Contributors are arranged in alphabetical order by first name.
Andy Hamilton is one of the funniest and most brilliant comedy writers of the last thirty years. For television he co-created the series Outnumbered and Drop The Dead Donkey and he has made numerous appearances on Have I Got News for You and QI. He is also well known to Radio Four listeners as one of the regulars on The News Quiz and as Satan in his award winning sitcom set in Hell, Old Harry’s Game.
I have worked in the field of young onset dementia for the past 10 years. In Oxfordshire, YoungDementia UK offers information, practical and emotional face to face support and signposting to people living with young onset dementia and their families from the point of diagnosis onwards. We are also developing a national network of people living with, or interested in, young onset dementia.
Angela Samata is the presenter of BBC One’s BAFTA-nominated Life After Suicide documentary. The film, the recipient of the MIND Best Factual Documentary Award 2015, explores why some people take their own lives and how those who love them come to terms with the loss. Merseyside Woman of the Year 2015 and member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Suicide Reduction, Angela is also the former Chair of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, a national organisation that now helps more than 7,000 people through 60 support groups across the country.
Avril Maddrell is Associate Professor in Social and Cultural Geography at the University of the West of England, Bristol and Co-Editor of the journal Gender, Place and Culture. As a geographer, Avril is particularly interested in how the ‘where?’ intersects with the ‘when?’, ‘why?’ and ‘who?’. Her research focuses on the spaces, landscapes and associated practices of death, mourning and remembrance, as well as pilgrimage and sacred mobilities, gender, and charity shops. Her research grew out of reflections on her own experience of bereavement. She is a former Chair of Oxfordshire SANDS.
I proudly chair The Home Funeral Network, the hosts of the Funerals To Die For event. We are a passionate and connected group of practitioners offering support, education and guidance to families who wish to arrange a home and/or family led funeral. Our mission is to enable families to make informed choices and to feel empowered by the process. We are dedicated to promoting environmentally sound and culturally nurturing death practices. As Founder of Only With Love, I offer gentle death care services within Oxfordshire and work alongside families to create meaningful, personal and affordable funerals.
Dee Ryding has been part of the Home Funeral Network since its launch last year, as Secretary to the network and its members. Events, talks and workshops are at the heart of HFN’s educational aims, and Dee is delighted to be part of the team hosting the ‘Funerals To Die For’ event. Through her work as a Funeral Director and Celebrant covering Bristol and Bath, Dee provides a transparent approach to the funeral process, offering informed choice and a return to the traditional care of our dead. Her company Divine Ceremony launched in 2015.
My career included 15 years in NHS management and 7 years running a Hospice. This triggered my interest in the importance of end-of-life care. Even excellent clinical care on its own is not adequate. Life can be fragile and facing our mortality in a healthy way can lead to a more balanced and integrated way of living. Much of ‘who we are’ is shaped by our relationships – living and dying are inescapably social rather than individual activities. Dying is not primarily a medical and specialised matter, rather a natural process in which medicine can, if needed, play an important role.
Edie has been drawn to death and dying since sitting with her grandfather and mother (for whom she was the main carer) as they each died. She has created and teaches a course on death and dying to medical students, is an ordained Interfaith Minister and Celebrant for funerals, and has supported friends before, during and after the death of people they love. Edie attended the two previous Kicking the Bucket Festivals and is delighted to be taking a more active role this time as she passionately believes in the aims of the Festival.
I am the Senior Partner at Lee Chadwick Solicitors in Witney and specialise in Wills, Powers of Attorney, Care of the Elderly, Court of Protection matters, Estate Administration and Trusts. I have been qualified for 13 years and am also a Trust and Estate Practitioner. I started my career as a nurse, being trained in both Orthopaedics and General Nursing. Nursing and my own experience of losing a parent has contributed to a better understanding of bereavement. I strongly believe in the value of home visits, particularly for the elderly facing severe problems such as vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s.
I’m an environmental Community Artist, with a passion for transforming trash to treasure!
I love colour, spectacle, celebratory events and anything that brings diverse communities together to share creative experiences.
I am a resident Artist at the Ark T Centre and a member of TOCTOK Community Arts. www.toctok.co.uk
Hazel May has been a State Registered Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy and Health Care. She has devoted her entire career to promoting occupation and well being and developing contemporary person-centred care in dementia care settings. Her interest in end-of-life care began when she had the honour of looking after her own father, diagnosed with dementia and bowel cancer, in her own family home for the last year of his life.
Helen is the Director of SeeSaw and worked as a GP and a teacher before moving into the field of child bereavement. SeeSaw works with children, young people and their families when a parent is at the end of life, and following a bereavement. Support is provided by staff and clinical volunteers and takes place in the home. SeeSaw works closely with schools to ensure continuity of support in both school and home. ‘We work with families from anywhere in Oxfordshire after death from any cause – sudden or expected.’
I am the Chaplain at Katharine House Hospice, with responsibility for the spiritual care of patients under the care of the hospice and the pastoral support of staff and volunteers. I moved to this post in August 2015 after 20 years as minister of John Bunyan Baptist Church in Oxford and Director of Ark T Centre based there, which I established with a group of local artists in 1997. I have been minister of Baptist Churches in Leicester and Derby prior to working with the Baptist Church in El Salvador, Central America, in the latter part of the country’s civil war.
Jane Duncan Rogers
Jane Duncan Rogers works with groups and individuals to help them face their own death, both practically and emotionally. Having worked in the world of psychotherapy and personal growth for over 25 years, many of them in Oxford, and as the author of Gifted By Grief: A True Story of Cancer, Loss and Rebirth, Jane is well-placed to guide others through this often challenging area. Jane brings light and even laughter to a subject that can often feel a bit dark. ‘Jane brings a pragmatism to delicate and sensitive subjects that makes them so much easier to engage with.’ Deborah Jay-Lewin.
Janet Le Sueur
I specialised in palliative care nursing within a hospice, as a Lymphoedema Practitioner, after my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. I trained in: Bowen, Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Massage and Reiki, as well as M technique, in the knowledge that these therapies brought some comfort and relief to her pain and suffering. I developed a Complementary Therapy service for patients, carers, bereaved families and staff. I wanted to cascade my knowledge and skills to others. Therapeutic touch has an important role in communication and showing support and care.
I have been facilitating singing groups for over 20 years, and value the power of song as a way of connecting people and making meaning. Originally trained in creative arts therapy, I currently run community choirs in addition to regular singing sessions with a health and wellbeing focus for Oxford-based charity Sound Resource. Joining together with song and breath can be a powerful way of becoming present and giving expression to our human experience – whether that is sorrow, joy, or laughter.
I work as head of professional development at Rennie Grove Hospice Care. Rennie Grove is a hospice-at-home charity in Herts and Bucks looking after around 500 patients at any one time in their own home. We have five adult teams comprising 10 nurses each, and a day hospice in St Albans running many day service clinics. Our mission is to offer excellent palliative end-of-life care both day and night, based around patients and their families. The charity was founded over 30 years ago and is reliant on public donations and fundraising.
I attended my first death cafe during the Kicking the Bucket Festival in 2012 and immediately thought the idea was inspired. We all left that day feeling uplifted and inspired to make the most of our lives. Liz (Festival director) was very encouraging when I approached her to find out more about this novel event. I was convinced we needed more pop-up death cafes, so the team at OxBeL set about making it happen and has gone on to host 15 death cafes in Oxfordshire over the last 3 years.
I am a GP with a particular interest in end-of-life care. This arose after caring for my dying mother-in-law at home and from my professional experiences of caring for patients in the community and in care homes. I realised that there was much to be done to help prepare and support those who are dying and those close to them. I helped develop Advance Care Planning in my practice area, together with a countywide electronic system to share patient’s wishes about end-of-life care. I lead Finity, a community voluntary organisation running events encouraging discussion of dying and death.
Kate is a Music and Mindful Yoga Therapist working in Palliative Care. She works with patients and their families in day and in-patient units in several local hospices. She is finishing an MSc in Palliative Care at the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London, doing research into mind/body interventions and pain in advanced illness. Music therapy offers patients and their families a chance to explore feelings about facing death and loss, which may be difficult to discuss even with those closest to them or with healthcare professionals whose focus may be on medical treatment.
Larry is living with young onset dementia and campaigns for better services and support for people with young onset dementia. In Oxfordshire, YoungDementia UK offers information, practical and emotional face-to-face support and signposting to people living with young onset dementia and their families from the point of diagnosis onwards. It is also developing a national network of people living with or interested in young onset dementia.
Liz trained at the Bristol Old Vic, worked in the theatre as a performer and director and as a community artist. She became a celebrant 20 years ago and has worked with families ever since to create funerals, weddings, naming and other markings of life stages. In 2005 she opened Westmill Woodland Burial Ground (awarded 2015 Cemetery of the Year in the Good Funeral Awards) with her partner Adam Twine. She started the Kicking the Bucket Festival in 2012. She is chair of a new charity for bereaved children and young people Wiltshire Treehouse.
Lizzie is a drama therapist who has worked with people aged 3-93 in the NHS, schools and private practice. ‘A child learns about the world through playing and listening to stories; I have continued that learning as an adult, through my years in the theatre. 15 years ago I trained as a drama therapist. Without play and self-expression, we can lose our ability to create as mature adults. My workshops provide a space, not to perform, but simply to be and to become – to live! Death is not an event at the end of our life but a teacher of life and a bridge into the mysteries beyond.’
My path embraces different spiritual traditions, the healing arts and physiotherapy. Raised a Quaker, I was drawn to silence which led to meditation, mindfulness and mysticism. I have a great wonder and sadness for the earth and for our bodies that are a fragment of the earth. This concern led me to study pain and suffering. Many western health problems seem connected to early traumas, stress, imbalance and a disconnect from nature/our inner world which mindfulness addresses well. As a secular practice, mindfulness is accessible to everyone.
Nigel Biggar (photograph by Elizabeth Handy)
Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford University, Nigel also directs the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life. He holds a B.A. in Modern History from Oxford University, a Master’s degree in Christian Studies from Regent College Vancouver, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the University of Chicago. Formerly, he occupied chairs in Theology at the University of Leeds and at Trinity College, Dublin. Former President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics (UK), he has sat on the ethics committee of the Royal College of Physicians.
My father was killed in an RAF accident and my world was turned upside down. We were suddenly living without a father figure and with financial hardships. We managed well. Our mother had a series of illnesses that eventually stole her from us too soon. She talked openly of death and love and what mattered to her. I realise now how unique she was in this. Now, I talk to people everyday about advance decisions, Lasting Power of Attorney, funerals, etc. To contact me, ring My Life, My Decision, Age UK Oxfordshire – 07800813305 – or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been a comedy writer for 35 years (including Vicar of Dibley, Mrs. Brown’s Boys) and recently I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. My way of coping is to joke about it. And I have found that whenever I speak to groups with Parkinson’s or carer’s groups or cancer groups they are all keen to laugh. My own mother died of cancer and we never spoke about it and I am convinced that was not good for any of us. I think we should use comedy to break the ice as it were, and get the conversation started.
Freelance writer, blogger and author. Born in Dorset, she studied English Language at Cardiff University. After graduating, she fell into working in the corporate world. Rachael founded the project 60 Postcards in memory of her mum. Her experiences are documented in a blog. Her memoir of the same name was released in 2014 by Simon and Shuster UK, which prompted Rachael to dare to change careers. She now freelances as a communications consultant, continues to write and is developing her postcard project into the Tribute Collective, launched in May 2016.
Rosie Inman Cook
Natural burial ground owner, Manager of the Natural Death Centre charity, Manager of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds, editor of and writer for More to Death Magazine and Natural Death Centre helpline operative. ‘Involved in deathly work for the last 17 years, I take great satisfaction from opening the public’s eyes to the possibilities and choices to which they are oblivious. Problem solving and empowering families and individuals to get what they want and not what the industry wants to sell them, gets me up in the morning.’
Professor Sophie Scott is a neuroscientist and the Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow at University College London. In 2012 she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. She has also been a stand-up comedian and in recent years she has specialised in the neuroscience of laughter.
Sue has an MA in the Rhetoric and Rituals of Death and a second MA in Creative Writing. Her books include The D-Word: talking about dying and Nearing the End of Life, a guide for relatives and friends. Sue is also runs workshops and retreats on ageing, death and dying.
Wren Hughes, sculptor, creative arts therapist and group facilitator was inspired by, and worked with, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the 1980s and went on to become a bereavement counsellor. Wren regularly facilitates contemplative art groups in and around Oxford. Her commitment to learning and sharing through the creative arts comes from a lifelong practice and confidence in their healing potential.