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  • Writer's pictureSheldon Goodman

Big Fat Goths Explore Arnos Vale

‘It seems that there is a rise in tombstone tourism’ started the article. Within the past month or so, awareness to cemeteries as places to visit in the capacity of a social/educational form rather than as a place of remembrance has hit the headlines and I (as well as others) have spoken to various news outlets regarding this new form of so-called dark tourism. Many people are willing to give cemeteries a chance and see them as more than just a place to inter someone. They are, as I keep trying to stress, museums of people.

However the aforementioned Guardian article, written by Barbara Ellen, fell in to the unfortunate trap of making a dissapointing generalisation about those who visit cemeteries and even described those who do as ‘big fat goths’ embracing ‘an old hobby in brighter clothes’. Sadly, she misses the point of seeing a cemetery as somewhere more than just a place to bury a body and in this week’s blog I’m positing the questions; can a cemetery be more than a cemetery?


Darmon from the Bohemian Blog visited Arnos Vale Cemetery in 2014 so I’ll leave it to him to explain its foundation and local importance. But if you want a good example tombstone tourism? Come here and visit.

Mark invited me down for the weekend and as an awesome photographer, I jumped at the chance. Two BFG’s together.


What is remarkable about Arnos Vale is that they have successfully interepreted the open space as an open air exhibition and museum – infact more weddings happen here than funerals, nowadays. Like an expertly manicured Classical churchyard; the chapels and the woodland backdrop makes this an attractive and breath taking place to take a stroll, have a cup of tea or re-engage with Bristol’s past.


The Cemetery in its heyday in the late 19th Century.  From the Arnos Vale website


Mark and Janine from Arnos Vale discuss history stuff © Sheldon K Goodman 2017


Kensal Green used to sell guide books in the 1850’s to those who paid a visit and they weren’t alone.  Arnos recognises heritage, nature and education exist together and should be demonstrated to keep the site relevant and current to the local population.


‘At its peak Arnos Vale had seven cremation furnaces and held up to 30 cremations per day. With several furnaces running at once, conditions in the crematorium could be unpleasant. Temperatures reached up to 40 degrees…respiratory problems were a common side effect of the job.’ – info from a display board below the Cafe.


This is on top of other things you can do within these alls – yoga classes, storytelling workahops, classroom activities, go on a pilgramage and even get married. As cemeteries fill up and burial space becomes constricted, why aren’t more people utilising them as community assets? We already have a number of other events in Churches/other faith centres already; can’t this use be extended to a cemetery as well?


All photography © thehistoryb0yphotography 2017.

#Coffee #history #Bristol #Museum #Weddings #Events #Instagram #Heritage #Exhibition #nature #ArnosVale #DarkTourism

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