‘Good Funeral Awards’ celebrate innovation in the UK Funeral Industry

The British have something of a reputation for a degree of ‘quirkiness’, and this seems no different in their approach to the death care industry.  The UK has recently held an event to celebrate the innovation emerging in the ‘alternative’ sector of the funeral industry.  This was staged in recognition of the changing trends in green funerals, life celebrations, new online memorial technologies and the more weird and wacky offerings that people can choose for their final send-off.

The Joy of Death Festival was staged in Bournemouth on the September 7 – 9th 2012 and attended by good funeral folks from all over the United Kingdom.  The strap line for the event “A weekend for the Living!”

The event was not only an opportunity for many funeral professionals to share practice on some of the new innovations within their industry, it was planned to help celebrate all the good funeral work undertaken by many across the U.K.  It was hoped it would dispel the recent bad publicity coverage of the funeral industry after the Channel 4 Dispatches ‘Undercover Undertaker’.  A program that conducted a scathing expose on the behind-the-scenes happenings at the largest corporate funeral chain in the UK – Cooperative Funeralcare.

The first UK Funeral Awards took place on the Friday and were based on 149 nominations from within the industry and from the general public.  The categories of the Good Funeral Awards were:

  • Most Promising New Funeral Director
  • Embalmer of the Year
  • The Eternal Slumber Award for Coffin Supplier of the Year
  • Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death in the Media
  • Crematorium Attendant of the Year
  • Best Internet Bereavement Resource
  • The Blossom d’Amour Award For Funeral Floristry
  • Funeral Celebrant of the Year
  • Cemetery of the Year
  • Gravedigger of the Year
  • Funeral Director of the Year
  • Best Alternative to a Hearse
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Book of the Year

These categories provided the opportunity to highlight the trades and skills from across the funeral sector, and winners and runners-up with invited to speak about their business.  This was a very different event to the standard Funeral Directors Association Conventions, and hopefully we may see something like this take off in the U.S.

The death care industry in the U.S. is undergoing some significant shifts right now, with the cremation rate rising, and many looking towards a ‘life celebration’ as opposed to the traditional somber event.  Some states are responding more progressively than others, especially where the cremation rate is already higher, such as California, Florida, and Maine, and where there is a greater interest in greener alternatives to the traditional burial.

This is a time of change right now.  The way people think about funerals is changing, the use of technology is starting to firmly seat itself into the funeral planning, memorialization and even funeral service aspects of a funeral.  The cost of a funeral is being questioned and interrogated now more than ever as people struggle with the idea, or the finances, of spending thousands of dollars on the death care process.  DIY funerals are becoming a new ‘norm’ and are moving from the slipstream to the mainstream.  Families are questioning why they should give so much money to ‘professionals’ to manage their death care.

In the U.K. the cremation rate is at around 80%, and families can generally attend directly at the crematory for a private committal.  DIY funerals and direct cremation has already started to storm the U.K., as the British demand simplicity and affordability in their death care.  What is happening over the pond is beginning to sweep across America as the price-war for affordable funerals takes off.

7 thoughts on “‘Good Funeral Awards’ celebrate innovation in the UK Funeral Industry

  1. The views of more than 50 people voting for each other for a start.

    None of the two trade organisations feel the need to have self voting awards for cheap publicity, or to start recommending firms based n nothing other than a chat and a coffee and do I like these people.

    Both SAIF and NAFD have codes of practice and compliance visits.

    The recent programme you refer to did not highlight anything other than one or two people not adhering to internal procedures and the whole thing was hyped beyond belief. Bodies stacked naked like TVs in a warehouse actually equated to deceased respectfully laying in a purposes built mortuary facility, under white sheets with the heads carefully and respectfully supported, the hidden on an industrial estate was a well signed premises in a discreet location which was the preference of the planning authority at the time.

    The scale of their operation may have been a shock, but that in itself does not mean its dissect full.

    I recall stories in the USA of funeral directories dumping bodies in piles in their back yards instead of in the cemetery and of funeral directors dumping bodies on families door steps if they have no money to pay for a funeral.

    If your view of the British Funeral Profession is being gleaned for The GFG blog, your are being mislead in a very sad way.

    The bog itself represents a huge disrespect to all of us working in the profession.

    • Dave, we appreciate you taking the time to explain your feelings about the UK funeral industry. I hear what you say about the portrayal of the industry in the ‘Dispatches’ program. We understand that the way the funeral industry is going means we are heading to regional holding facilities and cremation centers, and we can quite understand that ‘Dispatches’ will have put some spin on their report. We do have, as you rightly point out, our own ‘horror’ stories here. More and more Americans are actually walking away from family in state-run care facilities because they literally cannot afford to pay for any funeral expenses. Of course, the state in this case then has to pick up the tab. We are aware that the UK has its own issues of this kind. Michigan even have a State Emergency Relief (SER) fund to provide relief that covers funeral expenses – but as you are no doubt aware, the funeral industry in the U.S., being regulated at state level, can have different codes of practice in individual states. We even have regular issues with non-compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s ‘Funeral rule’.

      Your criticism of the ‘Dispatches’ expose does lead me to wonder about your allegiance with the big corporate funeral company in the UK. The GFG represents a very positive perspective of the independent funeral trade in the UK. It is very critical of the corporate side of the industry. We do not feel it is a “huge disrespect” at all.

      The funeral industry globally is facing major, if not seismic, changes as it changes to meet the demands of the changes in society. We think it is important we all keep open minds.

      • My allegiance is to the funeral profession not to either the corporate or the independent FD. I have worked in both large and small firms and started my own small funeral business in which I continue to be the major shareholder and employee.

        Knocking the big boys is just rubbish, I have seen some of the most caring and professional people such firms.

  2. Dont get excited about this event, it was attended by just over 50 people and was in no way representative of the British Funeral Profession. Jut nodd ball self appointed so called champion of the bereaved and his cronies looking to pat themselves on the back and nominating each other for meaningless awards.

    • Errmm….sounds like you are most definitely NOT a fan of the Good Funeral Guide folks, Dave! It may not have been well-attended, and it may be just a ‘click’ of folks who like to congratulate themselves on a job well-done…..but everyone has to start somewhere, and I commend their attempts to do something different and positive. Especially in light of just how much dismal news there is of late about the doom and gloom of death care, the questionable practices of Cooperative Funeralcare, the high cost of dying, crematoriums having to hike prices over emissions, pauper funerals bankrupting local councils, etc, etc etc

      What IS representative of the British Funeral Profession?

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