[Audio] OneTrackMinds: the song that made me write a book about death

How honoured was I when filmmaker Kristian Brodie, one of the geniuses behind Next Goal Wins, asked me to perform in the very first OneTrackMinds? Very, that's how.

OneTrackMinds is one of those nights that should, and hopefully will, become a London institution. Six guests - writers, comedians, musicians - get up and talk about the song that changed their life, and then we listen to the track. It took place at the stunning East London venue, Wilton's Music Hall (it's incredible – if you haven't been, you must go. Seriously, go and listen to someone read the ingredients on a pack of biscuits if it's showing there.) 

I stole this image from the OTM website because it was too pretty not to, Your Honour.

I stole this image from the OTM website because it was too pretty not to, Your Honour.

I spoke about how a song helped me move from being a bereaved agoraphobe to someone who is travelling the world attending death festivals, writing a book and presenting a documentary.

Enjoy the terror in my voice in the moment I realise I'm attempting to tell hundreds of strangers a funny story about a dead body.

Death On the Fringe - Dr Phil Hammond: "We're all slowly returning to room temperature"

Death On the Fringe - Dr Phil Hammond: "We're all slowly returning to room temperature"

"If we don’t kill ourselves, generally we are going to die of cancer, heart disease or stroke. Those are the normal ways of dying." Well, I guess we're all friends here now - so which would Dr Phil go for, given the choice?

What is the deathtivals project?

Hello fellow mortals! Welcome to The Deathtivals Project.

Last year I published a story in the Guardian about the day my husband and I found his father dead in his house. By the time we realised why he wasn't answering his emails, he had been dead for eight days.

Long story short, the trauma led to a horrendous bout of agoraphobia. I may or may not* have tried to get over it by going to a supermarket to buy a sandwich, where I lost my nerve and threw said sandwich before running home. 

*NB I did. I did do that. 

I don't believe Britain is a good place to be when trying to overcome a trauma involving death. We're too afraid of it. We avoid direct mention of it, we have no mourning period – we're just expected to go back to work – and when people started meeting up to talk about death in the form of "death cafes", that made the news. People openly discussing death makes HEADLINES in this country.

I used to live in Mexico, where, as most people know, they have an annual festival for the dead. I started researching other countries where they have death festivals - or "deathtivals" as I now call them. This little research expedition led to what is probably the opposite of agoraphobia:

I am travelling the world attending deathtivals. Eight of them. One for every day we didn't find Chris. 

I realise I am a strange person to be writing a book about death. I am not old or terminally ill, and as the daughter-in-law of the person who kicked this off by dropping dead so unexpectedly, I am an outsider – and I have been told I have no right to even feel this loss. Writing as a "grief outsider" I do of course hope to heal what time can't, and maybe even understand why facing death makes some throw a party, and others throw a sandwich.

FOLLOW THE PROJECT ON TWITTER AT @THEDEATHTIVALS