With social distancing looking set to remain a theme for 2021, the team at Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors has begun event planning accordingly…
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was first established in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company now has further offices in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint, and with over 165 years of experience, remains a family-run business today. With many challenges presented during 2020, it’s clear that 2021 is going to be different again. Much of the company’s promotional activity was suspended during 2020 both due to social distancing and business decisions, however the time feels right to return to these activities. Here, Community Co-Ordinator Becky gives her insight to how plans are progressing for the year ahead…
I decided early on that planning for 2021 would be easier than 2020, purely for the reason that this time we’re more prepared! It’s difficult to believe that in January 2020, the only hint we had that the year might be different was vague murmurings of a highly-contagious virus sweeping through a particular region of China. It seems bizarre to think about how calm the rest of the world was, and easy to call ourselves naïve, when it’s kinder to think of ourselves as having been optimistic instead.
The theme of 2020 quickly became cancellations and postponements, for every event other than those which absolutely must take place. Having been in the events industry for over a decade, I felt for those who I know had been working on their events for years sometimes – last year should have seen a huge celebration for the 50th anniversary of Glastonbury Festival, for example, and the hosts in Tokyo were successful in their bid for the Olympic Games all the way back in 2013. At a more local level, there are so many events which members of the community cherish, and organisations rely on in order to maintain their businesses or raise crucial funds for charities.
And of course, we at Freeman Brothers had our own plans. Beyond assisting people by arranging funerals and providing our bespoke pre-paid funeral plan, we support the community in a variety of ways, and use events to promote our own services too. As 2020 progressed and we had to turn our resources to both serving our customers and providing information to the public regarding our situation, we took the decision not to even attempt any event planning.
It simply felt like too great of a risk to plan anything only for it to be cancelled again, and we also found early on that many venues weren’t in a position even to offer quotes, never mind speculate as to their availability. Ultimately, we were really pleased to be able to run an online event for the first time – producing our annual Remembrance Service which would have been hosted in-person, as a YouTube Premiere instead. Without us truly realising, this also became a bit of a test run for us, both in terms of whether we were able to achieve it, and whether our audience would be willing to participate. Happily, the answer to both of these questions was a resounding ‘yes’ and so we are now able to consider this as an option for future events.
In addition to the risk of events being cancelled, for much of 2020, it didn’t feel right that we run promotional events. Serving the bereaved is a privilege, and we always aim to remain sensitive. With the world in the grip of a pandemic, and the majority of us experiencing this kind of circumstance for the first time, death was top of the agenda – something most people are not used to. We know that this can stir up all kinds of emotions and, particularly at a time when people aren’t able to gather as they would like to share and take comfort in the grief of others, it would’ve been insensitive of us to promote our services keenly.
As we entered 2021, the theme of uncertainty continued. Although there is positive news with vaccine development and rollout, these things take time. There has also as yet been no sign from the UK Government as to when the current lockdown will be eased, and with us living under some of the toughest restrictions we’ve experienced, it didn’t seem prudent to attempt to plan for in-person events when we currently don’t even know when it might be possible to visit a restaurant or cinema again.
With this in mind, the right thing for us to do seemed to be to put plans in place based on the current circumstances: if nothing changes, we will be able to go ahead; if things change, either we can go ahead, or see if we are able to amend our plans in order to accommodate new situations. Our positive and learning experience with our Online Remembrance Service guided our plans, and we put our calendar together to meet our needs.
The main event we were keen to resume recognition of was Dying Matters Awareness Week, which takes place in May. We’ve decided to organise two digital events to take place during the week – one will be a panel event, featuring industry experts, and the other will be a question and answer session focused on Freeman Brothers. With panellists to be announced in due course, questions submitted in advance are welcomed, and we hope that we’ll also be able to take additional questions whilst the event is live.
I’m excited about this opportunity – I’ve attended some great panel events myself since online events have begun to boom, and it’s actually a brilliant chance to access expertise that we otherwise might not experience. With schedules and distance being what they are, it sometimes isn’t possible even without a pandemic to gather industry leaders together, and certainly not at a low cost.
Plans are still in the early stages – critically, dates and times are still to be confirmed – but we will be issuing invitations to colleagues within industry soon, and hope to bring together a variety of interesting people in order to draw on their perspectives, and provide attendees with further insight to the way our businesses operate. The session focused on Freeman Brothers will be framed as a discussion between myself and our Manager, Abi Pattenden. In addition to working for Freeman Brothers, Abi was President of the National Association of Funeral Directors in 2018/2019 (little did we know during the conference which saw the installation of her successor that it would be the last conference for the foreseeable future!) and therefore has built strong links with colleagues nationally and internationally.
Our events would usually cater for hospitality provision, and we are also looking into ways to make this possible at a distance – experience has taught us that not only do refreshments make events even better, but that they also facilitate discussion (cream or jam first on your scone, for example)!
Further updates on our event plans will be announced in due course, and we are always keen to hear what other events are happening that we could be part of. Do you require a speaker for a digital event, or does your group have questions about funerals and the funeral industry? We are always happy to help, so drop us a line and let us know about dates you have in mind.
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497