Centre for Death & Society

Engaging young people with death and natural burial


Principal Investigator: John Troyer

Research Team: Hannah Rumble

Partners: Charlotte Chapman of Kumiko Community Arts, The Park Community Centre, Knowle, Bristol

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council

Amount: £25,791


Project rationale and aims

This project aims to engage young people identified as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) with an arts based project to explore the issues related to death and alternative burial processes. The young people come from a predominantly white, working class area of South Bristol and will work with Kumiko Community Arts via Youth Moves, based at The Park Local Opportunities Centre.

Under the supervision of Dr John Troyer, Dr Hannah Rumble will work in collaboration with Kumiko Community Arts to conduct this project. The project will specifically aim to:

  1. Engage a cohort of NEET young people (16-25 year olds) who attend The Park Local Opportunity Centre who are interested in exploring the issues of death and natural burial practices within their local cemetery;
  2. Work with the cohort of young people to elicit responses to the issues via creative expression of their choice – sound recordings, film, graffiti, arts and crafts, rap, poetry etc;
  3. Develop a short film about the project – from the engagement of the young people, the discussions and the creation of the artistic representations of their views;
  4. A professionally curated exhibition resulting from the work of the young people.

Project activities

  1. Phase A will include site visits, liaising with cemetery manager, bringing young people into the project.
  2. Phase B will include five weekly two hour sessions with the young people exploring the creative response to the natural burial site.
  3. Phase C will include exhibiting the film and the art work. Visitor reactions and feedback will also be collected.

Project outputs and impacts

The outputs for this project are the following:

Following the completion of the project, the work has been shown as part of the 'Before I Die' Festival in Cardiff, May 2013, and was part of the 'Images of Research' 2013 at the University of Bath, an exhibition shown at the University and at venues around the City.

On 7th November 2013, parts of the exhibition were re-created for the Univeristy of Bath's 'Open House' event to celebrate the installation of our new Chancellor, HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.  A centrepiece of the exhibition, four young people from the project spoke about their work to both The Chancellor and The Countess of Wessex. You can read about the Installation on the University of Bath's website and view photographs from the event on our Facebook page.

The project was also selected as a featured case study on the AHRC's website.

Find out more about this project

Name: Mrs Caron Staley
Title: Centre Manager for Death and Society
Department: Dept of Social and Policy Sciences
Location: 3 East 3.26
E-mail: c.staley@bath.ac.uk
Phone: work+44 (0) 1225 386949