Putting Inclusive Cemeteries and Crematoria on the Public Spaces Agenda

The CeMi project has formally come to an end with the launch of the project at the Neth-ER centre in Brussels on 17th November, followed by our final team meeting.

Over the last three years we have been examining cemeteries and crematoria as public spaces of inclusion-exclusion, especially for migrants and minorities, in six countries in Northwest Europe as part  wider set of European projects exploring public spaces and cultural integration (www.cemi-hera.org).

As project leader, I would like to say an enormous thank you to all our participants in Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland (UK) and Sweden, including community groups, cemetery and crematoria professional bodies and workers, clergy and celebrants. We have also appreciated the support of our project Partners at Tot Zover, Terebinth and the RTPI, and our Advisory Board members. This is also an opportunity to say a huge thank you to the CeMi research team who – like many others – have had to support each other and keep going through the challenges of the pandemic and personal bereavements.

Key highlights and outputs from the CeMi project

We addressed the Covid-19 pandemic through revised research questions and data collection and several widely viewed blogposts, including one stressing the importance of different ritual needs even at times of crisis and have contributed to various media events and reports.

This animation, commissioned by the team from animator Stacy Bias, explains why different people have different funeral rituals and the implications for cemeteries and crematoria. This has already been welcomed by professional, community and academic networks in Belgium, France and Australia, as well as in the case study countries.

We have summarised findings and recommendations from the project in a number of different formats for different audiences:

There are Short Briefing Notes on each of the project case study towns/cities (Cork, Drammen, Dundee, Eskilstuna, Leeuwarden, Luxembourg City, Maastricht and Umea). These  highlight key issues relating to migrant and minority provision in cemeteries and crematoria and examples of good practices in each location, as well as suggestions from international practice in Europe. These briefing notes have been translated into relevant minority languages for each location to provide feedback to local communities and service providers (be on the lookout for additional uploads of translations).

The overall findings and recommendations from across the CeMi project case studies can be found by clicking here. This report is available in Dutch, English, French, Norwegian and Swedish.

Report recommendations include:

  • public cemeteries and crematoria design, layout and services should provide for all citizens, including diverse religious-cultural groups in the locality
  • regular review of cemetery-crematoria governance and management in light of inclusivity criteria (particularly with reference to faith-based dedicated burial grounds, perpetual grave rights and access to the cremator)
  • future planning and design to be framed in the light of local demographic changes increasing dialogue between municipal/ cemetery-crematoria staff and diverse local communities regarding changes, costs and co-design
  • creating opportunities for diverse local communities to interact and to understand different practices, e.g. through public events, volunteering opportunities and communal social spaces e.g. seating areas and an on-site café
  • zoning of leisure activities, especially where running, cycling and dog walking are allowed

In our open access research papers we have looked at the different ways in which cemeteries and crematoria are regulated and managed across the six European countries we have studied (Nordh et al. 2021); and argued that inclusive cemeteries and crematoria are an important – but often forgotten – aspect of the wider inclusive public space agenda (Maddrell et al. 2022). Be on the lookout for two new edited books by team members in 2023.

The CeMi project was one of several projects highlighted by the Luxembourg National Funding Agency (FNR) in 2022.  Sonja Kmec, Luxemburg’s CeMi Principal Investigator, explained: ‘In Luxembourg City’s cemeteries conformity reigns, far from reflecting the diversity of the population. How this affects migrants and minorities is being explored as part of [our] international project.’

The pandemic meant that we didn’t get to hold all our planned community events in our case study locations, but we came up with some imaginative alternatives (including an outdoor exhibition in Luxembourg) and lots of online materials, and completed the project and its core outputs which are available via the website at Exhibitions and Animations and at Video and Poster Presentations. Please also leave feedback by clicking here. We will also be having follow-ups on activities in 2023 (watch this space, Eskilstuna and Cork!)

We hope that CeMi findings and recommendations will inform ongoing cemeteries and crematoria design, planning and regulation in Europe, resulting in more community dialogue and understanding, and – ultimately – more inclusive public spaces and services.

Please feel free to share CeMi outputs and links, complete the online exhibition feedback form, and contact us if you would like to know more.

Professor Avril Maddrell


CeMi Project Leader

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