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Crumbling headstones and tangled foliage: Abney Park cemetery. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

What cemeteries tell us about how we live now

The pandemic may have increased the demand for cemeteries, but it has also re-established their rightful role as theatres of life, as well as mourning

In recent months, my local cemetery has been livelier than ever. The usual dog-walkers and joggers have been joined by others needing somewhere to go—hipsters strolling abreast in groups of six along avenues lined with graves; couples on dates, perched on benches with takeaway meals in foil containers. There seem to be more visitors, too, intent on borrowing the mood of the place, with its crumbling, cockeyed headstones and tangled foliage. One Sunday morning I found a group of people reading a play aloud on the raised platform of the war memorial; 100 metres on, two women dressed in black were engaged in an ad hoc photo shoot with a teddy bear.

Through the months of Covid-19 regulations, for most city-dwellers parks have been the principal venue for…

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