Monday, February 24, 2014

Derek Jarman on the South Bank

Twenty years last week (19th February) since the death from AIDS of Derek Jarman (1942-1994), film-maker, artist, writer, gardener and queer activist  There wasn't too much to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing, but back in 2004 me and some friends lit some candles and left flowers at Butlers Wharf SE1 where he once lived. Ten years later, there's a whole Jarman2014 season with events at the British Film Institute, Somerset House and elsewhere.

On Friday February 28th, Deptford Film Club is having a special showing of Jarman's 1991 film Edward II at St Nicholas Church in Deptford. A very special location, at the film is an adaption of Christopher Marlowe's play and the playwright is buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard there, having been killed in Deptford in 1593. The film showing marks his 450th birthday, as he was born in February 1564. Further details at Deptford Film Club who say:

'Before the film starts, there’s radical 16th century pop from Deptford violinist Daniel Merrill, plus plenty wine and spirits. And we’ll be joined by Jody Graber, the child actor who played King Edward’s son, who will end the evening with a short Q&A. Based on Marlowe’s dramatisation of a true story. When King Edward II takes a male lover, Piers Gaveston, both his wife (Tilda Swinton) and palace officials are enraged – and plot to violently dethrone the king and dispatch Gaveston. Adapted by the radical British filmmaker Derek Jarman, the film contrasts the lavish 16th century text and setting with modern imagery of gay activists, riot police, yuppies and an unforgettable cameo from Annie Lennox'.

Jarman on the South Bank/Bankside

Jarman lived for most of the 1970s on the south bank of the River Thames, much of it then semi-derelict.  He had his first taste of riverside living in 1968 in  a house on the South Bank awaiting demolition, where he shared studio space with Peter Logan and the painter Tony Fry. Shortly afterwards he moved to a warehouse at 51 Upper Ground, near the corner of Blackfriars Road, a place that was to become 'a Mecca for London's avant-garde' with its parties thrown by Jarman with Peter and Andrew Logan. Guests at the farewell party in the summer of 1970 included Tennessee Williams and 'Ossie Clark, dispensing joints on the stairs'. Shortly afterwards the building was demolished to make way for the IPC Tower.

Next stop was 13 Bankside on the top floor of a riverside warehouse alongside Southwark Bridge. To cope with  the cold in the warehouse, Jarman famously set up a greenhouse for his bedroom. Bankside too became famous for parties, and for film showings as Jarman began experimenting with Super 8. In summer 1972, Jarman had to move again to make way for another demolition, filming a final walk of the area called 'One Last  Walk One Last Look'.

Jarman in Bankside studio
The following year, Jarman moved to a new home/studio in a semi-derelict warehouse at Butler's Wharf, next to Tower Bridge. Jarman lived on the third floor of Block A1, with neighbours including Andrew and Peter Logan. On the waste ground next door Jarman filmed the ritualistic fire scenes for 'In the Shadow of the Sun', with a fire maze, candles and flashing mirrors. The finished film was finally released in 1981 with a soundtrack from Throbbing Gristle. 'Jubilee' was also filmed locally in Southwark and Rotherhithe, and at the former dockside in Deptford where Jordan was filmed dancing round a fire including a burning Union Jack.

Parties at Butlers Wharf included the 1975 Alternative Miss World, which Jarman took part in as 'Miss Crepe Suzette' and one in 1978 when Adam and the Ants played. Jarman moved out in 1979. Revisiting the area in 1991, Jarman noted 'The money has gilded the heart of it... everything else is scrubbed all the fun vanished'.

Source for most of the above: 'Derek Jarman - A Biography' by Tony Peake

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