Festival revives traditions of remembrance

Categories: Community Engagement.

The festival hopes to revive ancient traditions of remembering the dead at this time of year, as a way to support those who are experiencing grief and bereavement, and to encourage greater openness about death or dying.

To Absent Friends is part of the year round initiative Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, run by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC).

“As a nation, we’re not very good at talking about death,” says Robert Peacock of SPPC. “Often we don’t know what to say to someone who has been bereaved. The person who has died sometimes does not get mentioned again, even though they live on in our memories. It can be good and comforting to talk and share stories about them. That’s what we hope to achieve with this festival.”

The festival, which ran for the first time in 2014, features a number of showcase public events, including a concert by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at its new home at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 29 October, and an event at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh on 1 November.

However, an equally important element of the festival is the opportunity for individuals and groups to take part themselves through their own personal acts of remembrance.

Samhain Suppers are just one way people are doing this. Based on the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain (pronounced “sow-inn”), the idea is for people to gather together for dinner, share stories and photos of absent friends, maybe even raise a toast, in the manner of Burns’ Suppers.

Other ways in which people can participate include starting a To Absent Friends wall at work using post-it notes or a noticeboard where people can post tributes, or it may even be something as simple as lighting a candle for someone.

There are also online activities for people to get involved with. Suggestions are being invited for a Remembrance playlist – a compilation of songs that remind people of their late loved ones. Remembering the greats invites people to pay tribute to stalwarts of their local football or rugby club. There’s also space to leave a short, anonymous message on the online Wall of remembrance.

“We encourage people to get involved in any way they feel able,” says Peacock. “Not everyone wants to share their memories publicly. But we hope through the festival to make it easier for people to talk about loss and grief when they want to and when it helps. Anything that helps reduce the isolation that bereavement can bring can only be a good thing.”

To Absent Friends takes place across Scotland from 1 to 7 November 2015. More details can be found on the website www.toabsentfriends.org.uk or by following @2AbsentFriends on Twitter.

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