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Friends of Wombwell Cemetery

The Friends group of a small local cemetery organised one of the biggest press highlights of the year. The Friends have worked in partnership with the local heritage group to run Heritage Open Days for a number of years but this time they researched ways they could connect with the national festival theme, and the result was a real 'CemeTreat'!

Jessica Whiting from Friends of Wombwell Cemetery, South Yorkshire

Why we take part

We like to spread the word about the history of Wombwell, our group, and we like to share stories of those buried in the cemetery who can no longer tell their own stories. Not many people know about our group. We’re a small cemetery in a small town, so it’s quite hard to get the word out that we exist. The Heritage Open Days (HODs) events help us to let people know we’re here.

Preparing for a picnic in the park (aka the cemetery) / © FOWC

What we do for HODs

CemeTreats & Funeral Feasts: Picnics, lemons in handkerchiefs, and feasts with the family; all things you wouldn't expect in a cemetery, but things that took place nonetheless! Join us as we take you back in time to discover the wonderful foody cemetery and funeral traditions! (2021 Event directory description)

We've have been involved in Heritage Open Days for a number of years, teaming up with the Wombwell Heritage Group initially at their venue but now doing our own, with the Heritage group visiting the cemetery instead. We usually open our chapel, put on refreshments and have display boards up. This year we decided to have a special display, as well as the usual stuff, to match the national 'Edible England' theme, including a replica ‘Victorian Picnic’. The resulting event was absolutely fantastic - the best one yet!

Cemetreats and funeral feasts - this year's theme had lots of tantalising local history trivia to share / © FOWC

The difference it makes

Many more people now know about the cemetery and the Friends group, and we’ve had visitors from far and wide who have come and listened to the stories we have to tell.

Researching for this particular Edible England event has not only opened my mind, but those of the Friends and our visitors. They have expressed learning things they didn’t know before, which is always a bonus.

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Favourite moment

I particularly enjoyed when we had visitors from Twitter who had been interacting with us for absolutely ages online, but we’d never met them. They had an excuse to show up, did so, and we had a blast!

It’s also always a lovely sight to see people coming in, meeting up for a coffee, and just having a chat. After the lockdown we’ve all been through, it’s nice to see people finding the confidence to leave their homes and talk to people in the flesh again.

Nice surprise

I didn’t expect the event to go as well as it did as our numbers are never massively high. However, with the support and promotion from the national HODs press team, small local newspapers, and The Guardian (which was the main surprise), the event gave us our biggest turnout yet.

This intriguing image and the event title really helped to grab press and visitor attention for the event / © FOWC

Jessica's Top Tips!

Just do it. Before organising the HODs events, I didn’t think I had it in me to organise anything like this. If you think it’s going to be a failure, I can guarantee it’s not going to be at all. Even if just one person turns up, it means you’ve managed to reach someone and, chances are, that person will go on to tell others all about the fantastic day they had. Just throw yourself in at the deep end and get stuck in.

We’ve also had comments about how well we managed to link in with the national theme. If you can, my advice would be to try it. You might not think anything relates, but you’d be surprised. Linking a cemetery to food was an absolutely impossible task for me… right up until I hit ‘enter’ on my Google search. You never know what you’ll uncover.

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