Apprenticed to a master storyteller as a young man, earning a master’s degree in theology from Harvard Divinity school and another in social work from the University of Toronto, Stephen Jenkinson led the counselling programme the country’s largest home-based palliative care programme. A “wretched anxiety” at most death beds prevailed, a cultural poverty reigned, a death phobia, a grief illiteracy had its way. He knew it then: grief is a skill to be honoured and learned, not tranquillised or counselled away. Grief, that other way of loving life: that was the work.
In 2015, an anonymous donation arrives from a donor in the USA, along with a plea to bring Stephen’s stories out, to go public. In the same week there’s a chance encounter with Gregory Hoskins (35 years in the music business as a singer/songwriter/producer) who offhandedly says, “If you’re ever looking for a band, I know this guy …”. The mystery days are underway. A month later, with no possibility of success, no rehearsal and no plan, but with this summons in hand, they embark on a tour. What ensues are evenings of music that are part concert, part lamentation, part ribaldry, part poetry, part lifting the mortal veil and learning the mysteries there.
This unexpected partnership with Hoskins gives him another way of working the death trade work. They are bracing, blessing-laced encounters with the dark roads and the rough Gods of these times, with the ways of human making and human being.