In 2017 I returned to work in the funeral industry and was quite distressed by the industry that I was met with. On the face of it, funerals, how they are arranged and carried out are exactly the same as they was 20 years ago, but the pace and structure of the industry is very different. The prices are extortionate and the standards are inconsistent. Seeing the effect the industry is having on people who struggle to meet the cost of a funeral and seeing how it was operating effected me so much so that I left my role and was compelled to evoke change by calling for much needed regulation of the industry and to put an end to profiteering from death and end funeral poverty.
In 2018 I was looking for information on possible solutions to funeral poverty and I clicked on the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website, initially thinking it was a mistake and that I’d clicked the wrong link, I was struck by Sir Winston’s photograph and I stopped looking at it, pondering about the greatest Briton ever – I liked Churchill for his belief in doing the right thing and that came before his own needs, and which sometimes went against the grain. It drew me in long enough to then look closer at the website. I hadn’t heard of a Winston Churchill Fellowship before and as I read on, I learnt about the Churchill Fellowships – realising that a fellowship would be a significant opportunity for my work, I applied.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was set up after Sir Winston passed away in 1965, Sir Winston had a hand in planning the Memorial Trust before he died and the carving of the idea of the Fellowships to honour his legacy as a leader. Churchill Fellowships empower people to learn from the world and transform lives across the UK. Since they started in 1965 around 5000 people have been awarded a Churchill Fellowship.
I didn’t think for one second that I would get through the first stage but I did and got through all the stages of application and was invited to London for an interview. That day was one of the best days of my life, the most wonderful experience and one that I will always remember.
In February I was informed that I had been awarded a Churchill Fellowship for my project Reclaiming the Funeral Industry and my Fellowship is also supported by The Rank Foundation. I am the first Churchill Fellow to cover the funeral industry and I am so proud and grateful to be given this opportunity.
For my Fellowship I will be travelling to Canada to examine their funeral industry as they have robust regulation and legislation covering all aspects of the industry, and their funeral industry operates to very high standards and they do not have issues with funeral poverty. I am excited to be meeting with Canadian MP’s, Consumer Protection Organisations, Funeral Regulation Authorities, Funeral Business and Education Providers. I am then travelling New Zealand to learn about the funeral service providers there and meet with government organisations.
The Churchill Fellowship opens the door to a special experience and genuinely fills you up with so much ambition for your subject and much more. The people and places that it leads you to are the most inspiring and humbling, it reaches far beyond what you initially would have imagined.
The iconic photograph of Winston Churchill that first caught my eye and inspired me to continue reading the website about fellowships, was taken by the then little known photographer Yousuf Karsh and that photograph changed his life. Ceila Sandys, Winston Churchill’s granddaughter said in an interview that Sir Winston made you believe that you could do anything – he cleverly made sure that would never stop as the Churchill Fellowship has made me believe that I can do anything too.
The Churchill Fellowships are now open for applications. For information visit The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust