A life in funerals, with Ken West MBE

At age 15, Ken West began his career planting up cemetery graves.

Maybe a strange career choice for a young lad, but one driven by a deep interest in horticulture. This was the start of Ken’s 45 year-long career in bereavement services.

Ken has been involved in over 100,000 funerals, from managing graveyards to crematorium to local authority funeral services. As his knowledge of the reality of traditional funerals grew, Ken’s interest in natural burial also grew.

In 1993 he created the revolutionary green funeral market when he opened the world’s first natural burial site in Carlisle, which is spreading worldwide. Ken is widely recognised as the country’s leading expert in the movement.

Over 45 years of work, Ken improved the burial situation for stillbirths, unchanged since the 1850’s, and for foetal remains, wrote the Charter for the Bereaved, introduced the reusable coffin for cremation and created techniques for reducing pollution from cremation. In 2001 Ken was awarded the MBE for his contribution to bereavement services.

Only on his retirement in 2006 did Ken put his vast knowledge and experience of bereavement services to paper, when he published his first two books. The first – ‘A Guide to Natural Burial’ – is deemed to be the go-to manual for anyone wanting to understand the funeral and natural burial market or take control of their own funeral arrangements. The second is a novel entitled ‘R.I.P. Off! Or the British Way of Death’. It provides a unique insight into the world of death and funerals.

Here’s my interview with Ken West MBE, episode 003, on The Retirement Café podcast.


Useful links

A Guide to Natural Burial, by Ken West

R.I.P. Off! Or the British Way of Death, by Ken West


The Natural Death Centre

The Good Funeral Guide

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