Category Archives: Uncategorized

Access All Areas

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The shiniest fridge we've seen in quite some time.

The shiniest fridge we’ve seen in quite some time.

Fridges & Funeral Horses
“Come see my Daddy’s shop,” exclaimed Aoife, aged five and dressed in the loveliest summer dress, as she pulled her little friends through the front door and headed straight for the embalming room.

It was Access All Areas today for the launch of Don O’Dwyer’s lovely new funeral home in Acton, West London.  We had accredited O’Dwyer Funeral Directors as one of only six funeral directors in London with the official GFG seal of approval before he’d even officially launched.

“There’s absolutely nothing to hide here,” Don told me, as curious members of the community had a look around his new funeral premises, taking a peek inside the (brand new and empty!) fridge as they enjoyed coffee, cake and champagne and chatted to Don’s family.

The ever lovely funeral horses put in an appearance, as did local MP Rupa Huq, who was shocked to discover that the UK funeral industry is entirely unregulated, but was pleased to hear that the Good Funeral Guide is hard at work telling the public about the the good guys like Don.  One of the two Chapels of Rest was blessed by the local Catholic priest, and celebrant and funeral director Rob from Crumpton Rudd funerals conducted a mini service, funeral style, to celebrate.

Don's 1983 Daimler hearse.

Don’s graceful 1983 Daimler hearse.

O Dwyer's GFG Recommendation proudly on show

O Dwyer’s GFG Recommendation proudly on show

The star of the show!

The star of the show!

In other news…
There hasn’t been much, if any, good news from the world of crematoria recently.  Back in July, we exposed the appalling state of West London Crematorium.  We’re still awaiting comment from the General Cemetery Company, who have yet to get out the hoover and clean up the mess, according to our well-placed sources.

We’ve also had a run-in with a crematorium who refused to allow mourners their choice of music during an early morning contract funeral.  ‘Crem choice’ seems to mean no choice in a certain borough just west of London.

So it’s been refreshing to see a spirit of friendliness, openness and transparency being embraced at Mortlake Crematorium.  It’s undergoing a spring clean and a lick of paint in preparation for taking part in Open House London in September.  Superintendent Natasha Bradshaw promises it will be Access All Areas for members of the public to not only enjoy the 1930s art deco building, but also to see what happens behind that mysterious curtain.

It’s wonderful to see the good guys of the funeral industry like O Dwyer’s Don and Mortlake’s Superintendent Natasha Bradshaw embracing openness and transparency and welcoming the often sceptical public through their doors.

There’s nothing to hide, after all.

The view from the catafalque at Mortlake Crematorium, taken by Steve Biggs

The view from the catafalque at Mortlake Crematorium.  Photograph taken by Steve Biggs

 

Why Funeralbooker are backing the Good Funeral Awards

Friday, 19 August 2016

Funeralbooker at the Ideal Death Show

Guest post by Ian Strang and James Dunn, Directors of Funeralbooker

‘Dear all,

For those of you who haven’t come across Funeralbooker before, we are a website which helps connect people with the best funeral director for them.

When we decided to set up Funeralbooker and were researching the market, it was evident that the Good Funeral Guide provided the leading independent voice in the funeral community. We had spent countless hours scouring its blog for valuable insights into this new world – and so one of the first meetings we looked to set up was with its founder, Charles Cowling.

Heading down on the train to Weymouth, we felt slight trepidation over what type of character this Mr Cowling might be – perhaps a firebrand activist or maybe a dour auditor? Therefore, we were delighted to discover an incredibly amiable and engaging Charles, who escorted us to a local pub where we spent a very pleasant few hours in the sunshine discussing the industry. Tough market research indeed!

Since that time, we have continued to value Charles’s thoughts and input and have further strengthened our relationship with the GFG since the appointments of both Fran Hall and Louise De Winter.

In particular, we view several elements of the GFG’s ethos as mirroring ours:

  • • A relentless pursuit of what is best for customers – particularly through empowering them to make their own decisions
  • • Championing the great work done by the many outstanding funeral directors
  • • “Openness” to new ideas, innovation and change

We allow consumers to quickly and easily understand who the best funeral director is for them – using clear pricing entered by funeral directors themselves and reviews from actual customers who have used the platform.

For the funeral director, we provide a way to easily reach a whole new set of customers that they might not usually be able to serve. Before we launched, people who searched online would typically end up with the larger chain companies, and we can compete against that, increasing visibility for the smaller, independent funeral directors.

Last year, as wide-eyed newcomers, we attended the Ideal Death Show and Good Funeral Awards at the very last minute with only a hastily designed banner and some preliminary designs of what our website might look like when we had finished building it.

A year on and we return as proud sponsor of this event, with almost 500 funeral directors signed up with us and our website helping people connect with these great independents every day. These awards provide a fantastic way to celebrate all that is great within the funeral industry and sponsoring them is a very proud moment for us.’

To find out more about Funeralbooker visit their website here: funeralbooker.com/

The Longest Long List Ever

Friday, 5 August 2016

Papers

The judges’ desks are looking not dissimilar to this…

Finally, we can reveal the successful contenders who have made The Long List for the 2016 Good Funeral Awards 

This year we have received more nominations than ever before, and with 24 categories, there are over 170 individuals or companies who will be considered for a chance to win one of the most covetable accolades in Funeralworld.

We don’t envy the judges their task this time around; the standard of entries is extraordinarily high, and the supporting testimonials that have been pouring in are heartfelt and often deeply grateful – many hundreds of people have taken the time to write in to tell us about the kindness, the skill or the care they received from their nominee when they were bereaved, and how much this meant to them.

Every letter or e-mail received in support of those named on the Long List will be handed over next week for the final decision making by the Good Funeral Awards judges, those eminences whose identities remain a closely guarded secret.

Their final choices of the winning entrants will be revealed at the glittering lunchtime Awards Ceremony on September 8th, which is being hosted by comedian and author Shappi Khorsandi at London’s grand Porchester Hall – an event made possible by the generosity of our main sponsor Funeralbooker,  a donation from our good friends at Greenfield Creations and the support of our individual category sponsors (shown  below).

Everyone is welcome to come along, whether or not you were nominated, or are on the 2016 Long List. The Good Funeral Awards are a day to celebrate the changing world of funerals and the wonderful people that inhabit it. And this year it’s going to be a very stylish occasion. Wear your best frocks. There will be cameras and journalists a-plenty; a London awards ceremony for the funeral industry is intriguing the media!

If you haven’t already booked your place at the best party in town, click here to order your ticket for the Awards Lunch, or e-mail us for an invoice.

And if you have made it to the 2016 Good Funeral Awards Long List, congratulations. Really, really well done. You should be immensely proud to see your name below.

 

The 2016 Good Funeral Awards Long List

1. Minister of the Year 

Revd. Canon Gill Behenna (Chaplain among Deaf people in the Diocese of Bristol)

Revd. Kate Bottley (Vicar of the churches of Blyth, Scrooby and Ranskill and Chaplain to North Notts College)

Revd. Richard Mitchell (formerly of the Parish Church of St. Paul, Shurdington, now Canon Precentor at Gloucester Cathedral)

Revd. Melanie Toogood (Former Vicar of St. George & All Saints, Tufnell Park)

2. Celebrant of the Year (sponsored by Civil Ceremonies Ltd.)

May Andrews

John Banks

Tina Bowden

Gill Coltman

Janice Cubis

Emma Curtis

Christine Cuzick

Tiu De Haan

Tamara Dickson

Rebecca Dinsdale

Victoria Fisher

Stevie Glover

Diana Gould

Vashti Hodge

Pauline Hyde Coomber

Rosalie Kuyvenhoven

Jane Morgan

Kate Spohrer

Rosemarie Teece

Frances Tulley

Claire Turnham

Angela (Basira) Ward

Sally Ward

Pat Winslow

3. Embalmer of the Year

Steve Fooks

Andy Holder

Angie McLachlan

Matthew Newton

4. Coffin Supplier of the Year (sponsored by ECoffins)

Colourful Coffins

Greenfield Creations

J. C. Atkinson

Musgrove Willows

5. Florist of the Year

Colonnade Florist

Dazzle Me Daisy Do

Debbie Western Flowers

Flower Workshop

Flowers By Susan

Flowers on Main Street

Louise Taylor Flowers

Inspired Flower Design

Old English Rose

Passionate Flowers

Flowers By Rosie Orr

Tuckshop Flowers

6. Gravedigger of the Year

Ivor Davies (Caerphilly County Borough Council)

Martin House (Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground)

Will Pearce

D. T. H. Burial & Churchyard Service

7. Cemetery of the Year

Blandford Cemetery

Dewstow Cemetery

Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground

Greenacres Woodland Burials Chiltern

Higher Ground Meadow

Moulton Cemetery

Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery

Porchester Memorial Gardens

St. Woolos Cemetery

8. Crematorium of the Year (sponsored by Scattering Ashes)

Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff

Gwent Crematorium

Kettering Crematorium

Mortlake Crematorium

Redditch Crematorium

9. Best Internet Bereavement Resource

Death Goes Digital

Funeral Stationery 4U

Muchloved

Once I’ve Gone

Social Embers

The Grief Geek

10. Best Funeral Caterer

Claret Catering

Rocket Catering

Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service

Tea & Sympathy

11. Best Alternative to a Hearse

Bon Voyage Citroen Hearse

Harrison Funeral Home Electric Vehicle

Leverton’s Eco-Hearse

Morris Minor Hearse

Respect Bentley

12. Best Green Funeral Product

Bellacouche Leaf Shroud

Brahms Electric Hearse

Eco Urns

Respect EveryBody Shroud

Sacred Stones

Secure Haven

13. Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death (sponsored by Final Fling)

Lucy Coulbert

Jane Duncan Rogers

Lucy Talbot & Sarah Troop

Claire Turnham

Sandy Weatherburn

Beyond Goodbye

Bristol Culture

Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service

The Corpse Project

The Natural Death Centre Charity

14. Best Maker of Hand Carved Memorials in an Indigenous Material

Bierton & Woods

The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop

Stoneletters

15. Low Cost Funeral Provider of the Year

Coulbert Family Funerals

Evelyn’s Funerals

Funerals on a Budget

Only With Love

Express-Burials & Express Cremations

Secure Haven Cremations

Wallace Stuart Funeral Directors

16. Green Funeral Director of the Year (sponsored by The Association of Green Funeral Directors)

Higher Ground Family Funerals

Only With Love

The Green Funeral Company

Woodland Wishes

17. Funeral Arranger of the Year

Angela Bailey at Harrison Funeral Home

Emma Fisher at Colin Fisher Funeral Directors

Sarah Lee of Holmes & Family Funeral Directors

Sarah Wolsey at Daniel Ross Funerals Ltd.

18. Most Promising New Funeral Director (sponsored by The Church of England)

Chloe Middleton (Rosedale Funeral Home)

C. S. Boswell Independent Family Funeral Services

Compassionate Funerals

Crumpton Rudd

Dandelion Farewells

Divine Ceremony

Edd Frost & Daughters

Final Journey Funeral Directors

The Modern Funeral

Youngs Independent Funeral Services

19. Modern Funeral Director of the Year (sponsored by The Natural Death Centre Charity)

A Natural Undertaking

Albany Funerals

Bewley & Merrett

Compassionate Funerals

Harmony Funeral Care

Harrison Funeral Home

Heart & Soul Funerals

Mark Catchpole

Only With Love

Respect Direct Funeral Services

Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service

The Individual Funeral Company

Town & Country Funeral Directors

Wallace Stuart Funeral Directors

20. Traditional Funeral Director of the Year (sponsored by A. R. Adams Funeral Directors)

David Crayton of John Lucas Funerals

Suzan Davies of Abbey Funeral Services

Oliver Holmes of Holmes & Family Funeral Directors

Albany Funerals

Leverton & Sons

Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service

The Individual Funeral Company

Trevor E. W. Hickton Ltd.

Wallace Stuart Funeral Directors

21. Most Innovative Death Public Engagement Event

Louise Winter

Bristol Culture

Brum YODO

London Society of Death

Respect Drivers Pageant

22. Mortuary Assistant or Team of the Year (including Anatomical Pathology Technicians)

Wayne Day at T. E. W. Hickson Ltd.

Lara-Rose Iredale at Guys & St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

Louise Milligan at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust

Hannah Nutbeem at Heart & Soul Funeral Directors

The team at The John Radcliffe Hospital

23. Crematorium Assistant of the Year

Steve Biggs at Mortlake Crematorium

Roy Paget at Solihull Bereavement Services

Gary Paterson at Breakspear Crematorium

Paul Rayner at Solihull Bereavement Services

Carolyne Reeve at Teesside Crematorium

The entire team at Golders Green Crematorium

The entire team at Redditch Crematorium

24. Lifetime Achievement Award

Nicholas Albery (posthumously)

Anne Barber

Anne Beckett-Allen

Lucy Coulbert

Howard Hodgson

Rosie Inman-Cook

Susan Morris

Richard Putt

Josefine Speyer

Susan Thompson

Jon Underwood

Tony Walter

 

“Sensitive incineration” – definition please?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

incineration of clinical waste

Guest post by Tim Morris from the ICCM

“Sensitive incineration of Pre-Term Babies”

Is this a valid option for bereaved parents alongside burial and cremation? Believe me, it has been accepted in some quarters. If you are a bereaved parent or of a sensitive disposition, I apologise for any cold technical and legal terms used however they are in use, I mean no offence.

The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management has opposed the option of ‘sensitive incineration’ as an option for the disposal of pre-term babies, on the grounds that such a thing does not exist.

When the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) consulted on the disposal of pregnancy remains following pregnancy loss or termination in March 2015, the ICCM made its position very clear. Is adding the word ‘sensitive’ an attempt to make the disposal of babies as clinical waste sound acceptable? The (re)introduction of incineration was a surprise when the HTA Guidance was published, as the year prior to this, 2014, the then Health Minister had branded the practice ‘totally unacceptable’ and ordered it to cease – see here.

Scotland, ahead of the game at present in matters of burial and cremation and the disposal of the dead, banned the sending of lost babies to incineration plants in 2012.

Well done Scotland.

Having attended various events and gatherings, and more recently speaking at the Child Funeral Charity seminar just a week ago, I have taken the opportunity to ask those gathered if they could describe sensitive incineration. To date nobody has, not even the HTA and organisations that have supported it.

Whist it could be understood and accepted that some women might not want any recognition for their baby, whether miscarried or aborted, the suggestion that it would be their wish to have no record of nor recognition for their baby does not follow. There will always be a record at the hospital or clinic on medical files, and the hospital or clinic would need to retain a signed consent form, plus the record of waste transfer to the incinerator (in the form of a waste transfer note required under waste management legislation) is yet another record in the chain of events. In other words an audit trail.

If the final act takes place at a crematorium or cemetery, a hospital or clinic record will be maintained albeit the name of the mother being substituted with a case number in order to maintain confidentiality required under the Abortion Act if the mother so desires. No record of the mother would be held at the cemetery or crematorium, hence confidentiality maintained. Whilst there might be audit trails in respect of incineration, burial and cremation the overriding fact is that parents are not revealed and confidentiality is maintained. Recognition of a lost baby could only be given or not by parents.

Anyway, an attempt at a description of sensitive incineration comes via the HTA Guidance that suggests that these babies should be placed in a container and not with other clinical waste, and that a minister of religion could accompany the container (yellow plastic bag??) on its journey and to its end.

It also suggests that these babies are incinerated separately from other clinical waste. Is this possible in a commercial, continuous, industrial process? Could someone explain? The ash, even if it could be separated from the ash produced from the burning of other waste, would surely not be respectfully scattered in a pleasant area of grounds but will be dumped in a landfill site.

I really feel for those hospital staff that might be required to attempt to describe sensitive incineration alongside descriptions of burial and cremation. Perhaps some might refuse? Perhaps some bereaved parents will be shocked into making complaint? Time will tell. Perhaps hospital managers should visit both crematorium and incineration plant and draft a truly accurate description of the process observed at each in an attempt to help their staff?

Note Clause 5.3 in the Royal College of Nursing Guidance

The MoJ published its response to its consultation on review of the cremation regulations on 7th July, just last week. The review was required as it was evident that action was required in light of the Baby and Infant Cremation Investigation Reports, the Commission report in Scotland, and the Emstrey report in England. It was music to our ears as the Institute had long since campaigned to bring the cremation of fetuses into regulation. The first Institute policy statement issued in 1985, (yes 1985!) entitled ‘Fetal Remains, an IBCA policy statement’ was basically an attempt to cease sending pre-term babies to waste incinerators (Note that IBCA is the former title of the Institute). At that time, all babies born prior to 28 weeks (now 24 weeks) gestation and showing no signs of life, were consigned to the incinerator. Only stillborn babies had recognition and were either buried or cremated. Various legal and ethical arguments for and against cremation of pre-term babies were aired at that time, including the fact that fetuses have no legal status and that an attempt was being made to turn crematoria into waste disposal sites. Whilst fetuses still have no legal status today and the vast majority of crematoria will cremate them, the fact that cremation is technically unlawful has been avoided by government in England and Wales until now.

Good for Scotland and Lord Bonomy for recommending the regulations of the cremation of fetuses in 2014 in his Report of the Infant Cremation Commission, the Scottish Parliament bringing the regulation of Baby and infant cremations into a new Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 and hence leading England and Wales along the same path.

There is a big difference though. Incineration is banned in Scotland yet condoned in England and Wales.

The Institute stuck to its aim and reviewed and revised its policy and guidance on the Sensitive Disposal of Fetal remains over the years and numbers of burials and cremations slowly increased so perhaps incineration decreased.

Not surprisingly the MoJ response includes ‘definition of ashes’ in its list of items to be dealt with, as this was the fundamental issue in at least three of the inquiry etc. reports. The response also speaks of an inspector of crematoria and statutory forms and register, the latter two items being the masterstroke of Lord Bonomy in bringing the cremation of fetuses into regulation. At last.

The only part of the MoJ that was not music to our ears was reference to ‘sensitive incineration’. The mention of sensitive incineration mirrors the view of the (HTA) that it should be an option for bereaved parents alongside burial and cremation. I don’t recall that this option was discussed in the MoJ consultation. The spectre of sensitive incineration exists and has been reinforced.

So back to basics:

Can anyone describe the sensitive incineration of babies?

Why is sensitive incineration being given a push?

Are the words of the Minister ‘totally unacceptable’ made in 2014 being ignored?

The Institute’s description of sensitive incineration is ‘disposal at a waste incinerator that conducts a continuous, industrial process in accordance with waste management legislation’. Any advance on this or perhaps a more ‘sensitive’ description?

Has the word ‘sensitive has been highjacked?

Finally, are we are supposed to be a sensitive and caring society? Seems that Scotland has the lead on this as well.

What we can learn from the funerals in Game of Thrones

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Game of Thrones and funerals

Guest post by Amy Cunningham in the USA

With funeral options like earth-friendly burial in simple shroud or biodegradable casket, family-witnessed cremation, and full body sea submersion drawing more interest than ever, it’s a good time to notice that the end-of-life rituals in HBO‘s epic fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” are culturally connected. Not since “Six Feet Under,” has a TV show startled and electrified us with such fabulous funeral services. From high church to home-spun, these Celtic-y/Viking-ish pagan spectacles (that sometimes smack of a Greek/East Asian/ Mongolian influence) will affect the future funeral planning decisions of Americans now under the age of 30. To distill the wisdom in GOT’s finest send-offs (spoilers ahead!), my 19-year-old son Gordon Waldman has kindly come to my assistance. So many deaths have occurred in the six seasons that Slate magazine has been tracking them.

Here’s what we might glean–

1. Grief is real and long lasting.
It can drive you in strange and marvelous directions. Many main characters in the show are fueled by the emotions caused by loss. Cersei Lannister is basically driven to madness over the deaths of her children, while Arya Stark seeks gruesome revenge against those who murdered her family.

2. Bodies are important.
The phrase “bring out your dead” seems operative. Death is not a medical event, it’s a community experience, whether it’s the head of Ned Stark on a pike or yet another formal visitation with viewing in King’s Landing. I too want a golden burial shroud and loads of votive candles!

3. It’s nice to have the support of a hospice worker, death doula or home funeral guide to help you bathe and groom the deceased person’s body soon after death.
I’m impressed with the work of the Silent Sisters (the death midwifes of the Seven Kingdoms who collect, bathe, and shroud the dead). They remind me of my saintly sisters in the National Home Funeral Alliance, though we are far from silent at the moment.

Nice idea: the Silent Sisters hand delivered Eddard "Ned" Stark's remains to a tented residence.

Nice idea: the Silent Sisters hand delivered Eddard “Ned” Stark’s remains to a tented residence.

4. Rituals employing one of the elements–fire, water, earth, air–help grieving families process the loss.
The countless cremations conducted by the Night’s Watch are contrasted with the epic sea burials used by House Greyjoy. All are transformative.

The difficult-to-love Baylon Grayjoy had a stunningly gorgeous sea burial, one of my personal favorites. "Feed the creatures of your kingdom on his flesh. Pull his bones down to your depths to rest beside his ancestors and his children."

The difficult-to-love Baylon Grayjoy had a stunningly gorgeous sea burial, one of my personal favorites. “Feed the creatures of your kingdom on his flesh. Pull his bones down to your depths to rest beside his ancestors and his children.”

5. The more you involve yourself with the care of the dead and the funeral itself, the more you might help yourself heal.
There have been too many pyre lightings to mention, but the lesson seems to be–get in there, don’t hold back, participate in the funeral and heal.

Service for one: With tears in his eyes, a dutiful and beleaguered Jon Snow lights his lover Ygritte's pyre.

Service for one: With tears in his eyes, a dutiful and beleaguered Jon Snow lights his lover Ygritte’s pyre.

6. It is best not to make large demands of other family members at the funeral.
Jaimie and Cersei break this rule far too much, and have their most bizarre exchanges in front of the bier.

7. Stay flexible.
Funerals aren’t supposed to be perfect, and sometimes you have to change plans on a dime. Season six finale (spoiler alert!) shows Cersei spontaneously selecting cremation instead of entombment for her newly deceased son Tommen since, in a complex twist of fate, she’s just blown up their version of Westminster Abbey, where every other dead relative, up to then, had been placed in crypts.

8. Hang in there, get support.
As Daenerys learned after her Dothraki husband’s cremation, you never “get over” the death of someone close to you. But you will, in time, “get with” the loss and walk on with it. You might even hatch three dragons!

The cremation of Maester Aemon required four people to light each corner of the twiggy pyre. “He was the blood of the Dragon, but now his fire has gone out.” The memorable funeral service starts 90 seconds into this Youtube.com video.

Seasons of grieving: Take your time, cycle through, marinate in any death that is sudden or completely unexpected.

Seasons of grieving: Take your time, cycle through, marinate in any death that is sudden or completely unexpected.

Want something different? Why not order a handcrafted casket or make one yourself? A funeral can be just as imaginative and important as a wedding and, much to the surprise of some "Game of Thrones" characters, a funeral can turn out a lot better.

Want something different? Why not order a handcrafted casket or make one yourself? A funeral can be just as imaginative and important as a wedding and, much to the surprise of some “Game of Thrones” characters, a funeral can turn out a lot better.

Hang in there. Stay present. Take a risk. Something larger than yourself will hatch before too much more time passes.

Hang in there. Stay present. Take a risk. Something larger than yourself will hatch before too much more time passes.

Ed’s note: Today’s guest post comes from the other side of the pond.  Amy Cunningham, is the owner of the recently launched and much needed Fitting Tribute Funeral Services in Brooklyn, USA. She specialises in green burials in cemeteries certified by the Green Burial Council, simple burials within the NYC- Metropolitan area, home funerals, and cremation services at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery’s gorgeous crematory chapels.  She also helps residents of New York with affordable and sustainable funerals.  She’s a rare find in the New York funeral scene.  We have a lot of time for her much needed holistic approach to funerals.  If you’re ever in America, track her down.

Sizzling Summer continued..

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

cloudy sky

Now that the sun has come out a bit and the Wimbledon quarter finals have been reached, the attraction of spending daylight time at conferences and seminars about funerals has waned a little – however, the GFG is nothing if not self sacrificing, so this week that’s just what we’ve been doing.

Also, having rather cheekily asked for a free ticket to the CBCE conference, which is organised by The Cremation Society of Great Britain and The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (who were not on friendly terms with us back in 2014, see here) – and kindly been given one, it would have been churlish not to go along.

So on Monday and Tuesday this week we joined members and delegates in Stratford-upon-Avon, and sat in on some really rather excellent talks. Among them were presentations from some good friends of the GFG and people whose work we are very interested in: – Dr. John Troyer PhD from the Centre for Death and Society spoke on the subject of ‘All things dead are new again’ and gave a fascinating insight into society’s approach to death since the 1970’s, that period of social and political upheaval with very bad fashion. Did you know, for instance, that between 1968 and 1972 there were around 1,200 books published on the subject of death and bereavement? There was a huge interest in debating death and end of life issues that is largely now overshadowed by more recent ideas of death being a taboo.

Dr. Brian Parsons, (who has lots of letters after his name – more about him here) illustrated the exceptional promotion of cremation in the South London area between 1914 and 1939 and how this was achieved, showing us advertisements and leaflets from early in the 20th century and demonstrating how society’s view of cremation in this part of the country was changed in a much faster way than elsewhere in the UK as crematoria sprang up in close proximity to each other. (By 1939, within an 11.5 mile radius of the offices of Frederick Paine in Kingston, there were six crematoria to choose from.

Sandy Sullivan from Resomation Ltd gave an update on the developments so far, as he continues to push for the necessary legislative change in the UK to enable the first installation to take place here. In the USA there are three Resomation units in operation and over 2,000 Resomations have been carried out. No longer partnered by Co-operative Funeralcare, Sandy has a new partner in The LBBC Group, and his enthusiasm is undimmed by the long years of trying to get a Resomation unit operative here in Britain.

A second fascinating presentation yesterday came from Tony Ennis, CEO of ecoLegacy, whose ecoLation process is described as a disruptive, next-generation, environmental and ethical alternative to burial and cremation. Using freezing, heat and pressure, the ecoLation process is a way of breaking down the body to an elemental level until the only thing left is biologically inert dust. Half a billion dollars of equipment is to be deployed in the introduction of ecoLation units in the next five years, with the first commercial unit to be launched in Dublin in October. We’ll be going to have a look at it for you.

James Norris, our good friend from Dead Social and the Digital Legacy Association gave warning about the need for preparation for our death online and explored how we remember those who have died through social media and their ongoing online presence. He talked about the resources available for professionals from the DLA and how these could be used as a soft approach to open conversations about death by asking, for example, whether you have a password / security code to access your phone, tablet or laptop (the vast majority of us do) and whether you have told anyone else what that is. Well, have you? If you haven’t, then the huge amount of information held on your devices won’t be accessible when you die.

Dr. Mary Ross-Davie, the Education Project Manager for Maternal Health, NHS Education for Scotland recounted the multi-agency coordinated response to the Rt. Hon. Lord Bonomy’s report on infant cremation, and the resulting introduction of a new Code of Practice and new guidance for professionals working with newly bereaved parents. Of particular note is the newly accepted definition of ashes ‘All that is left in the cremator at the end of the cremation process following the removal of any metal’ – irrespective of their composition.

There was a detailed and comprehensive presentation from Dr. Anne Eyre PhD. looking at dealing with disasters and the implications for death care professionals. Drawing on her personal and professional experience, Dr. Eyre talked in depth about the essential need, both social and symbolic, to re-identify the dead in any disaster situation as persons, not just bodies, and how critical it is that people bereaved by disaster be given choice and control. In disasters, a person becomes an object, one of the dead, and society insists that disaster victims be treated as persons, not bodies – a person-to-object-to-person transformation through painstaking efforts to re-personalise the dead.

“Every effort needs to be made to turn bodies into persons. In this process of personalization, considerable respect is shown in handling bodies.

It is clear that something very important and very fundamental is occurring, for the dead are not socially dead unless the right steps are taken leading to an individual’s funeral.

To the dead, it may not matter, but it does to the living… the living will, if at all possible, not let go of the dead until the body involved is respectfully converted back into an individual person.”

Other speakers were Leona McAllister from Plotbox, who told the delegates about how the future ‘Memorial Parks’ could look, and P. Scott Odom, director / architect from GoldenAge – Mausoleum Solutions Ltd. who talked about community mausoleums in the USA.

The long day yesterday ended for us with the Presidents Panel, where four representatives from different trade organisations (SAIF, FBCA, NAMM and the Co-operative Funeral Services Managers Association) gave their thoughts about various subjects to the room. It was time to pack up and come home.

 

Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?

Every year we celebrate the best of the funeral industry with the Good Funeral Awards.  There isn’t a ‘Worst Crematorium of the Year” award but if there was such an accolade, we have a strong contender.

Introducing our readers to West London Crematorium, as photographed on Thursday 30th June 2016.

Decaying curtains, stained carpets, seating you wouldn’t want to sit on, general disrepair and so much more.

Shoddy’s a good word.  As is lazy.  So is unacceptable.  All befit the state of this crematorium.

Our question: Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?  It’s over to you.

West London Crematorium
Kensal Green, Harrow Road, London, W10 4RA
Owned and managed by the General Cemetery Company
W: http://www.kensalgreencemetery.com/crematorium/index.html
Cost of cremation: £650

Ed’s note – we’ve contacted the General Cemetery Company and asked for a response.  We’ll keep you updated.  

Full disclosure – I took the photographs below when I returned to the crematorium to look for my lost book of funeral poetry, the day after taking a service in the West Chapel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sizzling Summer

Thursday, 30 June 2016

rain

Like you, at GFG Towers we’ve been waiting for summer to start. No sign so far, so rather than watching the umbrellas go up at Wimbledon yet again, we’ve wangled invitations to a whole number of gatherings of the great and the good in funeralworld. Indoor ones.

First up was a chance an invitation from Anne Barber of Civil Ceremonies Ltd to speak to a room full of celebrants at historic Buckden Towers last Saturday on the subject of ‘What lies ahead’.

In between a presentation about the Wesley System,  a delightfully entertaining account from Evelyn Temple on becoming a funeral director, an encouragement to embrace Tea, Cake and Death (by the GFG Editor wearing her Poetic Endings hat) – and a rather stern warning to celebrants about the advance of direct cremations from Catherine Powell, we had a chance to talk about the future of the GFG and what we want to achieve. Despite the lack of Powerpoint presentation (and indeed any preparation other than a few scribbled notes; the fallout from the result of the EU referendum 24 hours earlier had sort of taken precedence over formulating a professional speech..!) the audience seemed to be interested to hear what we have up our sleeves. We met some very nice people, and got to hang out with them for a ‘Damage Limitation’ workshop at the end of the day where various disastrous funeral scenarios were posited and suggestions for remedying the situations shared.

Next up was a 200 mile round trip to Birmingham yesterday to the ICCM Seminar on Tackling Funeral Poverty. This was a corker! Delegates from across the sector of cemetery and crematorium management gathered together with a smattering of outsiders to listen to six speakers – Simon Cox from Royal London, Alex Strangwayes-Booth from the BBC, Heather Kennedy from Quaker Social Action, Nick Willcocks from yourfuneralchoice.com, Martin Birch from Cardiff City Council and Howard Hodgson… a well known name in the funeral industry.

Simon Cox kicked off the proceedings with a review of the Royal London 2015 findings and a sneak preview of the 2016 findings. His overview of the rising costs of funerals and the lukewarm government response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s recommendations was informative and detailed, and he ended with a warning about the projected cost of a funeral reaching £10,000 by 2033 if average funeral costs continue to rise on the same trajectory as in recent years.

Alex’s presentation detailed her research into the rising number of Public Health Funerals in the UK for a report for BBC News. She made a Freedom of Information request to all the councils responsible for carrying out Public Health Funerals to discover costs and numbers from 2010 to 2014.

Of 409 councils responsible for Public Health Funerals, 300 responded fully, providing her with months of data crunching to discover some fascinating and alarming facts. The North West of England carries out the most Public Health Funerals, the South East region has shown the biggest rise in numbers during the time period examined (32%), the South West region showed the biggest rise in cost to local authorities of Public Health Funerals (63%). And Birmingham carried out 245 Public Health Funerals in 2014. Councils recover approximately 50% of the costs involved, which amount to £1.7m p.a. Alex noted a huge discrepancy in the amount paid out by local authorities for each funeral, ranging between £300 and £2,000, and noted that there is no baseline.

During questions to the first two speakers, Julie Dunk from the ICCM spoke about the huge variation in the standard of provision of Public Health Funerals across the UK. Some local authorities offer a service with a minister, others just delivery to the cemetery or crematorium. There is no legal requirement to offer anything other than just the disposal of the body, but particularly in local authorities where Public Health Funerals come under the department for bereavement services, the standard of provision of funerals seems to be better. A national minimum standard would be generally approved of, but with ever dwindling council budgets, this scenario seems a long way away.

Angela Abbott, Bereavement Services Team Leader from Milton Keynes Council, shared her innovative solution to the quality and cost of providing Public Health Funerals – she and a colleague carry them out themselves. When they realised over £150,000 had gone out of the Milton Keynes council coffers to pay funeral directors to provide funeral services in recent years, they rolled up their sleeves and started collecting bodies and ordering coffins directly. As word got out, families who wanted some help with logistics but didn’t want to use a funeral director’s services got to hear about what Angela and James were doing, and they have now helped around 20 DIY families as well as carrying out 60 or so Public Health Funerals. The savings made to the council budget have allayed any concerns from above, and the quality of funerals they provide now meet Angela’s exacting standards – ministers, flowers and music are all a matter of course.

After coffee, we sat back to hear a response from Heather Kennedy, who talked about her work at QSA, the Funeral Poverty Alliance and the Fair Funerals Campaign. To date, 560 funeral director branches have signed up to the Fair Funerals Pledge  representing 15% of the industry. She outlined some of the things that the Fair Funerals Campaign are asking for: municipal funeral services, setting of standard fees, better access to public health funerals, transparent fees and partnership with other departments.

Heather was followed by Nick Willcocks from yourfuneralchoice.com, the online price comparison website. He outlined the need for reliable online price comparison of funeral director services and explained how the website worked – and got rather a rough ride from a FD among the audience who seemed annoyed that the NAFD hadn’t been asked first before the website was launched.

We retired for lunch before the questioning became too tetchy, and sat with the lovely Charles Howlett from Chilterns Crematorium who talked about the huge changes he has seen during his life in the industry, and how much he welcomed discussions about doing funerals better rather than the merits of various cremator machinery, as ICCM meetings of the past had tended to focus on. Then we were back in the room for the last two speakers, and very interesting they were too.

Martin Birch talked about the municipal funeral service that has been provided for residents in Cardiff for 18 years by the council, in partnership with local funeral directors who tender for the opportunity. This service is available to any resident in Cardiff, and helps control local costs, offering a quality funeral with a hearse and one limousine, all FD services including collection, care, unlimited viewing during office hours and including one out of hours visit all for £1,030. Martin cited the local average costs for a funeral where cremation is chosen including disbursements other than a minister / celebrant as £4,500, whereas the comparable Cardiff City Funeral Service costs £1,708. Similarly local average costs for a funeral where burial is chosen are £5,000, while the CCFS offering is £2,320. Twelve per cent of funerals in Cardiff are carried out by CCFS.

We liked this very much indeed!

Then finally, the last speaker stepped up to speak about The Fashion of Death. Howard Hodgson was never going to be uncontroversial. We listened. We looked round the room and everyone was listening. And we asked him whether he would like to write a guest blog for the GFG. Watch this space – he was delighted to accept.

Just as a final note, at the end of the seminar there was a sharing session and the chair invited the various speakers to join different tables and talk about what they had heard during the day. He also suggested that the funeral directors sitting together at a table might like to do the same, as the ICCM members would undoubtedly be interested in hearing their thoughts. There was a flurry of movement as people rearranged themselves in groups.. and the FDs stayed exactly where they were. They didn’t move.

We mused on this metaphor as we drove back in the rain. The times they are a’changing, but some people just don’t want to budge.

Anyway, tonight we’re off to a party for the First Findings of The Corpse Project. We’ll report back. And next week holds a Cremation and Burial Communication and Education three day conference and a Child and Baby Funeral Choice seminar from the Child Funeral Charity. Lots going on at the moment so it’s probably just as well the sun hasn’t made an appearance yet.

 

Farewell Peggy

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Peggy Mitchell's funeral

 

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 28/06/2016 - Programme Name: EastEnders - July - September 2016 - TX: 04/07/2016 - Episode: EastEnders July - September 2016 - 5310 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 28th JUNE, 2016* The Carters show their respects as Peggy's funeral procession pulls into Albert Square. Johnny Carter (TED REILLY), Linda Carter (KELLIE BRIGHT), Lee Carter (DANNY-BOY HATCHARD), Whitney Dean (SHONA MCGARTY) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 28/06/2016 - Programme Name: EastEnders - July - September 2016 - TX: 04/07/2016 - Episode: EastEnders July - September 2016 - 5310 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 28th JUNE, 2016* Peggy's funeral procession makes it's way through Albert Square. - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

Here’s a sneak preview from the Radio Times showing the upcoming sendoff of Britain’s favourite pub landlady – the one and only Peggy Mitchell.

In good old East End tradition, she’s going out with the horses, the plumes and the flowers.

So… following Charles’ hearse spotting tradition.  Who supplied the horses?

Introducing a new tradition… a (small) prize for whoever works it out first!

 

 

It’s all burgundy

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Camp Hopson bought out by Dignity Plc

“Fifth generation family business Camp Hopson & Co has sold its funeral services brand to listed group Dignity.

Camp Hopson has been trading in Berkshire for more than a century and operates a department store in Newbury.

It sold the business and assets of Camp Hopson Funerals to Dignity for an undisclosed sum in a deal led by Quercus Corporate Finance.

It is the second Camp Hopson deal that Quercus has worked on in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the team advised the company’s board on its sale of Camp Hopson Removals to London-based Ward Thomas.”

From Insider Media

How will this play out?  Let’s take a guess.

The name remains, only the colour changes.

 

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