For most of us, the idea of a good funeral evokes images of a packed crematorium or a crowded graveside. Our friends and family gather together to honour and celebrate a life.
Sadly, this ideal is not always realized; some of us will die alone, and for a small minority, no-one turns up for that final send-off.
These ‘lonely funerals’ represent a sharp commentary on contemporary social isolation. In the Netherlands a Lonely Funeral project was started in 2001 when the poet Bart Droog began to attend funerals to which no-one else came. He honoured those sad events with poems inspired by whatever biographical details existed. Poetry is well suited to creating stories out of fragments – a photograph, a passport, a police report.
The idea spread, in particular through the efforts of Ger Fritz, an employee of Amsterdam City Council and F. Starik, an Amsterdam poet, and now operates in several Dutch and Belgian cities. An anthology of the poems and back stories has been published. These stories offer insights into how people arrive at such a lonely end to their life – social isolation through ageing, mental health issues, homelessness, marginalization. The profile of the project, established through publications and competitions, helps raise wider awareness of these issues in local communities.
You can read more about the Dutch project here.
Now a group of poets, celebrants and others are trying to set up something similar in Scotland and ultimately across the UK. We will post news of this project on this site but if you would like to contact us in the meantime please contact project at email@example.com and we’ll get back to you.
A video piece about Lonely Funeral #2: ‘Henry’, shown on Morning Live, BBC One, and produced by Fresh Start Media.