Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Vegan Death Cafe Writeup

On Thursday 1st November I held the first ever "Deathless Death Cafe" in Pogo Cafe, east London. Whilst Death Cafes have become popular in the last few months, this was the inaugural cruelty free event and it's one I hope will become a regular thing given the enormous success of the evening. 

You can read more about the Death Cafe concept here, and see what one of the attendees (the rather smashing Miss Honey Bare) thought of the night here, but below is a quick summary of how and why I came to hold it, what I felt about it and where I'm planning to go with it. 

I first came across Death Cafe when it was featured as part of Southbank's Death: A Festival for the Living last year. There were four days of events including an exhibition of beautifully vibrant, personalised coffins from Ghana and various poetry, philosophy and musical offerings. 

As soon as I read the summary I was intrigued. I've always had an issue with the fact that discussing death seems to be such a taboo as having lost some people very close to me I've wanted to talk about them, and my experience of loss, without fear of making people uncomfortable.

Later on, when I began to study anthropology, I started to look at that taboo a little more objectively and found it even more inexplicable and hard to understand given the vast range of attitudes and rituals that surround death around the world. 

It seems to me that we have created an atmosphere of fear and denial around death, and by shrouding it in secrecy and creating elaborate social constructs to surround its raw realities we have disconnected from the real driving force behind our very lives. 

I find this fascinating but also deeply worrying, as I think it's vital to deal with the subject given its global relevance. People need to be able to discuss their fears , address their concerns and ask their questions without worrying about whether they'll be considered morbid or being frightened of upsetting people. 

If you've lost someone, if you wonder about what happens next, if you're facing your own mortality or the death of someone about whom you care deeply, or if you're just curious, then Death Cafe is a forum in which you can chat with people who are there to mediate their own issues with life's only certainty.

It's a platform for discussion of all aspects of death, and it's ultimately a richly rewarding, life affirming and uplifting experience. I've made new friends and connected deeper with the people I care about as a result of some of the conversations I'd had there, and it's a completely confidential, safe and egalitarian environment in which you can say as much or as little as you'd like. 

This week's event will feature in an upcoming documentary series looking at death from a variety of perspectives, but future Cafes won't have any cameras and attendance is entirely anonymous if you wish, there's no obligation to come to any more or even speak up if you'd rather stay quiet! 

By the same token, it's also a great place to meet like minded people and a wonderful way to reach out.

I'm hoping to hold the next one on December 6th, and there will be people who've been before as well as people who are entirely new to the idea, so please do join us if this is something you'd like to take part in. 

I'd love to hear from you on FaceBooktwitter or by email (cookievonstir(at) if you're interested in coming along, or have any questions, or want to know a little more about anything I've talked about here.

Who wants to live forever? 

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