The #LifeDeathWhatever Community
We're an eclectic group of people from many different disciplines - artists, writers, funeral professionals, hospice and hospital workers, counsellors, medical staff and interested members of the public - united in our commitment to redesigning the dialogue around death, dying, life and living.
- Death is a normal part of life. Acknowledging and accepting that one day we will die is key to living a full life. It's as simple and as complicated as that!
- Death and dying isn't a gloomy or taboo subject. Talking about death and dying can be life-affirming and life-enhancing.
- Death and dying belong to everyone.
- It's essential to create links between communities involved in end-of-life care. Opportunities are currently being missed.
- There is a way of approaching death and dying that can genuinely engage the public and transform society's relationship with death.
If you share our beliefs and would like to join our community, please get in touch.
Louise Winter is a progressive funeral director and the founder of Poetic Endings – a modern funeral service creating funerals of style and substance, relevance and meaning in London.
Anna is an end of life doula, helping those who are living with dying. Her experiences have shown her that people want and need to talk about dying, but they just don't know how. She's also a teacher and fine arts lecturer.
Deborah is a Professor of Bioethics and Clinical Ethics at St. George's, University of London with a particular interest in the role of emotion in ethical decision-making, moral distress and public involvement in ethical debate. She also works as a broadcaster, mostly recently writing and presenting Test Case for BBC Radio 4. When not in lecture theatres, she can usually be found in proper theatres. She has drawn on her interest in drama, theatre and the arts to explore ethical questions and matters of life and death through the lenses of the arts and humanities. Most recently, she worked with The Park Theatre on its production of Zoe Mills’ play about death and dying ‘Killing Time’ and The Donmar Warehouse on its production of Nick Payne’s ‘Elegy’. Previously, she has collaborated on productions at The Southwark Playhouse (TomCat), Theatre 503 (‘Valhalla’ and ‘The State We’re In’) and The Arcola Theatre (‘Professor Bernhardi’). She's a member of the Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Committee and Chair of The Deafinitely Theatre Company. In 2016, she was awarded the MBE for Services to Medical Ethics.
Dying Matters believes that everyone from any walk of life has a right to the highest level of end of life care. As part of Dying Matters, Stephanie is passionate about getting people to open up about dying, death and bereavement. She believes understanding and acknowledging this helps people to live a more fulfilling life. The main way we go about this is via Dying Matters Awareness Week in May each year, but the work continues throughout the year with your help and support.
Ollie declares his professional interest in Life Death Whatever as a consultant who deals with death every day. He sees a lot of late conversations and lack of planning in his day job.
His approach is to encourage people to normalise death and accept that we can't live forever. It's quality, not quantity, that matters at the end of life.
Fran looks after the day to day running of the Good Funeral Guide, the UK's trusted independent not for profit information resource for funeral advice. The GFG runs an accreditation scheme for funeral directors, burial grounds and crematoria, and Fran regularly visits each business to write reviews which are published on the website. Fran also runs the Good Funeral Guild, a network of like-minded individuals who are all keen to see the way we do funerals in the UK improve. Fran is also part of the Good Funeral Awards, the event that celebrates excellence in the funeral industry.
Claire and Rupert's key ideals are honesty, appropriateness and participation. The duo reject the formal etiquette that governs the mainstream in favour of a deeper working relationship with the bereaved. Euphemisms of any type are avoided, including embalming. They empower families to reclaim the experience of death through creative practical involvement. They also write performance rituals around grief, time and ancestors.
In his training as a Registered Nurse, Philip realised he wanted to work with those nearing the end of their lives and as they died. Hospices were being set up and Palliative Care was developed. In over 25 years working in end of life care in a variety of settings, he has recognised the importance of acknowledging that we'll die. He's spent time with people as they died; in that he has been privileged to share that experience.
Philip is now in a position to develop services and the people who provide the care to those who are facing dying and those who've been bereaved. Life. Death. Whatever. provides the opportunity to enhance the dialogue and expand the media in which death and dying can be explored.
Chris creates collaboratories. He is the co-founder of prime produce, a guild for 21st century craft in Hell’s Kitchen in New York built on the values of hospitality and intentional service. He also leads expansion for House of Genius, a global neighborhood of people who want to make neighborhoods as resourceful as the world and the world feel as intimate as a neighborhood with locations in cities around the globe including New York, London, Denver, Tel Aviv, Sao Paolo, Bangalore, and Sao Paulo.
Erica is a freelance journalist, mainly for the Guardian. She is working on The Deathtivals Project, a book in which she travels to eight different countries to experience their death festivals. The idea was sparked when she and her husband found her father-in-law dead in his house and, in the traumatic aftermath, wondered about the places in the world where death is celebrated rather than reviled. The book is currently being developed for TV.
Anna is a freelance art writer, curator, and a content creator and has just completed her Master's Degree in Curating Contemporary Design. Anna takes an interest in design for the ageing population and is interested in establishing a new dialogue in how we communicate death and ageing in the community.
Abi is the Manager of an independent and family run funeral service and the current Vice-President of the NAFD. She's passionate about communication, inclusivity and diversity.
Sacred Stones was established in late 2014. We are a small private company that design, build and administer unique handcrafted burial mounds for cremation ashes. Our ethos is very simple. We provide secular venues where community can celebrate life. Our burial mounds, or barrows as they are commonly known, provide intimate, romantic space for funerals and commemorative events. For us time is the most valuable element. We don't prescribe or restrict, but simply accommodate personal journeys helping to celebrating life.
Emma is a Minister ‘without religion’ and the founder of Extraordinary Ceremonies. She creates highly personalised funerals and memorial ceremonies based on the personalities and beliefs of those she serves. As a certified thanatologist and grief specialist, as well as a celebrant, she helps the bereaved to feel fully supported through and beyond the funeral ceremony. Emma believes that the traditional stiff upper lip is not serving us well in our grief and facilities gentle, supportive ways to mourn with dignity. She was a finalist for the Good Funeral Guide’s ‘Celebrant of the Year’ Award in both 2015 and 2016.
After more than ten years of teaching and lecturing in mainstream education, Cate now works as a freelance artist and teacher within special educational needs and disabilities. She enjoys the freedom of lecturing, teaching and presenting work in different places and to different people. Her visual artwork is mainly digital and is often site specific to where she is exhibiting or lecturing, and her soundscapes reflect the ordinariness of daily life. Combined they connect people and places and create an environment through which conversations can happen.
Panagiotis is a thanatologist and a researcher with educational and experiential background in social work and psychotherapy. He has researched extensively how faith or belief intersect with the experiences of death, dying and bereavement, and explored the role of media and technology in dying and grieving. He is a Death Cafe practitioner, a representative of Let's Talk About Death in San Francisco and great advocate of embracing life, with death in it.
Having started her career in the field of social work, Emy is bringing a new perspective to what is still, arguably, a traditional and male dominated ‘death industry’ in the UK. She is keen to promote personalisation and choice for the bereaved and is passionate about providing ongoing care for her clients. She believes that the conversation about death and dying, only recently restarted in the Western world after decades of reserve, is vital to the wellbeing of the living.
Ivor specialises in design for death and dying, through his work at the Helix Centre as Senior Design Associate and his research consultancy Being and Dying. His design practice is focused around art direction, interaction and experience design. Informed by transdisciplinary collaboration, he works with designers, researchers, academics and clinicians. He explores the use of technology for social good as co-founder of the design company, Humane Engineering. Their first product, Cove, is a music maker designed to support people experiencing bereavement. It was one of the first mental health apps approved by the NHS for their new digital library.
Nuri McBride is a Research Fellow at the Minerva Centre for the Study of Law under Extreme Conditions, where she investigates how society, specifically, how the law, copes with mass death events and the refugees these events create. Nuri is a 5th generation Metaharet (ritual preparer of the dead in Judaism) and is active in natural death and death positivity education. As a journeyman perfumer, she examines the use of olfaction in death rituals in her blog deathscent.com and has written pieces on death for Death and the Maiden, Offbeat Home and other publications.
Catherine is a Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist and Bereavement Counsellor with over 20 years experience. She specialises in individual and family needs with death and life transitions as well as addictions, alcoholism and recovery.
Rebecca Goss is an established poet. Her second collection, Her Birth (Carcanet, 2013) about the death of her young daughter from a rare heart condition, was shortlisted for The 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection, The Warwick Prize for Writing 2015 and The Portico Prize for Literature 2015. Rebecca believes grief must be articulated in order to survive it. She has worked extensively in the world of medical humanities, judging the Hippocrates International Prize for Poetry and Medicine in 2015 and speaking at internationally recognised conferences including Medicine Unboxed; Life Death, Whatever; UCL Encountering Pain and ‘Neonatal Palliative and End of Life Care’ for Child Bereavement UK. In 2014, Rebecca was selected for The Poetry Book Society's Next Generation Poets, a list complied every ten years of twenty poets ‘expected to dominate the poetry landscape of the coming decade’.
We're all going to die. Death is universal: but the ways in which we approach, avoid and attempt to subvert mortality are often historically and culturally specific. The way(s) in which we die reveal a society's most treasured values and profound fears in life. This insight underpins Helen's research into the history of death, dying and funerals.
Helen obtained her PhD on 'The Spiritual, Social and Emotional Significance of Death and Dying in Yorkshire, c.1840-c.1914' from the University of Leeds, UK, in 2009, and is an internationally recognised expert on the history, folklore and material culture of death, dying and funerals.
Caroline has 30 years' experience supporting the bereaved as a volunteer in the roles of befriender, counsellor, group facilitator and Board Trustee. Her current priorities are researching for a PhD in bereavement, delivering training on grief to professionals, running workshops & supporting those bereaved after a road death. She was commissioned to write an accessible book on grief by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, which will be published in November 2017.
Life stops, but great words may live forever. Merryn writes eulogies for special situations, but she hopes you’ll never realise where or when she’s been involved. She echoes her speakers’ tone of voice, working in confidence with families and media teams; she’s commited to promoting the art of better funerary rhetoric and would like everyone to have more support and better options, when they need them, if they’re completely lost for words.
Based in Oxfordshire, Stoneletters Studio specialises in unique, finely carved memorials. Fergus is passionate about memorials and believes that the importance of a memorial is often overlooked. People tend to be hurried into making a hasty decision, but they need time and space to choose a fitting memorial for their loved one, and the whole process of choosing a headstone or cremation tablet can be therapeutic and comforting if done with patience and compassion. Fergus' blog is full of advice and inspiration on choosing a memorial.
Deborah A. Forrest, PhD., author of Symphony of Spirits: Encounters with the Spiritual Dimensions of Alzheimer and Touch the Spirit: Connecting to the Inner World of Dementia, is a registered psychologist and a registered nurse. She earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology under the tutelage of Dr. Catherine Sanders, the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Dr. Inge Broverman. She completed a one-year postdoctoral fellowship in geriatric neuropsychology. Dr. Forrest writes and lectures around the world on the topics of aging, spirituality, bereavement and dementia. She lives in Cheltenham, England.
Sarah is passionate about empowering people to connect with death in their families and communities. She works from 'end of life to funeral' as a Soul Midwife, home funeral advocate and funeral celebrant. The recent birth of Natural Home Funerals addresses the needs of those who love the idea of involvement and care within the home but do not feel able to manage the process themselves. As part of this venture, Sarah will also be teaching home funeral skills and continuing to support people to feel empowered around their own deaths and those of others through creative workshops and education.
By day, Kim serves as the heavy metal editor for Noisey, VICE's music vertical. By night (and weekend), she can be found snatching up moments of free time to scribble about a variety of subjects for a variety of places, most recently the Guardian, VICE, and Al-Jazeera. She's long held a particular fascination with the gorier, grimier corners of history, which of course led her to a profound interest in death and the global culture surrounding it...which in turn led her here!
Eli is a writer based in Margate, a graduate of the City University Creative Writing MA and former prose editor of the Cadaverine. Her debut novel Strange Heart Beating is available from Granta and investigates loss and mourning.
Romany Reagan is a final-year PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her thesis centres around the layers of meaning that coexist within a cemetery space. By way of an audio walking practice, artistic interpretations of outdoor archive, nonhuman networks, and mourning practices are explored in Abney Park Cemetery, located in Stoke Newington, North London. Areas of interest encompass: psychogeography, mourning practices, ‘The Good Death’, anachronistic space, heterotopias, gothic sensibility, liminal spaces, the uncanny, and the Victorian ‘Cult of the Dead’. Her walk ‘Crossing Paths/Different Worlds in Abney Park Cemetery’ was published in Ways to Wander (Triarchy Press, 2015) https://abneyrambles.com/
Erica is an anthropologist interested in issues related to death and dying. Her research explores end-of-life care and she teaches on courses about death, dying and bereavement. She's the membership secretary for the Association for the Study of Death and Society. She regularly organises research and engagement events about studying death and improving care.
Lucy is a research student at University of Winchester, her PhD examines The Cross Bones Graveyard in Southwark, where she also volunteers as a site warden. She is interested in the relationship between death and space, death rituals, socially bad death and cemeteries as a vessel for social change. She is co-founder of Death and the Maiden, striving to portray death in its entirety, they encourage their contributors and audience to confront this often challenging topic through science, literature, art, first person narratives, culture, history and current events. In 2016, Lucy wrote Little Book of Maudism and raised £1000 for the mental health charity Mind. The book comprises of ten lessons to live and die by from the ultimate death positive film, Harold and Maude. She is a member of the Good Funeral Guild and has collaborated with the award winning funeral florists Stems UK.
The Fair Funerals campaign is run by anti-poverty charity Quaker Social Action to tackle the root causes of funeral poverty. Since 1867 Quaker Social Action (QSA) has run practical projects supporting people in poverty. QSA also runs the Down to Earth project which directly supports people on low incomes struggling with the cost of a funeral.
Cancer was a diva who moved in to Sara’s house in 2014, but she kicked her out and is now a speaker, campaigner, fundraiser, wearer of ridiculous headgear and proud sharer of the most terrible puns. She uses humour and creativity to deliver important and sometimes challenging messages to children, youth groups, corporates and charities. Following a few close shaves in the last couple of years Sara has become a member and campaigner of Dignity In Dying. Her intolerance of opiates has made her up her game in campaigning to help get assisted dying legalised in the UK for the terminally ill.
Jacqueline and Simon are the founders of Hedgetemple, which weaves connection between Spirit, wild nature, and community for those of all faiths and none. Jacqueline is a hedgepriestess and celebrant, a writer and poet, a former hospice counsellor, and gives talks on engaging positively with death and dying. She is also a spokesperson for Quaker Social Action's 'Fair Funerals Campaign'. Simon is a sacred musician and healer, who has been exploring the power of sound to change the world, together with mindful connection to the natural environment, over many years. They are passionate about reclaiming death from what has become too much an 'industry' and seek to accompany the bereaved in creating personal, gentle, and moving ceremonies of deep heart for their dead. We have so much more power than we think.
Lucy arranges small and intimate funerals through any and every connotation up to highly bespoke and elaborate funerals. It is important to her that if families want to arrange funerals themselves, they are supported in any way possible.
Ben heads up the Life>time service at Harlington Hospice where the aim is to provide emotional, psychological and spiritual support for those with a terminal diagnosis. The support is always client led and can be for the individual alone but it also works to support carers and family along the journey. The work can be wide ranging, from Advance Decisions and treatment plans to the more spiritual side of preparing for death. Ben is currently in training to be a soul midwife.
The Natural Burial Company is dedicated to developing a portfolio of natural burial sites throughout the country providing environmental friendly services in peaceful locations. Christopher has over 30 years experience within funeral service and is passionate about tackling funeral poverty and providing service and choice. Christopher also supports the Death Cafe movement within his local area and offers advice and support to funeral directors and others caring for the bereaved.
Guiding the Dying Home ~ one Heart, one Family, one Community at a time. Heart of Dying Doulas LLC offers certified end of life doula training and mentoring. End of Life Doulas offer support, education & advocacy to families, friends & those facing a life changing diagnosis or terminal illness. Adaire's other passion is The Heart of Dying Project, a budding nonprofit dedicated to creating compassionate circles of care within our communities. She holds courageous conversation to explore death and dying and offers a variety of trainings and workshops. At the heart of her mission is the goal to educate the community about the special needs the homeless face during end of life. And, to establish a social hospice for homeless women to spend the last few months of their lives in a safe, nurturing home, embraced by courageous hearts, a place to call home.
Following the death of Lesley's husband Seth in 2014 from pancreatic cancer, she has been working to raise awareness of death, dying, grief and bereavement as well as working with Pancreatic Cancer UK to raise awareness of signs and symptoms of the disease. She has shared the journey from Seth's diagnosis until his death just thirty three short and heartbreaking days later. Her story has been turned into a play, a film and an educational package designed to help health care professionals reflect on their practice and to improve compassionate end of life. She is determined to build Seth's legacy by using their story to improve end of life care for others.
Blogging, podcasting and the latest news and digital trends in the Bereavement Industry, Death Goes Digital is unique. The long held traditional approach to the funeral industry seems forever unchanging. Growing alongside, and Peter believes taking over, in the not too distant future, digital technology is rapidly changing that marketplace. New websites offering families the choice to buy a funeral online or creating a digital memorial or digital life story scrapbook seems to be starting each week.
May is a civil funeral minister who works in and around London, providing unique and personalised ceremonies. She works with families to create funerals that are meaningful to them and that reflect the life and loves of their loved one.
Tilly is the eldest of seven children and was a primary school teacher for five years before becoming a mum three years ago. She has spent her whole life around babies and children, watching them marvel at the world and helping them to make discoveries. She thinks that conversations about death and dying are important from quite a young age so that it remains a natural topic of conversation, rather than something shadowy and frightening. Alongside her work, and being a mum, she has completed an Open University degree in Natural Sciences. One of her research projects was on the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of the dead in the U.K.
Rehana is currently making an independent documentary ‘Dead Good’ about what happens from the point of death to the ceremony. Scheduled to complete 2018. Look out for for the film’s ‘A-Z of Dead’ campaign on twitter starting very soon...
Zana is a PhD candidate with The Open University researching perspectives of hospice and end of life care. Zana has an interest in death and dying from her years of experience working in the care industry, disability, equality and advocacy sectors. Zana is also a practising Christian who is passionate about ensuring spiritual needs are met for people who are recognised as dying.
Mary (aged 80) was a teacher before becoming a part-time Quaker prison chaplain. She's now a writer and the author of 'Confessions of a Prison Chaplain' (Waterside Press 2014).
Forthcoming: 'The Undiscovered Country: conversations about Death' (to be published later 2017 by KCA publishing). This book is based on 45 conversations Mary had over a year or more, with a wide variety of people who are willing and happy to talk about death. This makes them atypical. The haphazard collection included bereaved people, those who work professionally or voluntarily with the dying and the bereaved. She also visited two hospices, and talked to people of a variety of faiths, about what their faith believes about death.
As a PA to a Central London Surgeon. As a young child she remembers staring at the night sky on long car journeys trying to fathom what it could be not to exist. She is still fascinated by this as an adult. Cemeteries are some of her favourite places for stillness and contemplation. Kirsten believes that healthy awareness of death allows for living a full and mindful life. She ponders life as a human being at www.roseinmotion.wordpress.com
Charlie founded Moving Pieces as an innovative mental health provision combining arts psychotherapy, physical theatre and body-based approaches to protecting health and wellbeing. The company offers workshops, seminars and training to artists, theatre makers, healthcare workers, therapists, and counsellors who may be helping clients to manage loss, trauma and grief. They also devise live theatre performance integrating life experience, movement, mask work and storytelling. Moving Pieces’ latest theatre work, Total Eclipse, is a creative response to dealing with death based on the company’s own experiences of bereavement. It follows the story of Lily and Paco, who have both recently lost their mothers, as they travel to the top of a mountain to see a lunar eclipse, a moment that holds different cultural symbolism for both of them.
Sandra leads work for the Church of England that encourages local churches as they serve individuals and communities around life's big events, which includes talking about death and dying, as well as helping with funerals and bereavement. Resources such as GraveTalk help churches to get people talking and planning around death, dying and bereavement. There are big questions to think about as the cultural context around death and funerals continues to change, and the Church of England is working on good practice around practical help as well asspace to think about the issues.
Dr. Stacey Pitsillides is a Lecturer in Design at the University of Greenwich. She has curated various events for public engagement around death and technology and collaborated with Hospices, introducing co-design as a method to artistically work with the bereaved. Her research has featured in a range of festivals including Death: The Southbank Centre's Festival for the Living, The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Internet Week Europe, FutureFest, the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the Southbank Centre’s Beyond Belief Festival and Dying Matters Week. She is the editor of a special issue on Networked Emotions for the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media and is on the standing committee for the Death Online Research Symposium.
Heidi Safia Mirza is a black feminist scholar, teacher, and activist who passionately believes in the transformative power of education to change lives and the quest for social justice in life and death. She is a public orator, celebrant, freelance writer and researcher on all things to do with women’s rights, equality, diversity and cultural difference. She is author of several bestselling books including Young Female and Black, which was voted in the British Educational Research Association (BERA) top 40 most influential educational studies in Britain. As one of the first and few female professors of colour in UK she has championed the cause of anti-racist educational reform for black and minority ethnic young people for over 30 years, and hopes one day to see truly progressive courses in ‘life, death, whatever’ on the university curriculum!
Isabel is responsible for the 400 strong network of celebrants trained and accredited by Humanists UK that conduct non-religious humanist ceremonies throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. She is committed to excellence in celebrant training and also to opening up the conversation around the need for non-religious ritual in all areas of contemporary life.
Holly is an independent celebrant who creates funeral and memorial ceremonies that celebrate life. She believes that talking openly about death and dying is vitally important in creating a society that feels informed and empowered when it comes to planning funerals and coping with loss.
LJ is an NHS hospital doctor who has seen good deaths, bad deaths and everything in between. She knows people want and need to talk about death and dying but there are too few spaces where this is encouraged and supported. She has many conversations with people very close to the end, and believes many of them would benefit from earlier discussions. But she also knows this requires a societal shift, and a community approach. This is too big for healthcare professionals to fix, so she seeks out other people doing great work, and tries to bridge the gap between hospital life and normal life. She has worked with the Life.Death.Whatever directors Louise and Anna, poet Hollie McNish, writer Marion Coutts, and Death Cafe founder Jon Underwood at events in the past, and has found them all uplifting, enriching and inspiring.
Harriet is a general word-nerd (currently working in fintech), with a penchant for setting up shop as a reader-in-residence. Having studied philosophy and literature at Edinburgh University, she went on complete her Masters at Durham where she had the chance to investigate the relationship between neuroscience and books, in particular the rise of the neuronovel and Extended Mind Theory. A central part of this looked at the relationship between our minds, technology, literature and the Uncanny, and how we understand the boundaries of skin and skull. Thus, from technology and brains to all things curious and (of course) bookish, Harriet tends to write about things that interest her rather than anything specific and is a big believer in multidisciplinary study and multipotential lives.
Jeremy is a Church of England parish priest with over 20 years experience of taking funerals. His doctoral studies at Kings College London were on the changing patterns of Church of England funerals in the 21st Century. He is the author of a number of books, including Heaven's Morning Breaks, a resource book for ministers conducting funerals and all those interested in the subject. He is also part of the Archbishops' Council Working Group on Life Events.
Susan has been a volunteer for the Natural Death Centre charity for over 25 years. Innovation and cross boundary working has been key throughout. In 2012 Susan was awarded the title of the UK nurse of the year for innovation. In 2016 she won the life time achievement award at the Death Oscars. Susan has completed the MSc Death and Society. Susan has worked as a specialist palliative care nurse for over 25 years.
Susan tweets as @ndccharity @moretodeath @EdenVBurials @SusanMorris88
Providing hopeful accompaniment for the human journey. The Art of Dying Well was established in November 2016 but is part of a much longer tradition of helping people to have a good death through accompaniment and the provision of good spiritual, medical and psychological care. Based in the Catholic tradition but open to all, the Art of Dying Well provides resources, videos, blogs and podcasts to help people have a better death. Dying well means different things to us all. Death is an individual experience, but a community of accompaniment on the journey can help us to prepare by bringing consolation and spiritual peace.
Poppy is a multi award-winning, progressive funeral director, based in London. A former Samaritan and Trinity Hospice volunteer, Poppy was appointed a Trustee of Cruse Bereavement Care in 2015.
Paul attended his first Death Cafe in 2014. Since then each subsequent Death Cafe he's attended - along with the other events he's been to which have sought to open up the dialogue around death and dying - have confirmed for him the worth in the idea that if death and dying are discussed in a frank and open way as possible it might just lead to a better appreciation of life and living.
Barbara Chalmers founded Final Fling in 2012 as an online community to improve end of life planning. Final Fling aims to be to death what mumsnet is to birth – a go-to community for a critical lifestage... the TripAdvisor for your onward journey. On launch, it was awarded Best New Website by WebUser Magazine and was the original winner of the Good Funeral Award’s Most Outstanding Contribution to Understanding Death.
Barbara has a Masters in Design Innovation (Service Design) from Glasgow School of Art. Her work includes a project designed to innovate on the tradition of The Vigil and her final Masters project focused on ending funeral poverty and reimagining funerals.
Barbara is qualified in Counselling Skills and is a certified Life Coach and Executive Coach. She is a Humanist celebrant and runs charity A Quiet Revolution. She is Director of consultancy, Plan B Collective.
Debbie makes films and documentaries. For the last few years she has been focusing on stillbirth and baby loss. She made a short film called Peekaboo and a feature documentary, Still Loved, both of which looked at the effects of baby death on a family. Still Loved has gone onto receive great critical acclaim and win several awards. It has helped break down the terrible stigma and silence around baby loss. The film is now available on line, on DVD or group screenings. You can find out more and watch a trailer on the website here.
Susan has been the Executive Director of a volunteer hospice in Vermont for 21 years. The hospice is one of only 200 volunteer hospices left in the US that goes above and beyond the 'normal' hospice and grief services in the US. Their bereavement services are the most comprehensive in the state. The hospice held the first death cafe in Vermont, provides art & writing classes and performances on death, dying & grief. Their singing group Hallowell has trained other groups around the country. In the last few of years Susan has become curious about how to encourage the community to become more comfortable with exploring mortality. This year she started a project called A Year Well Lived to encourage people to finally do the things they keep putting off so they will die with less regret.
Alex is a musician, a celebrant and an edge dweller - a woman interested in people and the stories they hold and in giving them the voice to share them through ceremony and ritual in whatever way feels right for them. She would like to give funerals and death back to the people and the communities they live in by responding directly to their unique needs.
Charlie Tuesday Gates is an international artist with a reputation for unique and challenging sculpture, video and performance art that confronts, questions and challenges issues of morality, ethics and the very nature of controversy itself.
Art awakens the senses & brings darkness to light, exposing the cracks in humanity & even questioning the very principles that underpin our reality- The reality of death and the illusion of life.
'Sing For Your Life' was a multi award winning musical starring dead animal puppets, a hilariously disturbing and hard hitting political comedy dubbed 'The greatest show that ever died."
er pioneering D.I.Y Taxidermy Live provoked disgust, fear, hilarity and a sense of the tragic as she embraced an entirely new medium of workshops and live demonstrations that simply didn’t exist before.
The Flower Appreciation Society make funeral flowers for people who have loved their gardens, and love flowers. They bring their wild, natural approach to funeral arrangements, hoping the beauty of them makes the day a tiny bit easier.
Leeds Bereavement Forum is a small charity which works to develop and improve bereavement services in the city to signpost individuals to the most appropriate bereavement service either locally or nationally and to provide training, information, events and conferences to people who work in the area of bereavement to support their professional development. The charity works in partnership with organisations across the city to improve the provision of bereavement services and also campaigns to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement and to make plans for the end of life.
A Pacific Northwest writer, speaker, and grief advocate, she currently runs Refuge In Grief, a hub of grief education and outreach, where she leads people through some of the most devastating times of their lives. Together with her team, she facilitates a growing catalog of courses, events, and trainings to help grieving people, and those who wish to support them, learn the skills they need to carry pain that cannot be fixed.
Megan has been featured widely in the media, including Huffington Post, Modern Loss, and The Manifest-Station, and in dozens of podcasts and radio appearances.
Concerned by how many mediocre funerals were being served up to people at their most vulnerable time, Jo was determined to give people access to simple, straightforward and well-informed guidance to create funerals and celebrations together that are truly personal and also affordable. She founded Albany Funerals – and created a beautiful place to come to that feels like home, where she supports grieving families and friends through the whole process, taking all the time they need – never pushing choices. This support carries on for as long as it is needed, often years later!
AJ Lilian Menashe coordinates Death Cafes and the Aural History Tradition program; she teaches Torah and focuses on Jewish perspectives in relation to the environment. She will be starting chaplaincy training this fall, focusing on the death and dying life cycle.
Dr Phil Isherwood has been volunteering since 2010 as the ‘hospice poet’ – writing poems inspired by conversations with patients and by their creative work in the Creative Therapy Department at Bolton Hospice. He was awarded his PhD at the University of Bolton for ‘Numinous Connections: Poetry in the Hospice’ in July 2015. Earlier poetry work has involved writing workshops in mental illness recovery settings (community arts and hospital secure units) and at a brain injuries centre during his part-time studies for an MA in Creative Writing completed in 2005. His poems have appeared in various publications including Stand, Hot Wire, The Ugly Tree, ReSource Magazine and on local radio. Phil is also a church leader at Sports Village Church in Leigh, Lancashire (a CofE ‘Fresh Expressions’ outreach).
@poetrymeta4life and @hospicepoet
Hannah is a social anthropologist interested in death, dying and disposal. Her research explores contemporary innovations and cultural change concerning human and nonhuman animal corpse disposal and funerary practices in Europe - for example, 'natural burial', as well as working with colleagues at the Centre for Death and Society at Bath University on policy issues related to 'funeral poverty' and 'direct cremation'. She has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses on death, dying and bereavement at a number of universities, is the Early Career Researcher's Representative for the Association for the Study of Death and Society (ASDS) and sits on the Editorial Board of the journal Mortality. She regularly organises public engagement events around death and dying, which to date, has seen her perform stand-up comedy about how we die and grieve today.
As a funeral organiser and celebrant, Debbie feels it is important to gently offer the whole range of options when supporting those with whom she is co-creating each funeral, sharing her knowledge and expertise and dispelling misunderstandings and myths. She also aims to skilfully guide anyone who wishes to, to think about and plan for their own funeral, focussing on their significant life events and any messages they wish to leave for those left behind. Debbie offers person-centred, bespoke ceremonies for all.
Sarah is a writer, artist, and academic based in London. She is currently in the process of completing her MA in Cultural and Critical Studies at Birkbeck, alongside working at the Warburg Institute and in the Stores of the Science Museum. Her work on the ‘ruination’ of former NHS buildings will be featured in Birkbeck’s upcoming ‘Being Human’ Exhibition in November. She spoke on the personification of ‘Death’ in European art at Life.Death.Whatever at Sutton House in 2016.
David is a NHS psychoanalytic psychotherapist specialising in loss and bereavement and people with learning disability. He is also Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire and chair of two groups whose aim is to provide and promote psychodynamic psychotherapy with people with learning disabilities, the Institute of Psychotherapy and Disability (IPD), and the Associate for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in the NHS (APP). He teaches widely on loss and bereavement and has written a number of papers on this subject, in particularly for the nursing journals.
Lea is the next generation in her father's small alternative funeral home in Berlin. Lea continues to work with the values of Charon Bestattungen and is adjusting them to the perspective of her generation. The emphasis of her work is on funerals for babies and children. In her work the leading questions are: How to encourage this particular family to actively go their own individual way - until the funeral, on the day of the funeral and for the rest of their lives? How to make time and space for a journey that is hard but healing for those involved?
Before I Go Solutions educates people to become more at ease with dying, death and grief, through helping them design and create good end of life plans. It has been demonstrated that those who have written wishes about what they would prefer at end of life are 40% more likely to die well. This includes all the legal information taken care of, last days wishes, funeral and end of life celebration requests. Before I Go Solutions provides products and programmes to help you get all this sorted, either within a group or privately. The fist Before I Go Training for Trainers will take place 2017, bringing this method to all areas of the country.
Awen is a doula, a storykeeper, a pagan priestess and independent celebrant based in the West Midlands. She has always held a vision of being like a wise woman of times past, supporting her community at the beginning of life and also at its end. She believes that life is to be celebrated. Awen hopes to open up the conversation around death and dying within our families and our communities, to bring love back to the end of life.