Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Feedback from Bristol’s First Death Cafe

"What an unexpectedly lovely experience; such caring generous hosts, interesting attendees and the best carrot cake ever.  It certainly has concentrated my mind as to organising my departure!" Death Café attendee.

Bristol’s first Death Café took place on Friday 2nd November 2012 in a pop up café in Kingsdown. Bespoke Funeral Director and proprietor of Heaven on Earth, Paula Rainey Crofts presided over the event with support from Humanist celebrant Dee Ryding. The following is Dee’s account of the day ….

“Whilst planning the event, we agonised over whether or not there should be an agenda; in the end we decided against a strict guide for the afternoon – aside from allowing people to talk, mingle and ask questions, and also we did feel a period of silence to reflect would be beneficial at some point. Oh and of course, tea and scrumptious cakes!

We chose to hold the event on the Day of the Dead, since we both feel that the Mexicans can teach us a thing or two about how they honour their dead and their refreshingly open approach to death and loss. A flurry of advertising on the radio followed, and we were very well received. The radio presenters were tickled by the very idea of a Death Café, and a number of people came as a result of those broadcasts.

The radio interviews were also a great way to help us to keep focused on why we were holding the event in the first place. Paula owns a funky iconography shop attached to her funeral business, and has had plenty of experience of people wanting to talk about death, but not having any other place or opportunity to do this. Often people would come into the shop wanting to light a candle for a loved one, but mostly they just wanted to talk about their loss.

As a celebrant, I work with families to help them create the most appropriate funeral ceremony for their loved one. However, I know that after a funeral many people find it hard to talk about the deceased – friends or family members often don’t want to be reminded and as a result people can feel isolated in their grief.  As a result, we both knew there was a space for it here in Bristol. Although it didn’t stop us having a few sleepless nights worrying about whether anyone would actually turn up on the day.

We really needn’t have worried on any count, in the event we were packed to our capacity of 20 spaces, and it far exceeded our expectations on a number of levels. Paula had pulled out all the stops and the café looked amazing - it was a lovely space; welcoming, well thought out and planned. The cakes were splendid and the literature was relevant but not overpowering.

We spent time talking in pairs, before Paula encouraged people to introduce themselves to the group and explain why they had come. It was a very diverse group of people but all were willing to meet each other on their own terms – the young mother who felt compelled to come since the responsibility of bringing up 2 small children had made her want to have something in place “just in case”, really struck a chord for me.

I was very touched by how people reached out to one another as if they had known each other for years, when in reality most of us had only just met. Some of the stories we heard were harrowing and deeply sad, and it was a humbling example of our ability to face death and still get on with our lives.

We took a break for tea and cake, before reconvening for a period of silence where we invited people to come and light a candle. We then encouraged everyone to spend some time thinking about 5 things they would like to do and 5 they may wish to undo before their death.

We finished our time with a Q&A session. For some there was a need to discuss the nitty gritty of funeral planning; pre-paid plans - The how’s? who’s? whys’ ?and when’s? It was good to be able to talk so openly, and Paula and I were able to offer informative answers based on our experience and expertise.

 We are very aware that much more could, and should be done in this area – many asked if we could hold another “workshop” style event, particularly to go over the planning of their own funeral and helping them to create living wills. So … watch this space, Paula and Dee don’t intend to let this event remain a solo experience!”

"informative, enjoyable and many more issues to discuss….next time"

"really pleased I came and this has stimulated me into action to make funeral arrangements… "


  1. I'd like to know more about future events in Bristol - I didn't see the poster until the date had passed!

  2. Please could you confirm Bristol 2013 dates? Many thanks.


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