It’s always great to be able to share some of our BrumYODO experiences with others. Over the past few years we’ve tried so many different events and learned so much along the way. Hopefully our successes and not-to-much successes can help inspire others to be part of Dying Matters Awareness Week.

So when Hospice UK asked us to present at their annual conference this November, there was no hesitation. We have representatives of two Birmingham hospices on our board – John Taylor and St Mary’s – and so have some understanding of how a hospice can be at the forefront of Dying Matters Awareness.

Our title was ‘How being part of Dying Matters can benefit your hospice and your community’ and we had a ten-minute slot first thing in the morning.

I wasn’t sure how many people would turn up on a cold Friday morning at 9am but the room was pleasantly full. Hospice UK shared some interesting statistics to set the mood – 64% of people say they are comfortable talking about death but 73% think other people aren’t happy talking about it! Or 82% of people are comfortable talking about politics, 78% about money but only 64% about dying.

When it was our turn, we took to the stand and shared our history – telling people in the room how what began as one event in a local market had now become the fully blown festival A Matter of Life and Death.

The Many Faces of Frank Feelbad

Children’s theatre – The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad

We showed photos of events ranging from museum tours to movies, from dinners to drawing classes and from children’s theatre to creative workshops. We shared how we’d grown so we’ve now held well over 100 events working together with organisations, individuals and venues across the city and beyond. And we shared feedback from people who had said that coming to one or more of our events had made them feel more ready to discuss death and dying.

Our final message was the  f-word – fun. Searching through the hundreds of photographs we have of our many events, I constantly saw pictures of people laughing, smiling and even excited. Nobody is saying death and dying aren’t heavy topics of conversation but, presented in the right way, they do also give us an opportunity to have fun. A light-hearted theatre show, a chance to sit and chat over cake, a story-telling evening are all ways for us to engage with the subject but also have a good day out!

And so, as we prepare for our next A Matter of Life and Death Festival in May 2020, we’ll be looking for more great events to ensure we keep the conversation going and the laughter flowing.