Scotland’s festival of storytelling and remembrance returns

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Featured, and People & Places.

To Absent Friends, Scotland’s festival of storytelling and remembrance, returns for a sixth year on November 1.

The festival, which started in 2014, is a chance to remember loved ones who have died, through stories, celebrations and acts of reminiscence. Taking place across Scotland. anyone can participate, in whichever way they choose. There are public events, including concerts, poetry nights, woodland walks and tea parties, or people can hold their own personal events with family, friends or community groups, or take a private individual moment of remembrance.

The festival will also take place across social media, where people are invited to change their profile picture to someone they know who has died.

“Loved ones who have died live on in our stories and memories,” says Robert Peacock of Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, the alliance of organisations behind the festival. “But maybe we don’t always get the right moment to speak about them or share those stories with others. To Absent Friends is a chance to do that. We want people to have a chance to stop and take some time to share those stories – whether it’s just raising a glass, getting the old photo albums out, or something more formal.”

This year, the festival is launching in Dundee on the evening of 31 October with an illuminated lily garden, hosted by Dundee University, based on an original concept devised by Napier University in 2017. Guests are invited to write a message to a late loved one on the ‘leaves’ of an artificial lily which will then be placed alongside others in a ‘garden’ to create a visual spectacle.

Daniel Clarke, who teaches at the University of Dundee School of Business, is one of the organisers of the launch event. He says: “Death touches all of us. Our staff and students – at some point in the future – will experience bereavement either in their families, communities or place of work or study; so To Absent Friends struck me as an opportunity to acknowledge and speak about our losses on campus, inviting the city in to join us.

“Sometimes we do not know what to say or how to approach others’ losses. This event and others like it allow us to speak more openly and listen attentively to others’ stories. It strikes me as a step in the right direction to help make grieving better.”

Illuminated lily gardens are also planned for Edinburgh, Selkirk and Fife. Meanwhile, Glasgow Museums together with social enterprise, Invisible Cities, are taking the opportunity to remember the homeless people who died on the city’s streets last year. Remembering The Invisible will see 47 pairs of shoes placed on the Concert Hall steps, then dispersed around the city, taking the clues to their story with them.

“Invisible Cities is coming together with Glasgow Museums to show light on the homeless people who died on the streets of Glasgow last year” says Zakia Moulaoui, Founder and CEO of Invisible Cities. “We believe that no matter the circumstances they lived in, it is important to remember people as people, with the lives they lived and lost.”

To Absent Friends runs from November 1 – 7. For more information on all the events taking place and how to get involved visit To Absent Friends

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