Did you know that, for the past 12 years, there has been an award ceremony that recognises good practice in cemeteries and crematoria across the country?
Now run by the Memorial Awareness Board (MAB), it is a substantial and significant event that attracts around 55 entrants every year for the 6 categories and 11 special awards, such as community involvement and best operatives team.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend several ceremonies for the awards at the Institute for Cemetery and Crematorium Annual Conference over the last few years and they’re perhaps not what one would expect.
Typically, it is a celebratory and upbeat event (often accompanied by a pretty impressive light show) that is organised and run as the opportunity for those working in this usually hidden and often isolated field to get together and acknowledge each other's hard work.
For the last two years I have been privileged to be one of the judges for the Cemetery of the Year Award, often referred to in the press as the "Oscars of the Underworld". I have had a specific remit of focusing on green burial grounds. A rapidly expanding sector, there are now over 200 green burial grounds in the UK, with more planned to open in the next few months. I’ve seen first hand the hard work and dedication that goes into establishing and maintaining these grounds (as well as conventional cemeteries and crematoriums or "cems and crems" as they’re known in the business) and providing a quality service for bereaved people.
What strikes me is the type of people that work in this field – they are hard working, empathetic and generous in their commitment to helping people who have experienced bereavement. It’s a pretty tough job and not one that most people could do – I don’t think I could.
That’s what the awards are all about – recognising this challenging field of work and making public the effort that often goes on behind the scenes of operating a "cem and crem"; providing a suitable venue for funeral services; an appropriate last resting place for bodies; and a site that is sustainable into the future.
Funeral directors usually receive a lot of kudos as the first point of call for bereaved people. But those who work in "cems and crems" have a lot of contact with bereaved people too, that often goes unrecognised. In my opinion, the Cemetery of the Year Award goes some way to rectify that. The awards this year take place in September so, keep a look out in the press to see if your local cem or crem has been successful.
Take it further
Find out more about the aims and objectives of Cemetery Of The Year.
Explore the Open University's Death And Dying course.