What is a Poppy's Practical Lead?

Poppy's Practical Lead Rachel in the mortuary arranging flowers on a wicker coffin
Practical Lead, Rachel, preparing the flowers for a funeral

Four minute read

At Poppy’s we rely on a team of Practical Leads to care for the people in our mortuary and to make sure our funerals run smoothly. It’s a role that suits all kinds of people, including students, retired people or anyone looking for flexible work that really makes a difference.

We spoke to three recent recruits — Rachel, Nigel and Andrew — to find out what they do as Practical Leads and what drew them to this role.

We're hiring. Find out more and apply to be a Poppy’s Practical Lead

“It's a sector I've always been interested in, and it's been in the back of my mind to find out more about it,” says Rachel, whose background is in teaching riding and training horses.

“I've been to some really good funerals and memorials, and I think it's a great gift to give people a comforting memory at a difficult time. The most rewarding aspect of the role for me is the chance to help people to give their family member or friend a graceful exit.”

A keen outdoor swimmer, Rachel heard about the role through a post in her local lido’s Facebook group.

“I rang to have a chat about the business and the job, and applied shortly after. Recent events meant I wanted an adjunct to my previous work, which was also local and relatively flexible. Seeing that Poppy's was looking for people seemed serendipitous!”

Andrew was also looking for new part-time work, but for a different reason. “I applied to work at Poppy’s because I was looking for ways to fill my time and earn some money after retiring.

"My main career was as a writer first on local papers, then on corporate newsletters and finally for an investment company. But, in my time, I’ve done just about everything from bar work and teaching to shelf-filling and staffing an ex-pats' polling station for the Australian general election.”

Andrew, one of Poppy's Practical Leads, outside Poppy's mortuary in Lambeth cemetery
Practical Lead, Andrew, ready to assist at a funeral

“I’ve greatly appreciated the support”

All our Practical Leads come with different sets of experiences and skills. They are different ages and genders. There is no single type of person who is right for the job. The characteristics they all have in common is being strong, organised and responsible.

Nigel, who started with Poppy’s last spring, has previously been a youth worker and worked in special education, as well as gigging regularly with his ska band, Easyskanking.

He explains what the Practical Lead role involves, “So far it has consisted of bearing, driving and helping the funeral director set up at the crematorium or chapel, as well as working in the mortuary.

"I’d never done this before, so I found it very interesting. I've greatly appreciated the support of [Poppy’s mortuary team] Aaron and Neil!”

Find out what’s it really like working in a mortuary

“There are so many different funeral options”

Andrew’s favourite part of being a Practical Lead has been attending funerals: “I really like going to the funerals, mainly because that is where you find out about the person who has died and their family.

“It surprised me how many different options there are for coffins, for example, or venues. I would say I’d been to quite a lot of funerals before I started at Poppy's, but every single one of them featured a standard wood coffin. I didn’t know there was even such a thing as a cardboard coffin, let alone a shroud.”

However, this interest in funerals is nothing new for Andrew. “I’ve always been interested in the customs and rituals that have built up around funerals.

"I think it must be in my blood one of my grandmothers was a habitual funeral gatecrasher and the other used to walk her dog around the local cemetery, taking us with her whenever she could.”

Nigel, Poppy's PL, with water butt outside the mortuary
Practical Lead, Nigel, with our rainwater collection butt, outside Poppy's

“I’m looking forward to learning more”

Caring for people who have died in Poppy’s light and airy mortuary is a key part of the Practical Lead role. This can include checking them in, washing them, dressing them and preparing their coffins.

“I don’t know what I thought a Practical Lead would do maybe something in the back office or on the admin side. So I was surprised that, even on my first work experience day, I was seeing and handling dead people,” says Andrew,

“It's all been interesting and quite different to my previous work,” agrees Rachel. “The practical aspects of the job are pretty much as I expected, although everyone has been careful to check in with me to make sure I'm comfortable with each new task. Everyone is practical and professional, but also caring and respectful.

“I really like the people and it's been very informative to chat to everyone about their jobs and what brought them to Poppy's. I'm looking forward to learning more.”

Could you be a Poppy’s Practical Lead? Find out more and apply here.

Read more about why people work for Poppy’s.

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