It’s Not All Bad: Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage Has Been Saved

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Derek Jarman Tilda Swinton Prospect Cottage Art Fund
Prospect CottageCourtesy of Art Fund

Following a ten-week-long campaign, £3.5 million has been successfully raised to save the Dungeness home of the artist, filmmaker and writer, ensuring its survival

Amid what seems like an endless stream of bad news, some good – after a ten-week crowdfunding campaign led by Art Fund, Derek Jarman’s Dungeness home, Prospect Cottage, has been saved after more than £3.5 million was raised for its preservation. Over 8,100 donations were received to ensure the survival of the culturally important cottage – its garden is the subject of Jarman’s diary Modern Nature, begun after he learned he was HIV positive in 1986 – which lies on the desolate Kent coastline close to Dungeness nuclear power station. The artist, filmmaker and writer spent the final years of his life in the cottage; inside, his archive, comprising notebooks, sketchbooks, letters, drawings and photographs, as well as the various artworks on its walls, remains much as he left it (due to the campaign, the majority of this archive will now be placed on longterm loan to Tate Archive).

The fund began – attracting numerous high-profile backers, including Jarman’s close friend and AnOther cover star Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Deller, Wolfgang Tillmans, and the Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, another of Jarman’s protégées – in January this year, after Prospect Cottage, currently under ownership by the Keith Collins Will Trust, was at risk of being sold privately and its contents dispersed. Now Art Fund, who ran the campaign, will purchase the site, leaving Creative Folkestone – Kent’s leading arts organisation – as the custodians. The money raised will also allow for a permanent endowment to cover maintenance, as well as a residency program, activities related to Jarman’s practice, guided visits, and funds to maintain its famous garden. 

Most of the donations came from the art world – a considerable feat considering the events of recent weeks, whereby the outbreak of Covid-19 has left many artistic institutions with their own uncertain futures. Major grants came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which donated £750,000, Art Fund itself which donated £500,000 and the Linbury Trust, which donated £250,000. Other personal donations came from David Hockney, while artist Peter Doig donated a work to be sold in aid of the fund. Other fundraising campaigns were undertaken by those involved – memorably including a calico suit worn by Powell to the Oscars, Baftas and Critics Choice awards, which was then signed by over 200 Hollywood luminaries, from Scarlett Johansson and Brad Pitt, to Spike Lee and Saoirse Ronan (at auction, it fetched £16,000).

The S/S20 issue of AnOther Magazine celebrated Jarman’s endless influence, asking figures from Tilda Swinton to John Waters to select a piece of his writing that resonated with them. “I’ve been reading Derek Jarman since I was a child,” wrote the author and critic Olivia Laing. “His influence is there in every phase and facet of my life – as an activist, a writer, a gardener, as a human in the 21st century. Take down the fences, that’s Derek’s message. Keep making what you love. Keep making love. Steal cuttings. Crosspollinate. Plant a garden, even at the end of the world.”