Words by Ed King
Running from 10th to 26th May, A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018 comes to venues across Birmingham – presenting a programme of events, talks, tours and exhibitions that use ‘arts and culture to encourage open and honest conversation about death and dying.’
A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018 has activities suitable for all ages, from children as young as 4 years and upwards – as programmed and run by Brum YODO. For direct festival information, including venue details and online tickets for each event, click here.
Birmingham Review first came across Brum YODO, a‘diverse community collective including health professionals, undertakers, artists, hospice staff and lawyers’, when they were part of the panel discussion following Lucy Nicholls and Antonia Beck’s The Death Show at Birmingham REP – exploring themes from funerals to the fear of finality.
The continuation of the ‘bottomless pit conversation about our own mortality’ though a festival programme was mentioned, and being both obsessed with and skeptical about discussions on death I kept the event on my editorial radar. Then, as with all things final yet sudden, the time had come and I was woefully under prepared. Luckily, and unlike the afterlife or void, there were press releases. So, what can we expect from this year’s ‘festival of arts and cultural activities focusing on death and dying’.
Opening A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018 are two events – the exhibition Et in Arcadia Ego by Charlotte Jarvis, being held at Ort Café (10th May to 21st June, free entry) and a screening of Sleepy Hollow at The Electric Cinema with a taste-along from the gloriously macabre Conjurer’s Kitchen (10th May at 8pm, £20.70 – £25.90).
Et in Arcadia Ego sees artist Charlotte Jarvis collaborate with Professor. Hans Clevers and Dr Jarno Drost from the Hubrecht Institute ‘to grow her own tumour’. Why..? This innovative approach ‘aims to examine mortality and create a dialogue with and about cancer’ whilst confronting one of the world’s biggest killers by staring directly at it. Grown specifically for the purpose. As for eating a specially created platter to compliment Tim Burton’s adaptation of Washington Irving’s ghoulish nightmare, beset with headless horsemen and headless villages… I suspect beetroot might make an appearance.
A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018 continues with a programme of talks and workshops, including How to Have a Fabulous Funeral at the John Lewis Community Hub (11th May from 10:30am to 11:30am, free), Climbing a Mountain – free creative workshop for children and families at Library of Birmingham (12th May from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm, free), A Matter of Life & Death Marketplace at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (13th May from 11:00am – 3:00pm, free) Dying Matters – Ask the Funeral Director at The Coffin Works (16th May from 6:30pm to 8:30pm) and Call the *Soul* Midwife at mac (17th May from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, free).
Theatre plays a part on the programme for A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018, as Bootworks Theatre Company present The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad at the Children’s Library (12th May from 12:30pm to 1:30pm, £5) – where younger audiences are invited to follow Frank, ‘an inquisitive chap with a big problem: he’s just lost his mum’, in a show about ‘bereavement for kids and their accompanying grown-ups.’ Then there’s The Birth of Death at Friction Arts/The Edge (19th May from 7:30, £8:50) – where Joanne Tremarco explores the often taboo subject of death by ‘drawing on end of life conversations with her mother, training as a death doula and adventures as a Lucid Dreamer.’
Whilst further film comes in the form of A Love That Never Dies, again at The Electric Cinema (21st May from 8:50pm, £7.80) – where Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds travel across North America, following the death of their son, to ‘find out why, in a world where death will always make front page news, real life conversations about death, dying and bereavement are so problematic.’
But perhaps one of the highlights of A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018 (especially to a man who can’t keep his gob shut or mind free of thoughts on eternity) is Death Over Dinner at Stirchley Baths (12th May from 6:30pm to 10:30pm, £35) – where patrons can enjoy an eclectic cuisine, ‘fragrant, sumptuous and from around the world, reflecting the global nature of death’, whilst watching a series of talks and performances exploring death and our relationship with it. Probably a bad idea for a Tinder date, but fascinating in both content and approach.
A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018 will be holding events across a variety of venues in and around Birmingham, running from 10th to 26th May. For direct event information, including the full festival programme and links to online ticket sales, visit www.brumyodo.org.uk/matter-life-death
For more on Brum YODO, visit www.brumyodo.org.uk