Estimated reading time:6 minutes, 1 second
Everyone has a story. Artist and end of life doula Caroline Dent has brought the Death CafĂ© to Finsbury Parkâs Blighty CafĂ©. Join the Death Cafe to talk about all the taboos and fears we have about death over a very civilised cup of tea and a cake. Interview by Nicola Baird
âThe first time I read about a Death CafĂ© my idea was it would be full of Goths and people dressed in black,â admits Caroline Dent cheerfully, âbut itâs not like that at all. I havenât yet seen a Goth!â
Unlike most of us, who have a tendency to try and forget that death is going to happen, Caroline has faced up to what she calls âthe last tabooâ. Not only is she training as an end of life doula*, sheâs also been a Marie Curie volunteer, volunteered with suicidal people and is a volunteer for the new peer-to-peer programme run by Islington Bereavement Service.
Now sheâs gone one step further and brought a Death CafĂ© to Finsbury Park.
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The Death CafĂ© – taken from the Swiss concept of CafĂ© Mortel first run by sociologist Bernard Crettaz – was introduced to the UK by Londoner Jon Underwood in September 2011 in his home with a get together to talk about death over tea and cake. Since then events have been held in UK cafes, cemeteries, yurts and even the Royal Festival Hall. The concept has now spread worldwide, but Death Cafes are run by volunteers who want to help us remove the fears and taboos around death by having a good conversation about life. www.deathcafe.com
âIn Finsbury Park the Death CafĂ© are small events at Blighty CafĂ© and very popular,â says Caroline who grew up in Leeds.
Places Caroline Dent likes in Islington
Front Room is a great cafĂ©.
At Blighty where we do the Death CafĂ© once a month youâve got a real sense of community. Weâre all longing for community arenât we, and they tap into it.
I love the N4 library.
Years ago my son went to the Steiner School at the church off Balls Pond Road.
Front Room is a great cafĂ©. I was checking the Jumble Trail leaflets there recently and met Martina who was having a coffee with a friend â she was introduced as âMrs Jumble Trailâ because the Jumble Trail was her idea.
Iâm running the Finsbury Park Jumble Trail on 11 October, so got quite excited to see there are 500 art students who have just moved into Sketch House (between John Jones and the Park Theatre) â just imagine 500 art students on the Jumble Trail!
What happens at a Death Cafe?
âAbout 20 of us will sit in small groups. Weâll go round the table asking whatâs brought each personâŠ and that usually turns into a massive conversation. We donât have an agenda, conversations naturally evolve,â explains Caroline who used to help out at theÂ Death CafĂ© in Hampstead at the CafĂ© Rouge which was run by Josefine Speyer who, with her husband, founded the Natural Death Centre which used to be located further up Blackstock Road, but which is now based in Twyford, Berkshire.
âPeople come because they are curious. Itâs always a very diverse group and lots of people come back again,â adds Caroline. âPeople often say they feel liberated by the conversation because generally people donât talk about death. The big questions might include shouldÂ assisted suicide be legal, does consciousness continue after a body dies and how do people deal with grief.â
Although some Death CafĂ© participants work in the death industry â in hospices or medicalÂ law or might be terminally ill or recently bereaved themselves â Caroline, who also works as an artist, explains that itâs not a support group. âThere is a deep sharing. Conversations are often about someone who is close to dying. The Death CafĂ© encouragesÂ people to thinkÂ about how they want to die, and all the different options. Did you know that you can keep the body at home? Also the importance of Â power of attorney and a living will. Sharing information is a great way to empower ourselves.â
Everyone of us has to face birth and death. Over the past 50 years being born has become a far more humane process which people are perhaps far too willing to talk about (and share on Facebook). In contrast people seem to fear that talking about death tempts fate. Poet Dylan Thomas told us: âDo not go gentle into that good night,â telling us to ârage at the dying of the light.â Thanks to Caroline, and her co-cordinator Liz Wong, who is also an end of life doula, Finsbury Parkâs Death CafĂ© offers a practical way to start talking about any questions we may have about death and dying at Blighty cafĂ© on Blackstock Road, just opposite the N4 library.
Expect a cosy atmosphere and no one shushing you when you announce âIâm dying for a cup of teaâ.
- Dates and info about the Death CafĂ© Finsbury Park on Facebook (pre booking essential) https://www.facebook.com/Death-Cafe-Finsbury-Park-793324807451233/timeline/
- Have a look at Caroline Dentâs memorial and wedding jewellery, made from recycled pieces, rosieweisencrantz.com
- Islington Bereavement Service is recruiting volunteers for training in January 2016, see this advert http://www.stjh.org.uk/volunteer-opportunity/islington-bereavement-service
Death/End of Life doula â an assistant who helps people in the final stages of their life at their home. For more info see this Guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/04/death-doulas-helping-people-face-up-to-death
Info about an early Death CafĂ© in the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-death-cafe-movement-tea-and-mortality-8082399.html
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