Allerzielen Alom

All Souls’ Day New Style from 2005-2009 and beyond

In five years time, over forty celebrations have been held, some under the official Dutch name, Allerzielen Alom, and the rest under another name but inspired by Allerzielen Alom.  Allerzielen Alom has shown that art has an important function to fulfill in our modern death culture. Art is the driver for the imagination, providing access to the mystery of death. Art brings cultural heritage (cemeteries), customs, and stories to life in an inspirational way.

Artist Ida van der Lee began at one location, “De Nieuwe Oosterbegraafplaats” (“The New East Cemetery”), in Amsterdam in 2005. This first celebration was experimental, but clearly filled a need. Much was learned during two evenings with over 1500 visitors. Coupling artists with next of kin in order to create special forms of expression produced beautiful examples. However, this is not feasible for the future. On the other hand, the question of ‘what to provide for visitors from outside’, that is, visitors whose loved ones are buried elsewhere, resulted in successful group sites. Everyone has someone to commemorate, and could be given the opportunity to do that.

The ‘De Nieuwe Oosterbegraafplaats’ has continued the initiative since 2006 under the name ‘Herinnering Verlicht’ (‘Lighting memories’). In 2008 there were over 5000 bezoekers. The need is clearly present, but the question is whether or not this can be an intimate celebration.

Allerzielen Alom continued with celebrations in 2007 in five different cemeteries in the province North Holland. This edition was developed from the viewpoint of the artist. The focus was on the group sites, and making the cemeteries hospitable. Next of kin learned through workshops to create a special ambiance around the graves. The celebrations were a great success, attracting over 4000 visitors and much attention in the written press (50x) and television (4x). A phenomenon was born.

In 2008, the publication “Allerzielen Alom, kunst tot gedenken” (“Allerzielen Alom, the art of commemoration”) appeared. The celebrations from 2007 are summarised in this book. Besides photographs and the reactions of next of kin, the results of a study by the Radboud University (Nijmegen) are presented. Of special note is that this publication serves as a book of examples. Everyone who wants to carry out a All Souls’ Day New Style celebration can use these examples. The book worked and the first edition is sold out.

Ida van der Lee carried out two celebrations in 2008, paid for by a national funeral organisation. Eight new initiatives were also conducted throughout the country. Ritual counselers, grass roots organisations, and funeral homes carried out Allerzielen Alom celebrations with Ida van der Lee’s help. In this way, it became clear what the essence of Allerzielen Alom is. The criteria which an Allerzielen Alom celebration must fulfill were developed.

Finally, Allerzielen Alom won the Yarden prize 2008 for innovation in the area of death and funerals.

More growth is planned for 2009. Celebrations are planned in 12 locations. In the province North Holland, we will organise four celebrations ourselves, whereby we want to work from within the community. Knowledge transfer, developing new art froms, and bringing in new target groups such as children, parents, and immigrants are the focus for 2009.

The province Brabant will carry out Allerzielen Alom celebrations on two sites. There will be six further independent celebrations, of which five were first held in 2008. Ida van der Lee will advise these initiatives, and make sure that the plans fulfill the quality criteria. Finally, seven (and perhaps more) celebrations are planned which have been inspired by the publication, but will be conducted under other names. We have also received applications from other organisors who would like to carry out Allerzielen Alom celebrations in 2010.

In 2012, Allerzielen Alom will be a living tradition which can no longer be ignored. People understand the concept, and are happy that they can commemorate their deceased in a way suitable for themselves. They dare to come out with their dead and let their names be heard. Allerzielen Alom has proved itself, and has become multicultural and crossed borders, both literally and figuratively. The foundation and this website have become the central library for experience, knowledge, and exchange.