Weston-super-Mare presents a new festival about love and loss.

A new festival that aims to open up conversations around death and bereavement will take place in May. Good Grief Weston will offer 30 workshops and events over eight days (Monday 1 to Monday 8 May) across more than 20 venues.

 Death, like birth, is one of the few universally shared experiences, yet many of us feel scared to face mortality, struggle with grief alone, or worry about how to support bereaved friends and family. This creative and diverse festival will give that elephant in the room a friendly prod! 

Through a range of workshops, performances and other grassroot community activities, there will be lots of opportunities to talk openly and honestly about death and loss – sometimes with humour, always with compassion. 

The festival’s events will explore different aspects of serious illness and grief, and the isolation they can cause. We will open the Festival with ‘Grief Moves’ by Fandangoe Kid and the Loss Project: bring a song that reminds you of a loved one or times gone by to collectively shake out grief on the high street dance floor! 

‘In conversation with Michael Rosen’ at Weston Museum is undoubtably a programme highlight, providing a unique opportunity to hear one of Britain’s best loved writers and poets talk about life, loss and literature. Our live music will embrace classical and contemporary tastes with specially curated evenings from St George’s Bristol and Mercury Prize nominee Kathryn Williams.

Festival goers can take part in events such as yoga and craft workshops, and even a large-scale community arts project to create a field of forget-me-nots. The festival will end, literally, on a high note in Grove Park on Monday 8 May, with the aerial show ‘The Guy in the Luggage Rack’, a family friendly comedy about grief, memory and relationships. A memorable introduction to the finale is guaranteed courtesy of renowned ‘punk undertaker’ Rupert Callender.

Through its diverse programme, the festival will bring people together to share experiences of love and loss, stimulate different ways of thinking, and provide opportunities for conversation and community spirit that will last through the festival and beyond. 

Over the week, the festival will also spotlight the wonderful organisations and groups already doing great work in Weston – and help kickstart a few more… from a synchronised swimming squad to a men’s cooking club! 

‘Good Grief Weston’ takes its inspiration from Good Grief Festival, started in 2020 by Dr Lucy Selman and Dr Lesel Dawson at the University of Bristol. Since its launch the virtual festival has reached over 26,000 people through a programme of free events and its YouTube Channel, The Grief Channel. 

‘Good Grief Weston’ is their first in-person festival, produced by Culture Weston in association with the University of Bristol and the newly established Weston-super-Mare Community Network. This network, led by Dr Lucy Selman, Associate Professor from the Centre for Academic Primary Care and Palliative and End of Life Care Research Group at the University of Bristol, aims to tackle inequities in end-of-life care and bereavement support and mitigate social isolation and loneliness. 

Fiona Matthews, creative director at Culture Weston, said: “Good Grief Weston offers multiple creative opportunities for people to connect, talk and discover new support systems where they live. We know love and loss can be hard to talk about, and we hope the range of experiences and perspectives presented by artists and organisations from near and far will offer different touchstones for people. We will also throw a distinctive seaside smile in the mix, courtesy of outdoor swimming, coastal rambling, memorial tattoos and death euphemism bingo!”

Dr Lucy Selman added: “I am proud to live in Weston, and delighted to bring this unique festival to the area to open up conversations around the end of life and bereavement, bring people together and start to build a legacy for the community. We are grateful to the funding support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and our many local collaborators for making the festival possible.” 

For more information and the Good Grief Weston programme visit www.superculture.org.uk.

To find out more about the Weston-super-Mare community network and how to get involved, see https://wsmcommunity.blogs.bristol.ac.uk/.