The Good Funeral Awards

How A Crazy, Brave Idea Can Grow

3 March, 2011

Somebody emailed me the other day to say that it was a ‘crazy, brave idea’ to have a Six Feet Under convention.

Last week I was at a big meeting where I explained that I was organising a weekend to educate people about the business of death and dying, and a councillor said, “Well, nobody’s going to come to that.”

I can’t say there’s much in the way of competition for weekend breaks which have as their chief selling point that they will draw attention to your mortality, but I think he’s mistaken. I’m a fan of one of the Chief Rabbi’s witticisms, when he says, the thing about the Almighty is, he never let’s you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

And that’s very true. When I set out to organise a convention about a popular American drama that finished five years ago, I had a sense it could lead to mockery and derision and the loss of a considerable investment in a website. I also had a deeper sense that it would motivate a small, but utterly devoted group of people, who could imagine no greater pleasure than to indulge their morbid imagination with dozens of likeminded people at the height of summer on the South Coast for a whole weekend.

I first dared to articulate my plan on my blog. When I finished writing it, I felt queasy. Nobody’s going to sign up for this. I put it on Twitter and it got retweeted, and within 24 hours I had someone post a reply saying, ‘put me down for two tickets’.

When I wrote to Alan Ball asking him to come and speak, I wasn’t sure what response I’d get. It was, however, a terrific thrill to get an email from his office to say he’s busy with True Blood in August, but ‘good luck’.

After Christmas, I Twittered it again and the local paper picked up on it and gave it a page 3 spread. I didn’t even need to send them a press release.

Ever since then I’ve been initiated into a new world – the people who do death for a living – who all seem to be expressing huge enthusiasm for the idea of coming to Bournemouth to hear talks from an embalmer, a natural death advocate, a funeral director, an obituary editor and mixing that up with a viewing of Harold & Maude or Departures.

I’ve written to Nate (Peter Krause), Ruth (Frances Conroy), Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) and Bettina (Kathy Bates) inviting them over, but it might be a little ambitious for the first year.

I’ve made contact with Dr Christina Welch, who runs Death Day in Winchester. I’ve discovered Death Reference Desk. And I’ve been commissioned to write a piece for the Good Funeral Guide blog run by Charles Cowling. It’s also helpful that they’re repeating the series from the beginning on Sky Atlantic.

I’ve noticed people in the death industry seem to have a spring in their step and an excellent sense of humour. It bodes well.