A festival of death? Isn't that a bit morbid? Consider the Mexican Day of the Dead. Every year Mexicans fill their cemeteries with music, food and life to honour their deceased.
But in our culture death and dying are generally regarded as something to fight against, deny, hide from public view and above all fear. And we don't get a chance to remember the people we have loved and lost.
But what if we were to look at them differently?
Despite understandable fear and denial, there are good reasons to explore death and dying. Thinking about the end of life–our own and that of others–can make us our lives richer, deeper and more valuable to us. If we understand it we can better prepare for own deaths and the deaths of those we love. Death, in truth is a normal part of life.
What about a new Day of the Dead for the 21st century?
Inspired by the trailblazers in this field, our contribution is to start a local festival of death and dying in early November which is the time our culture has traditionally remembered the dead. Religious or atheist? It doesn't matter, death comes to us all and a Festival offers something for everyone.
We are building a model of a sustainable and replicable celebration that could be put together in any town, city or village. Our goal is to create something special that meets the needs of our community but also inspires a wider conversation. How we do this is something we are reviewing.
If you would like to hold an event, or list an event, as part of the festival of death and dying - no matter how small, then as long as you agree with the aims and principles of the festival (see below) and tell us about it we'll list it. It's too late for 2019, but not too early for 2020. Please read the docs below, fill in the gaps and send by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be in touch once we have a plan for 2020 -this will be published here too.
The aim of the festival is to help build a death-friendly society: where death and dying is shared and understood. A 'festival' offers diverse opportunities to dissolve the death taboo and the many social and psychological problems that stem from it.
The Festival is an invitation to share grief, explore death, combat fear, be inspired and encouraged to talk about death with each other.
The festival recognises that there are many barriers to participation in a festival of death and dying: finances, transport, physical and learning impairments, marginalisation of social groups, taboos and fear of ‘getting it wrong’ or ‘not belonging’. It aims through a clear set of principles (below) to do it’s best to overcome these barriers and ensure the widest possible participation by the largest possible number across all sections of the community. It cannot guarantee success in this respect only it’s best efforts to conceive, imagine and execute actions to enable this and will continuously re-evaluate and search for innovative and better ways to maximize inclusion.
The festival recognises that there is not a ‘one size fits all’. People have different tastes, preferences, beliefs and associations and so we encourage a diversity of offerings in a range of venues to allow individual members or sections of the community to find an entry point that feels comfortable for them. We hope too that a varied and intriguing range of offerings will encourage curiosity and a desire to explore.
To create safe spaces to explore death and dying, gentleness and kindness are vital. We have chosen the word safety as an umbrella term for need for gentle, kind and respectful responses by those participating in hosting the event. This is particularly important when considering who will ‘person’ the event, stewards, welcomers, facilitators. Whilst we hope that all participants will be made to feel safe and accepted the principle of safety does not exclude the expression of passion, humour and colour!
The festival recognizes that fear is an obstacle to entry. Therefore it encourages total transparency in it’s aims, how it organises itself and in particular, how events are described. Contributors are encouraged to describe clearly what will take place and the religious, spiritual or philosophical beliefs that informs their offering. We hope that knowing what to expect will reduce uncertainty and encourage participation.
In order to create safety and inclusion respect is vital. What do we mean by this? An accepting attitude to the different beliefs around death and dying even if they don’t fit with our own. The festival acknowledges the distress that fear and uncertainty around death creates: therefore how each individual finds reconciliation and peace with it must honoured as valid. We do not seek to persuade anyone of anything other than the possibility of finding greater ease with death and dying and celebrate the achievement of this in whatever shape or form it takes for any individual.
A long word for a different way of doing things. perhaps. In a sentence it means to share responsibility for resourcing an event. We've thought long and hard about this.
So that cost is never a barrier to entry, there are no tickets or up front cost to coming. This means that anyone can come regardless of income or financial status. However, if the event is to have a future beyond one weekend, it has also to be sustainable. Venues will be taking on heat, light and staffing costs, contributors will have paid out cash expenses to offer events. To balance these two aims, we invite participants to consider an amount they can afford to pay which reflects both how much they value the opportunity and how much they can afford. This could be 5p or £50, both are equally valued if given in the spirit of co-responsability.
We've never done this before so we'll appreciate your feedback. The model has been pioneered by peace activist Dominic Barber (restorative circles) in the poorest parts of Brazil and the Guardian newspaper.
Donations collected at the events will be shared between the venues and contributors according to what is agreed. The model aims to allow resources to flow where they are needed.
Donations collected through the Chuffed online fundraising platform will go towards the costs of organising the event, which amounts to 100's of hours and cash expenses 'donated' by the Hub, a small team of voluntary organisers.
All costs and donations will be published by January 2020.