Arnos Vale Cemetery is hosting a four-day festival encouraging conversations about death, dying and living well from 22-25 February. Life, Death (and the Rest) which is supported by Arts Council England, will feature eclectic performance, talks, exhibitions and film.

We asked Adela Straughan, Events Coordinator at Arnos Vale to share some of the highlights from the upcoming festival:

Death Disco

Everyone has that special song, right? The one that reminds you of someone important in your life or that totally sums you up? Maybe even the song that you’d like played at your own funeral? Well, this is an opportunity to dance your heart out to your favourite tunes within Arnos Vale’s beautiful Victorian Mortuary Chapel walls, along with a great big sprinkling of magic from resident DJ for the night, Jack Anderson. There’ll also be an art piece created by artist/composer/curator Jimmy Galvin on show. Disco ball and neon? Yes please! Fri 23 February, 8pm.

Death Disco

Image - Death Disco & Jimmy Galvin

The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad

Film and theatre form an important part of the festival and Arnos Vale will be welcoming the nationally acclaimed ‘The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad’ by Bootworks Theatre. An intimate and interactive performance based around bereavement, specifically for younger audiences aged 4 and over. Sat 24 February, 2pm and 4pm.

Remains to be seen

Carla Valentine, mortician and friend of Arnos Vale, is back. She was recently interviewed by the BBC World Service about her Dead Meet Dating site and wedding at the Cemetery last October. This time she’s here to talk about our relationship with human remains and why she advocates public display, interaction with the deceased and activities in graveyards. She has also written a book called “Past Mortems” - a hauntingly delightful read. Fri 23 February, 10.30am.

Carla Valentine

Image - Carla Valentine, credit Teri Pengilley

Morbid ink

In this age where most of us will not be remembered on tombstones, the fantastic Dr John Troyer will be talking about how we can live on in the form of a memorial tattoo on the arm or torso of a loved one - a daily reminder of the deceased. He will discuss the practice of mixing the cremated ashes in the ink that will be used to create the tattoo, thus forming a physical as well as symbolic link to the deceased. Sat 24 February, 10am.

Talks and demos day

The idea is that you go to the festival and have a conversation that maybe you thought you’d never have. During the free Talks and Demo’s day you can have those conversations in a safe space with people that will listen and understand. The Good Grief Project will be there showing a short film and talking about how they are dedicated to understanding grief as a creative and active process. Also, meet Huunuu and discuss how you can commemorate your life in a way that truly reflects your individuality and how you want to be remembered. Watch Yuli from Bellacouche decorating a hand-made natural wool eco-coffin and even have a go yourself.

Bellacouche

Image - Bellacouche

The End

Sunday night is the last night of the festival and you could almost say they’ve saved the best till last. Take a seat at the banqueting table for Death over Dinner (Sun 25 Feb, 6pm) and discuss death over a feast, lovingly created by Kate’s Kitchen.  Then it’s time for The Death Show (7.30pm) for the last date of their tour. Drawn together by their shared fear of death, ‘thanatophobes’ Lucy Nicholls and Antonia Beck ask you to embark on a journey of discovery, contemplation and courage. Take time to celebrate your own mortality, laugh, cry, stick two fingers up at the grim reaper and discover why talking about death is ultimately life affirming.

Anglican chapel

Image - Anglican Chapel at Arnos Vale Cemetery

For more information about Life, Death (and the Rest) see www.arnosvale.org.uk/life-death-rest, go to the Arnos Vale Facebook page or by following @ArnosValeCem on Twitter or on Instagram.

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