2023 Festival

Walking, Talking, Feasting, Crafting

Death Cafes at Bearwood Community Centre, Brandwood End Cemetery and the Heath Bookshop in Kings Heath; a fully-booked behind-the-scenes tour at independent funeral director A Natural Undertaking; and a Mexican-inspired audio tour of the Jewellery Quarter in partnership with Itzatna Arts and Coffin Works have all been part of this year’s programme. To whet your appetite for next year, here are some reflections on selected events.

To Absent Friends

This was an evening of conviviality and conversation about one of life’s most profound and testing experiences – the death of a loved one.

A small gathering of strangers met in a quiet corner of a friendly pub in Harborne. We were there to share a meal and to ease our losses by sharing a memory of a loved one.  Some brought a photo and it was good to put a face to a name as we heard stories and offered a toast.  There were funny stories as well as sad and we talked about the complexities and common experiences of loss, as well as acknowledging the individuality of everyone’s experience.

Our exchanges were a reminder never to underestimate the power of saying a loved one’s name out loud, of sharing your story and of listening to those of others. It’s unlikely that these people will meet again, but for that evening their generosity and compassion demonstrated the very best of community strength and power.

With thanks to the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care for their support. SPPC organises To Absent Friends, an annual festival of remembrance in Scotland.

BrumYODO would be delighted to support others interested in running their own To Absent Friends events. Please do get in touch.

Brilliant Community Bookstores – Bear Bookshop and The Heath Bookshop                                                                                 

This year we have begun new relationships with two fantastic bookshops firmly rooted in their local communities, and we look forward to doing more together.

Books to support bereaved children and young people
At Bear Bookshop, a children’s book presentation was followed by browsing and discussion. Jenny and team had worked hard to identify less well-known books aimed at all ages and a range of types of bereavement and have produced a reading list that can be accessed here.  It is so important that children and young people can access books that deal with death, dying and bereavement and the shop stocks a range of titles to help to help them better understand what has happened and to realise they are not alone. 

The Heath Bookshop

Enticing a different audience, two ‘meet-the-author’ events were sold out at The Heath Bookshop. Hollie Starling spoke about her new book, The Bleeding Tree – A Pathway Through Grief Guided by Forests, Folk Tales and the Ritual Year. Poet, Helen Calcutt read from Somehow, a set of poems about the ways that grief, guilt and loss attach themselves to both the family and the natural world for restoration. These paved the way for a final event, a well attended Death Café, held at the bookshop.

Life and Death in Birmingham walking tour

On a sunny Sunday morning, 18 of us joined Kevin Thomas on his Life and Death in Birmingham walking tour in partnership with Brum YODO. A mix of people, from Brummies to those visiting the city from as far afield as Sweden, were introduced to a variety of sites – from the nuclear bunker to the sites of the battle of Snow Hill Station to the last public hanging in the city. As one reviewer of the tour wrote on Trip Advisor – “Kevin is a great host and story-teller, I had a very nice walk in the centre of Birmingham visiting interesting places that surely otherwise would have been unnoticed. Recommended”. Together with interesting conversations as we walked around the centre, the walk was both informative and entertaining.

Death over Drinks – The Legalities
Once again the wonderful Anjuna Lounge in Stirchley was the setting for a fourth Death Over Drinks evening. We gathered over samosas and drinks to talk about a specific aspect of death and dying and one with many misconceptions – the legal stuff, including Wills, Powers of Attorney and how to get it right!
One of the fantastic things about the BrumYODO team is the variety of skills and experience we all bring. On this occasion, non-practicing solicitor Lis Whybrow facilitated conversation about the legal things we might consider before we die. Passionate that we understand the importance of being well-prepared legally for what the future may throw at us, and with over 35 years’ experience of working in and around Birmingham, she was well equipped to share some top tips and to answer our questions. We all went away with greater clarity on the important things to set in place and lists of things to do!

Craft and Care
BrumYODO supported the Quarter Masters who hosted a Craft & Care event in the Jewellery Quarter, focusing upon conversations about death and dying.  During the evening attendees shared personal stories of their journeys living with a terminal illness as well as having humorous discussions about funeral planning.

Supporting the Community
Birmingham Hospice and BrumYODO attended an event led by Compass Support for local citizens to hear about the services the hospice offers to all residents of Birmingham who are living with a life limiting condition.  Participants learnt that services are free to access and culturally sensitive and were surprised to hear that the majority of support is provided in the patient’s own home.