It’s that time of year – as one year ends and another begins, the team at Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors reflect on the year that was 2019…
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors began in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. Now with offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – the company continues to thrive, and serve a diverse range of communities. With the support of those around them being critical, the organisation appreciates the need to give back, and does so with an ever-growing programme of community events and activities. As 2019 draws to a close, Community Co-Ordinator Becky recaps the year, and looks ahead to 2020…
From the very beginning, 2019 was set to be bigger and better than ever before, as we revealed our plan to open our Hurstpierpoint branch. With this set to happen in February, the new branch team were involved in planning the year’s events early on. In addition to opening in a different location, 2019 was due to be the tenth anniversary of our Crawley branch’s launch, so there were a couple of big things to focus on straight away.
As a team, we met in January to discuss our Dying Matters Awareness Week events, which are a focal point for us. The team in Crawley had a great idea to tweak their ‘Big Deal, Small Talk’ event, and decided it was to run as a wine and cheese evening, which is always fine by me! The event in Horsham supported local charity, The Butterfly Project, in a long-held goal of running a pop-up café – an opportunity which allowed their service users the chance to learn some new skills. With it being a first event for Hurstpierpoint, we chose to use Billingshurst’s successful event as a template, and both branches were to put on lunchtime events in May.
All of that was still a long way off, though! Various other plans were put in place during January: we were keen to continue our link with the South of England Show, having exhibited for the first time in several years at the 2018 Show. However, the UK funeral industry’s biennial exhibition was due to take place at the same time as the 2019 Show, limiting our ability to receive support from some of our key collaborators. Fortunately, an ideal opportunity presented itself, in the shape of sponsoring the Young Artisan of the Year competition, which was a re-branded version of the Young Craftsman of the Year. With there still being an element of hand-building products for the funeral industry, and keen to support younger people at the start of their careers, this felt like a perfect partnership.
Although the main details had to be kept under wraps, we arranged, and were allowed to announce our involvement with the St Catherine’s Hospice Heart to HeART Art Trail, which was to take place throughout the summer. I’ve blogged a lot on this already – you can read about it here – but choosing our sculpture and watching it be created is one of my highlights of the year. This event made a difference to a lot of people, too: not just the staff, patients and families who are linked to the Hospice, but the wider community – this was an engaging series of events, and a very exciting project to be part of.
February meant the start of our contribution to the Horsham District Year of Culture, with the beginning of the Sussex Comedian of the Year competition. I was impressed by the standard during the opening heat, and was pleased that all I had to do was put up with some gentle heckles from the MC rather than take to the stage myself!
We opened the doors in Hurstpierpoint at the end of the month, having first completed a photo shoot in order to update pictures of the team, and get some shots outside the branch. Problems we hadn’t expected to have in the UK in February were blazing sunshine – not only was it quite warm on the morning of the shoot, but the glare caused off the building’s windows was problematic! I don’t think anybody would’ve guessed that the photographer’s light reflector would have to be used as a sun shade on the day in question, but it’s proof that there’s a first time for everything. We were also all agreed that things could’ve been far worse – sun was definitely preferable to snow or rain.
March kicked off with a day volunteering at Horsham’s Kinder Living Show – an event which offers members of the public the opportunity to learn more about how to live an eco-friendlier life. The event had been brought to my attention by organiser Jeanette, who is a fellow member of the local Women in Business group which I had recently joined. The event was a great chance to learn about everything from cleaning products to textiles, and a thoroughly enjoyable day. One of my favourite things about my current role is experiencing the diversity that our area has to offer – I had no idea that some of these events or organisations existed previously.
The build up to Easter is one of the peak seasons for requests for raffle prizes and event programmes, so I could often be found putting booklets together or shopping for Easter eggs! We donated several to local care homes, as well as a significant number of treat-sized eggs to the St Peter and St James Hospice in Wivlesfield in order for their annual Easter egg hunt to go ahead.
April brought another volunteering opportunity: I returned to the Mary How Trust’s annual quiz night, which I highly recommend – the volunteers get to answer around duties, I really enjoy quizzes, partly because you always come away with a new unforgettable fact! Also taking place that day was a new business fair in Mannings Heath, which proved a great way to get to know members of the community – I was introduced to a local Rotarian that day, which led to another event later in the year.
By May, I’d reached my true peak season: in addition to Dying Matters Awareness Week, it was the National Association of Funeral Directors’s annual conference, which is ‘hosted’ by the President. The Conference marks the end of the President’s year in office, so this was the culmination of duties for our Manager, Abi Pattenden. A group of us ‘stewarded’ throughout the Conference, which was held in Guildford – it was a week which involved a few late nights, but it’s great to meet with colleagues from across the country, and hear about new developments.
Straight after Conference, we had Dying Matters, and I worked at all four of our events. Hurstpierpoint drew a particularly impressive crowd – including a dog! – and it was fantastic to see The Butterfly Project’s café team in action.
The steady stream of events continued from the beginning of June: Russell and I volunteered at Hurstpierpoint’s Open Gardens event, which raised a whopping amount for the local hospice. I also attended the awards presentation for the Young Artisan of the Year competition at the South of England Show, where it was a pleasure to chat further with Harry, who won the prize that we sponsored. And, of course, a few of us got to attend our first National Funeral Exhibition – it really was a busy month!
Looking back, it’s incredible to see what we achieved in the first half of the year alone, and I’m proud of everything that the team has done. So much so that I’ll be back in due course to tell you about the second half of the year, and look forward to what 2020 will bring.
Tel: 01403 254590
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Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497