Report of the Death Cafe in Oxford
This was the first time I held a Death Café in an actual café. Café Rouge in Hampstead has been my favourite café for many years. So the idea of a death café in the upstairs room, newly decorated, where we could be amongst ourselves, was absolutely ideal and I looked forward to it in anticipation. The manager was open to the idea of hosting us free of charge. There was just one request, that they hoped we would order enough food and drink to make it worth their while. In the event this was no problem.
We had 19 bookings and three cancellations on the day. But on the day 17 people attended and this seemed to be an ideal number to start us off. The age ranged from 15 – 75! The room has one big oval table and several small tables. We decided to rearrange to have two tables of nine. I asked Christianne Heal, a psychotherapist and friend to facilitate one table. Christianne runs Living with Dying workshops and has been a director of the Natural Death Centre with me for many years. She was here as a punter but gracefully accepted and it worked brilliantly. Thank you Christianne!
To start us off I asked everyone to introduce themselves, saying a little about why they decided to come, first in pairs and then around the table. For some people speaking in front of eight others is too much of a challenge and two people decided to pass, which is perfectly fine. Others were eager to engage in the round and to share in more depth, and soon a discussion developed. The evening passed too quickly and there was not enough time to come together as a whole group at the end. We had a closing round and then people filled in feedback sheets. Some people were not in a hurry to leave and stayed on chatting, ordering more drinks and looking at the folders I had left on the side table with photo reportages of family-organised, natural burials and the wide range of biodegradable coffins available in the UK.
People’s faces glowed. The general sense was one of openness , enthusiasm and warmth. Would one assume this to be the case at such an event, talking about death? I am not sure, but it is very much the norm from my experience. Death is an intimate subject that brings people close to each other in a very mutually respectful way and makes everyone feel very alive. It is a delight really and an inspiration, every time!
Not surprisingly people come back again and again. Several of the people booked had attended death cafes before. One person had come all the way from Gloucestershire and is planning to host a Death Café in her area.
How satisfied are you with the event on the scale from 0 - 10? Average: 9/10
If ‘very satisfied’ encircle ten and for very dissatisfied encircle zero.
How did you rate the venue? Average 9/10
How did you rate the food &drink? Average 9/10
How did you rate the facilitation? Average 9/10
What did you appreciate about the event?
1. Conversations with strangers about meaningful things.
2. The diversity of the group. The sharing.
3. Gentle, clear enthusiasm & holding, guiding, left me with complete freedom to express…all!
4. Being able to share and listen to a subject that is normally taboo.
5. That it felt so well introduced and facilitated and easy to share.
6. Safe environment.
7. A comfortable venue with a lovely, organic relaxed conversation.
8. Just to be able to open up about such a taboo subject!
9. Sharing. Listening.
10. Different ages. Being able to hear many viewpoints. A good-sized group for variety but not too big so all could speak.
11. It was very much the environment and the atmosphere I wanted to discuss such a topic in.
12. That the death café has been set up to make it as comfortable and gentle for everyone to feel they can speak and share information.
13. A space to hear a very large subject and to hear different people’s experiences & views.
14. Discussing openly the subject of dying with love, compassion and humour.
15. Opportunity for openness.
16. Supportive , warm, inspiring.
17. Large, spacious, light. Waiter service.
Please say if there was any aspect of the event you were dissatisfied with wished had it been different in some way and how?
1. I preferred the cosyness of the space at Josefine’s home. It felt more intimate then.
2. Slightly less noise from ‘staff’ or others talking – so - one long table – or more separation. But, got easier!
3. To include a talk on a related topic by the facilitator or speaker.
4. Be nice for the whole group to come together, even for just a final blessing.
5. Need to be longer or progressive meetings.
6. A bit clinky having waiters in and amongst but it couldn’t be helped. A 5 minute break in middle would be good for toilet. Another 5 minutes of reflection needed.
7. I wouldn’t have minded if being longer, with perhaps a break in the middle.
8. It was great.
9. Less opening and closing to allow more discussion.
Any other comments, suggestions or general feedback about the event to help us improve this work further:
1. Can’t think of any really. Perhaps it would be interesting to wonder what it could develop into?
2. Too noisy when many people are talking in twos. My ears could not cope.
3. Please keep the meetings happening. It was really good and had its own energy that seemed to help us all.
4. Book share. At least info on books.
5. Maybe one whole group exercise/space – I’m so curious.!!!
6. Just keep going.
7. The room had good acoustics so it was easy to hear what everyone said and good lighting – not too bright.
How would you describe your experience of this event in a sentence or two?
1. Enjoyable - intimate- touching.
3. Lovely evening connecting with beautiful people.
4. Clarifying and calming. Found a resolution re my father….
5. A lovely celebration of people coming together and sharing intimately.
6. It helped me to break into a subject that had felt completely blocked up till now.
7. Enjoyed the open conversation within a controlled safe environment.
8. A relaxed and intimate chat. I learned a lot.
9. I think this really could spread like measles! Infection par tout!
10. Life affirming. We all have the same issues.
11. Profound, life affirming, important, joyful!
12. As I expected, stimulating, thought provoking, enriching and satisfying.
13. Wonderful, warm, interesting and trusting environment.
14. A very lovely, friendly atmosphere allowing a wide range of views to be explored.
15. Swapping stories and feeling ‘normal’ rather than people judging one.
How did you hear about this workshop?
1. Through a friend 6 x
2. My mother (who attended before). 1x
3. I came last time and Facebook. I’m a regular!
4. Through Josefine’s email who before 7 x
5. Twitter. 1x
6. Death Café website.1x
An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this matter here on your site.
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