all A Life that In Death remains
Dame Sue Black closed the Morecambe and Vice Festival on the Sunday and there was much excitement and anticipation in the room. She was so fascinating and candid. She had so much to tell. This was no lecture, this was a great talk that was accessible for all. It was excellently chaired by Ben who also organises along with Tom, this eclectic and varied crime festival, full of excellent panels.
Dame Professor Sue Black is a Scottish Forensic Scientist/Anthropologist. She is currently the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement at Lancaster University. She leads on the Eden North project and more. She was the lead forensic anthropologist for the UK response in war crimes investigations in Kosovo and served in Sierra Leone, Grenada, Iraq and Thailand. In 2001 she was awarded the OBE and in 2016, the DBE.
Professor Dame Sue Black
Death is really important. She says it can be the funniest of things, poignant of things, saddest of things. This seemed such an important sentence to say, and even away from the festival, I still feel this. It resonates and has so much truth in it with its hidden complexities and yet so elegantly in its simplicity in the language used, in my opinion.
Professor Dame Sue Black has also been listed in the top 100 of influential people (ahead of Mary Queen of Scots and Sean Connery).
She also gives crime writers forensic advice, most notably does so for Val McDermid as well as the ever more serious research of forensic science and much more… At the end of my write-up, there is a link into what she is currently doing at Lancaster University. Please do assist in her valuable research if you can. All is completely confidential.
Her talk was so interesting and pitched right for a book festival.
Sue said her best achievements being the best person you can be and can make others the best they can be. This seems like very sound advice.
She said her 3 strong independent daughters is her greatest achievement.
Her father developed Alzheimer’s and realised that stole his stories. She says we need to write who we are. I completely get her point, having lost family and losing one also to Alzheimers and Dementia and I too I managed to gather bits of their life stories from them, just in time. Sue Black also says about how it doesn’t need to be turned into a book, just having family stories to hand down to future generations is important. I happen to agree and I also sometimes tell people in the present too about my family and then in some way they live on.
Dame Sue Black wrote All That Remains in Life and Death for her children and didn’t think anyone else would read it. Now it has been turned into a book for the public to read and into an audio-book narrated by herself. So check it out! It sounds like a book that will captivate people with its life and death themes. I must say the cover is very clever, especially the way the title is done.
The book is designed to get people to look at death differently and refers to death as a she.
Why death is female – her grandmother was most important person in her life and believed death was her friend and suspects its something handed down.
Death was discussed as being like the last great adventure and it is interesting that she talked of death as not being something to be feared.
It was very interesting to hear how she became a Forensic Scientist. She talked about having empathy for the person alive and shows the responsibility and shows humanity but the dead body is a clinical conundrum and also about being unbiased and maintaining confidentiality.
After just seeing a panel about mental health, this was a subject also discussed in this panel. She says professionals in her line of work aren’t immune to PTSD but it is important to be aware of the signs.
Popular culture, such as tv programmes like CSI etc in the 1990s-2000s that raised awareness, which has its plus and minus points as people think they know forensic science, when there’s a lot more to it that what is actually shown and also not everything can be as instant. Universities, she mentioned had started to do more forensic courses.
Her work was also discussed in relation to crime novels, as she has worked with Val McDermid, Stuart McBride, Ian Rankin really want to write realistically and do their research to know what it’s like. I have read novels by each of these authors and each write very well and their work always reads well, but also perhaps because they also have taken the time and attention to do their research, which then, with the facts, they weave into their fictional stories very well.
Sue says looks at people anatomically and knows what everyone really looks like and did a bit of a Sherlock Holmes type of description on something. Creepy and very cool and impressive.
If you ever get the chance to see Dame Sue Black speak, do. She is clearly passionate about her work, she has amazing stories to tell and some great anecdotes.
Dame Sue Black is currently working on developing working on bio-medical identification techniques. Please click into the link for what she is trying to achieve for the future of the country to improve forensics further and do feel free from there to take part. All, I have been assured by Sue Black, will be confidential.
Professor Dame Sue Black and Me (Louise)
This concludes my reviews/write-ups of the Morecambe and Vice panels. Thank you to all who have been following these write-ups for this year. Very much appreciated!
Thanks again to Tom and Ben who invited me to their festival.
I also thank Professor Dame Sue Black for her lovely chat at the end of the talk and for allowing me to take a photo of her and for her kind insistence that we had a selfie together.