05 Sep 2013

From personalised coffins to gothic novels - Open University hosts international conference on death, dying and disposal

Death, Dying and Disposal

Death, Dying and Disposal

The Open University (OU) is hosting a prestigious international conference from 5 to 8 September. The Death, Dying and Disposal conference aims to promote understanding of this sensitive and often taboo subject. Leading experts in the field of medicine, academia and bereavement will be discussing subjects such as improving end of life care for dying children, grief on social networks and the role of death in gothic novels. This is the first time that the OU has hosted the conference which is testament to the academic excellence with in the Faculty of Health and Social Care in this area.

One participant in the conference is artist Graham Dolphin. His exhibition, This Must be the Place, follows on from his recent work in which he recreates some of the spontaneous memorials left by fans after the death of their idols. The exhibition will include four prints of fan photographs collected online, all taken at the shrines of celebrities including Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson.

Graham Dolphin said, “As the reality of death becomes ever more virtual, there seems a need to experience death and grief through the stars of popular culture. My recent work has focused on the spontaneous shrines that spring up after an iconic death, the objects and memorials that are left."

Dr Carol Komaromy, Open University Senior Lecturer and expert in death and dying studies, was an integral part of the OU being chosen to host the event. Speaking about the importance of this conference she said, “Given that individual identity is prominent in contemporary western societies it is not surprising that people want to personalise their own death. This conference will not only present an opportunity to explore some of the issues surrounding death and dying in more detail, but also see first-hand the ever-expanding range of ways to say goodbye.”

Other topics that will be discussed over the course of the conference include:
• The growth in demand for personalised coffins
• Glastonbury festival and the performance of remembrance
• The moving shrine: Car Decal and T-shirt memorials
• Death in the 21st Century: The role of Euthanasia.

Attendees will also be given the chance to see how personalised funerals are conducted in two very different settings: Olney Green Burial Ground and Crownhill Crematorium.

To attend the event or interview one of the academics at the conference, please contact

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