Good Grief Weston Festival Finale
“Congratulations – such an amazing subversive thing to do in Weston” – Rupert Callender on the inaugural Good Grief Weston Festival, Weston-super-Mare (1-8 May 2023)
“It’s amazing that you are bringing your community together in this way.” – Freya Bromley, author of The Tidal Year
“A joy and a privilege to be part of such a caring and creative space.” – Bethany Roberts, Musician with House of Figs
“Well done again to Culture Weston for bringing something different to Weston – a great programme of events!” – Debbie Apted, local resident
“Such an honour to have been part of this incredible festival and to have been included in so many personal stories… I’m still in awe of everything I witnessed during the festival. It’s an absolute treasure!” – Nina Thomas-Bennett, Weston-based Community Artist
Good Grief Weston drew to an intimate close at Loves Cafe, after an 8-day festival on love and loss, which saw thousands of people come together in a specially curated array of inclusive activities and events that opened up compassionate conversations in the community around death and bereavement.
Capturing the essence and heart of the event, were the moving and poignant closing ceremony words from ‘punk undertaker’ and author Rupert Callender, founder of The Green Funeral Company and one of the country’s best-known, eco-friendly funeral directors.
“There is of course only one way to end a festival like this, and that is by allowing ourselves to refocus one last time on grief itself, and the many ways it is in our lives.
There is no doubt that grief in its many forms is one of the hardest burdens we carry through life, but along with the weight of this, there is so much to be grateful for, so much grief has to teach us.
Without grief, there is no joy, no connection, no freedom from the isolation of our individuality. Without loss, we pass through life empty handed, not shedding but not receiving either.
We grieve, not just because we shed so much as we move through this life, but because we are connected to each other through threads of the heart. We are each other.
And as Jane Edmonds says in her book ‘When Words Are Not Enough’, grief is an act of rebellion in a numb world. It is radical to wear our pain, to refuse to hide our sorrow in a world that is tilted towards the denial of real emotions.
Let’s revel in our radicalism, our refusal to surrender to the consumerism of the soul, the shame that we feel at the exposure of our sadness. Let’s close the shameful distance we keep from our bereaved. Let’s pull their sadness into our arms.
This week will no doubt have opened up some old shafts of grief for you, portals to loss, whether it is the loss of those we love who are no longer here, or wider losses – relationships, friendships, our health, a much loved pet, a job, a radical change of circumstance.
Life is strewn with loss, it is the inescapable price we pay for living.
And we have a choice today, after these old paths have been opened, after these wounds have been exposed to the light.
We can keep them open, hold on to those precious yet painful memories that have been awakened this week, remember our dead, grieve our losses, hold on to those important, devastating moments of our lives. Or you have the chance to gently close those portals again, to fold the pain away, but to keep the love with you, to move back into life holding all of our precious memories, our precious dead with us, as we move back into the stream of living, the flow of time which takes us to more love, more loss, more happiness more life in all of its glorious bloody glory.
Let’s hold our grief together.
Let us remember our personal losses, and the losses we have born as a country, and that includes the social losses we are suffering, the cracks between community and class that yawn wider every day. The loss of our cohesion, our path, ourselves.
But grief can weave us back together again. Grief can be a bridge between each other, between cultures, between us and our dead.
We will not forget them. We will not be forgotten.
We bring to our hearts today all of those lost in the pandemic, our elderly and vulnerable, and those who still suffer through ongoing health issues connected to Covid, and all those who died as a result of the incredible pressure our beleaguered health service was put under.
We bring to our hearts all those who laboured so selflessly throughout it all, the doctors and nurses and hospital staff and carers who worked without regard for their own safety, who didn’t see their families properly for weeks, who risked their own lives day after day.
We hold in our hearts all those who had to shield, and continue to shield due to their Covid.
We have lost their company in our society. They have lost their freedom.
And we bring in our ancestors today, all those who lived and loved and grieved whose very existence gave us life. They stand around us today in spirit, all who went before. They are in us still.
Grief is love inside out.
Life is a precious gift. Existence is kissed from the lips of non existence.
This is the moment between the click and the bang.”
Good Grief Weston is funded by UKRI and AHRC and produced by Culture Weston and the University of Bristol as part of a collaborative project which aims to reduce inequity and tackle social isolation in end-of-life care and bereavement.
Photos by Peter Goodrum Photography, with thanks