ESMP open day

    Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park had its open day this weekend.  It was a great day, so much to do and a wonderful atmosphere.  But what made it special was how open and relaxed the staff and company was.

    This was the last public social event for the funeral industry (that I know of).  And it was a great day, a perfect way to end the social calendar for the industry.

    As I arrived I saw everything was set up at the cafe and reception center.  But I decided to park in the crematorium car park, it is only a short walk and had a lot of free space.  Actually I was rather surprised by how empty the car park was.  There were maybe eight cars, all of which I suspected were staff cars.

    You can view more pictures at this facebook album, or at this public postimage gallery.

These colourful signs were up allover the place.
The Main area:
    Even though the road is a quicker walk I decided to go through the gardens.  It was such a lovely day, and ESMP has wonderful gardens at this time of year.

    There was a surprising amount of things set up at the reception area.  They had a school band, face painting, monuments display, lawyer, flower arranging worksop, urns/plaques display, family history booth and more.  All in a nice area, close together ut not crammed up.

    ESMP had a few different displays about the open day.  Some featured urns and memorial plaques, but this one had more emphasis on ESMP itself.  With show bags, brochures, pamphlets and more.  However, most interesting was the children's colouring book.  They had a pile of colouring books, quite unexpected.  Between this, the face painting, the open lawns and more ESMP was actually a very good day for children and families.

One of the ESMP displays.

    The school band was fun, it gave it a festival style feel.  I only see school bands at festivals or fetes, so I associate them with these type of events.  To have them playing made me feel like I was back at my local school fete, which was a nice atmosphere.
The band, playing away.
    One thing I liked was the flower workshop.  They had people coming up and making their own flower boxes.  The flowers to pick from were somewhat limited, but considering it was free I was impressed.  It was a very nice touch, getting active participation and doing something colourful and fun.  Everyone doing it looked as though they were having a good time.  One couple I overheard commented on how fun and different it was.
Some boxes for the flower workshop.
    Around all the corridors were artworks from the Randwick Art Society.  Again I thought this was nice, to see a little splash of colour and something which reminded me of a fete.

    The 'Cape Banks Family History Society' was set up on one side of the room.  Basically they are a group who trace family history.  The people I spoke with were rather fun, and had an amusing outlook.  Good people, but I know very little about this group or event his field so I have very little to say.

    Perhaps the most surprising thing of the day was a display by 'Patrick Lim & Associates' law group.  I have wondered about the law and funerals, it is a rather important part of the process, wills and such.  But I have never seen a lawyer display at an open day, nor had much interaction with lawyers in this context.  It was a very refreshing sight to see a lawyer.  He was also great to talk with, friendly and informative.

    Overall ESMP had a huge variety of things to see and do.  Even though it was so small it was comparable to the Rookwood open day.  But more importantly was the atmosphere.  It was a very friendly and relaxed day, certainly family friendly.  With a school band and face painting display and open grass to play or sit on, there was certainly room for children and families.  This is a changing attitude, that children are being allowed into places like this slowly.  Macquarie Park Crematorium has toy boxes and a playground for this reason.

    It was clear ESMP had gone out of its way to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome.  Children and adults alike.  I will discuss this in more detail in the last section about the staff.

I also felt the attendance was very good, maybe it could have done with a few more people.  There were enough people to make the event feel active and lively, but not so many that it felt crowded or too busy.  The only place lacking in people was the hearse display and the tours, which was unfortunate.  However I still had a great time, and so did everyone else I talked with or overheard.

Crematorium tour:
    Unfortunately I missed the first tour, but had plenty to do while I waited for the second one.  We left right on time, not too early or too late.  The guide joked about how they left too early last time and wanted to get it right this time.

    We began the tour in the South Chapel, the tour only had a few people, somewhere around 10 in total.  A respectable number but not a huge amount.
Screen outside the chapel.
I should note that the text appears wonky in the photo due to my camera.
The text was straight in person.
    The tour started with a slide show, naturally I sat at the back to see what everyone was doing.  The presentation wasn't bad, it was fairly informative of how things work.  Two things stuck out to me.  The first was when he mentioned the law on how long crematoriums can hold a body before cremating.  It was strange, and reminded me of funeral industry rhetoric.  How funeral companies feel the need to 'reassure' the public of their practices.

    The second thing which stood out was much more common.  It was how often they talked of how the nameplate stays with the ashes at every part of the process.  For example; "the nameplate follows each step".  In some instances they emphasised this, others they just said it causally on the side.  But it was said quite often after halfway through the speech.

    To me this was a wonderful and amusing case of funeral rhetoric.  Reassuring us of how identity would not be lost and ashes would not be mixed up.  One can maintain their identity, their individuality even in ashes form.

    After the presentation we went up to the back of the chapel.  They showed us the catafalque  explained how the coffin is taken away and such.  Next we went through to the back room, the cremation area.

    As we entered I noticed people were hesitant to walk too far in.  Not scared or unsettled, just unsure and slightly nervous.  This is something we do whenever we enter a new room, especially as part of a group, we tend to stay close to the door.  It was amusing to see it happen here, how people even when encouraged are slow to walk too far into a room.  But it also indicates a sense of caution and  uncertainty on their part.

    We all stood by the cremators while the guide explained what each thing was.  Pointing out the charger, the catafalque, where the buttons were and so on.  I noticed how common photos were.  More photos were taken on this tour than any other crematorium tour.

    They even had a profesional photographer there.  Which was a great way to encourage people to take photos.  Once the photographer showed up and started snapping away others go cameras out to.  It made it ok and others felt comfortabel to take photos to.  I don't think ESMP had the photographer to encourage others, but it worked.  It made people much more comfortable to investigate and photograph.

    I also find at these tours people are interested by 'doing' or demonstrations.  Simply opening a cremator door will always grab more attention than pointing out the door.  Whenever the guide interacted something (by picking it up, moving it, etc) everyone was more engaged.

    At one point as they were explaining where the ashes came out of the cremator, a visitor said "there's no mix up".  The message of correct identity was clearly conveyed to everyone.  Nobody doubted that ashes would be mixed up or lost.

    Overall the tour was very casual and informal.  They simply took us around the crematorium and discussed everything with us.  It was a nice and relaxed style, in the background two staff were even laughing about something.  Which added to the fun atmosphere and made everyone feel comfortable.

    I overheard one woman saying how someone on the tour had been nervous.  Worried about what the tour would show or hold.  But that once the tour was over this person was incredibly "relaxed, and relieved" about the crematorium.

    I would strongly recommend this tour to anyone worried or concerned about cremation.  It demonstrated all the safety systems in place (like preserving identity and protecting staff).  But more importantly it did it in a very relaxed way.  This tour reminded me of the Catholic Crematorium tour at Rookwood in terms of casualness.

    The thing which made this tour was the staff, joking away in the background at one point.  I noticed that once people saw this they started to talk with each other more, and asked the guide a lot more questions.  It made them feel comfortable.

    I have been inside the back area of ESMP twice while working at a funeral place.  Both times it was as clean as during the tour.  Obviously they tidied up a bit, putting away some tools.  However overall it is always to this standard.

The holding room where coffins can be stored.
The charger.

Funeral home tour:
    After the crematorium tour I went on the funeral home tour.  I was most interested and excited by this tour, most funeral homes don't let people into the premises.  And I knew very little about ESMP funeral home.  So it was a great opportunity to learn more about this company and see inside another funeral home.

They had funeral cars on display by the funeral home, but more on that later.
    This tour was very informal and relaxed, which was wonderful.  Making the tour casual instantly removes a lot of certain attitudes and feelings.  One is not entering a stuff and silent place where the dead are prepared.  Instead one is entering a friendly business.

    We started in the arranging room, where many would go when 'starting' the funeral process.  I immediately noticed the lighting was very warm and inviting.  They had gone for a warm colour light, not a white light, and used soft lighting rather than direct lights.  Which was very nice and comfortable  but unfortunately my iPhone struggles with photos in this light.

    The thing that stood out to me most was the toy box.  In one corner sat a box with various children's toys, open and ready to be used by anyone.  So far I have only found toys or things for children at Macquarie Park Crematorium, but not in the arranging room.  This is the first time I've seen something like this in an arranging room.  Personally I think it's a wonderful idea, making a place for children in the industry.  It will help adults, as it gives them a non-awkward place to bring children.  But it also changes perceptions and attitudes about funerals and acceptance.  One little toy box like this can have so many bigger and better impacts.  More funeral places need them.

    Another interesting thing was that all arrangements are done straight on the computer.  There's no paper form, it's typed up right away.  This would save a lot of time and trouble compared with other funeral homes who write it down then type it up.

    ESMP does not have a coffin display room, so instead they show people their coffins on the large TV screen.  I think this is a good idea, the display room is nice but old fashioned and difficult.  One has to maintain stock and physically go see it.  But digital pictures can be changed easily as stock changes and can be viewed anywhere.  The only down side is one cannot feel or smell the coffins.  But I have noticed others don't physically engage with coffins much so this is only a minor issue.

    Next was the viewing room, where coffins and bodies can be viewed.  It was interesting to have this option outside a chapel.  The room felt very casual and intimate, more like a family lounge room than a formal funeral room.  There were few chairs, instead they mostly had long couches.

    This room also has a large TV screen.  One could use this to view picture, videos or just play music.

    The use of couches rather than chairs sends a strong communal message.  Couches are things we share, more than one person sits on a couch and usually in close proximity to one another.  Chairs on the other hand are physically separated and individual.

    Further more couches are something to be relaxed on, usually seen in the family loung room in front of a TV.  Chairs are formal things, reserved for the dinner table or events.  The use of couches rather than chairs here is very interesting and completely changes the feel and use of the room.

    Next we moved onto the mortuary, the place I was really interested to see.  The thing a few funeral homes are most scared of exposing.  A few people who are in the industry but couldn't go to the open day asked for photos of the mortuary.  So here they are!

    Below is the mortuary whiteboard, used to record and display important information about the deceased in the mortuary.  Such as identity, when the body arrived, size and so on.

    The ESMP funeral home only does around 100 funerals a year.  This number is growing over time, and it is a very new funeral home.  But for now it means they only need nine places in the fridge.

    Because the funeral home was only built a few years ago everything is new and state of the art.

    They even have a lifting machine, such a rare and expensive item for such a small funeral home.  I have't really heard of these outside large funeral homes like InvoCare.

    I was talking with the guide, who said it was a requirement they get the machine to open the funeral home.  This was odd, as many other places don't have a lifting machine.  Even the coroners only got one this year.  But maybe the law has changed recently or it is something specific to their area.

    A nice touch was putting the washing machine and dryer inside the mortuary.  It makes washing things easier.

    ESMP mortuary has an emergency shower.  I've never see or heard of one in a mortuary before.  Another staff member told me the reason they have it is because this is a 'disaster mortuary'.  If the local hospital mortuary goes down or is inundated in an emergency then the ESMP mortuary can be used.  There are very few funeral homes in this area, many don't have a mortuary on site.  So the ESMP mortuary is probably the second largest around here.

    Overall I thought the mortuary was very good, clean, organise, incredibly well equipped and obviously cared for.  In talking with the staff I found they took pride in their mortuary, rightly so.

    Next we moved onto the trim room, where coffins are stored and prepared.  It was a fairly standard trim room, coffins stored along the walls.  A work bench with tools to the side and trolleys to put coffins on.

    If needed this room could double as a display room.  It is clearly clean and organised enough to also be used to show people various coffins.  So if one did want to 'feel' or 'interact' with the coffin they could still do so at ESMP.

    Prices had been put up by the name of each coffin.  I thought this was a nice touch, as many people wonder about pricing.  So there it was, clear for all to see if interested.

    After this we looked at the garage, nothing too special here.  But then the guide pointed something out which really caught my attention.

    Below is a rather innovative and cleaver solution to a common issue.  ESMP use a special refrigerated room to store medical waste.  This gives them a place to keep it out of the way, but more importantly stops it from smelling.

    The smell is contained to the room, and the cold temperature reduces how much things smell anyway.  Such a good idea to keep the rest of the funeral home fresh.

Door to the medical waste room.
    We ended the tour with the funeral home chapel.  It's a nice little chapel, with enough seats for about 70 people.  There was a coffin on display up the front, to demonstrate how the chapel could be used.

    I was surprised by how innovative the funeral home is.  For such a small funeral home they are certainly at the cutting edge for ideas and equipment.  Little things like having a toy box and big things like the medical waste fridge demonstrate ESMP is thinking ahead.  They do not just have standard funeral home attitudes, they are trying new things in a very positive way.  Almost every room had something new and cleaver about it that I don't see or hear of very often.

Hearse Display:
    Outside the funeral home were several cars, all lined up and on show.  I was surprised to see the transfer car among them.  Not only on display but open so one could see inside.  Such an odd and unusual thing.  Actually, this is the first transfer car I have seen on public display.

    ESMP have one transfer wagon, a simple black car.  Inside the back is a special capsule, which can be sealed to safely contain the body.

    They also had a historic hearse on display.  This has become the staple of the open day, at every open day there's been one or more historic hearse.  But this hearse was different, rather unique.

    The first unique thing about it was a small flap on each side.  Odd because they were not for storage, and too small to put anything on.  The staff member told me how these flaps were actually meant for standing on.  That one would use them as a step to reach the roof and tie stuff down (like flowers).  This was such a cleaver solution to such a common issue.  With the modern hearse one needs to stand on the wing door or tire, neither safe or easy.

Small flap to step on.
    Another unusual thing was the back, the hearse can actually hold two coffins at once.  It has a split level and two doors, so it can carry more than one coffin without issue.

    Modern hearses have gotten rid of this idea.  Instead they use the underneath to stoor tools and useful stuff.  Like tables, chairs, umbrellas and so on.  It was a nice and unusual find, to see a hearse with this split level design.

    The ESMP hearse was also on display, shining away.  I noticed how shiny it was, as you can see in the photos below.  Obviously it had been cleaned very thoroughly.

    The ESMP is a standard modern Holden hearse.  Well looked after by the funeral home and a simple elegant design.

    The staff member was telling me how they have an 'emergency kit' in the back.  He took it out for the open day, but inside the kit are various tools to deal with various rare but important issues.  For example if the body leaks.  Again, a nice and not common idea that's actually rather simple yet effective.

The Staff:
    Throughout the day I got talking to several ESMP staff.  Everyone I spoke with was so nice and friendly.  Which is not unusual for the funeral industry.  What stood out was how open minded everyone was.  Whenever I mentioned this blog they all thought it was a good idea.  Usually when I bring up the blog funeral staff have an awkward silence for a moment.

    But not at ESMP, there wasn't even a hit of hesitation.  Later one of the managers came up to me, obviously I had been pointed out.  We had a lovely chat, he was incredibly positive about the idea of a blog.  He even talked about having recently been to a conference/presentation where the speaker had said funeral companies need more community engagement.  And he said something about a blog, so the idea was clearly not new to him.  It was something he had been thinking about.

    At one point he said how it would be a good idea to have a public comments section.  A wonderful idea I have already been exploring this week.  As he said, even if people left negative comments it would be good because the company could publicly address them and say what had been done to fix the issue.

    I was very happy to find ESMP so open and enthusiastic, from top to bottom everyone was good.  Hopefully we can develop quite a nice relationship in the future.

Final thoughts:
    Overall it was a great day, there wasn't as much volume as the Rookwood open day, but there was just as much variety.  I would say the ESMP open day was a wonderful way to end the public social calendar for the industry.  A very welcoming and positive day.

    My only criticism is that I would like to have seen more "history" type things for the place.  To me ESMP crematorium was in many ways the first real crematorium in Sydney.  It is not the oldest, but built at exactly the right time and was the standard style for such a long time.  I was hoping to see more of this rich and important history.  But that is a very minor criticism if one at all.

    After attending the open day I would say ESMP is certainly looking forward.  They are in equal running with Macquarie Park for setting the next standard in crematoriums and shaping the industry.  Macquarie Park might have a more modern premises but ESMP is already looking at more modern attitudes, such as online and community participation.

    You can view more pictures at this facebook album, or at this public postimage gallery.



  1. Wow! Thats a great review. I'm so glad that they were open to being written about in the blog. It really helps the industry if businesses can learn from eachother.

    1. Glad you liked it!

      I had a great day, the staff were so nice and open about everything. Plus it was such a family friendly day, a wonderful idea for the industry to get more children involved (something I'm might look into).


  2. Anonymous20/3/13 08:31

    The reason for a shower in newer mortuaries is a health and safety requirement. In the case of an embalmer getting sprayed with a chemical or infectious substance they can jump underneath the shower immediately.

  3. A funeral director would find the split-level design of the hearse casket compartment useful. I also like the conveyor belt arrangement on the top. If it is motorized it will be a smoother transition than if it just rolls as the bearers pull it out.

    Paul | elysianfieldsfunerals.com.au

  4. Very interesting insights into the the funeral business!

    Brisbane Funeral Videography


Never hesitate to ask a question or comment on something, this is an open minded and free space.

If you want to contact me privately do so at: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com