I first heard about Death Cafes while watching Casualty one Saturday night a couple of years ago. My first reaction I guess like many other people was what on earth is a Death Cafe and why would anyone want to go to one? I quickly forgot about it until I did the End of Life Doula Foundation course last year. Death Cafes came up in conversation and as I was starting to look more closely at death and dying I thought it would be good to see what they are all about. Death Cafe’s are a global movement started by a man called Jon Underwood in 2011 as a not for profit social enterprise. Sadly Jon himself died in 2017 at a very young age but he has left a lasting legacy.
My partner Steve and I attended our first ever Death Cafe in Alton and were pleasantly surprised. Quite apart from the fact that Death Cafes ALWAYS have great cakes, the people who go are really interesting! I am beginning to learn that people who take an interest in dying and end of life generally are a) not boring and b) generally very lovely. At this first cafe attendees ranged from someone from St Thomas’ Hospital in London who was looking to improve communication between Doctors and patients at end of life through to a Pagan Anthropologist who had done a thesis on the display of dead bodies in museums. Conversation flowed for the next 90 minutes and we actually had to be told to stop talking when the venue needed to close.
As there was not a Death Cafe nearer to home, we decided to set one up in our home town of Chichester in September. With slightly trepidation we persuaded a friend who owns a Chocolate Cafe nearby to be our first host. We had ten attendees only one of whom had been to a Death Cafe before. There was much laughter and discussion of a huge range of topics from how death is portrayed in movies through to alternative ways of disposing of bodies. The feedback was great and so we decided to carry on.
I was invited to host a Death Cafe at St Wilfrid’s Hospice where I work and so our second event took place in the Day Hospice in November. This was an afternoon event which proved to be a bit quieter – I think evening cafes work better when people can attend after work. Even so, the smaller group of eight found plenty to speak about and we had four Hospice Ambassadors attend who visit the community to spread the message about the hospice. They mention Death Cafe’s in their presentations but had never been to one themselves. They can now go and speak with first hand knowledge of what goes on!
Our third Chichester Death Cafe is taking place on Wednesday January 24th at Bearded Bob’s Coffee and Gelato Emporium in North Street in Chichester from 7-9pm. Everyone is welcome and having had coverage in the Chichester Observer and That’s Solent TV it looks like being the busiest yet. Bearded Bob’s is a new cafe with the most amazing cakes so if you are coming, come hungry!
For more information about Death Cafe’s please visit their website by following this link.