When James Blackburn, head of ScotMid Funerals, organised ScotMid Co-operative’s first conference to coincide with the Edinburgh Fringe it was inevitable it would be nicknamed the Scottish Funeral Fringe and turn into a very enjoyable and even entertaining day as well as educational.
When I discovered I would be in the line up against the renowned and respected historian Brian Parsons the pressure was on. With thirty years in the profession under his belt, a distinguished career in training others and former editor of The Funeral Service Journal Brian Parsons is undoubtably top of the tree. I’ve known him for eleven years and never failed to be amazed at his positive contribution and commitment. Off stage he is a gem too and my wife’s favourite driver (he drives an Aston Martin). Finally the big day arrived and as I sat beside Brian I let it out, “Brian, I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be speaking at a conference alongside you.” With a wry smile, a glint in his eye and perfectly timed dry humour Brian hammed up his most condescendingly funny tone to reply, “… and I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be speaking at a conference alongside you!”
There is some good advice in the New Testament where it tells us to, ‘esteem one another greater than yourself.’ When it comes to conference speaking this is a great tip as when you recognise someone really is better than you in their field you can simply sit and enjoy what they have to say without the pressure to be on a par in their subject, instead your own goal is to be focused on your own field. As such I had the joy of listening to Brian Parsons live and numerous others including Richard Arnold who had brought along some demo heads to help us with our skills. I wish I could tell you of them all as each one I could easily esteem as greater than myself, yet know that they would share the same respect for me in my field too. Inviting folk like Charles Cowling of The Good Funeral Guide along was positively radical, but this society sees the value of an outsider’s view whether that is hard-hitting or flag waving and the risk paid off.
Of all the co-operatives involved in funerals ScotMid certainly stand out in their aim to make a difference while keeping a grip on all their best values too. When I heard these people talk about their core values I couldn’t help but feel they really meant it! Conferences like these impact the speakers as much as the listeners and if this is how the funeral profession is moving in Scotland then I would hope that the next TV expose is one that exposes just how good these folk are!