Colne celebrant talks Coronation Street and humanism

Sally Penn.'Photo Ben Parsons
Sally Penn.'Photo Ben Parsons
Have your say

It was a storyline that captured the heart of the nation.

The moment that Coronation Street’s Hayley Cropper was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer left audiences on the edge of their seats.

As she made the decision to take her own life, against her husband Roy’s wishes, and as she planned her own humanist funeral, viewers were taken on a reflective, and emotional journey.

A depiction, according to Colne celebrant Sally Penn, that was honestly and sensitively covered by the ITV soap.

Now, the mum-of-one has spoken about what humanism entails, and given her views on the portrayal of Mrs Cropper’s final farewell.

The 49-year-old, who organises and conducts humanist funerals all over East Lancashire, said: “I thought the funeral was really nicely done, and it is just brilliant that so many people were able to see that there is a choice and an alternative to a religious ceremony.

“I think because Hayley always wore a red anorak, there were a lot of people in red and different colours. That’s something I will do for families, who say they don’t want everyone to be in black.”

Mrs Penn explained a conventional humanist service, adding that like Mrs Cropper some people do arrange their own funeral before they die.

She told how she will typically go and meet the family of the deceased, spending up to a few hours talking about their life, so the funeral is as personal and poignant as it can be.

Assuming the family want the tribute written for them, she will email it across for confirmation before the actual ceremony. The service will then usually follow an order, which begins with the family’s choice of introductory music, and includes tributes, readings, and a reflection on the person who has died.

The self-employed celebrant, who is accredited by the British Humanist Association, added: “The period of reflection is a chance for people to sit with their memories of the person who has died, and if there is anybody there with a religious faith it is their chance to say a prayer.

“There is nothing anti-religion or offensive, so I feel a humanist funeral is suitable for anyone, whatever their religion, faith or belief. If I can make the funeral a good experience, as far as that is possible, then that is what I aim to do.”

Mrs Penn added how she often sees alternative hearses at funerals, and how some people may choose a unique venue for the service, such as a Burnley FC conference room.

She added how there are also humanist alternatives to christenings, which are known as “naming ceremonies” and how BHA are currently campaigning to give humanist weddings a legal status in the UK.

For more information on Mrs Penn visit or email