English film director, stage designer, artist and writer DEREK JARMAN was born in Northwood, Middlesex. He is most remembered for his remarkable films like Jubilee, The Tempest, Caravaggio, The Garden and this writer’s personal favorite, Edward II. Jarman was one of the few openly gay public figures in Britain in the 1980s and remained a fierce activist for the rights of gay people for the rest of his life. He died in 1994 of complications from HIV/AIDS.
His creative life wasn’t limited to film. Jarman’s work broke new ground in creating and expanding the fledgling form of ‘the pop video’ in England, and in gay rights activism. Several volumes of his diaries have been published.
Jarman also directed the 1989 tour by the UK duo Pet Shop Boys. By pop concert standards this was a highly theatrical event with costume and specially shot films accompanying the individual songs. Jarman was the stage director of Sylvano Bussotti’s opera L’Ispirazione, first staged in Florence in 1998.
Jarman is also remembered for his famous shingle cottage-garden, created in the latter years of his life, in the shadow of Dungeness nuclear power station. The cottage is built in vernacular style in timber, with tar-based weatherproofing, like others nearby. Raised wooden text on the side of the cottage is the first stanza and the last five lines of the last stanza of John Donne’s poem, The Sun Rising. The cottage garden was made by arranging flotsam washed up nearby, interspersed with endemic salt-loving beach plants, both set against the bright shingle. The garden has been the subject of several books. At this time, Jarman also began painting again (see the book: Evil Queen: The Last Paintings, 1994). Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Tilda Swinton, and Wolfgang Tillmans are among artists fighting to preserve Jarman’s beloved Prospect Cottage, which has been a beloved site of pilgrimage and remembrance.
Jarman bought the home in 1986. Following his death in 1994, it was maintained by his companion Keith Collins until his passing in 2018. Friends of the late artist as well as the Slade School of Art and the Tate are aiming to raise $4.5 million in ten weeks to prevent the private sale of the house, which many see as a work of Jarman’s art. “First and foremost, the cottage was always a living thing, a practical toolbox for his work,” said Swinton at the launch of the fundraising campaign at the school on Wednesday.
With pledges of $981,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, $654,000 from the Art Fund, and $327,000 from the Linbury Trust, the preservationists have nearly reached half of their goal. Since 2018, Collins had planned for the Tate to maintain the artist’s archive and the charity Creative Folkestone to take over the cottage’s long-term care, so that residencies and tours of the property could still take place. Speaking about his property, Jarman once said: “Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them.”
Jarman was the author of several books including his autobiography Dancing Ledge, which details his life until the age 40. He provides his own insight on the history of gay life in London (60’s-80’s), discusses his own acceptance of his homosexuality at age sixteen and accounts of the financial and emotional hardships of a life devoted to film-making.
A collection of poetry A Finger in the Fishes Mouth, two volumes of diaries Modern Nature and Smiling In Slow Motion and two treatises on his work in film and art The Last of England (also published as Kicking the Pricks) and Chroma. Other notable published works include film scripts (Up in the Air, Blue, War Requiem, Caravaggio, Queer Edward II and Wittgenstein: The Terry Eagleton Script/The Derek Jarman Film), a study of his garden at Dungeness Derek Jarman’s Garden, and At Your Own Risk, a defiant celebration of Gay sexuality.