Departure Lounge

Oct 5, 2015
Departure Lounge It’s all happening with our local crematoria. One council-run crematorium, which currently occupies converted, Victorian cemetery chapels, has achieved unanimous, approval from councillors for replacement with a £7 million purpose-built facility. Meanwhile, the privately-run crematorium we primarily use is halfway through construction work for a second chapel and hospitality/catering suite. They’ve been canvassing all their regular funeral directors with ideas for different improvements, one of which is digital signage around the grounds and inside the buildings.   

By digital signage I mean programmable electronic ones – a bit like the matrix signs you have on motorways - but obviously much smaller. In theory it’s a very sensible idea, especially as the crematorium will have two separate chapels, each with their own car parking: ‘Funeral of Joe Bloggs – 11.30am. Turn left for Autumn Leaves Chapel’ or Funeral of Mary Brown – 12.15pm. Turn right for the Silver Threads Chapel’. But it needs to be carefully thought about, or it’ll just feel too indiscreet and inappropriate. I don’t think families will appreciate having their loved one’s name up in lights by the main gates for all and sundry to see. I told the crematorium manager that for me it just conjures visions of corteges swinging in through the gates and being confronted with ’WARNING – QUEUES AHEAD’ or ‘DANGER – SMOKE ON CARRIAGEWAY’.  

I’m not wholly blown away with having interactive screens in the waiting area either: ‘The Late Mrs. Hilda Smith – touch screen for funeral time. Swipe right for directions to the toilets.’   

There’s also talk of digital display screens inside the chapels for families to have montages of photos featuring their loved one which, if done in the right way, can sometimes be a nice touch. But it’s all a slippery slope towards further automation:   

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to direct your attention to the television monitors in front of you. We will be showing our safety demonstration and would like the next few minutes of your complete attention. There are several emergency exits in this chapel. Please take a few moments to locate your nearest exit. If we need to evacuate the chapel, floor-level lighting will guide you towards the exit.   

We request that all mobile phones, pagers & radios be turned off for the duration of the funeral, as these items might interfere with the communication equipment in this chapel, as well as distracting the vicar. We request that all other electronic devices be turned off too, until after the service. We will notify you when it is safe to use such devices.   

We remind you that this is a non-smoking crematorium and that tampering with, or disabling, the paper towel dispensers in the lavatories is also prohibited. You will find this and all the other information in the service sheets located on the pew in front of you. We strongly suggest you read them before send-off.   

After the funeral the crematorium staff will be passing around the hospitality suite to offer you hot or cold drinks, as well as light meals or snacks. Alcoholic drinks are also available at a nominal charge. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask one of our crew members. We wish you all an uplifting funeral and thank you for mourning with us today. We hope not to see you again too soon.”   

With the crematorium looking to be able to handle 21 funerals a day across the two chapels, let alone all activity in the hospitality suite too, it’s certainly going to be a busy place.   

Bing bong: "The next cortege to arrive is the 11.30 service for Muriel Brown, calling at the Autumn Leaves Chapel, the floral tribute display area and the hospitality suite. The next cortege to arrive in the cemetery section is the burial of Fred Jones, calling at the Silver Threads Chapel before interment in his wife’s grave.   

We regret to announce that the 12.15pm service for Joe Hawkins in the Autumn Leaves Chapel is delayed by approximately 12 minutes due to temporary traffic lights on the journey here. Please listen for further announcements. We're sorry for the delay to this service."   

They even want to set up a Facebook page for the crematorium. Heaven help us all…

James Baker owns and runs Fred Stevens Funeral Directors of Nailsworth, Glos.   

He is the author of “A Life In Death – Memoirs Of A Cotswold Funeral Director”

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