over the weekend 2,3,4 November 2018 in Glastonbury

The first ever

Festival of Death and Dying at Glastonbury

took place.....

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TV crews came to film the opening such was the media interest

 Annie Maw,  Lord Lieutenant of Somerset was there to open the event with Vicar and host David MacGeoch.  The event was covered by BBC Points West TV and broadcast on the evening news that night. There was also widespread local radio, digital and print media coverage. 

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A 1000 people came to St.John's Church in the centre of Glastonbury

Glastonbury was once known as the Isle of Dead and according to legend was a portal between worlds. The town has had a long tradition of marking our culture's day of the dead which is also known as Sowhain, Hallowtide or All Souls. Glastonbury is also a multi-faith community, so holding a festival here seemed a good fit for our first year.  


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stunningly lit by international designer Bruce Munro

The interior of the church was magically lit up by LED lights on fishing poles thanks to the genius and generosity of the light artist Bruce Monroe. All of the contributors to the festival did so for free which meant all events were free too. 

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A passage of remembrance was a key feature of the Festival

Recognising that for many there is no opportunity to formally share and remember the dead, a passage of remembrance was created. A mini pilgrimage around the building, allowing visitors to remember their loved ones (including pets) in different ways in 3 side chapels set aside for the purpose. In the Memorial chapel visitors were invited to put up photos of their loved ones while a gentle soundtrack played in the background. The experienced bereavement team were there to greet and chat to visitors.

Listen
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Visitors left messages for their dead on remembering trees

The memorial chapel was set aside for trees of remembrance. There were places where people could sit and write and if they wanted talk to each other, or the bereavement team member, many did. Deep conversations took place here and all over the building. People shared their experience of grief and death, love and life.

And the visitors could sit and listen to the voices project: this was a specially curated recording

and lit candles for those they had loved

St.George's chapel offered a space where visitors could light a candle and sit and listen to the voices project: this was a specially curated recording of local people talking about death and dying.  Many found the honesty and beauty of the stories very moving.

the voices project
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A stunning programme of performances ran throughout the weekend

On the opening night Maya Love and the Singing for Joy choir performed songs that tend to grief from around the world. The audience joined in on much of the programme uniting choir and audience in a soulful and uplifting and unique experience.

 

Listen
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DJ Celine Dijon played Saturday morning

The sounds of 'Tones, drones and sounds of joy and loss' filled the space for two hours. We wanted to give young people a reason to come along. Interviews of visitors on the day suggest that 2/10 visitors were under 25.

listen
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Soprano Charlotte Church headlined Saturday night

World renowned soprano Charlotte Church sang  'Gorecki's sorrowful' songs accompanied by the British Paraorchestra and Friends and conducted by Charles Hazlewood.It was first time Charlotte had sung with an orchestra in 16 years: she was inspired by the spirit of festival.  The church was packed and the audience were deeply moved and gave Charlotte a standing ovation.  

Interview with charlotte
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Death Cafe's/Grave Talks

On Friday and Saturday visitors joined in a discussion forum. Grave Talk cards with topics gave people a place to start. Funeral directors from Forsey's, a local death doula and the Vicar of Glastonbury were there to support and answer questions. The sessions were very well attended and the question and answer sessions with the 'experts' after was very revealing. 

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information service

Funeral debt can be a real problem for many famillies; we hoped to bring attention to this any many of the other practical issues and choices around death and dying so that people at the end of their life can make informed choices. A stand providing information was open all weekend and was kindly hosted by St.Margaret's Hospice supported by local death doula Marisa Picardo.

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The cafe/bar provided refreshment for up to 1000 visitors

The excellent team at St.Johns' ran a cafe all day and a bar for the evening performances. 

See the full programme

And it was all free....

Thanks to all of those that gave their time and talent

Henrietta Lang - Curator

Hosted by David MacGeoch - Vicar of Glastonbury 

and St.John's church

The Bereavement team

The Welcoming team

The Catering team

The Churchwardens

Also,

Charles Hazlewood – music

Charlotte Church  - music

The British Paraorchestra

Bruce Munro – lighting 

Maya Love – sound 

Members of the Singing for Joy choir

St. Margaret’s Hospice

Ashley Wild . Wild Tree Services

Phillip Welch - Glastonbury FM

https://normalforglastonbury.uk/ 

Liz Pearson

Forsey's

Annie Maw – Lord Lieutenant of Somerset

Marisa Picardo

Candace Bahouth

Lucy Glendinning

Kate Robinson

Traci Postings

Heather Price

Lottie Berrryman

Sarah Leigh

Maggie Crisp

Jacinth Latta

Natasha Smith

Jil Dunmore

Sheena Loveday

Blue Cedar Printworks