Stuart Baillie first met Kate Tym and Kate Dyer more than a year ago and has been fascinated by their ‘Coffin Club’ ever since. This week he went along to a meeting to find what it’s all about…
When I first heard about a group called ‘Coffin Club’ I wondered what it was all about? Was it, I mused, just another one of those organisations trying to sell me a pre-arranged funeral plan?
The good news is it’s not, the even better news is that it’s run in Hastings by Kate Tym and Kate Dyer two women whose enthusiasm for what they do is completely infectious. Sit through a ‘performance’ by the pair and it will brighten your day, even if the topic at hand is death – your own death.
Coffin Club is about busting taboos, it’s about encouraging us to talk about our own death; to plan for it, to talk to our nearest and dearest about what we want to happen after we die, about the arrangements we want to have in place for OUR funeral and about all the options out there for us to have the send off that we really want. And this might sound counter intuitive, but what the two Kates manage so skilfully to do is make all of that fun.
Later this year we’re going to be running a series of features about Coffin Club and talking to some of the people who have taken part in the sessions. We’ll be trying to find out why they signed up and what they have got out of it. We’ll also be meeting some of the people who deliver the sessions, who talk about their experiences in doing things their own way.
In preparation for writing those features I’m going to be attending some of the Coffin Club sessions and I went along to the first one this week and even though I’d spoken to the Kates a number of times over the last 18 months or so – hearing about what they hoped to achieve in their sessions – I was not prepared for the uplifting and at times downright funny 90 minutes I was about to sit through.
As you’d expect from an organisation called Coffin Club dominating the room was a coffin. While part of the Coffin Club experience is about being able to build and decorate your own coffin it’s disappointing that so much focus in the media – and Coffin Club has made it to national TV – has been on this element. Yes it makes a good story, yes it makes a good photograph and it’s something to film but in reality it’s a tiny part of what Coffin Club is all about.
This week we heard from Claire. After her husband was diagnosed with cancer, together, they carefully planned his farewell. They decided they wanted to do it themselves without involving a funeral director and Claire guided us through the ups and downs of that process.
She said the DIY approach made the whole experience a more intimate one and Claire explained that when SHE screwed down the lid on her husband’s cardboard coffin she really felt that it was her very personal goodbye to the man she had been married to for almost 50 years. Their four children told her they felt they had been part of something special, largely because they had been able to take full control of events.
One of the humorous anecdotes was when Claire explained how you transport a body – once it is in a coffin – to the church and on to the crematorium when there is no funeral director involved: “My daughter realised she had fitted her fridge freezer in the back of her estate car and that was quite long. So we did the measurements and realised the coffin would fit in her car, so we put the back seats down, slipped the coffin in and off we went,” Claire told the Coffin Clubbers.
I’m looking forward to my next visit in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward – later in the year – to talking to some of those who have taken part. It’s a fascinating concept and a concept being executed so well by two women ideally suited to the task who take nothing too seriously.
- Featured photograph shows Kate Tym and Kate Dyer with Miriam Margolyes who is Coffin Club’s Patron.
Read more about Coffin Club, click on these links…