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Taxidermy, graveyard tours and a candlelit vampire opera: London Month of the Dead is coming

Anonymous, "The ghost of Bernadette Soubirous", 1890, Albumen silver print
Anonymous, "The ghost of Bernadette Soubirous", 1890, Albumen silver print

Find death-focused days out at Brompton Cemetery and beyond at this month-long festival of macabre

Insect Taxidermy

Master the art of preserving dead insects at this fascinating workshop where you’ll learn about techniques that have been in use for 300 years. Taxidermy collector Suzette Field will walk you through the skills used in setting and pinning butterflies to create a visual display. This beginners’ course welcomes all levels and you’ll leave with your own creation. Damien Hirst isn’t the only one who knows how to get creative with a set of butterfly wings... The Dissenters’ Chapel. Tube: Kensal Green. Sat Oct 5. £45. 

Erotic Death Art

Join Dr Christina Welch – a lecturer at the University of Winchester – in the eerily beautiful surroundings of Brompton Cemetery Chapel, as she discusses erotic death art through the ages. Learn the meaning behind strange motifs of scantily clad women embracing coffins and the relationships to male figures symbolising death. Ticket price includes a welcome Hendrick’s gin cocktail, so you can raise a glass to some dead good art. Brompton Cemetery Chapel. Tube: Fulham Broadway. Sat Oct 12. £12. 

Shadow Puppet Show

No, this isn’t a The Last Shadow Puppets reunion gig, this is an actual shadow puppet show. Go behind the shadows and watch a performance of ‘The Highwayman’ and ‘The Suffolk Miracle’. There’ll be a torchlit walk through the cemetery beforehand to get you in the mood. Brompton Cemetery Chapel. Tube: Fulham Broadway. Sat 13 Oct. £12. 

A New Way of Death: a Guided Tour of Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery is one of a group of special Victorian graveyards in London known as the ‘magnificent seven’ but it’s also the most cinematic (translation: the creepiest) of the whole gang. Its nineteenth-century headstones jut out of the gnarly undergrowth, stone angels stand wrapped in tangles of overgrown ivy.  Go on a tour of its gothic monuments (including one designed by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) led by a real graveyard expert. Nunhead Cemetery. Nunhead rail. Oct 13. £12. 

 

Hyde Park Pet Cemetery

 

The Secret History of Pet Cemeteries

Uncover the peculiar history of various pet cemeteries around the UK with a talk from Professor Julie-Marie Strange, author of ‘The Invention of the Modern Dog: Breed and Blood in Victorian Britain’. Find out how the Victorians sparked a trend for animal burials that left London’s Hyde Park pet cemetery overcrowded with 600 tiny animal gravestones with epitaphs like ‘our faithful little friend Wobbles’. Brompton Cemetery Chapel. Tube: Fulham Broadway. Oct 13. £12, includes a gin cocktail. 

Morbid Ink: The Human Memorial Tattoo

In this talk at Brompton Cemetery Chapel, Dr John Troyer – an academic who specialises in end-of-life issues – will discuss the ‘memorial tattoo’ and bereavement. You’ll hear about some next-level approaches to the memorial tat, like the practice of mixing the cremated ashes of a loved one into the tattoo ink.  Heart on your sleeve, literally. Brompton Cemetery Chapel. Tube: Fulham Broadway. Sat Oct 19. £12.

‘Der Vampyr’

It’s been 200 years since the publication of ‘The Vampyre’, a short work of blood-sucking fiction by John Polidori, who was Lord Byron’s doctor. When Byron challenged Polidori and author Mary Shelley to write a ghost story, he came up with ‘The Vampyre’, and Shelley’s eventually became ‘Frankenstein’. Celebrate the book’s bicentennial at a supernatural opera by romantic-era composer Heinrich Marschner, which is loosely based on Polidori’s gothic tale. Your descent into the netherworld begins here. Brompton Cemetery Chapel. Tube: Fulham Broadway. Oct 26-27. £15, includes a gin cocktail. 

The Frankenstein Phantasmagoria

The Victorians were devils for a bit of spiritualism. Before cinema, Europeans would spook themselves stupid by going to a ‘phantasmagoria’ show, a kind of horror theatre performed with magic light lanterns and spectral sound effects. The Frankenstein Phantasmagoria candlelit concert will evoke the smoke and mirrors of those Victorian days by retelling Mary Shelley’s story using magic lantern projections. The musical accompaniment will emanate from the ‘Kosmische Glass’, an instrument and installation constructed using liquid-filled glasses. Phantasmagoria will take place in an actual cemetery, making it a show for the living and the dead. Brompton Cemetery. Tube: Fulham Broadway. Nov 1. £15, includes a gin cocktail.

Can’t make it to any of the above? Take yourself on a tour of the most magnificent cemeteries in London

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