What is Death Cafe?

Thank you for visiting this website.

At Death Cafes people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat delicious cake.

The objective of Death Cafe is "To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives".

Bernard Crettaz
Jon Underwood founded Death Cafe in 2011 based on the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. Bernard offered 'Cafe Mortels' in Switzerland and France. Jon read of this in a newspaper article in November 2010. Jon was already developing a project to get people talking about death and immediately knew that Bernard's vision clicked with his.
Death Cafe is part of a set of projects by Jon about death and dying called Impermanence.

The first Death Cafe took place in Jon's basement in September 2011 and was facilitated by Sue Barsky Reid. Following this, Sue developed a model for running Death Cafes that we have used ever since. This involves creating a safe, convivial setting where discussions are led by the group.

We have subsequently held Death Cafes in the Royal Festival Hall, a yurt, cool cafes and other people's houses. We will shortly be holding our 100th Death Cafe. Around 1,000 people have so far attended a Death Cafe across England, Wales, the U.S., Canada, Australia and Italy. The events have invariably been very special and feedback has been fantastic.

We have established Death Cafe as a 'social franchise'. This means that anyone with the skills and experience can host one if they sign up to our principles. These are that Death Cafes are always offered:
  • On a not for profit basis (though to be sustainable we try to cover expenses through donations and fundraising)
  • With no intention of leading participants towards any particular conclusion, product or course of action
  • In an accessible, respectful and confidential space, free of discrimination
  • Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!
We encourage hosts to let their communities know a Death Cafe does not constitute a bereavement support or grief counselling setting, especially not for people who have experienced a very recent and/or traumatic loss or death. 

This is partly in an effort to sustain Death Cafes as comfortable, relaxed and openly exploratory spaces, as well as to respect continuity of existing bereavement resources.
In February 2012 we produced a guide to running your own Death Cafe which is available here. This has prompted other people to start their own Death Cafes, the first of whom was Lizzy Miles in Columbus, Ohio.

We're in the process of moving over to our new website. We this will be a place to share info about death events, death art and death thinking. 

If you want to get in contact with Death Cafe please email: underwoodjon [at] gmail.com. You may want to attend or host a Death Cafe, or send us something for the website. Or maybe you'd just like to chat. Either way we'd love to hear from you :)