Guest post by Wendy Coulton of Dragonfly Funerals
It struck me today when queuing at a takeout coffee kiosk how many choices I am prompted to make when I place my order – what type of coffee, how many shots, what size cup, any extras (chocolate sprinkles or cinnamon on top) and whether I have a loyalty points card? And before my thoughts were broken by the familiar coughing and spluttering of the milk being heated, I wondered how many coffee outlets there were in my home city of Plymouth? I tallied up 20 with ease.
Sadly, though, the bereaved in a city population of over 240,000 residents are currently not spoilt for choice if they want a non-religious venue for the funeral service/ceremony of their nearest and dearest. If you don’t want a church, one of the two local authority run crematorium chapels in Plymouth tends to be the assumed ‘only’ alternative.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with the staff at the crematoria. They are fantastic and do the best they can within the constraints of the facilities and the volume of funerals taking place. And some families will have no issue with the crematorium chapel’s fixed layout and absent ambience.
There is a hidden ‘gem’ though which I would love to see being more widely promoted without reliance on Funeral Directors to tell their clients. It’s a beautiful Victorian Gothic chapel – where I can, as a qualified Civil Funeral Celebrant, conduct ceremonies because it is deconsecrated – in Ford Park Cemetery. The cemetery is run by a charitable trust and with significant grant and donations funding they transformed the disused chapel from a machinery store into a very special community space.
Following funeral ceremonies there mourners told me they felt the chapel lifted their spirits and how much they appreciated not feeling rushed, and having the freedom to ‘personalise’ the space within the chapel and freely move and participate in the ceremony.
I have heard by word of mouth that a funeral occasionally is held at a local rugby ground for longstanding club supporters but as far as I know that’s about it when it comes to current funeral venues in Plymouth.
When I did an online search for Plymouth wedding venues, thirty options immediately appeared from manor houses and country golf clubs to a fort and even a zoo! It begs the question why can’t these venues also host funerals?
Is it a decision these businesses make based on the misplaced assumption that having a coffin with the body of a dead person in it on the premises may offend customers or upset their staff? Do they think funerals are not commercially viable? Often weddings and funerals are cited as the only time family members scattered to the four winds come together and they value the opportunity to socialise after a funeral – sharing memories and catching up. Hospitality services could be part of the ‘offer’ package for funerals to make it financially worthwhile for the venues to host.
We are a consumer society – we know our rights and we know how to complain don’t we? The bereaved seem to ‘settle for’ whatever funeral service venue they are advised is available in their area. There should be at least 30 options popping up on an online search for Plymouth funeral venues.
The restored chapel at Park cemetery