Celebrant Paul McDougall made the long journey from Glasgow to Warwickshire to join AOIC colleagues at the National Funeral Exhibition.
For Paul it was a trip worth making as he played a part in raising awareness of the Association on this, its tenth anniversary year. The AOIC had a presence at the Stoneleigh-based exhibition for the three-day event.
Paul, 31, is one of a new band of professional Celebrants who are becoming part of the AOIC to enjoy the many benefits that the Association has to offer, while playing an active part in its promotion and organisation.
The former M&S manager in London’s busy Oxford Street branch, Paul opted for a change of lifestyle and pace on return to his home city, as he explained during a break from manning the AOIC’s exhibition stand.
“In looking for a new career, I considered what I liked most about the work I did as a manager and the skills- set I had – I enjoyed the people management side of the role and had always been comfortable with public speaking.
“At the time, when I was considering all of the above, I had a friend who had joined the profession, and after following his work, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” recalled Paul, who has been an AOIC member since January.
He added: “This is such a rewarding career, and the work/life balance is something I have never experienced before.”
Paul was at the exhibition with colleagues, including President Philip Spicksley, Harry Foster, and Debbie Brooke. During the event new members were attracted to join, and it was also an opportunity for present members to make new contacts.
They met with founders of several business that the Association is looking to work with in the future, including those offering personalised photo-framing and unique mementoes for loved ones.
One business – Rememberbox – was started by Netherlands-based Iris Reek, following the death of her best friend, after a battle against brain cancer.
“When she was married we all received something to remember the occasion, and I wanted to do the same when she died – creating something to remember her by,” said Iris. Her boxes can be personalised with whatever a person wants on them, and slide open to contain two memory candles – they are given to all those who attend a funeral to say goodbye.
In the future the AOIC will be working with Iris’ company to offer the boxes to members’ clients.
There was also an opportunity to catch up with old colleagues, including the Child Funeral Charity and SAIFSupport – the confidential advice and help line that AOIC members have access to.
Reflecting on a successful exhibition, President Philip Spicksley said: “As we progress as a highly professional Association offering members’ services, including public liability and professional indemnity insurance as standard, we are delighted to be here.
“Our aim is to grow and work with many other professionals within this industry to provide the very best service for all our members. It is also vital that, when we look at a growing profession that is likely to be regulated in the future, we provide a strong voice for Celebrants in the industry.”