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Success! 27 people gathered at the Park View Inn on Saltwell Road in Gateshead for the first Death Cafe in North East England. A diverse gathering – people involved professionally in one way or another, some care home workers and managers, people interested in eco-deaths, people who had been bereaved, and just people.

On arrival, people were invited to sign in (names and email addresses) and take a post-it note to write a question or what they wanted to get out of the evening.  There was tea and coffee freely available and lots of pies and cake.  Adrian’s bread and butter cake was fabulous, truly fabulous, and he sent me a whole parcel for myself.  On the tables were quotations about death and bereavement in thought bubbles.  Thought bubbles was a design theme through the evening – even the post-it notes were thought bubbles (Paperchase – so posh post-it notes).

George C facilitated the evening with great competence.  He is President of the Society of Bereavement Practitioners.  (see http://www.bereavementpractitioners.org/Society_of_Bereavement_Practitioners/Welcome.html)

Heather and Dave came from Gateshead Council’s Bereavement Services and answered questions about cemeteries and crematoria and what happens.  Twenty years ago, Heather and I worked in the same part of the NHS, and we hadn’t seen each other in a long time.  Both of us have moved on. 

George 2 talked about wills and power of attorney, and Linda talked about end of life directives and funerals plans. I talked about the things people say when there’s been a death and what helps and what doesn’t help.  And there was time to discuss things in table groups and share experiences. 

There was probably too much for one evening, and it went on rather longer than planned.  There were other things we could have talked about – material enough for another evening.

We also had Cartoon Chris (www.cartoonchris.co.uk) who spent the evening drawing cartoons of the event and those present – a brilliant way to record the occasion.

More thought bubbles handed out – for people to write their thoughts and impressions at the end, as an evaluation. 

George, Linda and I will meet soon to debrief and analyse responses.  Then we need to plan: when do we do the next one? What should we tweak to improve it? How do we take this forward? We will certainly do it again.

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