1. A GrassRoots Social Movement!
KeepStones is an artistic project nested into a grief-care service. The concept involves encouraging people to thoughtfully alter some of their beloved’s cremated remains into a tangible solid memory stone(s). What makes this transformational process unique is the accompanying constellation of supports, traditions like story telling and celebrations/commemorations of the deceased. During a research project in the Winter of 2020, as part of my apprenticeship as an End of Life Companion (Death Doula), I came across this phenomenon. Approximately 2% of cremated remains never get collected! That was the first spark behind the creation of KeepStones, forgotten ashes. The second spark was witnessing the tragic gap in meaningful ceremony during Lockdown. In Ireland, we opened our first crematorium in 1982. It took off very slowly. The United Kingdom began cremating around the 1880’s. There is significant evidence emerging to suggest that Irish customs are shifting in the direction of our liberal British counterparts. Using their history to draw from, I can see there is a multiplicity to how Irish mourners respond to ‘cremains’. Currently 20-25% of people who die in Ireland are choosing cremation. For those who collect the urn, a mixture of reactions and actions happen.
The future proposal is centred around Gathering in Circles to investigate the Story of Loss through symbolism/ Creativity using Ceramics/ and Recalibration tools – the primary being
The anticipated outcome: More acceptance that a loved one is missing. People walk away with tools to regulate their own nervous system. People, irrespective of career, confidence, culture – will walk away with clear ideas on the use of symbolism in remembering/ritualising. Teachings on how to move beyond the thinking mind, aimed at demystifying the role of ceremony and performance so the average person knows how to practice shared experiences with friends and colleagues. Cultivating connection.
2. Weaving together different interests with the universal language of Lament
Marian Caulfield’s initial inspiration for her creative Phd investigation was a concept that we, like the Finns, could bring back our tradition of Keening with a view to supporting our mental health as a people. She recognised a big interest in the old style of Lament from talks given in her academic role. Collaborative support from Michelle Collins and other people, like Lara Lynn Treadaway, (folks investigating the artform from new perspectives) gave us a deep understanding of how close to surface this tradition still is. Fresh in the psyche, waiting to be restored.
Expressions of interest in future workshops have come from those who participated in the trials we ran in 2019, and from the one day event in UCC in 2017.
The potential audience includes:
- Creative artists
- Sound artists
- Wellness professionals
- Mental health practitioners
- Mental health service users
In addition there has been interest from organisations representing the more marginalised in our community, such as:
LGBT Groups, Refugees (peoples who may have their own lament traditions), and the Travelling community (currently our research is showing that ‘Keening’ may still being practiced in this culture but is undocumented as yet).
Lament and ‘Keening’ has hitherto been unexplored as an artistic ‘whole’ in Ireland. There have been many interesting unconnected individual projects exploring keening such as sound installations, documentaries, TV programs, Newspaper articles, books, musical representations, folkloric examples and radio interview. This initiative aims to draw all these strands together.
- To drive a collaborative artistic investigation that will be tailored to fit each individual community project (as per the above list), using a Template Framework, designed to match each groups specific needs
- Design of a template which moves in accordance with the artists responses, to develop the next step
- To generate community through creative performative social process
- Re imagining a history of ideas, Re knit, Remember and Reconnect, together
- Exploring an innovative art form with the understanding of the critical need to improve the quality of life of everyone in the community
- Creating a framework of cultural and social benefit, gathering people together
- Formulating an artistic vehicle enabling people to mirror human experience in a dynamic re triggering of compassion
This innovative enterprise which at its core, taps into and re- imagines a vein of a rich but neglected form of an Irish oral poetry/song form called ‘Lament’,’ could facilitate a massive reassessment of our need to bring back grieving practices. Our ancestors were much more tuned into the cycle of life. Death was a Community event. Lament was one part of that. As funerals absorb the ritual and the medical systems dramatically shift our involvement with illness we have become so removed to supporting end of life and our grieving in turn has been affected. Keening’ or ‘Caoine’ can be a way to balance things, bring back connection, a tool to use in the modern world. Many other cultures have not lost their ability to grieve.
CONCLUSION – WE ARE OPEN TO CO-CREATIONS, SUGGESTIONS
feel free to get in touch!