We don’t do feedback forms at the Good Funeral Awards. Whose eyes light up at the sight of a feedback form (groan)? But that doesn’t mean to say we don’t care like hell what you think. Please say.
First, there’s the business of the misnomer. The Good Funeral Awards is but one constituent part of what last year we called the Joy of Death Festival. The gathering ought to have an edgy, eyecatching name – there’s no future in hiding your light under a bushel. The title alluded to the Joy of Sex, of course, and carried the subtext: if you do it right (there are lots of ways), it’ll be really good. The media certainly perked up and took notice, and it landed two of the participants on BBC R4’s Saturday Live. When a catchy title and a wacky awards evening can gain that quality of audience for people who would otherwise remain unheard, then it can be said to be useful. If it takes a certain amount of ratlike cunning to achieve that – well, what is it they say about omelettes and eggs?
Objections to the JoD name came mostly from within the industry, most vocally from someone we reckoned a major stakeholder in the event. So we dropped it and used the Awards title as an umbrella. We may need a new name that makes it clear that the weekend is not all about the bit in the evening. Ideas?
Any event that becomes formulaic and predictable is a bore before it’s even begun. So we’ll try to morph or even reinvent every time. Next year we probably need to spend less time sitting in a darkened room. Every talk this time was excellent and memorable, but the essential business of greeting old friends and making new ones inevitably meant that probably everyone missed at least one great session. There should have been more for Pia, who was on immediately after lunch. My conscience will never heal after missing Kristie.
We thought we might try something of a parliament next year, with motions proposed in no more than 3 mins, followed by debate and even a vote. Someone suggested a death book club, where people talk about their favourite bits of snuff lit. Like it? What else?
The awards ceremony itself is bound to inspire outbreaks of huff and incredulity. This is a generic problem common to all awards events – when did you last agree with the Oscars? On the plus side, it is glamorous; it offers a brilliant marketing opportunity to those nominated whether they win or not; and it is eyecatching to the media. It attempts to sing the praises of unsung heroes, and there is of course merit in that. The price is paid in hurt feelings, and I have never been happy with the aftermath. An awards ceremony can never do justice. We can’t just sit there while 348 people go up for each prize. The element of sudden death, winner takes all, is something people seem to like. The only time the judges get it right is when the winner is who you think it should be. But is the omelette worth the broken eggs?
The plusses of the weekend were countless and unarguable. They resulted from wonderful, serious minds coming together and talking. Strangers to Funeralworld thought they’d woken up in Heaven. The quality of those who came was stunning. The breadth was great, too: everyone from newbies to Ken and Paula; secular celebrants and Sandra Millar from the C of E; people from faraway places like Fife and Manchester; old school undertakers talking to ‘progressives’. And it’s not just a natterfest, it does a useful job of work in connecting people. As Noel Coward had it, ‘work is more fun than fun’.
And I think the rationale is a good one, too: An inclusive, unstuffy event, which attracts the liveliest minds in Funeralworld and the general public, and strives to be useful. No one has ownership of the event. It belongs to all who participate. Brian Jenner is our lead organiser and host.
Thank you for making it happen, Brian. Without you, zilch.