Challenges within an ever-evolving funeral profession will be met, as organisations representing all aspects of the industry work together for the good of their members.
That was the over-arching view at a special gathering of one professional organisation that is growing in strength across the UK.
Dignitaries from both SAIF and the NAFD were guests of honour at a gala dinner to mark the 10th anniversary of the Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC). With a membership now approaching 120, the AOIC held its annual weekend conference at Liverpool’s Crowne Plaza Hotel – with SAIF President Paul Bowley and the Second Vice- President of the NAFD David Barrington as honoured guests.
Along with AOIC members, they enjoyed an evening’s entertainment, which included a stunning performance by classical singer Stephanie Guidera. From Liverpool, Stephanie left her audience entranced with her crystal-clear vocals as she performed a note-perfect solo set.
Earlier in the evening, after a highly successful conference afternoon, both Paul and David were keen to support efforts to further unite the profession.
Paul said: “There has been a huge change in the profession over the years and it is associations such as this which are moving forward and helping their members. In my 38 years in the business I have seen many changes and one of the biggest has been the rise in the popularity of celebrants.
“As funeral directors, that we entrust the families we serve into your care and your help at a time in people’s lives when they have lost loved ones is something to be proud of. The AOIC, I am sure, will go from strength to strength,” he told delegates.
Adding his thanks for the gala dinner invitation, David said: “Over the years funerals have become more complex and as a result the relationship between the funeral directors and celebrants has become more important. You do a very special thing and the work you do is reflected upon us.”
Thanking the dignitaries for attending, AOIC Executive Chair Philip Spicksley declared the weekend conference a big success with celebrants from across the UK – and Jersey – attending.
“The Association continues growing and we wanted this anniversary year to be special. As we go from strength to strength we need to invest in resources, knowledge and experience and we will live up to our strapline, ‘the voice of the celebrant’,” said Mr Spicksley.
New AOIC President Harry Foster has pledged to support members and work for the greater good of the profession.
Mr Foster was officially declared the Association’s new President at its tenth anniversary conference, gala dinner and AGM – held in Liverpool. He succeeds Philip Spicksley who takes up a new role as Executive Chair. Meanwhile, celebrants Emily Rawlinson and Veronika Sophia Robinson were officially declared Vice-President and second Vice-President. A new committee was also formed, to guide the ever-growing AOIC into the next 12 months.
Mr Foster said: “I intend to be a proactive President with an open door policy. If I can answer the question I will or find someone who can. I will not pretend that the role of President will be easy, but I will try my very best to represent our members’ best interests.”
Welcoming the onset of regulation, he added: “Make no mistake, as Celebrants we face many challenges in the future including the rise of direct cremations, the changes in the Data Protection Act and legislation regarding the Marriage Act.
“I am in favour of regulation of our industry because that is what celebrancy has become – an industry. But we must ensure that any regulation is fair and appropriate.”
Meanwhile, accepting the role of Vice-President, Emily Rawlinson said: “I am looking forward to representing our members as we work together to move the Association forward.”
As he welcomed Mr Foster into the President’s role, Mr Spicksley was delighted with the last 12 months and is looking forward to the next year – working with other organisations to look at the likely onset of regulation within the profession.
“It has been a busy and eventful year and I pledge that myself and other Committee members that I will strive to move the AOIC forward during this coming year and I hope that by this time next year I can report a membership double that of today,” he said.
The successful weekend included an afternoon conference seminar with talks from Dr Sharon McDonnell of Suicide Bereavement UK and Association Media Manager Michelle Lalor.Tags: AOIC, Association of Independent Celebrants, celebrancy, Celebrants, conference, Harry Foster, Philip Spicksley, President