Joy of Death Convention – 7-9 September

Charles Cowling



It’s a fantastic lineup of brilliant speakers and a great clan gathering — and it’s not too late to buy a ticket!


Saturday 8 September 

All the talks will be in the Lower Gardens Suite of the Whitehall Hotel, unless otherwise stated.

 9.30am – 10.00 – Reception at the Whitehall Hotel (teas and coffees)

 10.00 Barbara Chalmers

 Barbara Chalmers trained as an independent celebrant with Dead Good Guides. She launched the website Final Fling in 2012. It offers advice on everything from planning a funeral to writing a will and even allows users to upload videos for loved ones and leave them in virtual safe deposit boxes. 

She says: “All of my adult life, I’ve been disappointed by the drab, dreary, impersonal funerals that we put with up with as an end of life ritual. I believe we need new rituals and expressions to mark key milestones in life.”


10.45 Jane Morrell and Simon Smith 

Jane Morrell and Simon Smith of green fuse contemporary funerals, are funeral directors and celebrants, trainers of funeral celebrant and funeral directors, and authors of We Need To Talk About The Funeral.  Their talk is titled: Is This The Future Of British Funerals? 

The average age of the person who died for whom green fuse arranges funerals is just 64. This gives Jane and Simon a unique view of the way the next generation want funerals to be. They discuss the way funerals are changing, the choices people are making and the new challenges facing funeral directors and celebrants. 

11.30 Break 

11.30 Death Café with Jon Underwood (The Waiting Room, Arlington Hotel 

Jon Underwood started offering Death Cafés in the UK in September 2011, after hearing of Bernard Crettaz’ Cafe Mortels in Switzerland. To date over 180 people have attended these convivial conversations about death over tea and cake. Jon has written a guide to running your own Death Café which has resulted in them being taken up in a range of places including the US. 

A death café is a chance to share your thoughts about mortality over tea and cakes. You can talk about your fears and experiences in a supportive environment, (since numbers are limited, please pre-book a place by emailing Jon Underwood  – 

11.45 Rupert and Claire Callender 

Rupert and Claire Callender have been at the forefront of the alternative funeral movement since their decision to set up as undertakers and celebrants 12 years ago. 

Their talk is about their support for the campaign to legalise outdoor funeral pyres, something they have dubbed natural cremation. Funeral pyres actually play a large part in European cultural history. Is it time for them to return? 

12.30 Lunch 

1.30 Wendii Miller 

Wendii Miller, a Cambridge graduate, who carried out her own DIY burial for her 98-year-old mother Doris, even digging the grave after collecting her corpse from Grimsby Hospital mortuary and driving her mother’s remains back to a burial site outside Harrogate. She will be showing the video she made of the experience. 

2.10 Kristie West 

Kristie West is a grief specialist. She helps adults who have had a bereavement in their lives, specialising in parent loss.  Kristie positively changes their experience of losing someone they love, in a matter of hours, so they can talk about, remember, and love them without it hurting anymore. 

2.45 Dominic Druce 

Dominic Druce grew up in Oxfordshire in an Anglo-French family where being babysat invariably involved a tour of the family graves. From this grew his passion for gravehunting and hearing great stories. Otherwise he is a freelance researcher and translator, who sometimes sells his paintings. Recently moved from France, he now lives in Hove. 

3.00 Walk around St Peter’s Cemetery, Bournemouth, BH1 2EE with John Walker (assemble outside main entrance). Cost £2 if you have not booked onto the conference. 

3.30 Pam Trott 

Pam is an independent celebrant and is passionate about helping people to make their own choices in life and death. Using her experiences of past life regression taking the soul from birth to death and beyond, ultimately teaching people how to die without fear. 

3.30 Ghost Tour of Bournemouth Town Hall, Bourne Avenue with Michael Stead (assemble outside main entrance, unfortunately we will not get inside access) 

4.00 Death Café (The Waiting Room, Arlington Hotel) if possible, please pre-book a place by emailing Jon Underwood  –

4.30 Language! Timothy perform in the Arlington Arts Café. 

The Chairman & Mrs P will entertain you with their catchy but morbid tracks.


Sunday 9 September

Obituary Lunch 

12.30 for 1.00pm – Sunday lunch with David Twiston Davies, former Chief Obituary writer for the Daily Telegraph at Days Hotel (formerly the Marsham Court Hotel), 3 Russel-Cotes Road, Eastcliff, Bournemouth, BH1 3AB. 

(Ticket price £15 includes tea or coffee and a light buffet) 

“Let us deprive death of its strangeness; let us frequent it; let us get used to it. “




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9 years ago

Very much looking forward to seeing you, David!

Jon Underwood
9 years ago

Hi Charles,

As many as turn up is fine, though at 12 we’ll say the cafe is full. If no one comes that is fine too but I don’t expect this will be the case. If anyone is up for tea, cake and death we’ll see you at the Arlington Hotel on Sat.


David Holmes
9 years ago

I will try and join you – if not, will see you at 7pm for the awards.

Jon Underwood
9 years ago

The ticket price includes coming to a Death Cafe on Saturday at either 11.30am with me or 4pm with Kristie West. Please do come along – I am worried that no one will show up!