I’m about to close down my blog on which I wrote the initial plan to organise the Six Feet Under convention. I’d like to store it here for posterity. When I finished writing it, I thought there was little chance of the idea taking off. Then it got caught up in the Twittersphere and within 24 hours someone said they would come. They didn’t, as it turned out. But that was enough encouragement to move forward.
The TV series Six Feet Under became part of my life, partly because midway through, I moved out of London to Bournemouth, a town only 200 years old, that if you squint on a summer’s day, might just resemble California.
While adapting to my new environment, I found I could imagine the beautiful Los Angeles back drops to the series: cemeteries, the forests and the seaside, could be part of Dorset.
Funerals are big business here, we’ve got our own artists and creative types and the area is conducive to ‘New Age’ thinking. To connect myself better with the community, I set up a group called BoMoCreatives (BoMo is the hip name for Bournemouth) and we ended up going to galleries, cafés and bars: hanging out in much the same way as Claire, Billy, Nate and Brenda do.
What I adored about the series was its depth.
The problems the characters faced made me aware of new ways of thinking and being. Over the series they covered relationships, addiction, sexuality, family, drugs, death, religion and grief.
Following up on the references I was introduced to Carlos Casteneda and Thomas Lynch, Mary Roach’s Stiff, Gail Sheehy’s Passages, C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, the film Harold & Maude, and lots of new bands. After a few years living here, I also discovered that the Bournemouth area is the 12-step capital of Britain. It’s one of the most popular places to come to go into rehab. This dates back to its C19th reputation as a health spa.
Five years after Six Feet Under has ended, I still think about the characters and their responses to life.
While walking in a breathtakingly beautiful cemetery in Bournemouth, it occurred to me that the town really could be LA lite. The series is widely acknowledged as one of the most daring and successful ever made, and it deserves to be celebrated. Given that we are the UK’s most popular tourist resort, with a huge bay, dozens of hotels and a vibrant night life, if you were going to organise a Six Feet Under Convention in the same style as a Star Trek Convention, Bournemouth would be the ideal place to host it.
A Six Feet Under Convention would have to have certain ingredients. A dedicated fan probably has an odd way of looking at the world, a fascination with death, a sense of their own vulnerability, a twisted sense of humour and an openness to the mystery of the world. Without doubt, if we were to come together, we’d be a very distinct community.
I set out to organise the conference in two parts.
The first is to put on activities that reflect the fans’ curiosity about all things to do with death.
So I’m planning a weekend with a picnic in a cemetery, a talk from an undertaker, maybe a tour of a funeral home, a screening of Harold & Maude, some ‘group therapy’ sessions for people to discuss their favourite episodes and characters, a talk from a former obituaries’ editor and maybe a contribution from an academic or a psychoanalyst to give an overview of the ideas that the series raises.
The second part is to involve some of the actors, writers or behind-the-scenes people who worked on the programme. This is the more difficult part as most of them are based in America. I’m writing to Alan Ball, who would be a brilliant person to speak at the first Six Feet Under Convention.
It’s definitely an experimental idea, but as Maude says in Harold & Maude, ‘..oh my, how the world still dearly loves a cage.’
Spending a weekend with 150 people who share the same passion for an amazing TV series, people who are highly sensitive to the promises of L I F E, people who would appreciate the chance to do something bizarre like drive a hearse or hear how embalming works, I couldn’t imagine a better way to have fun.
Richard Conway says: December 12th, 2010
Would love to know more. Great idea. Put me down for two tickets!
Monica Adams says: December 23rd, 2010
There are no ghost tours in BOH that I can see – there are lots in other towns – maybe you want to incorporate that- great for corporate or parties or hen nights! – happy to help/share!
Vicki Embalmer says: March 2nd, 2011
I think Poole, a very nearby town, does Ghost walks Monica! It has a much more old town vibe too…
As a qualified embalmer and Six Feet enthusiast, I find myself doing the Snoopy dance at reading your post Brian…
I reckon you could put me and my chums down for 40 ish tickets!
Suzanne Putman says: April 8th, 2011
Myself and my colleague are both Funeral Service Advisers and we are both great fans of Six Feet Under….we’re really interested in coming to your convention, after reading about it in the Funeral Service Magazine. Going to now have a look at your website..
Greenfield Creations, based in Essex have designed and built the ‘official’ Six Feet Under convention coffin.
What is more it is biodegradable and ornamented with ravens, moles and worms.
“This is a terrific contribution to the convention – reflecting our desire to have a good laugh, while at the same time appreciating the seriousness of our individual mortality. This coffin will take pride of place during the weekend.” said organiser, Brian Jenner.
Will Hunnebel, owner of Greenfield Creations, will be exhibiting coffins in Bournemouth Triangle on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 August.
We found that author Sarah Murray has written a new book on the subject. She went on a trip across the globe to investigate the way people in different cultures have sent off their dead. Along the way, she encountered a Balinese royal cremation and a chandelier in the Czech Republic made from entirely human bones. She attended the American death care industry’s biggest road show and spent a ghoulish afternoon amid the mummified Sicilian corpses hanging on the walls of a crypt in Palermo.
What surprised her was the astonishing creativity that accompanies death. Faced with death, we create elaborate ceremonies to manage it and build great architectural edifices to honour it. We bury our loved ones in the ground.
We burn them in fire. In certain cultures, we leave corpses as carrion, inviting the birds to pick the bones dry. In others, we hang the dead in trees or stow them in caves. In naval circles, we consign them to the ocean.
Sarah Murray’s new book Making an Exit, From the Magnificent to the Macabre, How We Dignify the Dead describes all the options, and Sarah will be speaking about her book at the convention on Saturday 13 August 2011.