A GRAVEYARD is not normally the place you would expect a festival to choose for its opening.

But then Kicking the Bucket is certainly unusual, with more than 40 events across Oxfordshire on the theme of life, death and dying.

The festival, which runs from October 22 to November 13, wants to break the taboo about death and get people talking about the one inevitability of life.

Festival organiser, performer and green burial ground manager Liz Rothschild, from Coleshill, near Faringdon, said: “The Kicking the Bucket Festival gives people the opportunity to explore new ideas, make plans, share your concerns and get creative.

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“I have seen a lot of distress from our inability to talk about death or dying.

“But death is the one thing all humans have in common and we are not alone with it once we start talking to other people.

“We have 40 events, including dance, music, art, theatre, and debates, aimed at everyone from young children upwards. And we are hoping people will come, share their thoughts, have fun and go home feeling more positive and informed about death.”

Ms Rothschild, who manages Westmill Woodland Burial Ground in Watchfield, staged the first festival in 2012.

She said: “The feedback we received last festival was overwhelmingly positive with people telling us how relieved they were to get an opportunity to explore these issues.

“This year we will be kicking things off in style, thanks to Oxford’s Horns of Plenty Community Street Band.

“There will be free ‘deathly refreshments’.

“And as funeral jazz bands in New Orleans take to the streets, so will the Horns of Plenty, so we want people to come along, wear glad rags or sad rags and follow where they lead.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Visitors to the first Festival in 2012 were invited to hang messages on a Tree of Life

The festvial will feature a number of public debates featuring expert pannelists leading discussions on emotive subjects from funeral poverty to body donation and assisted dying.

Ms Rothschild added: “We are reaching out to a range of communities, and an exhibition we have co-funded with Crisis at the Old Fire Station – “Stop, Look, See”, which was led by photographer Ruth Davey – showcases the work of people who have experience of homelessness.

Tamsin Jewell, director of Crisis Skylight Oxford, said: “The average age of death for a homeless person is just 47. Sadly, many of the people we work with live vulnerable and dangerous lives.

“Our Kicking the Bucket photography workshops have been a great way to explore and express the theme of living and dying in a light and supportive environment.

"Being homeless is a devastating experience, but art and photography can be a great way for people to build their confidence and learn new skills. We can’t wait for the final exhibition showcasing the fantastic creativity of our clients.”

Discussing death with small children will also be tackled with the international premiere of the puppet show Death in a Nut.

The play, aimed at children aged six and upwards, has been specially commissioned for the Festival and will be performed by Play of Light Theatre.

The Rev James Grote, minister of John Bunyan Baptist Church, home to the Ark T Centre, in Cowley said: “It is not easier or harder for children to deal with death and the harder things of life than it is for anyone else, they just do it differently.

"What matters is that we talk to children about death and dying and I am very excited – and I mean that – about what Death in a Nut will say and how it will say it.

“Whatever its message, it will send all of us home knowing that this is a subject that we do not need to be afraid of. It’s part of life, in the truest sense.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Festival-goers, including young children, help decorate a coffin

He added: “The Ark T Centre is really happy to a host an event once again for the Kicking the Bucket Festival.

"During the last festival people came together to make shrines for those who had died. I made one for my dad. It was very peaceful, comforting and those who shared in it held each other well. I’m sure the same will be true this year.”

Other festival events include the Blue Cross animal charity hosting a talk about pet bereavement.

There will be a series of dance and poetry workshops exploring end of life wishes for people living with dementia.

Acclaimed international artist, Sally Pomme Clayton, will unveil her new show, Night Visit, using storytelling, music and imagery to trigger memories and summon ‘ghosts’ on Halloween, Friday, October 31, at 8pm at the Old Fire Station, George Street, Oxford.

Contributors from the US will include Stephen Jenkinson, whose documentray Griefwalker shows counselling sessions with families.

Some proceeds from cake sales at Oxford’s Nosebag Restaurant will go to the Young Dementia charity.


SEESAW offers grief support for children and young people in Oxfordshire and is one the charities involved in the festival.

Helen Mackinnon, director of SeeSaw, explained: “At SeeSaw we know that children suffer when someone they love dies. 

“SeeSaw supports children at this critical time so that they can move forwards and face the future with hope. Our service includes advice and support to parents and professionals as well as tailored grief support for individual children.

“The support we offer is very flexible. Families vary in their needs and we offer a service that responds to their own circumstances. Families know they can come back to us even years later if a child ‘revisits’ their grief as they get older.

Oxford Mail:

  • Helen Mackinnon

“We feel it is really important to break down taboos about talking around death especially with children. 

“Openness and honesty with difficult conversations develop resilience in children and enable them to face the future with hope. We are delighted to have been invited to take part in Kicking the Bucket.”


  • October 22: The Horns Of Plenty in the graveyard of St Giles Church, 10 Woodstock Road, on Wednesday from 6.30pm - 6.45 pm. 
  • October 23: American author Kate Mayfield at Blackwell’s Bookshop, 50 Broad Street at 7pm.Tickets cost £3 by calling: 01865 333623. 
  • October 30: Premier of the puppet play Death in a Nut which has been written to introduce young children to the subject of death. Taking place at The Ark T Centre, Crowell Road, Cowley, Oxford, from 10.30am-noon. Tickets cost £7 and £3 from: 01865 311100 or: oxford.events@barefootbooks. 
  • October 31: A panel discussion entitled: Whose Death is it Anyway? at the Friends Meeting House, St Giles from 10.30am - 12.30pm. Chaired by Dawn Brooker, Director of Dementia Studies, Worcester University. Tickets cost £7/5 are available on: 01865 305305 or: www.ticketsoxford.com 
  • October 31: Join Phoenix comic’s Corpse Talk creator Adam Murphy for some Halloween-inspired art sessions at The Story Museum, Rochester House, 42 Pembroke St, 
  • The Adam Murphy Masterclass is for children aged 8-12, costs £6 and takes place from 11.30-13.00. From 2pm-3pm there will be a Halloween Corpse Talk and the chance to produce your own undead-infested comic. (Ages 6-12. £5). To book phone: 01865 305305 or visit: ticketsoxford.com 
  • There are 42 events taking place until November 13, check them out at: www.kickingthebucket.co.uk 


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