Monday, 29 April 2013

Write up of the Norwich Death Café

By Su Squire

Our first Norwich Death Café, which took place at House Café on 14th April, started with a story. As Kayla and myself are both strong believers in the power of creative activity to bring people together and explore potentially difficult issues, we decided that our Death Café in Norwich would include that element of creativity as a way of breaking the ice and introducing the subject.

And so it was that after a brief introduction to the concept of the Death Cafe and ourselves I told the tale of The Moon, The Spider and The Hare – a story that questions our fears about dying and tells of the way in which The Moon endeavoured to alleviate those fears. The story got things off to a good start after which we invited people to find someone they didn’t know (always a bit scary!) and to see where their conversation took them.

Helped along by some very fine tea and some extremely delicious cake the twenty or so people who came through the door throughout the course of the afternoon soon found themselves engaged in conversation with people with whom their paths may never cross otherwise but who shared their same feelings that death was something worth bringing out into the open to talk about.

Our guests were of all ages and backgrounds and many aspects of death were discussed. One of the things that I realised during my first and recent visit to a death café in Cambridge is that there is so much to talk about! So many avenues to explore and share thoughts about. During the course of the afternoon at The Norwich Death Café I found myself involved in some great conversations that wandered down just a few of these avenues – funeral plans, living wakes, the right to die, end-of-life care, eulogies, epitaphs and the role of the arts.

It was an afternoon filled with a great sense of connection between people and a sort of relief at having the opportunity to talk freely and openly about something so completely fundamental that we all share.

Feedback at the end of the afternoon reflected a tremendous sense of enthusiasm for the death café…

‘Fantastic opportunity for free and frank chat.’

‘Good to talk to new people.’

‘Excellent friendly atmosphere.’

‘Interesting topic – One that I feel more people should be open about.’

‘Good relaxed atmosphere.’

‘Basically awesome!’
People described their experience of the death café as ‘very friendly’, ‘comfortable’, ‘welcoming’, ‘intriguing’ and ‘unexpected’.

When asked what they might say to someone who was thinking about attending a death café the response was very positive indeed – ‘Yes, do it!’, ‘Good on you’ and ‘Enjoy!’

Later on that day, when I found myself reflecting on the afternoon, I felt quite emotional about the experience. It reminded me of how infrequently we get the opportunity to talk about death and how wonderful it is to create this opportunity. I had a great time and would like to say a really big thank-you to everyone who came along and to House Café for hosting it and keeping us going with their brilliant tea and cake. Can’t wait for the next one!

In response to some of the feedback, future death cafes in Norwich will probably involve more elements of group discussion, perhaps on some specific topics in addition to casual mix and mingle type chat.

Oh…and we’ve been approached by someone organising an event at The Forum in Norwich for Dying Matters Awareness Week so we’ll be there inviting people to grab a cuppa and join us for cake and a chat about the Death Cafe. Great stuff!

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