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Redbridge’s ‘Death Positive Library’ turns tables on taboo topics surrounding grief and loss

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 June 2020

Redbridge Library is the first 'Death Positive Library' in the country. Picture: Alice Bertazzi

Redbridge Library is the first 'Death Positive Library' in the country. Picture: Alice Bertazzi

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Long before daily coronavirus death tolls were commonplace Redbridge Library became the first “Death Positive Library”.

Setting up one of the Tickets to the Afterlife installation. Picture: Alice BertazziSetting up one of the Tickets to the Afterlife installation. Picture: Alice Bertazzi

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.

Redbridge Library Manager Anita Luby and Health and Well Being Development Librarian Rhonda Brooks hope to extend the project to all 151 library authories across the UK. Picture: Vision RCLRedbridge Library Manager Anita Luby and Health and Well Being Development Librarian Rhonda Brooks hope to extend the project to all 151 library authories across the UK. Picture: Vision RCL

“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.

The project 'Tickets for the Afterlife has extended to libraries in the north such as Kirklees. Picture: Kirklees LibraryThe project 'Tickets for the Afterlife has extended to libraries in the north such as Kirklees. Picture: Kirklees Library

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.

Newcastle Library has also been part of the Tickets for the Afterlife project. Picture: Newcastle LibraryNewcastle Library has also been part of the Tickets for the Afterlife project. Picture: Newcastle Library

Archives of all previous book discussions can be found at https://www.facebook.com/DeathPositiveLibrary or https://www.loveafterdeath.co.uk


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