Caroline Dent: Death Cafe co-ordinator

14 Oct

Everyone has a story. Artist and end of life doula Caroline Dent has brought the Death Café to Finsbury Park’s Blighty Café. Join the Death Cafe to talk about all the taboos and fears we have about death over a very civilised cup of tea and a cake. Interview by Nicola Baird

Caption: Caroline Dent, join coordinator of the Finsbury Park Death Café run monthly at Blighty Café. “I had a lot of fears of death as a child – I’ve spent a lifetime reading around the subject.”

Caption: Caroline Dent, join coordinator of the Finsbury Park Death Café run monthly at Blighty Café. “I had a lot of fears of death as a child – I’ve spent a lifetime reading around the subject.”

“The first time I read about a Death Café my idea was it would be full of Goths and people dressed in black,” admits Caroline Dent cheerfully, “but it’s not like that at all. I haven’t yet seen a Goth!”

Unlike most of us, who have a tendency to try and forget that death is going to happen, Caroline has faced up to what she calls “the last taboo”. Not only is she training as an end of life doula*, she’s also been a Marie Curie volunteer, volunteered with suicidal people and is a volunteer for the new peer-to-peer programme run by Islington Bereavement Service.

Now she’s gone one step further and brought a Death Café to Finsbury Park.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

The Death Café – taken from the Swiss concept of Café Mortel first run by sociologist Bernard Crettaz – was introduced to the UK by Londoner Jon Underwood in September 2011 in his home with a get together to talk about death over tea and cake. Since then events have been held in UK cafes, cemeteries, yurts and even the Royal Festival Hall. The concept has now spread worldwide, but Death Cafes are run by volunteers who want to help us remove the fears and taboos around death by having a good conversation about life.

“In Finsbury Park the Death Café are small events at Blighty Café and very popular,” says Caroline who grew up in Leeds.


Blighty Cafe where the Death Cafe meeting will be held.

Places Caroline Dent likes in Islington

  • Front Room is a great café.

  • At Blighty where we do the Death Café once a month you’ve got a real sense of community. We’re all longing for community aren’t we, and they tap into it.

  • I love the N4 library.

  • Stall on the Finsbury Park jumble trail championed by Caroline Dent.

    Stall on the Finsbury Park jumble trail championed by Caroline Dent.

    Years ago my son went to the Steiner School at the church off Balls Pond Road.

  • Front Room is a great café. I was checking the Jumble Trail leaflets there recently and met Martina who was having a coffee with a friend – she was introduced as “Mrs Jumble Trail” because the Jumble Trail was her idea.

  • I’m running the Finsbury Park Jumble Trail on 11 October, so got quite excited to see there are 500 art students who have just moved into Sketch House (between John Jones and the Park Theatre) – just imagine 500 art students on the Jumble Trail!

Witty picture on the Death Cafe Finsbury Park facebook page, see

Witty picture on the Death Cafe Finsbury Park facebook page, see

What happens at a Death Cafe?
“About 20 of us will sit in small groups. We’ll go round the table asking what’s brought each person… and that usually turns into a massive conversation. We don’t have an agenda, conversations naturally evolve,” explains Caroline who used to help out at the Death Café in Hampstead at the Café Rouge which was run by Josefine Speyer who, with her husband, founded the Natural Death Centre which used to be located further up Blackstock Road, but which is now based in Twyford, Berkshire.

“People come because they are curious. It’s always a very diverse group and lots of people come back again,” adds Caroline. “People often say they feel liberated by the conversation because generally people don’t talk about death. The big questions might include should assisted suicide be legal, does consciousness continue after a body dies and how do people deal with grief.”

grim reaperAlthough some Death Café participants work in the death industry – in hospices or medical law or might be terminally ill or recently bereaved themselves – Caroline, who also works as an artist, explains that it’s not a support group. “There is a deep sharing. Conversations are often about someone who is close to dying. The Death Café encourages people to think about how they want to die, and all the different options. Did you know that you can keep the body at home? Also the importance of  power of attorney and a living will. Sharing information is a great way to empower ourselves.”

Everyone of us has to face birth and death. Over the past 50 years being born has become a far more humane process which people are perhaps far too willing to talk about (and share on Facebook). In contrast people seem to fear that talking about death tempts fate. Poet Dylan Thomas told us: “Do not go gentle into that good night,” telling us to “rage at the dying of the light.” Thanks to Caroline, and her co-cordinator Liz Wong, who is also an end of life doula, Finsbury Park’s Death Café offers a practical way to start talking about any questions we may have about death and dying at Blighty café on Blackstock Road, just opposite the N4 library.

Expect a cosy atmosphere and no one shushing you when you announce ‘I’m dying for a cup of tea’.


Death/End of Life doula – an assistant who helps people in the final stages of their life at their home. For more info see this Guardian article

Info about an early Death Café in the Independent

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via at Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


10 Responses to “Caroline Dent: Death Cafe co-ordinator”

  1. Kitchen-Counter-Culture October 14, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    I would so love to make it to this someday.

    • nicola baird blogs October 14, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

      hello Kitchen Counter Culture, Well it could be something that gets set up in a cafe near where you live… Glad you liked the post. Nx

  2. Megan McCoig October 15, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    Great post!!

  3. xavierrod October 15, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    such an interesting blog! love it

    • nicola baird blogs October 15, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

      healthy junk food – thanks for your comment, a cunning way to get nominated for the blog of the week prize. Nicola

  4. dila toplusoy October 15, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    Great post!

  5. Anisa October 15, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    Cool blog! 🙂

  6. gigihood October 15, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    very interesting post : )

  7. lannaydt October 15, 2015 at 9:48 am #


  8. nicola baird blogs October 15, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    thank you.

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