Art Fund is running a campaign to save Prospect Cottage, the former home of film director Derek Jarman, which has become a place of pilgrimage in the years since his death. James Fisher reports.
In 1986, the film maker Derek Jarman bought a small wooden house, Prospect Cottage, near the Kent village of Dungeness. It was his refuge and hideaway, though he welcomed visitors who were then, as they are now, free to wander through the famous shingle garden he planted.
The cottage quickly became a source of artistic inspiration for both himself and his collaborators. 25 years after his death, the cottage and its garden continues to be a site of pilgrimage for people all over the world.
Now, however, the artistic legacy of Prospect Cottage, the former home of artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman, is at risk. Following the death of Jarman’s partner Keith Collins in 2018, the cottage may be sold privately and its contents dispersed.
Art Fund has launched a campaign to raise £3.5 million by March 31, 2020, to purchase Prospect Cottage and establish a permanently-funded programme to conserve and maintain the property, its contents and its garden. Leading artists such as Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Howard Sooley, Wolfgang Tillmans, Isaac Julien and Tilda Swinton back the campaign.
Tacita Dean said: ‘Prospect Cottage became a place of pilgrimage not by design, but rather by the sheer force of what Jarman represented to so many of us. We now have the opportunity to protect and cherish it for future generations.’
Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund’s Director, echoed that message. ‘Prospect Cottage is a living, breathing, work of art, filled with the creative impulse of Jarman at every turn,’ he says. ‘It’s imperative we come together to save the cottage.’
If successful, Creative Folkestone will become custodians of the property, and will coordinate free public access to the cottage’s famous garden. Furthermore, it will launch artist residencies and run guided public visits within the cottage itself. Jarman’s archive from the cottage, which includes his sketchbooks and plans for the garden, will be entrusted to Tate and made available at Tate Britain.
‘My excitement about this vision for Prospect Cottage lies in its projected future as an open, inclusive and encouraging machine for the inspiration and practical working lives of those who might come and share its special qualities,’ said Tilda Swinton. ‘Qualities that, as a young artist, I was lucky enough to benefit from alongside Jarman and so many of our friends.’
Country Life’s gardens editor Tiffany Daneff is among those who have visited, and also testified to the power of the cottage.
Since 1986 many thousands have made the pilgrimage to Prospect Cottage. It’s a sight impossible to forget — a joyous installation of beach-combed finds marking clumps of wild and garden plants that meld into the surrounding desolation,’ she says. ‘It showed that you could create a garden anywhere and was hugely liberating and influential.’
For further information and to donate, visit www.artfund.org/prospect.