Death & the collective imagination: Exploring the transformative potential of loss

Ally Kingston
Collective Imagination Practice
6 min readJul 28, 2023


An open call for Huddle participants

We are embarking on an extraordinary period of transition. One that requires cultivating new norms, ideas and systems at speed. And just as importantly: letting many of the old ways come back to ground.

Death is inevitable, necessary and vital. Yet so many of us are trained to avoid the topic or “focus on the positives”. But can we really attend to this extraordinary moment in time without it? Or do we risk only seeing half the picture?

This learning journey is for curious folks who are wondering:

What norms, ideas and systems are ready to be dreamed out of being? What are the unintended consequences of keeping them on life support? And what kinds of gifts might be contained within their loss?

The imagination is a portal to underworlds and otherworlds, and a vital point of connection to those who dwell in them. Leaning on collective imagination practices, we’ll explore bringing death out of the shadow, so we can better hear its wisdom.

Tobias Verhaecht, Orpheus Returning from the Underworld (circa 1580).

“Only in death is there rebirth. The balance is not a stillness, it is a movement, an eternal becoming.”

Ursula Le Guin


Dates: fortnightly meet-ups on Wednesdays, from September — December.

September 6 | September 20 | October 4 | October 18 | November 8 | November 22 | December 6

Time: Likely 17:00–18.30 GMT+1 (UK time), but to be agreed with Huddle participants.

Location: Online (Zoom)

Time commitment: 1.5 hour meets every fortnight, plus an hour or so between sessions for prep.

How to apply: submit an application via this form by August 20th.

What kinds of themes might we explore?

In the spirit of Huddles, we will co-create our learning journey together and you will be invited to bring your own inquiries. We could explore topics like:

  • What imagination teach us about relating to our dead — from our human ancestors, to extinct species?
  • What might imagining our own deaths teach us about the lives we want between now & then?
  • How might we imagine more beautiful, creative and ritualised ways to mark losses and endings?
  • How might we apprentice ourselves to processes of decay, compost, rotting in the natural world?

Is this for me?

You may be someone who…

  • Has lived experience of an ending in their life
  • Is drawn to spending time with living systems at end of life (this could be an affinity for autumn leaves, time with the elderly, or a love of home composting!)
  • Feels frustrated with the stuckness of our current pace of change & the emphasis on growth & newness
  • Or someone curious about imagination practice more broadly!

What will it be like?

This is a peer learning journey in the Huddlecraft style, meaning we’ll work as a group and co-create elements as we go. But the structure we’ll use is:

  • A kickoff, where we’ll meet & explore what we’re into. This will be our chance to identify sub-themes that we can explore as we go.
  • Five sessions where we’ll take turns sharing content and imagination practices relating to our interests. Over the course of these, we’ll build a library of resources and ideas we can share with others too.
  • And a final session offering space for reflection and of course, extra care for how we shape our own ending.
The typical flow of a Huddle.

About your host

I’m Ally, a facilitator, strategist & communications consultant for a world in transition. Working with organisations like Futerra, Purpose Disruptors and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, I’ve supported transition thinking for a wide range of humans, orgs and industries. Imagination practice is a strong theme of my work.

My interest in death and endings stems from an early career in advertising. When sustainability came up, the system always favoured prioritising the new, “more good” innovations over ending the old harmful patterns. (Sure we’ll sell more plant-based, but no less beef please!) This got me wondering what intentional hospicing and composting practices might be needed now.

Inspired by adrienne maree brown’s belief that our own bodies are the front line and learning ground for the societal change we want, I started close in. I trained to become a death doula with Living Well Dying Well, and now juggle this with consulting & community work in Bristol, UK.


The theme seems a bit dark. How heavy will this be?

Despite the topic, there is no intention for this journey to be depressing. In fact, my encounters with death-related work are often the exact opposite. Bringing death into the room can be a mega relief, when we spend the rest of our lives trying to avoid it. Bring a spirit of playfulness and curiosity!

Does this learning journey cost money?

No, only your time and energy. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have generously provided an accessibility stipend to help those who might otherwise not apply. You can find out more about this in the application.

What emotional support will you offer as a host?

I draw on my training as an end of life doula, but I am not a trained grief counsellor, and this is not designed to be a grief support group (although the space will be supportive by design!) Get in touch with me directly if you have a recent bereavement or you’re otherwise concerned if this would work for you.

What perspective are you bringing as a host?

I am a white, European woman, raised in a culture of western modernity that shies away from old age and death. In my lived experience, end of life is highly medicalised, with little community support; funerals are often a small affair, conversations about death and grief are stilted and best avoided. We have a lot to learn from other world cultures for whom death is a more natural part of life. This huddle is open to all people, including those (like myself) with more impoverished cultural inheritances around death, and those with much richer cultural inheritances.

How will you approach diversity, inclusion and accessibility?

The hope is for this Huddle to bring together diverse voices and experiences. Not only in terms of professions or cultures, but also geographies, languages, lived experiences, ages, histories and interests. I therefore want to welcome and support anyone with a strong intention to take part, and aim to ensure that your identity or background will not be a barrier.

Though there are some limitations (like using English as our common language, and finding a time to suit us all), it’s important this space be as inclusive and diverse as possible. In the application you are invited to share about yourself, as well as your access needs and preferences. These considerations will be incorporated into the group from the very first session, so that we can together co-create an inclusive space for all.

In addition, we hope the format of the Huddle itself will encourage diversity through the sub-themes explored by the group. This will allow for different perspectives and priorities to be considered, and open the whole group up to seeing, discussing and understanding these crucially different perspectives. We are open to input and evolving things as we go.

I have more questions!

Get in touch with me directly at We can also schedule a chat.

I’m ready to apply

Great. Get your application in via this form by August 20th.

Looking forward to hearing from you!



Ally Kingston
Collective Imagination Practice

grappling at the crossroads of climate, culture & creativity. Purpose Disruptors creative lead. death doula in training.