Guest post by Richard Rawlinson
Recent talk about preferences for traditional or alternative funeral services was pretty much silenced by the word ‘choice’. In other words, whether it’s a requiem mass preceded by a Victorian-lite cortege or a liturgy-free, no-dress-code send-off in a field, give the punters what they want.
This libertarian strain of relativism has again been used to challenge ownership of the word ‘progressive’. Isn’t any undertaker progressive if he/she strives to offer better service and value? Isn’t anyone progressive if he/she wants society to advance in the direction of greater peace and prosperity?
People differ on how and where to move forward but no one owns the label of progressive as people have diverse tastes, beliefs, income levels etc. In this pluralist society, choice trumps homogeneity. Sometimes, the big chains deliver it, sometimes niche undertakers have healthy volume by specialising in a given area.
There’s been much said about green pound undertakers but there are also specialists defined by sexuality and race—the pink pound and black pound sub-categories within the grey pound.
If you Google ‘gay funeral directors’ (hat tip Mark Sharron’s recent post about search engine optimisation), you find the site of the Gay Business Association (GBA) listing its members in the funeral trade – here.
London’s Chelsea Funeral Directors is profiled as ‘independent, British, gay-owned (actually it’s not – see footnote) and managed funeral directors and monumental masons, sensitive to personalised funeral requests’.
The entire Dignity chain is also a GBA member and states: ‘We offer sympathetic, caring, unbiased service through our nationwide network of over 550 funeral homes – 24 hours a day… We also provide full services for persons with AIDS and HIV+’.
There’s clearly a difference between a gay-managed company and a corporation making a point that all business is welcome. The pink pound might be attracted to Dignity’s GBA membership just as the red pound of union activists might be attracted to the Labour-funding Co-operative Group’s Funeralcare chain. That doesn’t make either the real deal.
A funeral director catering for reds didn’t score in my Google search but there are plenty of other specialists beyond the greens and the pinks.
- Carty Independent Funeral Services in London’s Brixton is managed by people from African and Caribbean backgrounds, and specialises in funerals for Rastafarians.
As with most modern companies, Chelsea and M. Carty undertakers will tailor their services to individual wishes, whether religious or non-religious, opulent or simple. Likewise, their funerals are, of course, available to gay and straight or black and white.
The fact they also promote their niche expertise as a strength is an added bonus, good for individuals within the community and, I hope, good for business.
Footnote: for Charlie Phillips’s photographs of Afro-Caribbean funerals, see here.
ED’S NOTE 1) Cheshire East Council’s Information On Using A Funeral Director notes: “older people tend to reflect upon the past socialist principles of the ‘Co-op’ funeral services, which may no longer apply.” 2) We are informed (21.06, Weds 22.10.2014) that Chelsea Funeral Directors are no longer gay-owned.