Lonely Funeral by F Starik and Maarten Inghels
Every year, a large number of people living in our towns and cities – the homeless, suicides, illegal immigrants, junkies, drug ‘mules’, victims of crime and, above all, old people living alone – are found dead. Sometimes, they are not discovered for weeks or months, and it is often hard to ascertain who they are. Their funerals are held without relatives or friends and acquaintances being present; the only people in attendance are the pall-beares, perhaps someone from the Department of Social Services, the cemetery management and the funeral director. In Amsterdam in 2002, the poet and artist F Starik, deeply moved by the desolation of these solitary funerals, initiated ‘The Lonely Funeral’ project and seven years later in Antwerp, the Flemish poet Maarten Inghels set up a project of the same name. The idea of the project was to establish a network of poets who would write a personal poem for the deceased person based on research into their life and read it out at their funeral as an affirmation of their existence. To date, well over 300 ‘lonely funerals’ have been attended by poets in both cities and volumes of prose and poetry about some of these forgotten lives have been published in Amsterdam and Antwerp respectively.