We wanted to get people talking about death and dying in a relaxed, friendly environment and on their own terms, so we launched #BeerChat a while back for Dying Matters Week. It was our way to make the conversation less scary. 

With four different beer mats designed, each mat had a question on one side with an explanation about why the hospice was asking that question, with a fact or statistic on the other side.

Staff and volunteers took the beer mats out to local pubs and bars where they left them placed on tables and bars. The  beer mats included a QR code that linked to a page on the hospice’s website for those who were interested in learning more about the Dying Matters Awareness Week.

Details on the four beer mats were:

  • No regrets? Will you look back and wonder ‘if only…’ or ‘I wish I had…’ and what would that be? The back explained about Bronnie Ware’s work (author of best-selling memoir The Top Five Regrets of the Dying) and suggested people address things today that may become regrets of the future
  • Do you have a will? Who would you leave your favourite things to? Who would benefit most? What about your digital legacy, what will happen to your social media accounts when you’re gone? The back stated that 60% of the UK adult population doesn’t have a will and gave details of the hospice’s Free Wills Month (the following month).
  • How would you like your funeral to be? Have you thought about it – burial or cremation? Hymns or pop music? What sort of reception would there be afterwards? The back stated that only 30% of UK adults have discussed their funeral wishes and gave details of the Dying Matters My Funeral Wishes leaflet.
  • How will you be remembered? What is the quality that makes you stand out? What do others love about you? Do you have an achievement you are really proud of? The back said that it’s difficult to blow our own trumpets, but that we have all done something wonderful.

The idea with the beer mats was to generate conversation in a relaxed environment. Simon, our corporate Community Fundraiser linked them up with pubs he thought would be receptive and then members of staff took them to their own locals. Others went out to distribute them to pubs and bars within our catchment area.

A total of 48 pubs and bars took 50-60 mats each and quite a few were seen on tables there over the following few weeks, with anecdotal feedback indicating that they were received well by the public.

A record shop in Eastbourne that has a monthly quiz night, had their quiz master explain the concept while people had a break between rounds – the proprietor said it got people talking. A member or staff was out with friends in a pub where the mats were out which sparked a discussion around the table with people discussing their end of life wishes. In addition, Harvey’s Brewery put the mats out on tables during Eastbourne Pride in July.

There were 85 visits to the specific page on St Wilfrid’s website about Dying Matters Week- a significant figure as they were all unique visitors.

It was so well received so it's likely to be something that we repeat in future years.

Liz Silvester, our Communications Manger said: ‘St Wilfrid’s vision is of a community where people talk opening about dying, live well until the end of their life and where nobody dies alone, afraid or in pain, so we always relish Dying Matters Awareness Week and like to come up with a way of getting more people talking more openly in more ordinary settings.’

The winners of the Hospice UK awards will be announced on November 27 at its annual conference.