Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage Saved For The Nation

Prospect Cottage

The appeal to save artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage for the nation has successfully reached its £3.5-million target in just ten weeks, with a final total of £3,624,087. The public has made over 8,100 donations – nearly 2,000 of them in the past week alone, despite the significant changes happening to people’s lives – and further funding has come from leading charities, trusts, foundations and philanthropists. The campaign was supported by significant grants of £750,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £500,000 from Art Fund and £250,000 from the Linbury Trust, as well as substantial support from the Luma Foundation, the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, the John Browne Charitable Trust and the Ampersand Foundation. 

The success of the campaign to save Prospect Cottage raises our spirits in these difficult times – Maria Balshaw

The success of the campaign will enable Art Fund to purchase Prospect Cottage from the Keith Collins Will Trust and to fund a permanent public programme, the conservation and maintenance of the building, its collection, its contents and its renowned garden. Before Art Fund’s appeal, Prospect Cottage had been at risk of being sold privately, its contents dispersed, and artistic legacy lost. 

Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage
Derek Jarman outside Prospect Cottage

Creative Folkestone, Kent’s leading arts organisation, will become the custodians of Prospect Cottage, with income drawn from a permanent endowment to cover maintenance of the building and garden, as well as a residency programme for artists, academics, writers, gardeners, filmmakers, and others interested in Jarman and his work. The selection and the management of these will be overseen by Creative Folkestone, with support by Art Fund, Tate and others, to mirror the remarkable breadth of Jarman’s artistic practice, with a vast range of creative activity. The garden will be reinvigorated and restored to the vibrancy it had during Jarman’s lifetime. And for the first time, members of the public will also be able to see inside the Cottage, by appointment, through a programme of guided visits.

Jarman’s archives from the Cottage – comprising notebooks, sketchbooks, letters, drawings and photographs – will be placed on long-term loan to Tate Archive, the national repository for British art. They will be housed in the Hyman Kreitman Reading Rooms at Tate Britain in optimum conditions and will be made publicly available for the first time later this year. The material includes Jarman’s notebooks, sketchbooks, letters, drawings and photographs, including the notebook he used when working on his final feature film Blue (1993). Other highlights include the BAFTA he was awarded in 1992 for outstanding British contribution to cinema, his personal SLR and Super 8 cameras, and an address book in which he illustrated each entry with collaged photographs of his friends. The Cottage also contains documents relating to Jarman’s personal life, activism, painting and filmmaking, alongside his library of books covering subjects from Victorian art to medieval alchemy, quantum physics and occult philosophy.

In what has become the largest ever arts crowdfunding initiative, run via Art Fund’s Art Happens platform, Art Fund has received 8,119 donations from over 40 countries around the world. The campaign was launched on 22 January 2020 with support from leading artists and advocates who gave works and experiences as rewards in return for donations. They include artists Michael Craig-Martin, Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Isaac Julien, the Peter Marlow Foundation, Howard Sooley, Clare Twomey, Wolfgang Tillmans, Peter Fillingham, landscape designer Dan Pearson and gardeners Fergus Garett and Jonny Bruce. Artist Peter Doig also donated a work which was sold in support of the campaign, while artist David Hockney made a substantial personal donation to the appeal.

Derek Jarman protégées, Oscar-winning actor Tilda Swinton and Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, rallied support from the film world throughout the campaign. Powell donated the cream calico suit she wore to the 2020 Critics’ Circle, Bafta and Oscar ceremonies – during which she gathered over 200 signatures from those working across the film world including Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt, Renée Zellweger, Bong Joon Ho, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Elton John, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura Dern, Spike Lee and Saoirse Ronan. In addition to the £16,000 the suit fetched at Phillips Auction House, Powell’s advocacy for Jarman introduced a new audience around the globe to the Prospect Cottage appeal, stealing headlines throughout the 2020 awards season and motivating thousands of pounds in donations.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund, said, ‘Securing the future of Prospect Cottage may seem a minor thing by comparison with the global epidemic crisis which has recently enveloped all our lives. But Derek Jarman’s final years at the Cottage were an inspiring example of human optimism, creativity and courage battling against the ravages of illness. In that context, the success of this campaign seems all the more apposite and right for its time. We are deeply grateful to no fewer than 8,119 individuals and institutions who made donations large and small, and to the artists – led by Tacita Dean and Tilda Swinton – whose material support for the crowdfunding and publicity initiatives was so influential. Above all, we thank the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the largest funder, whose £750,000 grant was a proud and public affirmation of the importance of Derek Jarman’s major contribution to the history of art and film, queer culture and identity, and the long British tradition of political activism.’

Prospect Cottage
Prospect Cottage

Tilda Swinton said, ‘When Derek initiated the project of making of this little house on the shingle the unique and magically empowering space it has come to be, not only for him but for so many of us, it was at a time of intense uncertainty and fragility in his own life. That our casting the net of our appeal to keep this project alive has coincided with the unique global challenge to community with which we are currently faced – and that that net has still come in so full of bounty – has only served to prove how invaluable this vision of future is to us all.’

Tacita Dean said, ‘I cannot express how delighted and moved I am that so many people have come together to protect this extraordinary place. Keith Collins loved and preserved the Cottage and garden after Derek Jarman died in 1994. He laid the way for this to happen enabling us all to keep Prospect Cottage as a beacon of hope in the resilience and redemption of the creative process in times of adversity. As it was for Derek, it is for us now. Thanks, Keith and thank you to everyone who has made this possible.’

Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, said, ‘The success of the campaign to save Prospect Cottage raises our spirits in these difficult times. It is testament to the profound impact of Derek Jarman’s originality, energy and activism and his influence on generations of artists and actors who came after him. As he pushed boundaries to make us re-think our view of the world, he also had the gift of being able to inspire great affection in all who encountered him. At Tate, we look forward to caring for, and making available to the public, many of the treasured items which reveal the thoughts and ideas about his work, his house and garden. I want to thank everyone involved in securing this legacy for future generations.’ 

After Jarman purchased Prospect Cottage in 1986, it quickly became a source of inspiration and a creative hub where his parallel artistic practices and collaborators came together. Today it represents the 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, to poetry etched in the glass, to driftwood sculptures and the remarkable garden he created on the shingle beach. More than 25 years after his death, Prospect Cottage continues to be a site of pilgrimage for people from all over the world who 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.

Derek Jarman, (born 31 January 1942, Northwood, Middlesex, England—died 19 February 1994, London, England) was a filmmaker, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener, activist, author, and one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century British culture. He was educated at the University of London and the Slade School of Art in the early 1960s and was part of a group of young painters, including Patrick Procter and David Hockney. As early as 1967, Jarman was hired to produce set designs for Jazz Calendar by Frederick Ashton at the Royal Ballet, and in 1971 the set for Ken Russell’s The Devils followed by Savage Messiah (1972) and The Rake’s Progress (1982).

Jarman’s first films were experimental Super 8mm shorts. His first full-length feature film Sebastiane, a queer telling of the martyrdom of St Sebastian, was released in 1976, followed by selected films Jubilee (1978), The Angelic Conversation (1985), Caravaggio (1986), The Garden (1990), and Edward II (1991). Figures such as Tilda Swinton, Toyah Willcox, Julian Sands, Joanna Hogg, Sean Bean and John Maybury had their first opportunities under Jarman’s direction. Blue (1993), which was made when Jarman was nearly blind, featured an unchanging plain blue screen and a spoken narrative of the director’s own thoughts and feelings about his battle with AIDS.

After establishing an international reputation as a film director, Jarman continued painting, making his first ‘black’ painting in 1980, by scratching through a layer of black to uncover a ground of gold leaf selectively. Jarman’s 1984 retrospective (London, ICA) demonstrated his increasingly political stance, characterised by anti-Thatcherism and a preoccupation with social disintegration, which culminated in his 1987 film The Last of England. His solo exhibitions include Sarah Bradley’s Gallery, London (1978); Edward Totah Gallery, London (1982); ICA, London (1984); and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (1994). He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1986, primarily for his achievements as a filmmaker, and in particular for Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s life and art were a source of inspiration, and his research led to the creation of volumes of sketchbooks, storyboards, and paintings.

Jarman was the author of several books, including a collection of poetry A Finger in the Fishes Mouth, two volumes of memoirs 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 celebration of gay sexuality. Jarman is also known for exploring and developing the new ‘pop video’ form. His collaborators included The Smiths, Marianne Faithfull, Bob Geldof, Marc Almond, Pet Shop Boys and Suede. He also directed the Pet Shop Boys’ 14-date 1989 tour.

Jarman was outspoken about homosexuality, his public fight for gay rights, and his struggle with AIDS. In 1986, he was diagnosed as HIV positive and discussed his condition in public. This diagnosis transformed Jarman’s practice and led to a new kind of activism as he worked to raise awareness of AIDS. His move to Prospect Cottage came shortly after his HIV diagnosis and the garden he built and lived in became a refuge for calm and creation in the face of his uncertain future. After his death in 1994, Prospect Cottage was meticulously maintained by his companion, Keith Collins, who died in 2018, following which the Keith Collins Will Trust was established to help secure the most appropriate future for Prospect Cottage given its importance and provide for Collins’ surviving spouse.

Prospect Cottage

Derek Jarman bought Prospect Cottage while visiting Dungeness, Kent, in 1986. He was at the peak of his creative powers – and it was here where he was to film The Garden, write the book Modern Nature and create a celebrated garden – but was also suffering terribly following his HIV diagnosis and subsequently AIDS-related illness. The Cottage quickly became a source of inspiration, a sanctuary, a locus for collaborations with fellow artists, and a creative hub where his artistic practices came together. 

Prospect Cottage is filled with over 40 works of art by Derek Jarman (and also by friends such as Maggi Hambling, John Maybury, Richard Hamilton and Gus Van Sant) as well as props from films such as Caravaggio and The Tempest. It has been lovingly cared for and preserved since his death.

The garden Derek Jarman created from the shingle beach at Prospect Cottage is internationally renowned. It is a garden without boundaries, planted by him with the help of Howard Sooley and filled with objects and sculptural arrangements crafted from the rocks and driftwood found washed up on the shore.

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