Coronation Street’s Humanist funeral
The TV funeral of Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper on Friday 31st January may bring back memories for the thousands of Suffolk and N E Essex families who’ve arranged something similar for a loved one. Since 1991, the Suffolk Humanist Ceremonies Team – David Mitchell from Pettaugh, Sue Hewlett from Stutton and Sophie Lovejoy from Brightlingsea – have helped Margaret Nelson from Elmsett, near Hadleigh, to meet increasing demand for funerals free from religion.
Hayley Cropper is played by actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association. The Suffolk Humanist Ceremonies team are members of the group, Suffolk Humanists and Secularists, which is affiliated to the BHA.
For thousands of viewers who’ve never been to a humanist funeral, Hayley’s will show them what they might expect. No hymns, prayers or religious readings, but a dignified, personal celebration of a life, where mourners can share memories and their sense of loss.
People often ask us if we knew the person who’s died, because they recognise his or her character and personality in our description, but mostly we didn’t. We aim to find out as much as we can by talking to the people who knew him or her. It’s like a mirror, reflecting back a familiar portrait in words.
Some relatives or friends contribute their own memories to the ceremony, though we take the precaution of asking them to write it all down in case they’re overcome by emotion on the day.
Families choose music that was special to their loved one, and some even wear clothes that reflect his or her personality. I’ve done a funeral for a keen camper where all his friends wore colourful Hawaiian shirts, and at a funeral for a young Goth, we all wore black and purple, her favourite colours. Every funeral we do is different, because everyone is different.
Some of my friends used to think it was a very odd thing to want to do, but I’ve met some lovely people and heard some fascinating life stories over the years.”