Gemma Norburn, trainee APT, reports on Funeral March at Barts Pathology Museum
Barts Pathology Museum is a great place to visit if you are able to. Due to its nature, it is not open to the public most of the time. One way of seeing it, however, is to buy a ticket to one of their events and they are well worth the entry fee (not even just for the complimentary glass of wine!). The month of March was known as ‘Funeral March’ at the museum and this led to a string of weekly events on a Wednesday of which I was lucky enough to be able to attend three. I thought a little summary of the events themselves and what I learnt would be helpful and hopefully encourage attendees to any future events that might take place.
Amber Butchart and Mourning Fashions- A History of Black in Fashion
The first talk I attended was given by Amber Butchart who you may know from her BBC4 series A Stitch in Time. Amber is a fashion historian and writer, hence the perfect person to talk about mourning fashions through time for an hour. One interesting thing was that this talk attracted a lot of fashion students and I turned up in a jumper covered in cat faces. I tried not to notice their glares at my clear lack of what is fashion.
The talk began discussing the fact that black has historically been a colour of wealth and importance due to it’s nature of being very hard to dye and it’s quick ability to fade. It was obviously the Victorian era when mourning fashion really took off. Although, I had no idea that large emporiums were opened with everything your mourning heart could desire. Queen Victoria memorably headed this trend and there were set periods of mourning where certain items, colours and styles were expected. The end of this fashion came with World War I and the sudden mass occurrence of death everywhere. It was deemed too depressing to carry on this on, and I would imagine far too expensive for those suffering the losses.
Amber then moved on to explain that black became very fashionable in the 1920s where it has since been a symbol of finery and evening wear. She did delve into the world of death in fashion, in particular in the designs of Alexander McQueen and the styles such as ‘heroin chic’. It was fascinating to explore this from a fashion historian point of view and I’m so glad I attended.
Griefcast Live with Cariad Lloyd & Guests
The second event I went to at Barts in March was the one I was most excited about. When I saw it advertised I knew I needed to get tickets as soon as they were released because there was no way I could miss it.
Griefcast is a podcast hosted by comedian Cariad Lloyd. Each week she presents a conversation with a different celebrity regarding a beareavement or period of grief they have experienced in their lives. The gritty, often frank, discussions are underpinned by the fact Cariad lost her Dad when she was 15 and has a desire to understand grief and the processes around it better.
The live event was a chat with three different guests, journalist and writer Dolly Alderton plus comedians Gráinne Maguire and Ahir Shah. It was a funny and heartwarming discussion of people’s experiences, thoughts around their own deaths and a hilarious account of what each person wants to happen at their funerals.
Personally, what I love about Griefcast is that it has not only helped normalise my own thoughts and feelings about grief but has also given me knowledge I’ve found incredibly useful in dealing with the beareaved in my role as a trainee APT.
Outside the Box Live by Liz Rothschild
The third event I attended, and the final event in the Funeral March programme was ‘Outside the Box’. Liz’s show was a collection of stories regarding death from different perspectives and highlighting the joy and happiness to be taken from these moments. Liz is a performer, celebrant and burial ground owner. She embodies everything I consider to be death positive and I thoroughly recommend going to see her if you can. Throughout the performance she weaves a coffin which has really made me determined to weave my own coffin and find a coffin making course. If you know of one please do let me know. I don’t want to say too much and give away the contents of the show, but it’s combination of funny and poignant moments are a real treat.
Here are some useful links if you would like to check out more about these events:
Barts Pathology Museum Website- https://www.qmul.ac.uk/pathologymuseum/
Amber Butchart - https://www.amberbutchart.com
Griefcast Episodes- https://www.acast.com/griefcast
Outside the Box - https://www.fullcircleproductions.org.uk