In this article:

Here you can find everything you need to know about Death Cafés in the UK. Including what to expect, finding one near you, and how to set up your own Death Café. Would you like to talk about death in a friendly and non-judgemental setting? Whether you’ve lost a loved one, are facing terminal illness, or are generally interested in death and how we cope with it, Death Cafés offer an understanding and compassionate space to talk through your ideas, thoughts and feelings.

What is a Death Café all about?

Put simply, a Death Café - sometimes known as a “death awareness café” - is an event where people come together to talk about death. These people could be friends or strangers. What they have in common is that they want to discuss dying and what it means. Death Cafés are organised by volunteers all over the world. They’re always run on a not-for-profit basis. 

How did the Death Café movement start?

The Death Café movement was founded by Jon Underwood. He was inspired by the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz, who had developed a similar concept called café mortel. Jon held the UK’s first Death Café event in Hackney, East London in September 2011. Jon believed it was important to talk about death, even though people often find it uncomfortable. He felt people would rather leave discussions about dying to funeral directors, doctors and religious leaders. In his words, “we have lost control of one of the most significant events we ever have to face”. That’s why Jon started Death Café. He wanted to help people face up to death and feel comfortable discussing it. He believed that accepting death would help them make the most of their lives. Jon Underwood died in 2017. His mother and sister continue his work promoting death awareness today.

What happens at a Death Café?

A Death Café doesn’t always happen at a café. People have held Death Cafés in all sorts of places, including libraries, cemeteries and even the Royal Festival Hall. The first Death Café was held at founder Jon Underwood’s house. Usually, the meeting lasts 2 hours and about 12 people attend. There are no set subjects or questions. People simply turn up, drink tea, eat cake and talk about death. The person who organises the event often acts as the facilitator. It's their job to guide the discussion and make sure it stays respectful and feels safe. The meetings are meant to provide a confidential place for free and open conversation. They’re not meant to offer bereavement counselling or information about death. However, grieving people can go to a Death Café if they want to discuss death and dying.

How can I find a Death Café near me?

Death Cafés have become very popular. Since the first event in London, people have held over 15,000 Death Cafés in more than 80 countries – including the UK, USA, Australia and Thailand. The best way to find a local Death Café is to check the organisation’s website. It includes a map that lists all previous and upcoming Death Café locations. You can also search by entering a town or postcode. 

Death cafés in the UK 

Here, you can find some of the most popular death café locations in the UK. Of course, new death cafés are cropping up all the time. You can find a full list of all upcoming Death Café events here

Death cafés in London 

Bonnington Centre Death Café 

Location: Bonnington Centre Community Café, SW8 1TD 

Dates: Fortnightly on Mondays 

This Death Café is informal and takes place in a lovely community centre. No week or conversation will be the same. Everyone’s encouraged to donate £1 a year to join the community centre and to bring along tea, coffee, biscuits or cakes to cover the basic costs of running the meet-ups. Please note that the group now meets in the first floor room and there isn’t a lift. 

London Death Café at the Electric Elephant 

Location: The Electric Elephant Café, SE17 3AE 

Dates: Monthly, see here for exact dates 

This Death Café is run by Jenny Wylam. You can listen to her being interviewed about this Death Café here. Please note that you need to turn up at the scheduled start time. The group has found that the flow of conversation can be disrupted by latecomers, so if you turn up late, you may be turned away. 

North East London Death Café 

Location: East of Eden Studio 1, E17 4QP 

Dates: Find dates here 

This Death Café is run by “Creating Conversations”, a group that aims to create safe spaces to speak about death, dying and grief. This Death Café requires you to book online by making a £1 donation. You’re also encouraged to purchase refreshments at the café, as refreshments aren’t provided. 

Death Cafés in Bristol 

Death Café Bristol 

Location: Spielman Café  

Dates: Find dates here 

Death Café Bristol is hosted by the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust and is held at the Spielman Café. The group discussion has no agenda or objectives. Instead, it’s an open space to speak about death and grief. You’ll need to make a small donation to join the group.

Don’t see anything close to you?

Many groups now run Death Cafés online using programmes like Zoom. These are just like the usual events, except you don’t attend in person. Most are fine with you having your camera on to see people face-to-face, or camera off for privacy.

How to run a Death Café

If you’ve noticed there aren’t any meet-ups in your area, you might be wondering how to run a death café yourself. The good news is that anyone is allowed to hold a Death Café. The events are run as a ‘social franchise’, meaning you can use the Death Café name and promote your meeting on the organisation’s website. However, it’s important that your event meets the Death Café guidelines. These cover things like how to set up the event, what refreshments to serve and your responsibilities as a host. You can read the guidelines on how to set up a death café in the UK  here.

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash.