Natural Death Centre announces new patrons and launch New Natural Death Handbook

Jul 23, 2012

Funeralmap was present at the launch of the latest edition of the highly-respected publication, The Natural Death Handbook. Completely revised and expanded into a boxed set of three books, the set retails at £24 and is available on the NDC website.

The new Handbook not only provides updated insight into the hidden world of dying and death, but also includes a compelling and ground breaking Book of Essays on the subject by some of the best writers in the field. The trilogy is completed by the latest Directory of recommended funeral directors and natural burial grounds in the UK.

Rupert Callender (Trustee) provided the following account of the evening:

'If the launch of the fifth edition of The Natural Death Handbook and the inauguration of the charity’s new patrons felt like a cross between a Requiem Mass and the Gun Powder plot, perhaps it was because it was meant to.

Descending the cobbled ramp into the basement of the Horse Hospital in the heart of literary Bloomsbury, an appropriately avant garde venue, really did feel like descending into the underworld, especially as the way down was lined with beautifully illustrated coffin lids, each adorned with quotes from contributors. Down there was the underground in every sense.

Diplomats, undertakers, bereavement specialists and bereaved parents, artists, doctors, authors, filmmakers, charity CEO’s and palliative care nurses all mingled in the Victorian ambience.

Distinguished death academic Professor Malcolm Johnson chatted with Alabama 3’s Nick Reynolds, son of train robber turned musician turned death masker, while former Blondie bassist and esoteric author Gary Lachman swapped stories with James Kidner, founder of the charity, Coexist.  Psychotherapist and co founder Josefine Speyer spoke of anarchic beginnings and her visionary husband Nicholas Albery and Lucy Siegle pledged her support as a patron.

In the corner of the stage, was a small table, covered with a white table cloth. On it was a candle and two framed photographs; one of Nicholas Albery and one of Michael Young, Lord Young of Dartington  both pioneers in many fields but particularly dying and funerals, two patrons to be inaugurated. The speeches covered the past and the future. This charity has always existed on a knife edge in every sense, balanced between radical social change and survival. Tribute was paid to the beginnings as well as rousing exhortations for what lay ahead by the chair of the board Fran Hall and the co-founder and patron to be Josefine Speyer.

Lucy Siegle, ethical journalist for The Observer and presenter on BBC 1’s The One Show, entered a new world of seriousness in accepting the role of patron, along with Josefine and Maggi and the two ancestrals. Lucy’s off the cuff speech, in which her genuine nerves and genuine sincerity showed through, won over everyone there. They are lucky to get her.

Josefine reminded the guests of Nicholas’s radical edge personified in Frestonia, a squatted block of flats that Nicholas and a few others turned into a fully functioning self sufficient community that attempted to secede from the United Kingdom. A sort of psychedelic take on the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimilico. Let no-one be in doubt that The Natural Death Centre really did emerge from the smoking anarchy of the counter culture.

The charity’s core green ideals were very much still in evidence, as was the central idea of radical self-reliance.

The inauguration, when it came was simple and surprisingly moving. The Natural Death Centre claimed spiritual lineage to the two men, pointing out our ancestors are more than just our genetic forebears but the people who influence us the most. References were made to batons handed out of the darkness and gifted back into it. A toast was proposed to the living and the dead and the charity had it’s new figureheads.

Whether the charity’s bold attempt to sell their beautifully produced radical book without the assistance of Messrs Amazon and co. is a charity first too far, remains to be seen. Their insistence on trying it along with dispensing with the services of Random House, currently the world’s largest publishing concern is both endearing and typical. They can always crawl back begging forgiveness from what is the world’s largest online retailer but from a charity which is ancestrally predisposed to favouring the underdog and always been given to bursts of wildly creative optimism, there feels like a real chance they might pull it off. Nicholas Albery would be proud of their continued chutzpah.'

To view the website of the charity, please visit: