The Slade School of Fine Art at UCL hosted the launch of a new campaign to preserve Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, Kent, the home and garden of Slade alumnus and influential British filmmaker Derek Jarman, for the nation.
Derek Jarman (1942 - 1994) was principally known for his films, but he was also a keen painter and poet, writer and memoirist, gardener and activist. He studied painting and stage design at The Slade between 1963 and 1967.
The campaign, launched by Art Fund in partnership with the Tate and Creative Folkstone, seeks to raise £3.5m to preserve Prospect Cottage and establish a permanently funded programme to conserve and maintain the building, its contents and its garden for the future.
The campaign is supported by artists including Slade alumna Tacita Dean, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Deller, Michael Craig-Martin and Wolfgang Tillmans.
Jarman purchased Prospect Cottage in 1986, and it quickly became a source of inspiration and a creative hub where his parallel artistic practices and collaborators came together. Today it represents the most complete distillation of his pioneering creativity across film, art, writing and gardening: from his 1990-film The Garden starring Tilda Swinton, to his journal, Modern Nature, and from poetry etched in the glass, to driftwood sculpture and the remarkable garden he created in the shingle beach.
More than 25 year after his death, Prospect Cottage continues to be a site of pilgrimage for people from all over the world to come to be inspired by its stark beauty and by Jarman’s legacy. The cottage and its contents are now being sold following the death in 2018 of Keith Collins, Jarman’s close companion in his final years, to whom he bequeathed the cottage.
Kieren Reed, Director of the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL, said:
"We are immensely proud to count Derek Jarman as alumnus of The Slade and for our school to have been an important part of his creative journey. It is our pleasure to have hosted the campaign launch to raise funds for the preservation of Prospect Cottage.
"Prospect Cottage was the home of Derek and is an art work in its own right. The campaign will help to protect Derek’s work and legacy for future generations of artists and the wider public."
Jarman’s time at UCL is well documented. In his memoir, entitled Dancing Ledge , he recalls spending increasing amounts of time in The Slade’s theatre design room ’where there were sympathetic spirits’ and where ’homosexuality was accepted quite openly’.
During his time at UCL, Jarman took a course on world cinema and a few years later began experimenting with making his own innovative films in ’Super 8’ format. He used a Super 8mm film camera throughout his life, both to make films and to record his friends’ and his own day-to-day experiences. He made several important independent films, including Blue, Sebastiane and Caravaggio.
Open about his HIV status, Jarman campaigned tirelessly against representations of AIDS in British media in the late 1980s and early 90s. Several of Jarman’s later films, including Edward II , were informed by his involvement in HIV/AIDS politics.
Towards the end of his life, Jarman played a central role in reclaiming the term ’queer’, seeing it as a possible alternative to rigid labels and categories of sexual and gender identity. As he put it in another of his published diaries, ’For me to use the word "queer" is a liberation; it was a word that frightened me, but no longer’.