Live jazz, moonlight cinema screenings and al fresco cooking demonstrations aren’t usually pastimes you associate with a cemetery.
But they are part of a new season of cultural events and entertainment at Springvale Botanical Cemetery this summer.
Leigh Funston, media and events manager at Springvale Botanical Cemetery says, “We’re trying to re-engage with the community and new ways for people to experience the cemetery.”
It may seem in bad taste at first, but Funston explains that cemeteries used to be places for the living, too.
“In the 19th century, cemeteries were a nice place for the community to go and relax. People would often enjoy a picnic at the cemetery,” Funston says.
“Following the two World Wars and the Great Depression, death tolls increased greatly, and attitudes began to change. We’re hoping to demystify the cemetery experience, and connect with our visitors in a way that we haven’t before.”
The cemetery’s cafe, Cafe Vita et flores, has already welcomed jazz troupes for an outdoor Sunday afternoon session. Crowds enjoy a glass of wine and a spot of lunch, while the New Orleans Swamp Dogs performs a free afternoon jazz set.
Allan Koh, head chef at Cafe Vita et flores, offers cooking demonstrations on the timber decking of the cafe.
The moonlight cinema series is expected to kick off early next year. Details are yet to be confirmed, but Springvale wants the evenings to be civilised, nostalgic and sophisticated. “You’ll bring a rug and settle in a grassy open area, well removed from the headstones,” Funston adds.
The program will feature Hollywood classics, such as High Society, Singing in the Rain and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Funston continues, “We feel these films sit well with how we want to engage with the community, allowing avenues for relaxation and reflection.”
Springvale Botanical Cemetery will announce its full cinema program early in 2016.
The New Orleans Swamp Dogs will perform on Sunday December 27, Sunday, January 31 and Sunday, 28 February from 1pm to 4pm.