We're not quite sure who this plasticine man is, and why he has such a colourful array of raincoats, but he's been appearing all over the London Underground in the last week, as part of Beyond.life's hastily assembled advertising campaign, after their original campaign was deemed offensive by advertising standards authorities.Read more
We were delighted to attend the first screening of Almost Heaven at Central PictureHouse last night.
Almost Heaven is a coming-of-age story with an end-of-life narrative, set in a typical Chinese funeral home. For those of us interested in death, dying and funerals, it's a glimpse into a culture that handles death very differently.
The documentary follows Ying Ling, a 17 year old girl who takes a job as a trainee mortician in one of China's largest funeral homes, confronting her fears of ghosts. Along the way, she learns to take care of the dead, falls in love for the first time and works out what she'd really like to do with her life.
There's a stark contrast between the depressing basement of the funeral home with its mechanical lift and underground tunnels, and the 'spa' ceremony where morticians (including Ying Ling) wash, massage and dress the person who has died in the presence of the family. There's a sense of sacredness to the spa ritual, but it has a commercial edge and seems to lack any genuine feeling.
In one scene, a ceremony is interrupted before the cremation can take place as the family haven't paid their bill. The contrast of the family's wailing with the voice of the funeral home manager telling them the funeral won't go ahead is painful to observe.
The portrayal of how death is handled in a Chinese funeral home left me feeling cold inside and not at all inspired. But it's Ying Ling who is the true heroine of the documentary - a vibrant, ambitious and funny young woman trying to find her place in the world whilst navigating growing up, loneliness and romance, as she's inspired to make a decision about what she really wants for her future by the people around her who no longer have one.
Whether or not you have an interest in death and funeral ritual, this is a beautifully shot film that's definitely worth watching.
14 Sept 2017 Picturehouse Central, London + Q&A
18 Sept 2017 Message To Man, Saint Petersburg, Russia – RUSSIA PREMIERE + Q&A
19 Sept 2017 Message To Man, Saint Petersburg, Russia
21 Sept 2017 Encounters Festival, Watershed, Bristol + Q&A
22 Sept 2017 SCREENING DAILY AT PICTUREHOUSE CENTRAL, LONDON
26 Sept 2017 Crouch End Picturehouse, London + Q&A
28 Sept 2017 Bertha Dochouse, London + Q&A
02 Oct 2017 Hackney Picturehouse, London+ Q&A
03 Oct 2017 The Lexi, London + Q&A
05 Oct 2017 Filmhouse, Edinburgh + Q&A
07 Oct 2017 Glasgow Film Theatre + Q&A
22 Oct 2017 Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York – US PREMIERE + Q&A
Death. Dying. Life. Living.
On the evening of Friday 3rd November, Life Death Whatever will be taking over the beautiful Christ's Chapel at Dulwich Picture Gallery with an inspiring and thought-provoking sound installation.
Over the next few weeks, we're going to be curating voices from around the world - people talking about what death, dying, life and living means to them.
The voices will be played on a loop throughout the evening in the atmospheric Christ's Chapel which will be lit entirely by candles.
Highlights so far include a funeral director talking about the first time she was left alone with the dead, a doctor talking about the first patient who ever died in her care, and a patient talking about the night she accepted that her illness was going to kill her.
We'd love you to take part! It's very simple. All you have to do is talk into the voice recording app on your phone about something meaningful to you in relation to death and dying, life and living. There's no need to introduce yourself, just start talking. The recording doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to express how you feel. It can be up to five minutes in length.
Please email your recording to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 15th.
Yesterday we were delighted to be awarded ‘Best Death Related Public Engagement Event’ at the Death Oscars, the Good Funeral Awards, alongside our friends from Brum YODO. We were absolutely delighted to receive such prestigious recognition for our pioneering and ground-breaking festival.
#LifeDeathWhatever was a labour of love and seeing the impact it had on so many people was humbling. However #LifeDeathWhatever was only possible because of all the brave people who gave up their time and talents to make it happen.
It was special because of the incredible commitment from everyone in the #LifeDeathWhatever community to help the public to engage with death and dying in a healthy and innovative way. We are so honoured that you allowed us to share your work at #LifeDeathWhatever and look forward to working with you again in the near future.
Thank you all so very much and huge congratulations to everyone in the #LifeDeathWhatever community!
Jon Underwood, the founder of Death Café, did not pass away. He died suddenly last week from acute promyeloctic leukaemia. He was 44.
It’s an important distinction that Jon would have wanted us all to make; his work with Death Café helped reclaim the words ‘death’ and ‘dying’ and placed importance on us all being unafraid of using them and not speaking in euphemisms.
Jon passionately believed that in order to fully embrace life and living, one must also embrace death and dying. He brought tens of thousands of people together who, over tea and cake, began to talk openly and honestly about one of the toughest subjects.
He, quite literally, changed the face of the worldwide Death Positive Movement. To date, there have been nearly 5000 Death Café’s in 50 different countries. The impact of his work cannot be overstated. Death is often quoted as being the last taboo and Jon took it back from the brink of hushed conversations behind closed doors and gave it the platform it deserved.
Louise and I are devastated by his untimely death and are honoured that we were able to call him a friend and colleague. Jon was undoubtedly one of the good guys. He was kind, gentle and genuine while being hugely knowledgeable and an endless source of encouragement and support.
When we were at Sutton House to begin the install of Life. Death. Whatever., Jon arrived, a tray laden with tea and biscuits in hand, and just got on with helping us. During the month we were there, Jon was always on hand to help in anyway and when it was time to dismantle the show, he wrapped, packed, boxed and carried and wouldn’t leave until it was all done.
Along with hosting a Death Cafe, he gave a talk on Death Activism for us and afterwards we tried to find him to thank him and to chat about the excellent feedback we’d been receiving from the audience but he’d disappeared. After quite some time he returned and it transpired he had been escorting people through the graveyard and making sure they reached Hackney Central Station safely.
Jon was a true gentleman and incredibly humble. He sometimes seemed slightly reluctant to be in the spotlight but that only cemented our understanding of his true humility: he didn’t set up Death Cafe for himself, he did it for society and for the greater good.
Jon celebrated his final birthday – his 44th – with us at Life. Death. Whatever. on October 28th 2016. We sang happy birthday to him, gave him cake and gifted him with one of the infamous Life. Death. Whatever. tea towels.
Jon was a devoted husband and father and he positively shone whilst talking about his wife Donna and his lovely children, Frank and Gina. He lived just around the corner from Sutton House, the home of Life. Death. Whatever.
Thank you, Jon, for single-handedly redesigning the dialogue surrounding death and dying. And thank you for being a warm and generous friend and colleague. Your loss and your legacy are immeasurable.
So long Jon, and thanks for all the cake.
With so much love,
Anna and Louise
Jon’s commitment to Death Cafe was unrivalled, and came at a cost. Since 2011, Jon funded his Death Cafe work entirely through his own personal savings and small freelance projects and had recently begun trying to fundraise very actively so he could pay his bills.
We’d love to support Jon’s young children – Frank and Gina – and have set up a JustGiving page in his memory. If you feel as strongly as we do about supporting Jon's family at this awful time, please give generously.