Becky and Chrissie with one of their top finds from the show!
Having been operating since 1855, Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors remains an enthusiastic member of the wider industry community. Representatives from the company’s branches across Sussex in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint were recently able to attend the funeral industry’s biennial National Funeral Exhibition at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. For some delegates, it was their first opportunity to attend the show, whilst others had visited previously – read on to find out what the team thought about their experiences of the event.
Contributions to this post have been made by: Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, who has worked for Freeman Brothers since October 2017 and was new to the funeral industry; Funeral Arranger, Alex, who has been at Freeman Brothers since 2010; and Funeral Arranger and Administrator Chrissie, who joined Freeman Brothers in November 2018. Becky and Chrissie were attending the National Funeral Exhibition (NFE) for the first time, whilst Alex has previously attended in 2015 and 2017.
The team begin by sharing their thoughts from the build up to the show…
Becky: I was excited to attend the NFE for the first time – I’ve heard about it from a few colleagues in the events industry, one of whom managed Dying Matters when it first existed as part of the National Council for Palliative Care, and one who is a lecturer in Events Management at Leeds Beckett University. I knew the NFE would be unique, as the kind of items funeral directors discuss aren’t covered elsewhere. I was particularly keen to learn more about the breadth of the industry – when you work for a funeral director, it’s easy to understand a small part of the process of caring for the Deceased and their loved ones, but we do tend to be customer-led and therefore unless a customer requests a specific product or service, we don’t always get to find out about it.
Alex: I was looking forward to catching up and nurturing the relationships we have with current suppliers and meeting some in person for the first time, we speak with these people often on the phone or via email and rarely have the opportunity to meet in person, so I always look forward to putting a face to the voice. I was also looking forward to meeting new suppliers and seeing what new products are available as a lot of the suppliers use the NFE to launch new products.
Chrissie: As a newly appointed Funeral Arranger tasked with opening a branch in Hurstpierpoint, the chance to visit the NFE couldn’t have come at a better time. This was an amazing opportunity to not only meet suppliers face-to-face, but also to see first-hand, new innovative ideas that we may be able to incorporate into the branch, ensuring Freeman Brothers stays fresh and relevant. My colleague Russell and I strive to give every client the funeral service that they desire, but also to guide them. No two funerals are the same and it is essential that we are knowledgeable on the latest developments within the funeral industry.
Whilst they were at the show, the team discovered the following…
Becky: I’ve been to Stoneleigh Park previously – one of my favourite events (Your Horse Live) is held there annually, so it was strange to see hearses parked outside rather than horseboxes! Where I’d normally expect to see demonstrations from Olympic medallists, there were coffins on display, and much more besides. It was great to see some live craftsmanship on some of the stands – there were willow coffins being produced before us and, as an event manager, I love to see stands which are engaging and aren’t just about handing out leaflets. I was pleased to meet the team from OrthoMetals, who I’d heard about shortly after I first started at Freeman Brothers; I’m looking forward to learning more about what they do when we collaborate on a future blog post. I was also ecstatic to see a particular vehicle brand manufactured as a hearse – I wasn’t sure it existed, and it’s pleasing for two reasons; firstly, I developed an interest in cars due to my first ever role in the events industry, and secondly, I’d like to hire one for an event next year… but I won’t spoil the surprise yet!
Alex: I was impressed with the variety of stands and felt there was certainly more on offer than the previous time. I enjoyed the conversation we had about Resomation (Natural Water Cremation), I think we should watch this space. I had hoped to find a different type of condolence book to what we currently offer, memorial jewellery and supplier of natural biodegradable ashes caskets. I’m disappointed that there was no variation in condolence books – there may be a gap in the market there! However, I did find a few very good memorial jewellery suppliers and am happy to have their contact details and product brochures to share with those families. Although not for everyone, I liked the glitter coffins which were on display, definitely a lot more sparkle this year than I have ever seen before. I enjoyed having a go at weaving a willow coffin, it’s not as easy as the team make it look!
Chrissie: Like Alex, I wanted to find out more about Bio-Urns, which convert your remains into a tree after life. I quickly found these, and am pleased to now know who to ask when a family requests one. I was especially taken with some of the different hearse options, including a Harley-Davidson bike and hearse; which was extremely apt, as I have recently had the privilege of helping to arrange a funeral with a cortege of vintage bikes.
After a busy day, the team drew their conclusions on an exciting event…
Becky: There’s nothing quite like meeting suppliers and colleagues in person. Having been in the funeral industry for a year and a half, and attended two NAFD conferences, there are more and more faces I recognise, and it’s great to be developing these relationships (there’s always a benefit to seeing a friendly face willing to pull up a chair and have a chat!). We’re focusing heavily on increasing our blog content at the moment, in order to help our customers become better-informed and more aware of what’s available, so it was exciting to build some new connections and get further inspiration. I’m already looking forward to NFE 2021!
Alex: I found this weekend truly beneficial to being able to do my job to the best of my ability, not only the building of great working relationships with suppliers but knowing exactly what is available and where to get it, so when a family asks for something that may be a break from ‘tradition’ I know exactly where to go.
Chrissie: I came away from visiting the NFE with a bagful of new ideas, from exquisite Ashes Memorial jewellery, personalised Memory Boards to children’s Remembrance Books, which was especially heart-warming, having had the chance to speak with the author, who shared her emotional journey as to how the book came to be written. Establishing different contacts is invaluable, knowledge is powerful and this only helps to serve our clients better.