To Absent Friends – a festival to remember in times of covid

A collective of charities and interested organisations will shine a light on bereavement this week, as they launch the To Absent Friends festival 2020.  Heralded as a ‘people’s festival of storytelling and remembrance’ the festival takes place from 1-7 November across Scotland – online, in public spaces and in people’s hearts and minds.

The festival will see the launch of the To Absent Friends Cookbook – a collection of recipes and stories for those loved and lost. ( The virtual book has been put together by Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Scottish Care, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and Sue Ryder.

“Working to support people who are bereaved, we see how important it is to make time in our lives to remember people who have died.  2020 has brought loss and grief to many, while also preventing people from getting their usual support from friends and family.  We’ve seen how hard this has made life for people who are grieving.  The To Absent Friends festival is an opportunity and an excuse for people to take a moment in their busy lives to remember people who have died, whether recently or long ago.” said Nicola Reed of Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, who shared a her Dad’s special stew recipe for the Cookbook.

The To Absent Friends Cookbook brings together stories of people who have died, alongside recipes that have special significance for the people they left behind.  A mother’s recipe for stovies, a friend’s delicious traybake, a much-loved daughter’s favourite pie.

“When we were compiling the cookbook, we noticed that most of the food people connect with loving memories is delicious, homely and comforting, like a shepherd’s pie, or a simple occasion cake.  And the stories that come with the recipes are a delightful mix of love, laughter and tears. It is particularly poignant to be publishing this book this year, in times of covid-19, when so much loss has been suffered by so many.” said Rebecca Patterson, Director of Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief.

The launch of the To Absent Friends Cookbook is just one of many activities taking place as part of the festival this week, as communities from across Scotland hold local remembrance events. With most face-to-face gatherings out of the question this year, much is taking place online and planners are finding innovative ways of creating time and space for remembrance.

For example people living in Willowbrae, Edinburgh are creating a ‘wanderland’ of home window displays in memory of people who have died; Action Porty are providing individual kits to enable households to have beach bonfires of remembrance; and North Argyll Carers Centre has invited bereaved carers to contribute to a beautiful light installation which will be suspended within North Argyll Carers Centre to be viewed from the windows during the festival.

“I think that this year most of us have been craving human connection.  And that is what this festival is about – connecting with each other over shared memories and stories.  Perhaps this year, when it is hardest to organise a festival, it is more needed than ever before.”  said Richard Meade, Head of Policy and Public Affairs Scotland at Marie Curie.

To Absent Friends is a reminder, an opportunity and an excuse to create time and space to remember the important people in our lives who have died.  Festival organisers are inviting members of the public to get involved, even at short notice, from the comfort of their armchair.

They invite people to visit the festival website to share their memories on the online wall of remembrance, add songs to the Remembrance Playlist, or tweet #ToAbsentFriendss throughout the week. A full list of this year’s events is available here:

For more information, contact Rebecca Patterson on [email protected] or find out more via the website

Last Updated on 2nd November 2020 by Shanice