Introduction (from text Bristol University 2005)

An Introduction to My Disease

Creativity is something we are all born with to greater or lesser degrees. It is a vital part of our physiological make up and development. We learn to play and fantasize as children, skills we carry forward into our adulthood. However, if creativity takes hold of your entire existence then it becomes a disease that is parasitic, eating away at your whole world. It might sound melodramatic but creativity can become a cancer of the body or the trigger for psychotic episodes.

How many writers, musicians and business people who have either committed suicide or completely lost a grip on reality, reached their ultimate demise because they were unable to control their creative disease?

Sometimes I’m not sure how to cope with my creativity, all I know is I have to continue living this YO-YO lifestyle. The theatrical highs and lows are addictive but the ultimate failure and disillusionment never gets easier.

My Disease As Business

In the late 1980’s I purchased my family’s Monumental Mason business, modernizing and introducing CAD, my main strategy was to take all the traditional craft out of the production of memorials, I went for volume. These simple steps lead to increased profitability and eventually ‘fattened the business up’, enabling me to sell the company in 1998, leaving me to concentrate on the design aspect of the memorial trade and explore its possibilities on the Internet. I had come to realize that running a monumental business meant the sacrifice of free time, so by exploiting this fact I created a company called Fockbury Stencils, providing a complete design service for the Monumental Memorial trade. This proved to be highly profitable and successful.

I had become very disillusioned by the traditional death industry, I felt bereaved clients were being short changed, so with a business partner (Mark Wakefield) we developed in 1999, which was basically an online obituary site.

During 2000, we gave seminars on the Internet to Funeral Directors in various locations ranging from the NEC in Birmingham to a mortuary in Bristol. We also commented on death and ‘memorialization’ on TV and Radio around the world. We appeared in every UK daily newspaper, including page 2 of the Financial Times, we were global. The mythology we created made us paper promise millionaires, promises we never cashed simply because in reality there was no product to sell – it was just a concept. However, everybody wanted to touch us or write about us – we appeared to have the Midas touch.

The BBC News website produced an article about us on Friday, 7th January 2000, here is an extract: ‘A spokeswoman for the Birmingham Diocese of the Church of England was concerned it could trivialize grief. She said: “Death is a very real thing, it is not virtual. A dead person is really dead and those grieving need human comfort which cannot be replaced or substituted by a computer.’  We received a lot of negative publicity, our controversial viewpoint made us very newsworthy.

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