Redbridge’s ‘Death Positive Library’ turns tables on taboo topics surrounding grief and loss
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 June 2020
Long before daily coronavirus death tolls were commonplace Redbridge Library became the first “Death Positive Library”.
Throughout the pandemic the library has held virtual discussions as part of its Tickets for the Afterlife programme to find creative ways to engage the public in starting conversations about death and dying.
The idea came from manager Anita Luby following an 18-month project called The Final Party, through funding from the Engaging Libraries Programme.
Since then the award-winning project has developed further in partnership with Newcastle and Kirklees libraries and Anita is on a mission to transform all 151 library authorities across the UK into death positive spaces.
Anita told the Recorder: “In the current climate, we have been prompted to think more about loss: the loss of normality, loss of work or income, and the loss of loved ones.
“Public libraries can play a role, as trusted services, in supporting communities at this time.”
Working with Dr Stacey Pitsillides from The University of Northumbria, who researches how technology and design can impact our understanding of death, the library has run virtual book groups and death cafes, where a group discusses death with no agenda or themes.
The objective of the death cafes is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives”.
Though it has been on-going for the past few years Anita said the project has taken on added relevance during the pandemic.
She said: “We are dealing with the loss of so many things at the moment - people, freedoms, our previous way of life.
“This includes many people not being able to be with loved ones before they die and not being able to attend funerals.
“It’s a lot for people to deal with and they are trying to reach out and connect anyway they can at the moment.”
Once the library is back open the death cafe events will be held face-to-face but Anita said one benefit of doing them virtually is the ability to reach homebound people, and visitors from other countries.
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