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Funeral Punks - BBC World Service

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Funeral Punks - BBC World Service

"Presenting Funeral Punks has made me think more deeply about what I want, and what other people might need when I die. Ive learned that being able to talk openly about death is important."
Kim Tserkezie

A new wave of end of life rituals is emerging across northern England as people find creative – and sometimes anarchic – ways to say goodbye to their loved ones… from building pyramids made from ashes to getting buried in a duvet. 

RTS award winning Newcastle-based actress, presenter, writer, producer Kim Tserkezie will present a new BBC World Service radio documentary examining these facets of death and take a personal journey examining her own mortality.

“Funeral Punks” will explore how people are questioning the traditional British funeral and looking at death and funerals differently.  

Kim, perhaps best known for her role as Penny Pocket on the BAFTA award winning CBeebies show Balamory, has her own production company, Scattered Pictures who produced the documentary after being commissioned by the BBC. 

Despite being voted as ‘the best representation of a wheelchair-user on screen’ because of her role as Penny Pocket, Kim admits that finding ‘character roles’ as a wheelchair using actor has been challenging. Kim set up Scattered Pictures to create more varied and interesting roles for disabled actors as well as to showcase North East creative talent.

Kim brought in producers, Andy Jones (Radio Film) and Will Sadler (Anya Media ) to work on the show in line with her philosophy of promoting and using the best people from the region in her work. The documentary is the company’s second radio commission by the BBC following the acclaimed Migrants Mean Business in 2018.

During the forthcoming BBC World Service radio documentary show, Funeral Punks, Kim visits a variety of people and locations including an alternative funeral parlour where, behind the scenes she sees where the deceased are prepared ready for burial or cremation. 

Carl Marlow is the self-styled, working class Bad-Boy of the UK funeral Scene. He started working as a maverick undertaker in Newcastle after a family row over his mother’s funeral. He’s now on a mission to reinvent funeral traditions in Northern England. With six offices in the north east and one in Edinburgh, “Go as You Please” have changed the way that funerals are arranged. 

In the words of Mr Marlow, “We don’t employ ‘Funeral Directors’, we employ ‘nice people’: a team of people who are dedicated to helping our families through the funeral experience, and to ensure that they achieve whatever they wish for their loved ones.”

To this end, a wide range of customised coffins are offered including football teams, flags and even one made out of wooden pallets. 

Kim takes herself on an emotional roller coaster as she talks about death with her dad, Yannis in his Greek Orthodox church in Gateshead and meets a terminally ill man who has decided not to have any ceremony at all. She also reflects on her own views on death and mortality.

The show also travels to Liverpool where a People’s Pyramid is being built with each brick containing the mortal remains of someone’s ashes. The completed structure will feature the remains of 34,000 people and will take up to 200 years to build.

Kim said: “I sadly lost four people very close to me, including my mother in law and father in law, during the production of this show. My emotions were very raw at the time. Presenting ‘Funeral Punks’ has made me think more deeply about what I want, and what other people might need when I die. I’ve learned that being able to talk openly about death is important.”

The show Funeral Punks will air on BBC World Service on Tuesday 17 March, 1:30pm and online catch up services.