Let’s have a feedback frenzy

Charles 19 Comments

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. 

If we do the awards again, who do we invite? My favourite suggestion is Grayson Perry. Brian likes the idea of Richard Wilson.

Thank you for making it happen, Brian. Without you, zilch. 


  1. Charles

    I had a ball over the weekend.

    At the award dinner I sat next to a coffin maker, opposite florists and a grave digger and the conversation was flowing.

    The one thing I was so touched by was the passionate and caring attitude of everybody there. It was so good to feel part of such wonderful team of people.

    The Death Café had been going for over an hour when I had to leave and I desperately wanted to stay and talk more.

    Thank you everyone I cant wait until next year to do it all again.

  2. Charles

    We are firing off a press release today. Here’s the feedback bit ….

    Melissa summed up the weekend by saying “It was great to spend a whole weekend with people who share the same vision. Our mutual purpose is to make people’s experiences of death, dying, funerals and bereavement change for the better and we spark off each other.”

  3. Charles

    Charles, you are so NOW! What are we going to do when you die? I was devastated when you relinquished the JoD title for this amazing event. I used to be a bit tentative in 1995 but life is too short – we’re in the 21st century. Are we, as a merry band, cutting edge or not? As you said Radio 4 “perked up” at the title. Did they get adverse comment from their audience? I know the feeling, I think my behaviour at the Awards Ceremony freaked some people out and if so I can’t be responsible. Thinking hard for a title – top of my addled head “Death Stars”….more to come. Grayson Perry for me too!

    1. Charles

      Paula – you were awesome! Not freaked out but I did worry slightly about what the hell you were going to bring out of that bag! Life’s too short to be boring all the time.

  4. Charles

    Hi Charles,

    I love the awards concept and think it will become a great way to incentivize innovation. I also love the mingling of daytime events and think it’s a great way to get people connected. Perhaps you can bill the day as a pre-Awards event, the Good Funeral Awards’ Daytime Faire or something. That way, you can have a Joy of Funerals pavilion, a Death Cafe, a Song Board and death-song sing-along, a group memorial dove release, a Humorous Eulogy Soapbox, an I Hate Funerals poetry slam, or anything else you might desire. Food stalls from funeral caterers; hearse rides…. I think having the winners absolutely secret would be lots of fun…I do wish I were there or you were here. I’ll have to put this on my calendar! much!


  5. Charles

    It was brilliant Charles, I had a really good time. I met old and new friends, was entertained and stimulated and even danced the night away. What could be better…but since you’ve asked for comments here are a few thoughts and questions.
    The big question for me is who is it for?
    The presence of the awards suggests it is for end of lifers in all their quirky glory. The competition and the glamour of the awards themselves are, clearly, a great draw and I am certain they have a real value, especially the way that they let some hidden stars shine out.
    I really enjoyed the evening too and it would be a shame to lose them, but there is a risk that they will overpower the rest of the event. There needs to be something strong going on during the rest of the day(s) to offset them.
    At the moment I don’t think the lectures quite achieve this. Don’t mistake me, they were exceptionally high quality And each in its own way was provoking, engaging and opened up new ways of thinking and doing things. But…
    Is there room for debate?
    Could we more consciously explore trends and ideas for end of life issues? Some of themes that have cropped up in the blog over the year
    would have been worth exploring – community funerals for example, or the NDCs campaign for open pyres? What is really happening in the world of secular funerals?
    Some of the attendees were new or would be celebrants and FDs – could
    we consciously try to attract people like this. The weekend could be a great place to draw people in.
    I think the pricing was off putting too. The only ticket on offer was the weekend pass, which included meals. This, to me, militated against anyone except the seriously committed (whether in the industry or not). You could buy a ticket for just the dinner, why not a day pass for the lectures on their own too.
    Last practical point, it was a bit of a pain having to go next door for our food. it caused some confusion and built delays into the programme too. I am sure if we were all in one place it would increase the mixing and mingling that Barbara talks about.

  6. Charles

    A novel name like Joy of Death may attract media attention but so does the weight of an established brand name—if that doesn’t sound too corporate. I’d keep Good Funeral in the name. It does what it says on the tin. It’s also now an established brand name for a consumer advice and advocacy service, a recognised accreditation mark, a guidebook, a blog, a weekend festival and an awards ceremony. If the typography is right on the publicity material, it’s not long-winded to present it as:
    The Good Funeral

  7. Charles

    PS Grayson Perry would be a big pull next year, IMHO. An inspired choice. Sufficiently leftfield but with cool cred and gravitas. Top of the wish list.

  8. Charles

    The event was hugely positive whilst retaining a relaxed feel throughout. It was great meeting some new faces and having time to sit down for a drink, meal and a chat.

    Well done on the success of the awards and I look forward to attending again next year.

  9. Charles

    I agree with Richard – I think the Good Funeral title is strong.

    Hearse rides and I Hate Funerals poetry slam? Cynthia knows what she’s talking about! Both these ideas are amazing. The hearse rides should be on a loop along the seafront – that would get attention! And I think the idea of an opportunity for open discussion and debate would be fantastic too.

    But mostly I thought the weekend was awesome – LOVED it!

  10. Charles

    It was a great event well done Charles and Brian. I was disappointed to have missed some of it as a major academic event Death, Dying and Disposal was on at exactly the same time in Milton Keynes. I had to hare it back from presenting a paper on how grief affects an embedded funeral choice down to Bouremouth for the Saturday.I am glad I did though – it was a great event and it was a great mix for me – from the theory to the practise in under 24 hours. Looking forward to next year already.

  11. Charles

    I really enjoyed the evening ceremony. Meeting lots of new people was great; I hardly knew anyone there at the beginning. It was great to put some faces to names (including The Natural Death Centre). The 78s DJ was really wonderful. And of course it was fantastic to get an award! Thank you, we are so pleased. I think the Good Funeral is far better than the Joy of Death title by the way.

  12. Charles

    My only suggestion would be not to bother trying to run a Death Cafe (or anything) again before the event officially opens.
    We saw what happened there. (Hello…Death Cafe for one anybody?)

    Otherwise love-love-loved it!

  13. Charles

    The awards were a great idea, our staff felt very proud to be shortlisted. It would be nice if clients were able to nominate people they thought should be included.
    We enjoyed the dinner although it was a long way to travel, will you be changing the location from year to year?
    We felt the dinner price was rather high for the food inlcuded and there seemed to be some confusion about dietary requirements. I agree with the response that suggested it should be possible just to attend a part of the conference.
    It is always useful to exchange views and experiences with others.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>