Continuing with the theme of “Funerals, Burials and Churchyards” explored in the Ecclesiastical Law Society’s conference in Bristol last weekend, on 23 April the Portsmouth Diocese reported that the national launch of the Church of England’s initiative Grave Talk will take place within the diocese next month. GraveTalk is:
“a café space, organised by a local church, where people can talk about these big questions. The conversation is helped along by GraveTalk conversation cards – 52 questions covering 5 key areas. Events have been held in locations across the country, and people of all ages have gathered to talk and share their thoughts about death, dying and funerals. GraveTalk is a café – so there is always tea and cake.
GraveTalk will be launched nationally at a giant café in Portsmouth Cathedral between 2pm and 9pm on May 19th 2015. Whether you’re just curious to find out more, or would like to run an event in your own church (visit the Church Support Hub website for more on this), you’re welcome to drop in to this event if you can.”
The GraveTalk concept and resources have been tested with parishes in partnership with the University of Staffordshire, and the diocese of Portsmouth is one of four that have been trialling these resources for a year prior to the nationwide launch this summer; at each event a pack of GraveTalk questions will distributed – the 52 specially-written open questions are intended to get people talking about death, dying, funerals and loss; “there are no answers, just conversation. And it’s open to people of all faiths and doubts.”
Although GraveTalk is not of itself concerned with religion law, the Portsmouth Diocese announcement was made on St George’s Day, the day on which Shakespeare is generally assumed to have been born. There is a tenuous link, therefore, with the “grave talk” between the two gravediggers in Hamlet when discussing the death and burial of Ophelia. Some authors suggest that this indicates the Bard had a “thorough and complete knowledge of the canon and statute law of England, relating to the burial of suicides.” Possible weekend reading, accompanied by John Dowland’s Tarleton’s Resurrection?
 Richard Tarlton, (d 1588), was Elizabeth I’s favourite clown, and some have suggested that the Yorick in Hamlet’s soliloquy was composed in his memory.