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Five reasons to visit The Departure Lounge

The Departure Lounge is open in Lewisham shopping centre until 7 June – here are five reasons to visit before it closes.

1. You will learn more about the end of life in a ‘Departure Lounge’

Our largest public engagement project to date is a taboo-busting and free-to-all installation using a travel analogy to start conversations about death and dying.

The Departure Lounge is situated within Lewisham’s thriving shopping centre in south London.

Walking past The Departure Lounge, you will see what appear to be travel posters promoting exotic destinations in the windows. On closer inspection, the slogans are actually common phrases we all use to avoid talking about death.

Inside, you will find yourself in an airport departure lounge where suitcases tell stories of lives well lived and luggage tags reveal how medical science has changed the way we die. An interactive life-size departures board will help you answer pertinent questions about death and explore what matters most at the end of life personally, and for your loved ones.

Lewisham was chosen because it is the birthplace of the modern hospice movement and home to St Christopher’s Hospice, the UK’s first ever modern hospice, bringing this conversation on end-of-life care back to where it began. We also wanted to take The Departure Lounge outside of London’s museum district and into an everyday environment.

2. You can meet our expert guides

A visit to The Departure Lounge gives you an opportunity to talk to a diverse range of experts in end of life care and death and dying research.  Our expert guides change on a daily basis so you will meet different experts depending on when you visit.

Celia Kitzinger, Honorary Professor in the Law School at Cardiff University and one of our expert guides, outlined the importance of having a space such as The Departure Lounge, saying:

“There are tearful conversations within the departure lounge ‘but good tears’; it’s so important to create this space for reflection, connection, listening and sharing”

Guide Caroline Free chats to a visitor to The Departure Lounge

3. You can share your views about what is important to you

Visitors to The Departure Lounge are encouraged to record and share views on what is most important to them at the end of life. This information, along with the findings from seven discussion workshops with people recruited from different ages, faiths and backgrounds conducted by Ipsos MORI, will feed public views into the Academy’s activities to inform research and healthcare policy.


4. All your friends will be talking about it

The Departure Lounge has been even more popular that we expected, with over a 1,000 visitors to the space in the first week alone. Many were people who had dropped in because they were in the shopping centre, and some had been inspired by seeing our extensive press coverage, including The Times, The Guardian, Time Out, BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC London TV News.  

In addition we have received fantastic support from within the Lewisham borough; including St Christopher’s Hospice, the local hospice, as well as a visit from the Mayor of Lewisham. Community groups who have visited the space include Lewisham Pensioner’s Forum, Rushey Green Time Bank and Family Health Isis.


5. Learning about death might make you live differently

Visiting The Departure Lounge will give you access to thought provoking research, facts and personal stories about end of life care and research. The main aim of the installation is to help visitors start conversations about what is important to them at the end of life. Visiting the space, you can access information about the importance of talking about your wishes and practical advice about arranging a will and formulating advanced care plans.

If you miss the opportunity to see The Departure Lounge in Lewisham, you may be pleased to know that you can visit our dedicated website for a virtual experience:

Compact versions of The Departure Lounge may also soon be coming to your area – the Academy is distributing ‘flat-packs’ to organisations across the country to facilitate their own conversations about this important topic.

The Departure Lounge was generously supported by The Health Foundation and Wellcome Trust.

The Academy is also grateful for a core grant from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy that was used to support this project.

To find out more about the project and our future work in this area, please visit our dedicated page on The Departure Lounge.

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