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David Bowie-style cremations booming on star’s anniversary amid affordability squeeze

  • Starman was among the first to opt for secret “direct cremation” without mourners or a service in 2016
  • Last year the numbers doubled to almost 80 per cent amid lockdown restrictions and a squeeze on living

The number of people following David Bowie by opting to be cremated with no service, mourners, flowers or prayers doubled last year, according to figures released on the singer’s anniversary.

Data published today by the UK’s largest funeral plan comparison site, Funeral Plan Market, reveals eight in 10 (79%) people taking out funeral plans have opted for a direct cremation, compared to just 40% in 2020 — almost double the number.

Direct cremations are unattended events where the deceased is cremated without a service and the remains are returned to a family member or scattered in the gardens of remembrance at the crematorium.

They first came to public attention in January, 2016 when David Bowie opted to be cremated secretly with no family or friends present and without a public memorial. Since then the trend towards direct cremations has gone mainstream as people decide to spend more money on themselves and loved ones while alive, rather than on a more elaborate funeral.

Last year, traditional funerals with a corˈtège fell out of favour during lockdown as government restrictions necessitated smaller funerals. A cost of living crisis and a ‘seize the day’ mentality created by the pandemic also contributed to a retreat from lavish send-offs.

Direct cremations start at around £999, around half the price of a horse drawn carriage affair.

Sally Howarth, Founder, Funeral Plan Market, commented:

“The number of people opting for a direct cremation when they took out a funeral plan in 2021 has doubled compared to the previous year. 

“Our view is that the dramatic increase has been caused by the pandemic making people want to spend their money on living rather than dying. 

“Yes, a percentage of our customers will doubtless be feeling the cost of living squeeze but overall the pandemic has been a wake-up call about the importance of enjoying life while it lasts. 

“The reduced premiums that come with direct cremations mean people have more to spend on things that they can enjoy today. 

“Also, it may be that the Covid-19 pandemic, over time, has fundamentally changed our views on the need for a traditional funeral, which is increasingly seen as a dour event rather than a celebration of a person’s life, the importance of which has been put into sharp focus after the events of the past 18 months.”

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