I’m delighted to host a post by Brian Jenner. Brian is a words-for-hire person (I know how that feels) who does everything from gilding the tongues of politicians to writing terrifically good books. This summer he is holding a Six Feet Under convention in Bournemouth. As soon as I heard about this I fired off emails to him. Obligingly he has come up with what he does best — some words for this blog. Not that he isn’t a dab hand at organising events, mind. He’s done quite a bit of that, too.
Those who enjoyed Six Feet Under unanimously agree that it was the best telly ever. It had the breadth of War and Peace and the psychological acuity of a louche Henry James. It is amongst the finest dramatic achievements of all time (eat your heart out, Homer).
Enough of me. Here’s Brian. Oh, before he starts — one moment, Brian — let me endorse what he says about Bournemouth. Once the only UK cemetery with traffic lights, it is now the sort of place that hip Europeans fly to for a weekend of clubbing. It is all sorts of vibrant these days.
IT’s five years since the quirky American TV series Six Feet Under came to an end and I’ve missed it terribly. Tender, intelligent, funny, mystical and beautiful, these are not epithets you often apply to TV drama, but Six Feet Under was all of those things.
I live in Bournemouth, a popular beach resort on the South Coast of England. A few years ago, I was walking through a cemetery and I remembered how the character Nate would go jogging on a path through the gravestones. It gave me two ideas. Here was a place to go jogging and wouldn’t it be fun to have a Six Feet Under convention?
I never did go jogging, but last year, having organised a couple of conferences, I put my morbid imagination to work and devised the ultimate weekend break.
It would be like a Star Trek convention, but a lot more classy. We’d host lectures about embalming, green funerals and obituaries. We’d have a Thomas Newman concert and a talk about the music we’d like to accompany our departure. We’d have an audience with one of the stars from the series, go for a picnic in our equivalent of Forest Lawn and offer the chance to sit in a real hearse.
When posted to my blog, I was sure it was all too weird. Within 24 hours someone had responded: ‘Sounds fascinating, put me down for two tickets.’
Bournemouth has a reputation for gerontocratic torpor, but we’re also keen to promote its more creative and hedonistic side. Six Feet Under embraces both. We’ve picked 12-14 August – the height of summer – with our pine trees, sandy beaches and boulevards we can give the town the best chance of being mistaken for California.
Can you have a weekend devoted to celebrating the grim reaper? Isn’t it going to be crass and insensitive? Well, here’s the paradox. Works like Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, Hal Ashby’s Harold & Maude, Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death Revisited don’t fill you with gloom, they give you a spring in your step.
Six Feet Under was great because it wrestled with religion, sexuality, family, drugs and work in raw ways. I want to hang out with sensitive and intelligent people who want to be honest about life. We need to club together. Sadness, fear, joy, uproarious laughter – the weekend will elicit all those things. And we’ll go home reminded how great it is to be alive.
The Six Feet Under Convention, Bournemouth, 12-14 August 2011. For more details go to http://www.sixfeetunderconvention.co.uk