In Haunt

Dying is something we all have in common, and therefore talking about it is important. Death Cafés offer a chance for this to happen in a friendly space, and Manchester is leading the way for Dying Matters Awareness Week (13-19 May) with a Rainbow Death Café taking place in a LGBT-friendly setting on the 16 May 2019.

The venue will be Manchester’s Sidney Street Café, which has its own secretive charm as is located just off Oxford Road, inside Manchester’s LGBT+ Centre – the first fully publically funded centre of its kind in Europe. Organised by The LGBT Foundation and produced in conjunction with Research in Arts and Humanities (RAH!) at Manchester Metropolitan University, the Rainbow Death Café is open to all, offering a place for people to gather, enjoy refreshments and discuss death (from 5-6.30pm).

Dying Matters An LGBT+ friendly Death Café not only marks ongoing progress as part of Dying Matters’ initiative to get people talking more openly about death, but also emphasizes the importance of providing a platform for people from the LGBT+ Community to raise about specific issues they may have faced. After all, a recent report indicated that LGBT people often feel let-down or under-represented in terms of end of life care services, according to the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) and the Consortium of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Voluntary and Community Organisations.

Considering that there are more than 3.7 million LGBT+ identifying people in Britain, it is crucial that this dissatisfaction in terms of end-of-life care and death is addressed. A Rainbow Death Café is one way of creating a platform for positive discussion and talking about the changes needed – with the report also indicating that many LGBT people would like to see better use of appropriate language from end of life care providers and the use of positive images of LGBT people.

The importance of hospital staff being appropriately trained was also emphasized – with a discussion on Cancer and Hospital Care at a 2018 Superbia event in Manchester indicating that a number of LGBT people felt unhappy with how they and their partners had been treated whist in hospital. Awareness of same-sex partners, using the appropriate gender and openness about identity are after all crucial for positive discussions about both healthcare and death.

But what do people discuss at a Death Café? Anyone can take part – with all ages welcomed. Conversations can vary from people musing over social and cultural attitudes towards death, to thinking about their own death, what they would like to happen to their body, and more. Increasingly, arts and cultural organisations asre approaching the subject of death and representing it in engaging and innovative ways, as was highlighted in the April 2019 'Death and Performance' symposium hosted by SICK! Festival and The University of Salford. Death Cafes are also increasingly taking place across the country, bringing a diversity of people together on a common topic – with many more expected to take place as part of Dying Matters Week. Organised by the charity of the same name to promote more positive and open discussions about death, the Awareness Week for 2019 takes place on 13-19 May with the theme of ‘Are We Ready?’. Focusing on preparations for death and its reality, this will see many events and opportunities to gain more information taking place across the country, with many in Greater Manchester and the North West. The Rainbow Death Café is amongst the listings, as well as the Film Screening of ‘A Fantastic Woman' at the LGBT Foundation (17 May).

HAUNT Manchester decided to speak to Lawrie Roberts, Pride in Ageing Manager at the LGBT Foundation, to discuss the Rainbow Death Café and Dying Matters Awareness Week…

What takes place at a Death Café - and why do you think it is important for them to take place?

“A Death Café is temporary space to gather together with others to have a slice of cake, a cup of tea and chat about death and dying. Death Cafes are a growing movement and happen across the world, find out more here. There’s still such a taboo around this topic and it can be a difficult one to raise with those close to you, so I think it’s important to create these friendly and welcoming spaces in which we say ‘we’re all here to share and discuss this’.”

Cake at The Sidney St Cafe

 Why do you think is especially significant to have a Death Café in association with the LGBT Foundation?

“The Death Café is being produced by LGBT Foundation’s new Pride in Ageing Programme in conjunction with Research in Arts and Humanities at Manchester Metropolitan University. Our venue is Sidney Street Café, which is run by the Proud Trust and is an LGBT-affirmative space. Although other Death Cafes in the area are open and inclusive to all, we wanted to hold a one-off Death Café that is specifically safe and welcoming for LGBT communities. Some of the concerns LGBT communities will have around death and dying will be the same as the wider population, but there may be some issues that are unique. Having your sexual orientation, relationships, gender identity or trans status recognised by services or family at end of life or after death can often be a worry for those from LGBT communities – and we wanted to create a space to talk about that!”

Is the LGBT Foundation involved in any other events as part of Dying Matters week?

“As well as the Death Café, I will be holding workshops for health professionals that look at LGBT people’s experiences of end of life care (email Lawrence.roberts@lgbt.foundation for more information). We will also be holding a film screening of A Fantastic Woman (Friday 17th May at 6pm at LGBT Foundation, book here) a drama which tells the story of a trans woman who is fighting to be accepted by the family of her older lover after his sudden death.”

Why do you think it is important that we have a healthier relationship with death and considering it in society?

“Dying Matters Week is all about opening up the conversations around death and dying, and this year’s theme is ‘Are We Ready?’. It’s really important that we change the culture around talking about death. As well as reducing stress and worry, it can also help us to be more prepared and organised - be it decisions around wills, organ donation or care arrangements.”

By Emily Oldfield

Second image with thanks to The Proud Trust

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