Day of the Dead 2013
Celebrating the Day of the Dead: A Showcase of Community Approaches
On Friday 1 November Dying Matters welcomed a host of our coalition members to Senate House at the University of London for a Mexican-inspired Day of the Dead celebration. During Día de Muertos, a national holiday in Mexico, communities gather together to remember friends and family members who have died. In the spirit of the day, our event focused on community approaches to end of life issues. For those who couldn't make the event, we've collected presentations and resources from the day, which we think you'll find entertaining, informative and highly useful in motivating your own Dying Matters activities.
Chair's introduction and a personal reflection about the Mexican Day of the Dead
Chairing the day with great verve was Dying Matters champion Tony Bonser, who started proceedings with a tribute to Dying Matters colleague Mike Vincent who died recently. Mike had been a valued part of our People in Partnership group for many years and will be sadly missed.
Events, however big or small: Dying Matters to us all - Karen Newman and Jo Nicholls, Trinity Hospice and Palliative Care Services (download photos)
Karen and Jo from Trinity Hospice had been key in organising the successful Fylde Coast Community Conference during Dying Matters Awareness Week, which featured star speaker Linda Nolan of the Nolan sisters, and attracted over 200 attendees. They laid out the process of planning a large event, with its attendant difficulties, but also showed that smaller-scale activities can be equally effective. Displays at their local charity shops had been a big hit during the week.
A Civil Celebrant's responsible approach to the Dying - Colin Nolan, The Celebrant
Colin Nolan took a collaborative approach when he organised a tour of Scarborough Crematorium during Dying Matters Awareness Week. Local solicitors and representatives from a hospice were on-hand to offer information, and Colin also held a mock celebrant service. The theme of working in partnership with other people in local communities would continue throughout the day. Colin also noted that it's important to remember the small details when organising an event - simple things like having tea and coffee available can make a big difference to how people engage with activities.
An interactive session of ideas from coalition members
We were keen that the Day of the Dead event offered practical support to our members, so in this session we asked attendees to work in groups to identify the key obstacles they had encountered when encouraging people to talk more openly about and make plans for the end of life. These suggestions were fed back into a panel discussion later in the day.
James Norris of DeadSocial had worked with a wide range of local organisations and businesses to create a "pop-up shop" in Camden during Awareness Week. By decorating the shop with coffins, a "Before I Die" wall, information materials, balloons and more, James and his colleagues created something that would pique the interest of those passing by. The shop ran many activities including a launch party, drop-in sessions with a funeral director and health professionals, and informative talks. One of these was given by counselling teacher Lawrence Darani, who shared with us his personal experience of being diagnosed with cancer, and introduced us to an existentialist perspective on dying.
On and off the bus... Dying Matters, let's talk, let's plan - Jayne Hanner and Chris Banks, Sussex Community NHS Trust (download photos)
Wearing custom-made Dying Matters T-shirts, Jayne and Chris from Sussex Community NHS Trust gave a sparkling and funny presentation about their big red bus, which they'd kitted out with resources, displays and much more and taken on a two-day tour of their local area. The tour saw many local businesses and organisations pitch in to help give members of the public information and advice about dying, death and bereavement. This was a great example of an eye-catching, engaging event, and of how to work in partnership to achieve the maximum impact possible.
Refreshments and chance to visit the exhibitions
There were a number of interactive displays aimed at encouraging people to share their thoughts and suggestions around the grand room at Senate House. We had many excellent contributions on how best to learn from the Mexican day of the Dead, and attendees also recorded short videos to explain "What palliative care means to me". There was also a chance to visit the beautiful altar, where people left photos, poems, keepsakes and more to remember loved ones who had died. The Natural Death Centre were also present, offering friendly advice, resources and sweet treats from their colourful stall.
Panel Discussion: Overcoming Obstacles (download presentation)
Dying Matters' Sam Turner chaired this session, which presented the most common difficulties that attendees had identified during the earlier group discussion, with six key obstacles presented. The panel consisted of Tony Bonser, Dying Matters' Joe Levenson, end of life care champion Mandy Paine, and Noleen Turner of St. Joseph's Hospice, who shared their thoughts and offered possible solutions. There were also many valuable contributions from the audience.
I Didn't Know That - A short film from the Dying Matters Coalition
A screening of the forthcoming Dying Matters film 'I Didn't Know That', developed in partnership with Heart of England Foundation Trust and the Muslim community in Birmingham. The film examines how gaps in knowledge can affect people's experience of dying, death and bereavement, especially in faith communities, and highlights what professionals should know about Muslim traditions around death and dying in order to provide appropriate care and support. The film will be available from the Dying Matters website and online shop in December.
Husband and wife Ian and Graciela run Mexicolore, an independent teaching team based in London providing specialist educational services on Mexico. Ian is British and Graciela is Mexican, and they talked about their shared experiences of the culture and attitudes to death in the countries of their birth in a colourful and informative presentation. Warm and engaging, Ian and Graciela covered family stories and explained the traditions behind the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration.
A video message, "Nearly dying, not the end of the world but you can see it from there!" - Steve Evans (watch video)
Steve Evans was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2012. A retired council worker and stage magician, Steve has since used his charisma and passion to campaign for better drugs in end of life care, and spoken with refreshing honesty about the realities of being terminally ill. Although he was sadly not well enough to attend on the day, Steve went to the trouble of recording a video message for attendees. Funny and frank, the video was a big hit and spread plenty of laughter around the room, as well as helping people reflect on the issues around end of life.
Photographs of the event on our Facebook page - view album