Newcastle undertaker Carl Marlow has, by his own accounts, been quiet for the last five years — busy building his business. For his fellow undertakers this was too good to last. Carl has never been one to take the view that the best way to achieve change is to work within the industry, and this is only one of a thousand reasons why the industry hates him. He’s a free radical and a bloody good servant to those he looks after. When it comes to offering choice he goes the extra mile: “You don’t have to have a hearse, you know. That’s two hundred quid you can put behind the bar afterwards.” I love Carl.
Now he wants to offer advice to cost-conscious, self-reliant funeral consumers and sell them coffins at affordable prices. He says, in that disarming, conciliatory way he has: “I think funerals are a con. Too many people in an emotional frame of mind are paying too much money and there’s no need for it to be so expensive. It feels like a bit of a closed shop, and I’m trying to open it up a bit. We’re hopefully going to be putting coffins on shopping channels like QVC. We’re putting an application in and seeing if they come back to us. We’re not trying to be controversial. We’re trying to make coffins more of an everyday purchase and demystify the whole funeral process.”
Few people have done as much for the cause of death in the community as Carl. He likes to photograph his coffins, not in hushed and dignified surroundings, but in everyday contexts. He tells me he has raised eyebrows and smiles recently, carting coffins around the city, posing them against graffiti-covered walls and the like.
Having spent a happy half- hour on the phone to Carl I just had to tell you about it. The name of the new business is the Coffin Company. It launches any day. I’ll be sure to tell you when it does.