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Shining the light on night funerals

Graveyard at sunset

Burial sites in the UK have been under the spotlight in recent months, with the high demand for graves causing some councils to propose grave sharing schemes. Another problem in our cemeteries is the lack of daylight hours available to bury our loved ones during the darkest months of the year. This has caused many to introduce funerals under floodlights to increase the number of burials that some sites can offer.

On the shortest day of the year there are less than eight hours of daylight. As a result, funerals can only take place until about 3:30pm.

Every year the average number of deaths that occur in the UK spikes during the colder months, putting increased pressure on funeral directors and cemeteries. During the winter months, this can increase to over 40,000 more deaths that in the summer.

Cemeteries that want to introduce this lighting will first have to test them on some mock funerals at night to ensure that they do not pose any health or safety risks. Birmingham’s Sutton New Hall Cemetery is one such site where they have trialled and erected floodlights. A spokesman for the council said, “This will offer families greater flexibility over when they say goodbye to loved ones.”

In many cases, the addition of these floodlights has increased the service times to 7pm, extending their service for up to 3.5 hours in some cases. Families using this lighting, however, are expected to pay for the service, with a £50 charge in some cemeteries.

The extension of burial times has been welcomed in areas with a greater number of Jewish or Muslim residents, who traditionally bury their loved ones within 24 hours. Statistics from the Pew Research Center suggest that the proportion of Muslims in the UK is set to rise to 11 per cent by 2050, increasing the demand for same-day funerals and greater flexibility in burial times.

Evening funeral services and burials could well be the future for a lot of our cemeteries. Although for the moment their use is intended to offer the same service hours throughout the year, perhaps in future you can expect to choose to have a funeral during the day or late into the night.

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