Cake, death and having faith

20th March 2017

So after 18 months of research, of conversations, of illustrations and proof reads, of making up decks of cards and putting together boxes, we launched The Crossing at Live Art Bistro last week.

I admit I was nervous for our launch. Matthew and I have spent time speaking to celebrants from different faith perspectives, funeral directors, florists, caterers, and people from different buildings around the city. It is one thing to visit people in the heart of their own community but whether they will make the effort to trudge down Regent Street on a gloomy Thursday afternoon, looking for the lurid pink doorway that only LAB could get away with, is quite another.

A small team had spent the day griefing up LAB and if not entirely covering up the glitter that lures the brave and the curious through its door, maybe at least dressing it up in its Sunday Best and wiping away the remnants of Saturday night debauchery. Trade mark Grief Series Table cloths came out, the smell of spiced apples filled the air thanks to producer extraordinaire Jess making mulled delights and Helen Russell Brown made a cake display that looked straight out of a pre-Raphaelite painting. And at the centre of it all, the beautiful illustrations by collaborator Fergus Dunnet. Whilst this may have seemed purely cosmetic, I’m a firm believer that design influences how people use and feel about the spaces they inhabit. I’ve recently been watching a programme called Abstract on Netflix and was particularly interested in Ilsa Crawford’s observation that “Empathy is a corner stone of design. Then from that process of interrogation and empathy, that’s when the imaginative process kicks in.”

We didn’t have time to open the door for the launch…..as we made final preparations, Hannah, a death Doula in training, came bouncing in all warmth and generosity. Then lecturers and students from Leeds Beckett, Humanist Celebrants, Artists and Funeral Directors. So many worlds colliding, so many ideas having the chance to cross pollinate. By the advertised start time, the room was full of people talking happily, sharing food and making introductions. I had a catch up with Imam Adam and his friend Imran who are doing truly brilliant work combatting hate crime and being part of an LGBTQ friendly Muslim community, and I met some amazing palliative care nurses.

In this space with great people doing great things, potential avenues to share The Crossing were making my head spin long before the inevitable glass of Prosecco hit my empty stomach. There is the potential to work with bereaved young people in Chapeltown and take The Crossing in to hospital settings. Watch this space. I’m excited for the future.

I’m tired, happy but above all grateful for the generosity of everyone who took part and everyone who turned out on Thursday. Now feels like the time to be building bridges. Kindness feels like a radical form of resistance……and sometimes cake really helps.

If you would like us to hold a session exploring The Crossing, please let me know.

Ellie Harrison