Nikki Hill. Warm, friendly and completely un-funereal, Nikki is the creator and owner of Bright-Hill Funerals, and it is Nikki who will answer your phone call, meet with you and your family and help you to create an affordable, meaningful funeral for the person who has died.
Nikki was born and raised on the Isle of Wight and she has lived here almost all her life, spending just a year or so on the mainland when she was a young woman before returning to her home town of Ryde. She’s lived here ever since, raising her daughter (now grown up), walking her dogs and involving herself with her local community. She knows loads of people, from all walks of life, and treats everyone with the same warmth and respect, no matter what their background. “Every family is different, everyone’s got a story,” she says, “I meet each family with an open mind”.
Nikki knows about bereavement from personal experience – her brother Steve died a few years ago, and she cared for both of her parents at home before they died. It was the death of her mother in 2007 that caused Nikki to look at the world of funerals differently.
“We were very vulnerable and I think we said yes to pretty much everything that was suggested to us, so we ended up with a funeral that was not very fitting for our mum – and it cost a fortune! Afterwards, I researched and saw that actually, there’s no right or wrong way to do a funeral, it’s what the family wants that counts. So I set to, and Bright-Hill was born, to offer affordable funerals and to put together the kinds of funerals that families actually want for their loved ones, with no unnecessary trimmings if not required.”
The company is named in honour of Nikki’s mum – Bright was her mum’s maiden name, and her favourite flower, the sunflower is the Bright-Hill symbol. It’s a fitting, sunny and uplifting image that perfectly reflects Nikki’s gently positive attitude and her open approach to her work.
Nikki’s way is different to traditional funeral directors, those who have high street branches, staffing costs and fleets of vehicles, with all the business overheads these incur. She has a simple, straightforward and uncomplicated approach. She has looked at what you actually need from an undertaker when somebody dies, and she has found a way of providing these services properly and proficiently but without needing to pass huge costs on to her clients.
Her way of working is completely legal, completely professional and utterly refreshing – in a sector typified by men dressed in Victorian tailcoats and top hats, glossy expensive vehicles or horse-drawn carriages complete with nodding plumes and extraordinarily costly wooden boxes, and a society that has somehow come to believe all this is necessary to ‘show respect’ to the deceased, Nikki’s approach cuts straight through that. She offers an alternative funeral arrangement process, a simple, straightforward and uncomplicated one. “My aim is to give you my personal attention so that the funeral is as stress free as possible, leaving a lasting memory of a celebration to mark the closing of a special person’s life,” she says.
Nikki will come to you at your home to talk about the funeral arrangements, at a time that suits you, and paperwork is completed at your home or hers. She uses family and friends to collect people who die in the community and on the day of the funeral, and, while looking after people who have died is obviously a fundamental requirement for a funeral director, Nikki has gone to the people who do this best – the immensely experienced and professional mortuary staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in Newport. “I knocked on the door of the bereavement services with my business plan and was quite expecting them to stay no, but they didn’t,” said Nikki, “The manager at the time invited me in and we started talking about how it could work.”
Two long years of discussions with the Isle of Wight NHS Trust about Nikki’s proposal eventually resulted in a contract which provides all the professional care for people who have died, in the superb facilities at St. Mary’s, for which the Trust receives a fee to cover staff and facility costs.We visited the mortuary and interviewed mortuary staff Louise Holmberg and her colleague Lianne about the contract with Bright-Hill to find out their feelings about it.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” said Louise, “we’ve looked after a lot of people for Nikki now and it’s working really well. We’ve got the premises and the facilities here to do all the practical care for the people whose families have chosen Nikki to help them with the funeral arrangements and we’re really happy to do this.”
Mortuary manager Gary was away when we visited, so Louise showed us around the entire immaculate mortuary facilities (which were among the best we’ve visited) and it was apparent that her 20 years’ experience has given her extensive insight into what makes a good undertaker. “Nikki and the team she brings with her are absolutely lovely, professional, respectful and you don’t have to tell them anything twice. They know exactly how we work here and do everything we need them to do.”
The arrangement between Bright-Hill and the Isle of Wight NHS Trust means that all the practical care is done by the Mortuary Team, and the people whose funerals are being arranged by Nikki stay in the care of Gary, Louise and the team until the morning of the funeral. If somebody dies elsewhere, Nikki will take her partner and another family member (or trusted close friend) to collect and take them to St. Mary’s mortuary where they will stay until the funeral date.
If you want to visit your relative prior to the funeral, then the Mortuary Team will arrange an appointment for you to come and spend time in their lovely spacious room. There is a comfortable waiting area from which you can come and go, and you’ll be given complete privacy for as long as you want. It’s exactly as it would be if they were being looked after at a funeral director’s premises, but you won’t have had to pay for them to be collected and transported elsewhere.
On the day of the funeral, Nikki’s staff will arrive in a custom vehicle, carefully ‘dressed’ inside to create a special space for the coffin to travel in. The simple oak veneer coffin provided as part of the funeral cost is taken into the mortuary, and your relative will be carefully laid in their coffin by the Mortuary Team. The coffin will then be driven to the crematorium in East Cowes where Nikki will be waiting, and together she and her staff will take the coffin into the crematorium chapel and place it on the catafalque, bowing in respect before retiring. This takes place in the quiet of the early morning on the day of the funeral, accompanied just by the sound of birdsong and the breeze in the trees in the grounds. “It’s a really special moment,” says Nikki.
If there is to be a ceremony later in the day, the crematorium staff take responsibility for the coffin and remove it to their cool room to await the service time. Nikki will either stay or return later to make sure everything is ready and in place before mourners arrive. If the cremation appointment is the early morning one, then Nikki comes back into the chapel to polish the coffin, make sure that any flowers are beautifully displayed and check that every single thing is right. She cheerfully admits to being obsessive about every detail – “I just want to make sure everything looks as good as possible, I sit in various places to see how it looks from where the family will be and then make tiny adjustments.”
If you decide to use Bright-Hill’s Direct Cremation Service, unusually you are welcome to attend the crematorium at the time booked and be with your relative for those last special moments before the coffin is taken for cremation. “The families are paying for the time at the crematorium,” says Nikki, “they have every right to be there and do whatever they want in that time, even if they don’t want a funeral ceremony.” Nikki makes sure that families know this, and is always ready for someone to arrive unexpectedly at the last moment, having changed their minds.
For families who want to have a funeral ceremony, Nikki works closely with local clergy and celebrants and will be able to suggest someone suitable to help you create the ceremony that you want.
Nikki attends every funeral ceremony, dressed in her smart deep purple trouser suit with a bright scarf and a sunflower brooch on her lapel – easily identifiable but un-intrusive. She is always there half an hour before mourners arrive to greet them, and sitting in at the back of the service. Her role is to care for the bereaved family, from first moment of contact, throughout the period leading up to the funeral and on the day itself, and then afterwards as well. Nikki collects the ashes from the crematorium and transfers them from the non-descript plastic pot they are supplied in into a sunflower scatter tube before returning to the family at home. Everyone Nikki works for is given her personal mobile phone number, and told they can contact her whenever they need. If she feels that additional support is needed for people she’s worked for, Nikki will source them appropriate help and stay in contact with them
What makes Bright-Hill Funerals so special is undoubtedly the personal involvement of Nikki and her determination that a difficult, distressing time need not be made worse by complicated, often unnecessary and frequently costly additional extras.
Her prices are completely transparent, there are no hidden extras, brochures with pages of coffins to choose from or odd ‘disbursements’ that need to be added, the price you see is the price you pay, with the addition of your chosen flowers the only other cost involved.
Nikki’s life skills acquired over years of meeting and working with all kinds of different people mean that she can gauge carefully how each family is coping with their bereavement, and she adjusts things so that you go at your own pace when talking about the funeral arrangements that you want. She comes to you, at a time that suits you, and never has a time limit on a visit, it takes as long as it takes. If you’d rather, you can go to her home where she’ll put the kettle one and make you feel completely welcome
A completely personal service, and completely transparent pricing.
Everything is clear and up front with Nikki, this is really important to her. She explains to each family exactly how she runs her business, and also makes it very clear that even though she has come to see them to discuss their thoughts about the funeral, they are under no obligation to use her if they don’t want to. Her pricing is simple and extremely good value for the personal service you will receive.
Nikki knows her forte, it’s her skills with people. She’s found experts to care for the people who have died, and she leaves this entirely to them, although she liaises closely at all times with the mortuary staff to ensure that everything is in order. Nikki understands that her role, her speciality, is to care for bereaved families, and she does this superbly, with genuine compassion and understanding.
We are delighted to welcome Bright-Hill Funerals to the list of our recommended funeral directors. The Good Funeral Guide was one of the first organisations that Nikki contacted when she first had the germ of an idea about it, and it appears she received the encouragement then that she needed to go ahead – and to keep going, despite some disapproval and opposition from individuals. It is wonderful to see her now providing other families with the service she would have so appreciated when her own mother died a decade ago.
Nikki was determined that we receive unbiased feedback about Bright-Hill Funerals from fellow professionals and families she’s worked for, and arranged a series of meetings for us when we carried out the accreditation visit. We spent time with the staff at St. Mary’s mortuary, the Superintendent of the Isle of Wight Crematorium and met two of Nikki’s clients. Each time we were left alone, so that people could speak freely to us about their thoughts and perceptions of Nikki’s way of working.
Without fail, everyone we met was completely complimentary about Nikki and her service. The two lovely ladies whose mothers had been cared for by Bright-Hill Funerals couldn’t praise Nikki enough. “She’s lovely, she’s amazing, kind, considerate and thoughtful,” said Christine, and, from Alison; “I would never go anywhere else now. I’ve told everyone I know about Nikki and how she helped us. I was determined my mum would have a funeral that was right for her, and that’s exactly what she got. My dad died years ago and I don’t remember much about his funeral apart from the dreadful slow journey behind his hearse to the crematorium. It was awful. And it really affected my mum. I was determined she’d have something different and that’s what we did, we gave her a beautiful funeral, without all the faff.”
The people of the Isle of Wight now have a real choice and options when it comes to making funeral arrangements, and this is something we are immensely glad to see.
As Charles Cowling, the founder of the Good Funeral Guide says “It’s another business that the GFG has watched grow from a twinkle in the eye to a fully fledged business. Makes one feel like a happy parent!”
Any decisions you take on engaging the services of a funeral director should be based on your views and research. You should not rely solely upon the views and opinions offered by us.
Friday 6th October 2017 at 18.36
I wish I knew Nikki when my Mum & Dad died, I would not have hesitated to ask her for her services. She is lovely; full of warmth and compassion. This recognition of her kindness is so well deserved.
Mrs D. Honeybourne
Thursday 5th October 2017 at 15.39pm
Nikki recently helped us with my mums funeral and I can say how reassuring it was to have her help through all of the emotional turmoil of arranging the right funeral for my very loved mum
It was done with professionalism and love and care at every stage and also at our own pace
The whole day was just as I had imagined it to be and so fitting for the way my mum lived her life
Thank you Nikki and her team from the bottom of my heart.