Diving into the world of the dead

For those of us who spend our academic lives researching the sociological and anthropological dimensions of dying, death, mourning, grief and mortuary rituals, this is an insightful piece of BBC journalism, which I want to share with you.

The tsunami widower searching the seabed for his missing wife

Four years after the tsunami hit the north-east coast of Japan killing thousands of people, Yasuo Takamatsu is still searching for his wife’s remains. He has even learned to dive in his quest to find her. Yoko Takamatsu worked for a bank and was in her office when the wave struck. Her husband Yasuo and the couple’s two children survived, while Yoko is presumed to have died. Yasuo told Outlook’s reporter Hiromi Tanoue about the events of that terrible day, 11 March 2011.

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A contemporary long barrow for cremated remains

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Tim Daw, a farmer and the owner and mastermind behind a newly built long barrow at All Cannings in Wiltshire (UK) for housing cremated remains, located in one of his fields.



It’s a magical place and utterly unique and therefore, no wonder that in less than a year since the Long Barrow at All Cannings was officially opened for custom, 75% of the niches available to purchase for cremated remains have already been sold!

I was greatly impressed by the craftsmanship and vision involved in the building of this replica Neolithic long barrow, built from local sarsen stones and in such a way that on the Winter Solstice the sun rises and shines it’s rays of light into the long barrow.

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Bath University’s Centre for Death and Society (CDAS) is 10!

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Design for Death Workshop

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Natural Death Salon



Natural Death Salon

The benefits of family-led, ‘green’ funerals versus funeral director-led


Sunday 24 May 2015

2.30pm  – 5.30pm

20 Heber Road, London NW2 6AA

£15 (prebooking only) Places are limited.

To attend please contact Josefine at josefine@josefinespeyer.com


This afternoon is a chance to think and talk about funerals. To start off the discussion, Josefine will give a talk using a powerpoint presentation drawing in part on feedback from workshop participants and from families who contacted the Natural Death Centre, during 1993 – 2005, a time when the natural death movement was burgeoning and natural burial and D-I-Y ‘green’ funerals became a growing trend. The feedback is completely biased and critical of the conventional, Victorian style funeral. The people either had an interest in family-organised, ‘green’ (environmentally friendly) funerals or had personal experiences of organizing such a funeral. Since 2005 there has been a worldwide trend of ‘home funerals’, natural burials and a move away from funerals being funeral director led or directed to being family-led or family-organized and personalized and the family taking a more active role.


The focus of the talk is to rethink funerals and to learn from what people have done and what can be done, what people have found helpful and unhelpful. The discussion might range from sharing positive or negative experiences of funerals to what people might wish to avoid in funerals and how they might take a more active role in the future, aware of possible choices.


A small buffet will be provided to accompany teas and coffee during the break.


Josefine Speyer is a psychotherapist, co-founder of the Natural Death Centre (1991) which has spearheaded the natural death movement particularly during the 1990’s. She is a co-founder of the Befriending Network (1994); a co-editor of the Natural Death Handbook (2003), and a contributor to the Natural Death Handbook (2012). She offers death education, and has hosted Salons at her home for many years as part of the NDC’s educational program.

What is a Salon?  The great European tradition of Salons originated in Italy in the 16th Century. Salons became fashionable in France during the 17th, 18th and 19th Century when women invited artists and philosophers for discussion and exchange of ideas to their ‘Salon’ (large reception room) in their home. The Natural Death Salon offers the chance to talk about death in the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of Josefine’s spacious living room.

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Cemeteries Colloquium


Friday, 15th May 2015

The Sixteenth Colloquium on Cemeteries will take place at the University of York on Friday, 15th May. This day event comprises an informal meeting of researchers in all disciplines with an interest in burial places, and a particular focus is placed on new and emerging research. Postgraduates are particularly welcome.

Bookings for this event are now being taken, and a booking form is on the next page. A fee of £45, payable in advance, will cover costs associated with attendance including refreshments and a light lunch. Please make cheques payable to the University of York.  The next page of this document is the booking form, and you should complete and return the form, with your cheque, to Dr Julie Rugg, Cemetery Research Group, CHP, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD. The deadline for booking is 8th May.

The Colloquium will take place at the King’s Manor, University of York. Please do not bring a car to York, since parking at King’s Manor is extremely limited. There are regular trains to York from London, Scotland and the west of the country. For overseas visitors, access is particularly easy from Manchester Airport: a regular direct train route connects the Airport with York.

King’s Manor is within easy walking distance of the station. The following link gives directions:




If you require accommodation, the following link to the City of York tourism website indicates local guesthouses:




It is perhaps best to try and arrange a stay somewhere close to the city centre, off Bootham (eg Longfield Terrace, Grosvenor Terrace, Queen Anne’s Road, or Sycamore Road).



 NOTE:  A traditional component of the Colloquium is to meet for drinks on the evening before the Colloquium (Thursday, 14th May) at the Three Legged Mare on High Petergate from 7:00, and then have dinner from c.8:00 at Ask, situated in the former Assembly Rooms.


 Fifteenth Colloquium on Cemeteries

16th May, King’s Manor, University of York



9:50-10:25 On the model of Père LachaiseIan Dungavell

Chief Executive, Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, London

10:25-11:00 Rethinking burial practice: William Godwin’s Essay on Sepulchres (1809)Helen Stark

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh

11:00-11:20  COFFEE


11:20-11:55 The spatial and temporal development of a cemetery landscape: the municipal cemetery of Mount Saint Lawrence, Limerick CityHélène Bradley-Davies

Department of Geography, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick City

11:55-12:30 Excavating the above- and below-ground materiality of a modern cemeterySian Anthony

Lunds Universitet, Sweden

12:30-1:30 LUNCH
1:30-2:05 Temporary lodgings of the dead: patterns of catacomb usage at Brompton CemeteryMatthew Pridham

Trustee, Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery

2:05-2:40 Cemetery sculpture outside the cemetery: Pre- and after-lives of Spanish funerary sculpture c.1900-1922Chloe Sharpe

History of Art, University of York

2:40-3:00  TEA


3:00-3:35 ‘Walk down any street’: a South London funeral in 1965Brian Parsons
3:35-4:10 Ashes creations: The incorporation of cremation ashes into objects and tattoos in British contemporary practicesSam McCormick, Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University
4:15  Concluding comments, and CLOSE



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