Great Funeral Awards 2016
Modern Funeral Director of the Year - Carrie Weekes and Fran Glover of A Natural Undertaking
Carrie and Fran run a funeral business in Birmingham where they have enjoyed rapid success by facilitating highly personalized, non-traditional funerals.
Carrie Weekes and Fran Glover launched their business in Birmingham in 2014 because they felt that current funeral and commemorative practices in Birmingham, where funerals remain very traditional, don’t meet the needs of everyone. Social change, Carrie and Fran reckon, means that people now live less formal lives; their views and commitment to religion have changed. Carrie and Fran said: “We live our lives as consumers, demanding products and services that add and hold value and which reflect our individuality. The internet is used intensively to research and review. And yet the funeral industry on the whole doesn’t seem to have acknowledged any of this.”
Neither Carrie nor Fran comes from a funeral business background. Their previous experiences of the industry were as consumers and mourners. They felt that the funerals they had attended were a poor reflection of the people being farewelled.
So they set out to disrupt the pattern of ‘conveyor belt’ funerals by making a wide range of choices available and involving mourners in both planning funerals and also encouraging them to process their feelings better by playing their part in a really personal farewell on the day – if they want.
Carrie and Fran’s goals are to: • Create meaningful funeral events which reflect the personality and values of the person who has died • Encourage the involvement of those who knew them • Create an understanding that there are many different ways to hold a funeral • Help bereaved people to break away from the norm
Carrie and Fran described one of their funerals:
“We arranged a funeral for a 43-year-old woman who died suddenly. When we first met the family it was clear that they were wary of authority figures, disliked people telling them what to do, and had a community around them that was mutually supportive and shared their beliefs. They saw funeral directors and church ministers as part of the establishment that would prevent them from having the funeral they wanted and needed. We changed their minds – we were clear about what they HAD to do, but the rest was up to them. The lady’s partner and dog travelled to the crematorium in a VW hearse. At the crematorium they led the service themselves. People took turns to speak, some scripted, some spontaneous. People walked up to the coffin, milled around it. The dog was running around. Lots of music was played. It probably looked like a traditional funeral director’s nightmare! But it was perfect for her and for those who loved her. They had taken control back from a perceived “authority”. The response we had back was amazing.” Carrie likes to be active, handling much of the ‘physical’ side of the business. Fran is the business strategist and boss of the back office.
A client said:
“When my husband passed away Carrie was very attentive to all my wishes and very flexible with all the arrangements. I felt her feelings and desire to do the best for me and my daughter were genuine. We discussed various options which were transparent and straight forward. Where I needed to save costs, efforts were made to support me. The funeral was natural and modern.”
Green Funeral Director of the Year - A Natural Undertaking
Jo Vassie is one of the leading figures in the world of natural burial; her site near Dorchester currently holds the People’s Award for the Best Natural Burial Ground in the UK.
In 2013, after years of trying to encourage her husband to consider offering an undertaking service for families choosing to be buried at Higher Ground Meadow, Jo and her son Tom decided that it was time to bite the bullet. They converted some space on their farm to suitable premises for caring for dead people, and bought a 9-seater vehicle that Tom adapted by removing the two back rows of seats and adding a shelf with rollers.
At the time of entering for the awards HGFF have carried out 71 funerals including some cremations, although invariably the majority of funerals involve a natural burial at Higher Ground Meadow. Bodies are cared for naturally, no toxic chemicals are involved and they don’t embalm, nor stitch mouths together or use plastic eye caps. Jo and her daughter in law, Lorna, take care of the bodies in their mortuary, and they take pride in making people look as nice as they can for their families. Some are dressed in their own clothes, others in a cotton gown supplied by HGFF, and all are laid on a thick cream coloured calico sheet before being placed in their coffin. All coffins are biodegradable, and the very reasonable costs are all displayed online.
Families are encouraged to be involved with the funeral, and hired bearers are rarely used - where necessary, four local men will help out but most families are pleased to do this part themselves with Jo’s help and guidance.
Best Alternative to a Hearse - Respect Bentley
Gordon’s 1948 Bentley Birkin Special is this year’s classiest and most distinctive addition to the range of alternative hearses available to bereaved people who want to personalize their funeral.
Gordon Tulley is a restlessly entrepreneurial innovator in the funerals business. He owns natural burial grounds, is a specialist in direct cremation and direct burial and he is inventor of the Respect Everybody shroud. Gordon’s hearse is a 1948 Bentley Birkin Special, one of only 20 survivors. The bier is from a 1912 Viceroy carriage and is suitable for most coffin sizes. It is available nationally. In launching his vintage Bentley hearse, Gordon has married his love of motorcars to his commitment to offering bereaved people imaginative ways of personalizing the send-offs of their loved ones.
Jean Francis pictured presenting the 2014 award to Alison and Gordon Tulley of Respect Funeral Services
Green Funeral Directors Award Winners 2013
224 year old family company Leverton & Sons joined forces with leading motor-industry innovators Brahms Ltd to develop the UK’s first fully electric hearse.
Congratulations on winning the AGFD Green Funeral Directors Award 2013
The Brahms Ltd first fully electric hearse pictured above, a 2013 winner for Leverton & Sons
Green Funeral Directors Award Winners 2014
Respect Funeral Services of Laughton Nr Gainsborough won the best Funeral Director of the Year Award 2014. The award was sponsored by The Association of Green Funeral Directors “a recognised nationally accredited Association” aiming to promote eco-friendly funerals. This is an area where England lead the world in the International green funeral movement.
Respect started out 5 years ago as a Green Burial Authority operating two parks, one in Scrooby North Nott’s and one in Lincolnshire. However they were increasingly asked by families to offer a one call solution and offer a whole package where customers can organise the full funeral service. Since that time several families have nominated them for the top prestigious award for Green Funeral Director of The Year. Alison Finch who runs the Parks together with Gordon Tulley explained “if you wish to check out the heartfelt thanks our customers send Respect, please see the testimonials on our website” www.respectgb.co.uk
The Good Funeral Awards celebrate the achievements of practitioners who, through a combination of high professionalism and human kindness, enable bereaved people to create great funerals. The awards are conferred by judges appointed by the Good Funeral Guide, a not-for-profit consumer advice and advocacy organisation.
Charles Cowling, director of the Good Funeral Guide, said: " Gordon and Alison Tulley are forward-thinking, groundbreaking, creative people whose commitment to beautiful yet affordable funerals has made them a formidable force for change."
Inauguration of the 1st President of the Association
The Inauguration of Justin Burgess as the 1st President of the Association took place on 12th June 2009 at the National Funeral Exhibition at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry. Presidents of the three other kindred Funeral Director Associations were in attendance.
Pictured left to right: Simon Lewis (BIFD President 2009), Pat Gallagher (SAIF President 2009), William Wainman (Founder AGFD), Justin Burgess (AGFD President 2009), Sue Saville (NAFD President 2009)
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