June 2016

The Natural Death Centre is 25!  Happy Birthday.


Amongst the shuffle of papers beside the loo in our bathroom is a well thumbed copy of A Poem a Day.  Through this book we first encountered Nicholas Albery as he daily inspired, provoked, amused and moved us through his choices.   I have always believed in poetry as medicine so this was a must have book.  Through it we then encountered his ideas about the Natural Death Centre which he co-founded with his partner Josefine Speyer.  This vision closely chimed with some of our experiences and discoveries about how we die in our society.   Nicolas’ life ended tragically soon in a car accident but his legacy is an organisation that challenges the values of the status quo, invites us to rethink what is possible and live and die in a more authentic way.  I did not know the centre in its beginnings in their home but I did later meet Josefine who was so warm and encouraging about my dream of creating the Kicking the Bucket festival.  She listened deeply and well as I described ideas that probably felt very familiar to her but were recent discoveries to me. Her support meant a lot and I am delighted she is participating again in our third festival this autumn. 


When we decided to start the burial ground at Westmill we came across the more practical day to day aspects of what the NDC does through it wing the Association of Natural Burial Grounds and I encountered for the first time the force of nature that is Rosie Inman Cook. We were rather slow to get started and her phone calls became increasingly regular in fact downright annoying. How were we getting on? How could she help? How about she came over for a site visit? And finally why on earth hadn’t we got our act together yet!  It worked and thanks to her and the wonderful ANBG we felt supported throughout the process, had access to advice, experience and generosity from our new found colleagues.  We felt at home straightaway.  When you sit with Rosie in her office you see the other side of her work. The phone rings constantly and there she is calm, knowledgeable and kind telling people what is really possible and how to have a beautiful, personal funeral that does not cost the earth.   They have also produced five editions now of the wonderful Natural Death Handbook which is a bible for anyone wanting to know more about this approach - full of practical information and thought provoking articles.  Thanks to her and all the others in that amazing, dedicated team over the years the word is getting out, people realise they do not have to do things the way some more commercial concerns suggest they should.  The media now come to the NDC whenever they want another perspective on a story about death and dying. Things are changing.  So let’s raise a glass with great gratitude to the Natural Death Centre.  To life and death! Visit www.naturaldeath.org.uk to know more.