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Tea-time taboo – an afternoon at a ‘death cafe’

PUBLISHED: 15:06 09 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:06 09 March 2020

The Death Cafe events happen all over the UK . Photo: Death Cafe

The Death Cafe events happen all over the UK . Photo: Death Cafe

Archant

Over a slice of cake and a cup of tea, the last topic you expect people to talk about is your mortality. But that is exactly what is being encouraged at ‘death cafes’.

Former social worker Ken Connor (left) and Jane Connor (right) hosted Fakenham's first Death Cafe at the Cafe Nelson. Picture: ArchantFormer social worker Ken Connor (left) and Jane Connor (right) hosted Fakenham's first Death Cafe at the Cafe Nelson. Picture: Archant

The social franchise originated with Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz who arranged the first cafe back in 2004. Here in the UK, Jon Underwood, a web developer was inspired by the work and created the death cafe model in Hackney in 2011.

The cafe has since spread to 66 countries. The aim of the group is to create a space with no agenda, objectives or themes. With death not being the easiest subject to talk about, the cafe aims to make it a safe and accessible space for anyone to come along.

In Fakenham, retired social workers, Jane and Ken Connor were inspired to host their own after visiting another cafe in Norwich and thought it would be a good idea to host their own.

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Mrs Connor said: "The general feeling is that they're a good thing. The more there are about the better.

"Perhaps, I'm not scared of doing it, because part of my job was talking to people about, not just death but difficult subjects, and just felt like we could lead this sort of topic."

They hosted the event at the Nelson Cafe in Fakenham and sent an open invite over Facebook. On the day seven strangers gathered around a table and discussed their own relationship with death and how it is seen in their families.

Although people might view the topic as morbid, talking to strangers is easier according to Mr Connor, he said: "It is easier to talk to someone you don't know because there is no emotional attachment to them and you do not feel like you could hurt their feelings."

Former social worker Jane Connor hosted Fakenham's first Death Cafe at the Cafe Nelson. Picture: ArchantFormer social worker Jane Connor hosted Fakenham's first Death Cafe at the Cafe Nelson. Picture: Archant

Mr Connor still works as a celebrant, meaning he can lead funeral services for people who do not want a vicar. He has spent most of his life dealing with death, and wants to help other people: "I'm in favour of communication. The more people talk about things, the less strange it becomes and with the cafe moving forward that is what we want to achieve."


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