The Harbour on BBC Radio Bristol

Portrait of our CEO Sam Thomas standing by the front door of The Harbour building in Frogmore Street Bristol.

Earlier this morning our CEO Sam Thomas spoke with Emma Britton from the BBC Radio Bristol Breakfast Show.

Emma invited Sam to talk about The Harbour, and the services we provide to people who face death, dying and bereavement in Bristol. She also wanted to hear more about the generous donation of £10,000 we recently received from Haycombe Crematorium and Cemetery and Bath and North East Somerset Council. This funding has helped us to adapt our services during the COVID-19 crisis, and to develop our service so that counselling sessions can be done remotely online or over the phone. 

You can listen to this interview on the BBC Website for the next 28 days. The interview starts 1.19.45 into the recording. Alternatively, you can read Emma and Sam’s conversation below. 

Sam Speaks to BBC Bristol Breakfast’s Emma Britton

Everyday, we like to recognise the people and organisations who are making a difference in our area. And a crematorium in Bath has made a real difference to local families. Haycombe Crematorium has raised £10,000 from recycling the metal in artificial joins, metal plates  and medical pins that are recovered after cremation, and they’ve donated that money to the Bristol charity, The Harbour. 

Good morning Sam, not your usual source of funding I should imagine. 

How did it come about? 

Initially we had an email from the cemetery saying they wanted to make a donation. They weren’t too sure how much it would be, but we were very happy to get the email! And then had a call towards the end of June saying it was for £10,000! It was a really fantastic call to take actually. As you can imagine, we have been very busy going into lockdown, so it was a real boost for the team. 

“As you can imagine, we have been very busy going into lockdown, so it was a real boost for the team.”

Obviously, charities vary in size, so how significant is a £10,000 donation to your charity?

That’s a very significant donation for The Harbour. We are small local organisation, we are totally reliant on grants and donations, from a variety of sources so £10,000 is a big donation for us. It’s fantastic. 

Image shows The Harbour logo on the left, the Haycombe Bereavement Services logo to the right and a photograph of a team of therapists standing outside The Harbour building centre. The text reads "Today, we are thanking Haycombe Cemetery and Crematorium for a generous donation of £10,000 from their recycled metals fund. Thank you Haycombe. You make our work possible."

We’ll talk about how you will use the money in a bit, but I just want to explain to our listeners how this works. 

It’s a not-for-profit recycling of metals scheme run by the institute of cemetery and crematorium management, and Bath and North East Somerset is a member of that. Members collect the metals from the cremators, and the money raised from recycling is divided between members for distribution among charities. So, Sam, what are you going to use the money for and how important has this been? 

It’s really important for us. We have always delivered our services face to face – we deliver counselling for those facing death, dying and bereavement, and as you can imagine, with the lockdown we had to really very quickly change our service. We had to move from delivering sessions face-to-face to online or over the phone. So, as you can imagine that was a lot of work to get done very quickly. We managed to start that process the week before we went into lockdown.

But really, the funding we had from the cemetery goes towards setting up and establishing that remote service. As we ease out of lockdown, and we start to do face-to-face sessions in the future, we will still have a remote counselling service alongside that. 

How challenging had that been, switching from face-to-face contact to remote contact? When someone is facing a bereavement, of coping with it having happened, or grieving afterwards,  human contact is an important part of that even if it’s just sitting across a coffee table with someone. 

Absolutely, it’s a key part of it, also the rituals that go with death and bereavement are hugely important and they’ve been hugely impacted by the pandemic. So it’s a time of real isolation for people who have been bereaved I think. We’ve been able to respond, and the team have done incredibly well. 

“So it’s a time of real isolation for people who have been bereaved I think. We’ve been able to respond, and the team have done incredibly well.” 

This is a team of counsellors who are used to working face-to-face. It’s what they’ve done. But as an organisation I think we’ve responded really well to continue offering a service. So it’s been a real challenge, but we are out there for people who are facing death dying and bereavement.

We are a service not just for people who have been bereaved, but people who have a life-threatening illness, who might be feeling isolated at the moment and perhaps very anxious about the pandemic. So we offer counselling for people in that situation as well. 

“We are a service not just for people who have been bereaved, but people who have a life-threatening illness, who might be feeling isolated at the moment and perhaps very anxious about the pandemic. So we offer counselling for people in that situation as well. “

Do you think going forward, we are going to be left with a negative legacy of people who haven’t been able to grieve properly because of the pandemic?

I think that’s a possibility, as you said I think human contact is so important and I think there are a lot of people who have been bereaved in this time period, whether it’s from coronavirus or something else, that will have been really affected by this. 

Often,  we see bereavements in the present day being affected by past bereavements as well. And I think that is where our service can offer something really valuable. We are able to think about that, think about how things that have happened in somebody’s past might have fed the bereavement in the present day, and people find that very helpful. 

I would really encourage anyone who is in that situation to look at our website. You can find that at www.the-harbour.org.uk and there’s quite a lot of information on there about the service, so we’ve got some of our therapists talking about exactly that issue – the importance of talking about bereavement and how it’s been in lockdown, and we’ve also got some videos from people who have used the service as well. 

Sam, thank you for everything that you and your organisation does, and for talking to us this morning. Sam Thomas, Chief Executive of the Bristol based bereavement charity The Harbour, they’ve received £10,000 from Haycombe Crematorium in Bath raised through a recycling scheme. It means the Harbour will be able to support clients remotely, as well. Definitely, making a difference.

Photograph of our CEO Sam Thomas standing outside The Harbour building in Bristol. Sam is smiling. To his right there is a plague which reads "The Harbour"
Our CEO Sam Thomas