Tuesday, 7 May 2013

My first Death Café at Café Rouge, Hampstead, London, UK

By Josefine Speyer, co-Founder of the Natural Death Centre

Monday 22 April 2013, 6.30pm – 8.30pm

This was the first time I held a Death Café in an actual café. Café Rouge in Hampstead has been my favourite café for I know not how many years. So the idea of a death café in the upstairs room, newly decorated, where we could be amongst ourselves, was absolutely ideal and I looked forward to it in anticipation. The manager was open to the idea of hosting us free of charge. There was just one request, that they hoped we would order enough food and drink to make it worth their while. In the event this was no problem.

We had 19 bookings and three cancellations on the day. But on the day 17 people attended and this seemed to be an ideal number to start us off. The age ranged from 15 – 75! The room has one big oval table and several small tables. We decided to rearrange to have two tables of nine. I asked Christianne Heal, a psychotherapist and friend to facilitate one table. Christianne runs Living with Dying workshops and has been a directors of the Natural Death Centre with me for many years. She was here as a punter but gracefully accepted and it worked brilliantly. Thank you Christianne!

To start us off I asked everyone to turn to introduce themselves, saying a little about why they decided to come, first in pairs and then around the table. For some people speaking in front of eight others is too much of a challenge and two people decided to pass, which is perfectly fine. Others were eager to engage in the round and to share in more depth, and soon a discussion developed. The evening passed too quickly and there was not enough time to come together as a whole group at the end. We had a closing round and then people filled in feedback sheets. Some people were not in a hurry to leave and stayed on chatting, ordering more drinks and looking at the folders I had left on the side table with photo reportages of family-organised, natural burials and the wide range of biodegradable coffins available in the UK.

People’s faces glowed. The general sense was one of openness , enthusiasm and warmth. Would one assume this to be the case at such an event, talking about death? I am not sure, but it is very much the norm from my experience. Death is an intimate subject that brings people close to each other in a very mutually respectful way and makes everyone feel very alive. It is a delight really and an inspiration, every time!

Not surprisingly people come back again and again. Several of the people booked had attended other death cafes with me before. One person had come all the way from Gloucestershire and is planning to host a Death Café in her area. I have death cafes planned for May and June and someone has asked if I could also hold one in July. It is a possibility. Next time the format will be slightly different as I see the potential of this room, and it will run from 6.30pm – 9.15pm. See you there!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Josefine

    It sounds like a great time had by all.

    Susan Morris, Trustee

    The Natural Death Centre Charity,
    Registered Charity No: 1091396

    The Natural Death Centre is an educational charity which sees death as a natural part of life. Founded in 1991, it is committed to supporting cultural change and is working towards a situation where all people are empowered in the process of dying, and organising a funeral.


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