Patrons: Bill Beaumont, Mark Lawrenson & Tisha Merry Reg Charity No: 512186

Dying Matters exhibition aims to open up conversations

The whole community is invited to join a forward-thinking event and exhibition in Preston this month, as we break down the taboos and encourage people to open up about death and bereavement in positive and meaningful ways.

A First World War Memorial Plaque; mourning clothing and jewellery from the Victorian era; and an authentic Egyptian shabti are some of the thought-provoking tokens on display as part of the innovative exhibition.

History curator at the Harris Museum, James Arnold, explains: “We’re very aware that our collections connect with people on many different levels, and it’s been valuable for us to explore what these objects mean to people, and the memories and views they have evoked.

“The conversations which the exercise opened up have been very useful in helping people to think about death and how people are remembered. By reflecting on their own experiences, these objects have inspired discussions which we normally avoid broaching, and have helped remove the taboo and fear often associated with having difficult talks about death and grief.”

During the open event on Friday 18th May, guitarist Alex Walmsley will perform songs chosen by a public social media poll asking ‘what music would you like to be played at your funeral?’, and solicitors and financial advisors will also be on hand to speak with visitors; all with the aim of encouraging people to feel comfortable talking about things like writing a will and making funeral arrangements.

Tony Bonser, Dying Matters champion and St Catherine’s Hospice trustee, has selected a memorial bookmark from the museum’s collection to feature in the exhibition, as it brought back memories of his son Neil, who died unexpectedly nine years ago.

He said: “I’m an advocator of speaking openly about death and dying, and I very much support the Dying Matters ethos surrounding the importance of preparing for your final days.

“As a family, we were not able to plan anything in advance because although Neil had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called a sarcoma five years before he died, nobody told him or us that he was dying.

“I feel strongly that if we had had more time to prepare, we might have found the events leading to his death easier to accept, and would certainly have been able to move through the grieving process with greater understanding.”

He added: “The event at the Harris Museum is an ideal opportunity to speak with professionals and other members of the community about their own experiences and views, and talk about important issues which we really shouldn’t shy away from. It offers great peace of mind to know that your loved ones know what you want for your final days and how you’d like to be remembered; the activities and exhibition at the Harris Museum provide an open forum for these meaningful conversations to take place.”

Everyone is welcome to attend the event in the Harris Museum café area between 11am and 2.30pm on Friday 18th May.

Solicitors will be in attendance from Birchall Blackburn, Marsden Rawsthorn, and Harrison Drury, along with Anne Wray Independent Financial Adviser. The project is also supported by NHS Greater Preston CCG, NHS Chorley & South Ribble CCG, and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.