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Rookwood Open Day

Invited to present a shroud workshop at the Rookwood Cemetery Open Day on 24 September, I happily agreed but then had to think about how to present a workshop about shroud making to an unknown quantity of people and what could I teach them in an hour?

The day was set up like a fair, with various stalls, musicians, attractions like horse and cart rides, vintage funeral cars, drumming groups, food stalls and face painting.  The allocated area for the workshop was an open space with a cover and the sound of a generator pumping out a lot of noise.  It was overwhelming at first but not put off as to how I would fit in with the unexpected environment I found myself to be in.

Unpacking the gear that I bought to cover a range of possibilities (y teaching background helped me out there) I decided to go with the flow and respond to those who turned up by starting a conversation.

Given the range of attractions, it wasn’t conducive for people to sit down amongst the moving throng of people to stitch or paint or talk.   My first customers were children who were not so much interested in the other attractions.  They sat down and started with stencils and flower petals I gave them to decorate their cloth.  They didn’t understand what I did, but they sat comfortably and happily decorating the cloth for more than an hour.  More came, and the creative process, without doubt, was natural for them.

A mother and daughter who had arrived at the Open Day and came over to talk, sat down, and stayed for an hour and a half.  We chatted about the funeral of their mother/grandmother and how our funeral services could be more diverse and inclusive.

They loved the designs they produced on their cloths and the mother said to me at one stage: “This stitching is so calming and mediative, yet I don’t have to concentrate, it feels easy.”   The teenage daughter thoroughly enjoyed herself and produced, without design, an amazing cloth that inspired her with confidence to make a shroud for a loved one.

The day went quickly and aside from taking photos as I was setting up my stall, there wasn’t time to take images of the attendees, nor did it occur to me to do so as I was so engaged with the people who stopped and got involved.

Whilst doing a shroud workshop in such an unusual and busy environment as was the Open Day, it proved that shrouding can be done and taught just about anywhere.

Sincere thanks to Corinn and Crystal from Rookwood General who invited me to participate in celebrating Rookwood’s 150th Anniversary.  Both women did an excellent job and were very supportive and present on the day.

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