Sarah Gilbank at St Leonards Hospice wrote us this guest blog on the fascinating York’s Dead Good Festival about to hit the city.
As a society, we’re not particularly good at talking about death.
With the aim of encouraging people to express themselves and be more open about dying, death and bereavement, the second ever York’s Dead Good Festival, taking place from 10th – 19th May, intends to change that.
Organised by a small team of local professionals in partnership with St Leonard’s Hospice, the University of York, York Hospital and York Explore Libraries, amongst others, the festival is a really eclectic mix of events, advice and support in various venues around York including:
– Next Door But One Theatre Company’s performances of ‘Colder Then Here,’ a witty and poignant one-act play by Laura Wade exploring death, dying and grief.
– Tours of St Leonard’s Hospice, York Crematorium, York Cemetery and the York Hospital Mortuary.
– Open lectures at the University of York on topics ranging from pet death, representations of death in literature and Buddhist death rituals to donating bodies for medical education, funeral poverty and death in science fiction.
– Advice on a number of practical matters such as Advance Decisions, making a will, planning meaningful funerals, clearing out the home of a loved one who has died and how to turn sentimental items into ‘keepsake art’.
“Working at St Leonard’s Hospice, my colleagues see on a daily basis the issues that arise when patients haven’t discussed their wishes with their loved ones. It can make a difficult time even more difficult but when it comes to these conversations, it always seems too early until it’s too late.
Of course it’s understandable not wanting to think about our own, or our loved ones’, death. But it can bring a lot of comfort knowing our wishes are going to be carried out when the time comes.
It’s not about being morbid – it is about taking away the fear and anxiety around death, planning for the future and then moving on and enjoying life.”
Sarah Gilbank, St Leonards Hospice
There is the opportunity to meet Dr Kathryn Mannix, a consultant with 30 years’ experience in palliative care. Her book ‘With the End in Mind’ sends a vital message to the living and answers the most urgent, intimate and fascinating questions about the end-of-life process with touching honesty and humility. Kathryn feels passionately that it’s time to re-claim public understanding of dying.
Hear from Guardian journalist, Erica Buist, who is writing a fascinating book called ‘This Party’s Dead’ in which she travels to seven of the world’s death festivals to find out how people outside the “death-denying West” cope with the knowledge that they’re going to die. Come and meet Erica, hear her story and find out about her travels and the process of researching and writing her book.
There will also be a talk by Yorkshire Organ Donation Services, Healthwatch York and you can find out more about death doulas, living funerals, green funeral solutions and the Hospice Biographers charity and their work with St Leonard’s Hospice in documenting the voices and life stories of patients.
On top of all of this there will be a ghost walk, death cafes, doodle art displays and the opportunity to post ‘things unsaid’ in one of the special post boxes around York – plus much more!
Find out more at www.yorksdeadgoodfestival.co.uk
The festival runs alongside Dying Matters Awareness Week – www.dyingmatters.org