Funeral planner Louise de Winter welcomed a mix of mourners and undertakers into Café Ziferblat in Shoreditch for a “death café” — an evening for strangers to come together and discuss death.
Death cafés are a social franchise to break the silence around death and dying. The concept was developed by Jon Underwood of Hackney, who hosted the UK’s first death café in his basement in 2011. Since then, death cafés have been hosted around the city and around the world.
A crowdfunding campaign is now underway to open a permanent venue in central London. The petition needs an additional £213,946 to reach its target by December 19, which as Underwood admits, is possible but unlikely.
Underwood said that people’s attitudes towards death have been shifting as a response to an ageing baby-boom generation and an unstable society. “A proposal like this would have been laughed at five years ago,” he said.
De Winter, who has hosted death cafés in New York and London, is the founder of funeral planning service Poetic Endings. She was one of a group of attendees at the event who works in an industry associated with death.
The last café she organised was held in a cemetery.
On Monday night in Café Ziferblat, guests talked of death and dying, the fear of death, cancer, bipolar disease and the funeral business.
One participant said: “Being an undertaker is like driving the most expensive taxi in Britain. We pay a fortune to distance ourselves from death, it’s just wrong.”
People seemed to agree that the cost of a funeral has grown out of proportion and that we need to normalise our relationship with death. Yet, I leave feeling that my questions were left unanswered. I’ll have to come back for the next one – if for nothing else but the carrot cake.
Follow Anja Krogstad on Twitter: @anjajebe