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Kate Dyer and Kate Tym show off the raw materials that Coffin Club members will make their own.

Making death a part of life

Kate Dyer and Kate Tym, two local celebrants, are delighted to launch the UK’s very first Coffin Club in Hastings. Erica Smith finds out why they are so happy to talk about death.

Coffin Club commences at 9.30 on Wednesday 13 September in St Mary in the Castle. It is the first of six sessions which will run on Wednesday mornings through September and October. I asked Kate Tym to explain what this rather macabre sounding membership club entails: “Coffin Club offers a safe space for local people to customize their coffin,” she explained. “It’s a break away from the traditional, Victorian, ideals of expensive, ornate caskets, which cost a fortune, feel cold and are a bit scary! It’s a place to plan your send-off and prepare your coffin in a way that is unique to you.”

She went on to explain that Coffin Club is not a club for everyone – it’s not a counselling course but it is for people who are coming to terms with a terminal illness – whether it is their own or because they are the family or carers of someone who is reaching the end of their life. “Coffin Club will be a safe space to personalise a coffin. We supply industry-standard cardboard coffins for members to decorate. We provide some materials with which to decorate – the rest is only limited by your imagination.”

00A4-versionThe idea is to decorate the affordable and ecological cardboard coffin in a way which represents the person’s life. For example, if they are a crossword fan, or a Scrabble addict or loved music, the cardboard coffin can be covered with a collage of crosswords or Scrabble games or musical scores. Or it could simply be covered with photographs of the person throughout their life – along with photographs of their families and people who loved them. Or if they loved poetry, their favourite verses could be written out large and pasted across the cardboard coffin. All of a sudden I began to appreciate what the two Kates are facilitating. What a great way for people to get ready for an imminent end of life – by creating a unique coffin! A bespoke casket which doesn’t cost a fortune is so much more appealing than a very expensive and wasteful wooden box.

“We want people to be aware of the choices that they have when it comes to celebrating a life,” says Kate Dyer. “There are actually very few rules around funerals,” Kate Tym, pitches in, “and having a personalised coffin is a really special way to reflect the uniqueness of the person inside.”

I don’t think the British ‘do death’ very well. I’m a big fan of the Mexican Day of the Dead, where people make shrines to their dead relatives and friends, and decorate them with the things that their loved ones loved – food, drink, hobbies, photographs. To me, it makes perfect sense to celebrate the life of someone you know and love.

Last summer, at the age of 52, I attended my first burial – it was the funeral of Kay Savage. Her son, Steve, had made her coffin out of cardboard boxes from Gedges motorbike shop – beautifully covered in flowery paper that Kay would have loved. Kate Tym read humorous poems at the graveside. The home-made coffin and the unique funeral planned by Steve were one of the inspirations for Coffin Club. The Kates both wanted to make sure people knew that they could have a much more active process in planning their final farewell than simply handing over the responsibility (and thousands of pounds) to a high street undertaker.

Along with making and doing, Coffin Club will include talks from people working within the funeral business. “We’ve got Funeral Directors coming along, and someone from a Natural Burial Ground, along with a coffin supplier. We’re hoping to organise a little trip out to the crematorium too!” says Kate Dyer.

“Our coffins are amazing,” says Kate Tym. “We actually love them and can’t wait to see what people come up with to personalise them – I honestly never thought I’d be so excited about a bunch of coffins!”

The coffins themselves are from Earth to Heaven suppliers, they are flat-packed cardboard coffins, with solid bases that meet the standard required for cremation or burial in the UK. They are 6’4” long and can bear a weight of up to 23 stone – so are going to be suitable for most people. “The best bit,” says Kate Dyer, “is that they flat-pack again at the end of the course for storage, so you can stick your coffin in your loft until you need it.”

Coffin Club will run on Wednesday mornings at 9.30–12.30 from 13 September to 18 October at St Mary in the Castle, 7 Pelham Crescent, Hastings TN34 3AF

The cost for the six weeks is an incredibly affordable £150, which includes your coffin and initial decorating materials.

If you want to know more, or would like to book, you can contact the two Kates – by email: kateandkatecelebrants@gmail.com
or call 07985 295373 or 07790 128592

It is essential to book in advance.

For more information, visit Kate and Kate’s website or Facebook page

Posted 19:51 Wednesday, Aug 30, 2017 In: Hastings People

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