With 2020 offering an evolving landscape, Becky gives an update on life in the Freeman Brothers Community team…
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was first established in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. The company now has an additional three offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley, and Hurstpierpoint – and is proud to have a reputation for supporting the wider communities it operates in. With 2020 being a landmark anniversary for the business – celebrating 165 years since it was first opened – the team had hoped to complete a significant schedule of events. Community Co-Ordinator Becky gives an insight into how the year has unfolded instead…
At the start of 2020, I was planning all sorts of activities, as many of us were! I’d been looking forward to taking on finding 165 creative ways of supporting the community. We had various events organised for the first half of the year, plus I knew which ones would seek our support later in the summer, as we’ve worked with them previously.
One by one, they were sadly cancelled, and I really felt for the charity events in particular, as these are a huge source of income and awareness-raising for these organisations. Needless to say, it’s been a very quiet spring and summer for much of my role. Some people I regularly collaborate with were surprised that I wasn’t furloughed, but my role incorporates several functions and this year, the most important of those has been our digital communication.
Now more than ever it’s been important to keep our website and social media channels fully updated. With changes sometimes occurring hourly, and the government either providing guidance incredibly late or not at all, it’s been fairly constant. Checking that messaging is correct both in terms of provision of facts and tone has been a huge task, and even with the best effort at preparation, last-minute changes have sometimes been necessary.
It’s been worthwhile though: many people have commented positively on the consistency of our messaging, and that they’ve found it reassuring. This is a huge compliment, as we always work with the aim of being transparent and practical, without scaremongering. To know that we’ve hit the mark is satisfying.
Whilst the world has changed rapidly, so has our support of community organisations. My colleagues and I have kept in touch with various groups, such as AgeUK and YMCA Downslink Group. We were due to be sponsoring AgeUK’s two Strictly Vintage dances this year, and sadly both have had to be cancelled – keep your eyes peeled for news on what we will do to help them in 2021 if the events aren’t able to happen then either.
I’m pleased to share that YMCA Downslink Group have a fundraiser coming up. What would’ve usually been a sleep out is now happening in homes across the region, for the newly arranged Sleep Easy. The charity are asking participants to sleep anywhere other than their bed – this could be the floor, hallway, a sofa, or – weather permitting! – the garden. You can find details of the campaign online – the official night to participate is Friday 9 October.
Over in Hurstpierpoint, the annual Open Gardens event was innovatively taken online, something that I helped them to discuss the logistics of, and which we sponsored via a donation. We’ve also supported the Virtual Hurst Festival, which is currently running. You can find details of this via their website.
Spring and summer usually pass in a flurry of fairs and raffle prizes, but with things as they have been, I’m only now preparing my first one of the season! Friends of Trafalgar Infant School are organising a start of term raffle, and I’m delighted to be supplying a prize, as we weren’t able to when their summer fete was cancelled.
In order to continue minimising contact socially, these things require a different level of organisation than they usually might, but we are still able to help, so if you have an event you’d like a prize for, do let me know.
We’ve begun early discussions for how to continue with our Community Remembrance Service too. Having held our first one in Hurstpierpoint in 2019, the intention was to make this an annual event, and we had already reserved a date for 2020. We were really pleased with how our inaugural service went, and had decided which elements we would like to keep and which would change to keep the service interesting and relevant.
Unfortunately, it’s already apparent that an in-person service won’t be possible this year, but we were keen to establish ourselves as continuing with our events, so an alternative solution has been found! It’s an incredibly exciting time for us, as we will be broadcasting an event online for the first time ever.
I can’t give too much away yet, but I am able to tell you that we will be airing our Remembrance Service online during early December. Various members of the team will participate, and thanks to an appropriate venue being available, we are able to have a professional produce the event whilst maintaining a safe distance for them and ourselves.
If you would like to receive full details of the Service – including how and where to access it, and how to receive a free gift from us – please get in touch and we will email you as soon as further information is available. Our intention is to replicate last year’s Service in terms of it being an uplifting experience which is also non-denominational.
I consider the increased adoption of digital technologies to be one of the significant positives of physical distancing during 2020. Although I’m an experienced event manager, and I do very much miss in-person events for many reasons, it’s great to be able to still share these events, and bring people together whilst they are having to spend time apart. I hope that the online service will also bring a sense of shared experience, allowing people to appreciate that they are not alone in their feelings. Every loss is important, and that this is a shared bereavement doesn’t take anything away from any individual, but instead hopefully allows them to feel supported and understood, and that their loved one’s life is marked in a greater sense.
I’m pleased that – whatever position we’re in come December – we will be able to unite for this occasion.
Tel: 01403 254590
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