetite for eyecatching ooh-ah stuff is huge and you can follow the numbers clicking your posts. It’d be addictive if you were a twat. Post anything requiring much more than 4 secs attention and you’re likely to be passed over. I know, I’ve experimented.

It’s not all bad. We had a chat on FB last night about whether Roy, had he followed his heart and kept Hayley at home, would have had to get her embalmed. There was a flurry of comments and the anti-embalmers ran out winners 4-0. There’s a lot of really good stuff on Facebook and there are some great new blogs.

Commentators on social media have their specialisms. The GFG has ceded territory. We don’t do instant-grat stuff from Pinterest any more, newcomers do that. We watch with a grandfatherly and slightly schizophrenic eye. Where does the GFG position itself in all this? Ans: two places at once. Our Facebook/Twitter presence is one place, the blog quite another.

The arty market has been staked out by an incursion of intellectuals, principally the Order of the Good Death and Death Salon. There’s heaps I like about them. Their fondness for morbidalia of all sorts from taxidermy to putrescence doesn’t float my boat, but no matter. The upcoming Salon in London, 10-12 April, looks very interesting. Well worth checking out. Tickets here.

So there’s lots of stuff we don’t do and there’s much that we aren’t any more. Have we lost ground? No. We know where we stand because we know what we are: a little consumer organisation focussed on improving the experience of ‘ordinary’ people needing to arrange a funeral. We’re not clever, we’re not exciting and we’re not fashionable. We try hard. Even if we were better at what we do we’d still be dull and a bit serious. Feels like home.

It ain’t Syria. There’s room for all of us.


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