2020 Conference

Interdisciplinary Conference: “How Do we Tell the Children?”

Thursday to Saturday, 30 January to 1 February 2020

Thursday to Saturday, 27 to 29 February 2020

‘Death and Dying’ has almost disappeared from everyday life. They are hidden away in hospitals or hospices and often take place away or outside the inner family circle and yet, we have to learn to cope and live with loss. In contemporary society the Death Café movement and organisations such as Dying Matters aim to raise awareness about death and dying: we need to prepare for the ends of our lives. Death once so ‘familiar’ (Ariès 1974) has become the biggest threat of our life. Why do we now fear it so much? Can we make taking about death and dying any easier?

This event, open to all irrespective of religious affiliation and to those who have none, will bring together members of the public, practitioners, creative artists and scholars working across the arts, humanities, sciences and theology, whose work, research and working/creative practices relate to death and dying.

Our intention is to explore how approaches to mortality and the afterlife have changed since the early modern period – as reflected in the literature, art, history and sciences, as well as in funereal and mourning practices and rituals. This year (the project academic and creative responses to death and dying at BGU is in its fourth year) the conference is supported by the Church Universities Fund. Our focus is the pastoral care of children.  

Our aim is to engage with a difficult topic academically as well as creatively and through conversation. We do not offer any solutions or remedies.

The event will include a Concert (29 February 2020), a visit to the Cathedral (display in Wren Library and tombs floor tour) BGU Library (display of Picture Books) as well as ‘Conversation and Death’ and a Quiet Room for reflection.

Please register in the Eliot Room (Constance Stewart Hall)


Students are free and all others pay £25. The first ten members of BGU staff attend for free. The registration fee is to attend all events on both weekends.

To register please contact chaplaincy@bishopg.ac.uk.


If you need somewhere to stay, Longdales House on campus provides bed and breakfast accommodation. Full details on the website www.bishopg.ac.uk/longdales-house or by email at longdales@bishopg.ac.uk

Keynote Speakers:

Professor Andrew Smith, University of Sheffield – 30th January 2020

Gothic death: writing and reading the corpse.

The Revd Philip Johnson (Vicar of Sleaford) – 1st February 2020

Professor Douglas Davies FBA, Durham University – 28th February 2020

The sociological dimensions of dying.  

Victoria Kammin (Senior Lecturer on the MA Music Therapy training at the University of Roehampton and Music Therapist at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, Surrey) – 29th February 2020

‘Rocks and Pebbles’: an exploration of a collaborative approach with bereaved siblings groups in paediatric palliative care, joining the skills of the Music Therapist, Family Support and Bereavement Counsellor and Community Musicians from leading London orchestras

Link to article


Talk & Writing Workshop with Judy Meewezen – 1st February 2020

The Sudden Death of a Child; Creating Stories

Writing Workshop with Elizabeth Godwin – 1st February 2020

‘Somewhere, falling as rain’

‘All writing’ argues Margaret Atwood, ‘negotiates with the dead’. Adolescents and children process emotions differently than adults. Research seems to suggest that teens rely on the amygdala, or primitive brain, while adults use the pre-frontal cortex or rational brain The amygdala, known for flight of fight response and gut reactions, also prompts highly charged emotions: little wonder that young people may experience grief differently from adults.  In this writing workshop, using myth and anthropology, we will explore the power of story telling and writing as a means of making the invisible and visceral emotions of loss visible. Stories are powerful forms of enchantment that can allow young people to sift the irrepressible and irrational peaks and troughs of death, dying and loss.

Elizabeth Jardine Godwin is a writer and educator. Her creative and critical work focuses on landscape, the built environment and the debatable borders that exist between these two elements. She is an experienced creative writing tutor and poet. Elizabeth read her poetry, in conversation with Mairecia Fraser of Aberystwyth University at the Hay Festival 2019.

Lincoln Cathedral: Tour of Tombs

Guided tour with Paul Heath (Voluntary Cathedral Guide)

“What do the tombs in Lincoln Cathedral tell us about medieval belief regarding death and remembrance? We will be considering the prominent tombs of bishops, queens and saints as well as the many unseen tombs beneath our feet.”

Paul is a volunteer guide at Lincoln Cathedral with an interest in Medieval attitudes to death and dying.

Duration is one hour (TBC)”.

‘Grave Talk: Coffee, Conversation & Death’

An opportunity to discuss and reflect around the subjects of mortality, death and legacy.

A facilitated and informal opportunity for conversation around how much or little thought we give to our own ultimate death planning and experience. Does what we experience and hear of others impact how we view our own? How do we consider our own mortality and legacy in the context of experiencing deaths of those we care for? Have our views changed or remained static and what influences these? 

Discussion facilitated by Jenny Hamilton (Programme Leader for Counselling at BGU)  & Elizabeth Hicks (Lecturer in Counselling at BGU). Both are qualified and experienced Counsellors with experience of working with Grief & Loss.

One hour (TBC)