‘Dead Good’ Festival aims to get people talking about death

A FESTIVAL is taking place in York next month, with the aim of encouraging people to be more open about dying, death and bereavement.

York’s Dead Good Festival takes place this year from 10th – 19th May, organised by a team of local professionals in partnership with St Leonard’s Hospice, the University of York, York Hospital, York Explore Libraries and Next Door But One theatre company. The festival is part of Dying Matters, an awareness week aimed at helping people talk more openly about death and make plans for end of life.

The festival acknowledges that we’re not particularly good at talking about these things, and so will encourage people to express themselves in different ways, whilst giving advice and support on a number of practical matters. There will be events throughout the week in various venues around York including performances, open lectures, informative talks, crafts, discussions and more, many of which are free.

Headlining the festival is four performances of ‘Colder Then Here’, a witty and poignant one-act play exploring death, dying and grief performed by Next Door But One theatre company.

Members of the public can take tours of St Leonard’s Hospice, York Crematorium, York Cemetery and the York Hospital Mortuary. There is also the opportunity to attend open lectures by University of York lecturers, plus guest lecturers Mary Robson from Durham University,  Nicky Gardiner from the University of Huddersfield and Zivarna Murphy from Hull York Medical School. Topics range 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.

There will be practical events offering advice on a number of 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 creatively turn sentimental items into ‘keepsake art.’

Go along to The Principal York Hotel and meet Kathryn Mannix, a doctor with 30 years’ experience in palliative care. Her bestselling 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.

Guardian journalist, Erica Buist, is writing a 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. Meet Erica at York Explore, Library Square, and hear her stories and find out about her travels and the process of researching and writing her book.

On top of all of this there will be a historical 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!

Chris Dudzinska of Last Wishes Funerals, who is on the organising committee of the festival said: “This is only the festival’s second year in its current format and it has grown significantly since last year. It is clear there is an appetite out there for events such as these. There really is something for everyone, whether you’re intrigued and want to see behind the scenes of the mortuary, you want to see a play dealing with issues such as grief or want advice on planning for your own future and end-of-life. We’d love to see you all at York’s Dead Good Festival. It’s not about being morbid, but about dealing with death and getting on with living your life.”

Find out more at www.yorksdeadgoodfestival.co.uk. Most events are free, but some require booking a place.