National Association of Funeral Directors Conference 2018 round-up

Freeman Brothers recently sent a delegation to the National Association of Funeral Directors annual conference - read all about what they discovered here!

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Newly-installed NAFD President, Abi Pattenden

We’ve just returned from the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) Conference, held 18th to 20th May in the beautiful North-East of England. The NAFD’s calendar runs from mid-May. Each year welcomes a new President, who, at the end of the year, holds a Conference in their local area. President for 2017-18 was Alison Crake, who heralds from Stockton-on-Tees and so nearby Durham was the setting for an influx of funeral directors and supplier members from the UK and beyond!

Conference mixes business and pleasure, encompassing: the NAFD’s Annual General Meeting; education sessions; a small exhibition for sponsors to show their latest products or technologies; planned social events to show off the host venue’s local features to visiting delegates; and a little free time for friends to catch up and discuss recent industry developments. This year I was joined by my colleagues Tracey and Becky. Tracey has attended Conference for several years but it was Becky’s first time and we were all looking forward to a chance to visit the North-East and take away some learning.

It’s always a busy weekend, and this year was no exception. On Thursday night, delegates who had already arrived were able to visit Beamish, an open-air museum telling the story of the local area of the past. We were delighted to take a tram ride to 1900s town and visit the bakery, Co-op, and sweet shop.

On Friday, the serious business commenced with the NAFD’s AGM. This is a chance for members to scrutinise the accounts, understand the business undertaken by the various boards and committees since the Autumn General Meeting, vote on any decisions which require the members’ consent, and approve the appointment of the following year’s Officers, Trustees, and Board and Committee members. The meeting is usually lively with lots of questions and debate, but it’s an important opportunity for members to have their say. The NAFD operates on a ‘one firm, one vote’ policy and so everyone from the smallest member to the largest has an equal voice. This is the place where all the major decisions are made and the agenda sat for the following year, and importantly those who are empowered to take these forward are selected.

Friday night saw us privileged to attend Evensong at the stunning Durham Cathedral, followed by canapes in the Cloisters. The surroundings were beautiful and the service itself very moving. After this, members had free time to catch up with friends and colleagues. Many small business owners will find this weekend to be one of their only breaks away from their firm and relaxation time is important too.

Saturday is education day and this was a year in which we were spoilt with three excellent presentations. Dr Heather Conway, of Queen’s University, Belfast, who specialises in the legal position around who can make decisions when someone dies, was inundated with questions around practical aspects of funeral service. Professor Douglas Davies, a Theologian from Durham University, examined the changing role of the funeral director and what this says about dying and identity. Finally, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living explorer, had the audience captivated with anecdotes from his amazing career. He then participated in a question and answer session and book-signing.

Saturday night features the annual Banquet and Ball – a chance to dress up and let one’s hair down. It is an opportunity for the President to formally thank their guests and also features a raffle to raise funds for a worthy cause – this year the President’s Charity was Medical Detection Dogs.

The conclusion of Conference is marked with the installation of the new President and Vice Presidents. I am incredibly honoured to be the NAFD’s President for 2018-19. The installation was a bit nerve-racking – I was apprehensive about getting the large chain on, and of course making an important speech is always a source of anxiety. Your inaugural speech sets priorities for the year and so it is really important to hit the right note. My interests are in how we work and how we can work differently to work better and I was keen to convey that I want us to do that over the year ahead, building on some great recent work in this area. It was also important for me to introduce my charity for the year, the Huntington’s Disease Association.

Another reason I was nervous was because my Mum and husband were present, having joined us on the Saturday night. They were very proud to see me reach the pinnacle of my profession at the start of a year that will no doubt be the highlight of my career. It was lovely to have them there to support me, and important to me to share my success with my family.

After a photo session and our first (albeit brief) Executive Committee meeting of the 2018-19 year, it was time to wend our way back to Newcastle Airport. Myself and my family and colleagues returned home tired but safe, and personally I am full of enthusiasm for the year ahead.


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Written by Abi Pattenden


May 30, 2018

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