DEATH, says Nicholas Albery between mouthfuls of Neapolitan ice cream, really ought to be a better experience all around.
‘For everyone involved, I mean. Not only for the dying person, but for the relatives too.’
Twenty five years ago today, on 14th April 1991, journalist Joanna Moorhead opened her article in The Observer with these words and a whole new concept was born.
The Natural Death Centre emerged blinking into the light, birthed from the minds of the brilliant and irreplaceable social inventor Nicholas Albery and his psychotherapist wife Josefine Speyer who, together with co-director Christianne Heal, wanted to launch a natural death movement ‘to provoke as much of a revolution as the natural childbirth movement had done in the 1980’s’.
They had three aims in mind –
- To help break the taboo around dying and death, and to make it a natural topic to discuss over dinner.
- To bring the dying person back to the centre of proceedings and enable them to die at home if they so wished.
- To empower people and make them aware of their legal rights and choices, taking the power away from institutions.
Quarter of a century on the vision and passion that created the NDC, that spark of inspiration, has been passed on like a baton in a relay to hundreds and thousands of people around the world.
The natural death movement is international, hundreds of natural burial grounds have opened around the UK and in the USA, the iconic Natural Death Handbook is in its fifth edition and serves as the one must-read for anyone with an interest in dying, death and funerals. Death midwifery, the Death Cafe movement, Dying Matters, bespoke undertakers, home funerals – our society is moving forwards in the direction that Nicholas was trying to steer us in – although probably nowhere near as fast as he would have liked. Maybe in another 25 years we’ll be closer to death really being ‘a better experience all round’.
Here at GFG Towers we owe an immense debt to the founders of the NDC. We can truthfully say that we wouldn’t be here without them. Not one of us. And very possibly nor would many of the readers of this blog.
Happy 25th birthday NDC. We hope there is much cake and celebration at the bunker today. And Neapolitan ice cream.
Raise a glass to Nicholas’s memory from all of us. And keep up the good work.