Death lit

Charles 20 Comments

The Natural Death Centre now has its own online e-magazine. Aimed at consumers, it has features which will also interest funeral directors and celebrants. There’s a straight-talking  feature about natural burial, an analysis of the rise of direct cremation, some radical talk about open-air cremation, a caveat emptor article for funeral shoppers by Jon Underwood, the Death Café man (there’s something about them, too), plus all sorts of other goodies. 

Download it, free, and find out for yourself. 

If you like it, email it to a friend. 

Click the link here


  1. Charles

    Read, and thoroughly enjoyed this, this morning.
    Now, what is the best way of getting this out and read by the ‘general public’ (horrible term!) rather than the preserve of FDs, celebrants and others of that ilk?

  2. Charles

    Congratulations to all concerned with issue 1 of More to Death magazine, both its layout and content. I’ve clicked through and read the features by Charles and Peter Owen Jones but look forward to finding the time to revisit and digest the rest.

    Charles was, as ever, frank about the lonely journey while pioneering wider secular and religious discussion of death and dealing with it. From blog hits in the tens per month to 65,000 per month in a few, intense years of heroic perseverance is an amazing feat.

    Meanwhile, the Rev. Peter Owen Jones questions the need to consecrate woodland burial sites for Christians. Isn’t all Earth equal in God’s eyes, is the gist. What’s the difference between a church cemetery and a natural field to our Maker? Thought-provoking stuff, also touched on here with less flair via the Telegraph.

  3. Charles

    Very impressed with the Natural Death Centre’s new magazine, enjoyed reading it and is a positive step forward. I will add this to the information that I already give out about the Natural Death Centre to everyone attending my courses

  4. Charles



    There is no hard and fast rule to say what counts as a natural burial ground. The sheer diversity of the ANBG menber sites which range from the token gesture towrds environmentalism to the out and out eco warriors bears witness to this. What is important anis that trends are becoming greener and every little helps. Many local authority cemetery managers are doing their bit by offering local people green burials within parts of their cemeteries, where environmental concerns are treated with importance and the areas are managed accordingly. This is to be applauded, not decried .

    Sweeping, disparaging generalisations aimed at local authorities and business are not only unsupported by evidence, but such, negative and divisive commentary does the “movement” any good at all. Using words like “hijacked”, “fast buck” “money-maker” and “lip-service” will unduly damage the public’s impression of natural burial as a whole. Scaremongering by giving the impression that there are “cowboy flt-by-night” elements to watch out for really does not help either.

    NoWhere is there sound practical advice suggesting that families should check the sustainability of a natural burial ground, ask about the long-term future of the operation and look critically at the credibility of the scheme? Advising them to ask what will happen when the income from burials runs out? How will the maintenance and management of the burial ground be funded?

    On pricing – in any burial ground there will be more and less desirable areas. Price bands can provide a way for sites to offer lower cost entry to those wishing to have a natural burial at the site, It helps an operator to even out the distribution of graves within a burial ground so that the ‘best spots’ and the funeral directors’ favourites (closest to the hearse) are not all used up first. It offers families choice and operators a degree of control.

    For those that would prefer a more professional and objective view of things, I would suggest investigating the ICCM.

    1. Charles

      Readers of this blog will probably have a feeling of deja vu. We have heard ‘exposure like this will tar the whole industry’ before. You are sounding like a worried FD when that side of things is in the spotlight.

      What does give FDs and the public a bad take on natural burial is those sites where plot prices are in the thousands. End result… an option, it is dismissed as burial for the wealthy. There are many sites where prices are comparable with cremation. That was my success, making it affordable for everyone.

      On that point, having sold over 1000 plots I never came across a FD choosing a plot! It makes me wonder who is wagging who’s tail at your sites James.

      As for entry level plots ! I rest my case.

      Thanks for indicating that I am unprofessional, I wasn’t aware that Agents provocateurs or simply those with a big gob had a profession. I would hope that my esteemed predecessors would be satisfied with me/ndc maintaining a degree of being a ‘pain in the a**e’.

      Did you like any of the other articles?

      1. Charles

        Rosie, Susan and Rupert…

        I do like the magazine initiative and wish you well with it. Being an “agent provocateur” is one thing, but I just challenge the constructiveness of publishing such divisive and polarized views.

        Business, per se, is not bad, even in the natural burial sector. There are some very good, commercially operated natural burial grounds. Distasteful as commerce is at the time of arranging a funeral, burial grounds need income from the sale of burials to support the services they offer, pay back the investment they have made in setting up the burial ground and to maintain the land. A limited company can provide a much more stable and robust vehicle for owning and operating a natural burial ground than individual owner/operators, who face the issues of retirement and succession.

        Local Authority sites are by no means altogether bad. There are good and poor examples across the private and public sectors, but your article insults those local authority operators who are doing good work and who should be praised.

        Let’s also look at ANBG member sites. Though there are some good examples, there are others which could be held up as examples of what not to do.

        Looking at the long list of natural burial grounds – the majority are not in fact ANBG members. For an association that wishes to represent the natural burial movement, and which relies upon ANBG membership subscriptions for its very existence, is it wise to insult and alienate so many? For a “Considered Opinion” more balanced would have helped.

        ON PLOT PRICING etc…

        The market for burial plots is heavily distorted by public sector subsidy and by the unsustainably low price set for churchyard burial. The cost of cremation is set too low for its environmental impact and consumption of finite fuel resources. The cost of the burial plot is often comparable to the price charged for the coffin. With traditional cemetery burial, the cost of a memorial stone is not usually raised at the time of the funeral and the eventual cost can easily be double the price of the burial plot.

        The lowest priced plots we offer are often just as well located as higher priced plots. We attach no hierarchy to the to naming of the areas (e.g. bronze, silver, gold…) and for the pragmatist there is no reason to choose anything else. Funeral directors like things as easy as possible, so closest to the hearse works for them.

        Funeral directors have a great deal of influence when families are with them arranging funerals. A raised eyebrow could be all that is needed to sway a decision one way or another when a family is making arrangements at a time of crisis. In an ideal world, families would make fully informed decisions based on their own preferences, but the majority rely on advice from funeral professionals.

        We very often find that FDs will guide families to the lowest priced areas. However, most come and visit and choose the area they most like. Our experience is that price does not play a major factor when choosing the plot, but I agree that making natural burial competitive and affordable to all is a good objective. The significant part of funeral costs are the products and services supplied by the funeral director. The FD’s profit margin on one funeral is typically greater than the cost of the burial plot. We are working with selected funeral directors to bring down the overall combined costs.

  5. Charles

    While some local authorities are doing their bit, Exwick Cemetery run by the marvellous Ian Quance springs to mind, others who will remain nameless are terrible token bits of wasteland that the authorities have simply stopped mowing. Plenty of evidence for that, I’ve been to them. The Natural Death Centre is not in the habit of gratefully applauding any attempts to make a token green gesture by any organisation, the idea that criticism somehow spooks the public smacks of a self serving conspiratorial silence. The public deserve to be informed as to the state of play, and things have changed since the early days of what Rosie describes as idealists and pioneers. Big business has moved in, venture capitalists have done the sums and ideological differences are becoming clear. The idea that everyone involved in the world of natural burials are coming from the same place is faux niave and frankly disingenuous. The public need to keep abreast of these developments same as in any sphere. It’s good to know which side you are on.
    And your concerns about no information regarding the long term prospects for any particular burial site are of course addressed in the new edition of The Natural Death Handbook. There isn’t room in an e magazine to cover everything.

  6. Charles

    Dear James

    Thank you for your views.
    I hope all is good with you and your natural burial grounds. I absolutely agree about research and statistical evidence, though the definition of research can be difficult to define unless wish to be really empirical. You’ll be glad to hear I am at last on the final leg of the MSc Death and Society degree course, University of Bath .

    I am aware you won’t be up to speed of the continued and increasing activities of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds as you are not a member. Indeed amongst many activities a cluster sample research project was completed by the NDC for the ANBG last year.

    Anyway we’re leaving this topic at present as are amidst a marketing campaign for the newsletter whilst it is literally hot off the press. Please do feel free to post it up on your website and any assistance in distributing it is greatly appreciated.

    With best wishes

    Trustee, Natural Death Centre charity

  7. Charles

    A word from the ‘marvellous’ Ian – thanks Ru.
    Firstly I’m really encouraged by the debate here, however disappointed by the overall tone. It seems a bit like the political left in the 1970s & 80s so well parodied in ‘The life of Brian’ – are we the Peoples Liberation Front of Palestine or the Palestine Liberation Front (Marxist-Leninist)? or does it really matter? The move to natural burial is a good in itself to me & something we have to pursue for the sake of the environment & our children; I know that is becoming a cliche; tough, it doesn’t make it less true.
    A lot is claimed about ‘origins’ and the ‘true spirit’ of Natural Burial. Some seem to want to forget the concept was started in a disused corner of a municipal cemetery by a man who was my predessor as president of the ICCM. He was concerned with the environment and of meeting the needs of the bereaved; all those who disagree with these basic tenets need read no further, we disagree. Anything that promotes these ideals is good to me; I see no reason for division amongst those who agree with Ken. It saddens me that there are those who have become so detached from promoting natural burial that they can’t do it without slagging off someone else who’s trying; many NB websites whine on about the terrible conditions at the Council cemetery; this is hugely insulting, unnecessary and unprofessional. I for one will talk to, support and praise anyone who is trying to take this movement forwards; hoping as ever that I may make a difference without making anything worse.

    1. Charles

      Hi Ian
      We are coming at this from different positions. It is your job to work for your ICCM members! it is mine to inform the public, sorry if that makes thing uncomfortable. As you know my encouragement, to the struggling sites, over the years has mostly fallen on deaf ears, then they wonder why they are getting no burials. Good luck with your new plans to train them.

      When the public phone me, dismayed by a visit to a hybrid, am I going to say ‘that’s as good as it gets’ or tell them to be grateful for the councils efforts so far. Of course not. I defend my right to say “it is not good enough” and “could do better”. Then, go elsewhere.

      Those reading the offending article will however note that I do not call all spades spades. I do use words like ‘in general’ etc. Which I stand by. The article just points out that all things are not equal and folk need to be aware.

      Glad you like the rest of the mag.

      I wouldn’t worry too much, I shouldn’t think many cemetery clerks will read it. Unless you want to pass it on, which would be appreciated.

      Are you coming to the next ANBG meeting?

      1. Charles

        I’ve love to come to the next meeting; my life is about to earthquake but I’ll make all efforts – happy to talk any time. But I guess I’m in a conversation.
        To be positive; would you consider passing on any complaints about public cemeteries to us; especially if they’re our members?, so we could sensitively see if we could improve things. There’s no malice out there, just ignorance. In return could you acknowledge that negativity towards hybrids (we too are using the name; we’re recycling it) is bad for the image of natural burial in general; Getting something wrong should be the first step to fixing it.

  8. Charles

    Sorry – I also wanted to congratulate the authors for the new magazine, I’m sure it will encourage and inform discussion, which is after all what we need to get our services in the public eye.

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