Good Grief, Bristol: Collaboration tackles grief with 2020 festival

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Good Grief, Bristol, will run for a week in May 2020.

By U2B Staff 

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The University of Bristol is teaming up with local charities and bereavement services on a festival to encourage conversations and discussions about grief, as numbers show most people going through bereavement don’t get the help they need.

Good Grief, Bristol will take place during the Dying Matters Awareness Week in May 2020, and will feature headline speakers, film screenings, exhibitions, workshops, music, spoken word, a pop-up shop and a Memory Kitchen.

The project, funded by Wellcome Trust, is a collaboration between the university and charities, bereavement services and cultural venues across the city. Partners include St Peter’s Hospice, Creative Youth Network, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Arnos Vale cemetery, Off The Record and Winston’s Wish.

There will be dozens of schedule events across the city during the festival, including a weekend of sessions at Colston Hall, a conference at the University of Bristol and film screenings at Watershed. 

“Grief affects everyone, yet people often don’t know how to react when someone is bereaved, and those grieving can feel isolated,” said Festival Founder Dr Lucy Selman of the University of Bristol’s Palliative and End of Life Care Research Group.

“We’re thrilled to bring Good Grief, Bristol to the city. The festival will provide many opportunities to explore this universal human experience, as well as offering unique ways to share stories and remember those who have died.”


The festival comes amid rising concerns in the UK over the alarming surge in student anxiety, mental breakdowns, depression and suicides across the country.

According to recent data, in the 12 months ending July 2017, the suicide rate among university students in England and Wales was 4.7 deaths per 100,000 students, the equivalent of one death every four days.

Last year alone, 95 university students took their lives. The University of Bristol itself was hit by a slew of student deaths since October 2016, with 11 students at the institution reportedly dying by suspected suicide within two years. Since then, that number has risen to 13.

Responding, the university has been pulling out all the stops to prevent more such incidents from occurring, such as rolling out an emergency contact system to alert parents, friends and guardians. The scheme has been used this year to contact the parents of 36 students, after 94 percent of the student population agreed to take part.

Across the UK, new guidance was issued last year to prevent suicide. Universities across the country have also been beefing up campus health services with counsellors and mental health clinicians, as well as launching awareness campaigns in partnership with local charities and federal health agencies.

But what about the impact of these deaths on families and friends? Who is helping them deal with their grief? And what about their impact on wider society and the economy?


As studies have highlighted, bereavement doesn’t just hurt the person or persons grieving – it also leaves a mark on society.

Bereaved people are less likely to be in work in the year, even two years, after suffering loss.

They are also more likely to suffer serious health problems, including disability; to be taking medication; and to be hospitalised. They are also at greater risk of dying prematurely themselves.

According to research by the University of Birmingham’s School of Nursing for British palliative care and bereavement support charity Sue Ryder, 72 percent of people had been bereaved at least once in the last five years but only 9 percent received support outside of that from family and friends.

Amongst this group, 35 percent said the support was helpful while 31 percent who did not receive support said it would have been helpful.

These issues and more will be addressed during Good Grief, Bristol.

Organisers are now welcoming applications from organisations and individuals who would like to host community events as part of the festival. Funding is available to support such community events and the closing date for applications is January 31, 2020.

The initial programme for the Bristol festival to run from May 11 to 17, 2020, will be announced in late January.