Save Prospect Cottage in Dungeness

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Prospect cottage with a beautiful poem on the wall by John Donne

[Editor’s Note: In January Rye News reported on the launch of an appeal to raise funds to buy, and maintain, Derek Jarman’s Dungeness home.

That story attracted many comments and the appeal has now raised over £2.7M of the £3.5M wanted to buy and maintain his home for ever as a creative space which inspires artists and where artists can have residences to develop their work. More details of this long term project are given below]

Derek Jarman (1942-1994), who lived in “Prospect Cottage” in Dungeness, Kent is very much in the news at the moment as he was an iconic film-maker, openly gay, and a visionary artist and activist.

February 2, 2019 marked 25 years after his death and throughout that time many visitors have come to see the Victorian fisherman’s hut which he transformed into a sanctuary of art and imagination. Jarman bought the cottage in 1986 whilst discovering Dungeness on his first visit. After his death he bequeathed to his close companion Keith Collins who died in 2018.

Derek Jarman in front of Dungeness power station

Apart from the wonderful changes made to the former fisherman’s hut, Derek Jarman also had pride in turning his garden into a special, spiritual space. He said: “Paradise haunts gardens and some gardens are paradise. Mine is one of them.”

But it was far from a picture postcard garden. He mingled the shingles with plant life, stone circles, stone flints, sculptures, pieces of drift wood and a crucifix. Over the years it changed as the weather and wind did its damage but the principle of his pioneering creativity, mystic and imagination remains. In the summer it is a beautiful space of colour.

A scene from Jarman’s visionary film ‘The Garden’

Prospect Cottage is now for sale. People who knew Derek Jarman and loved him are afraid that it will be sold to a private individual or company, with its contents dispersed and its artistic legacy lost. The Art Fund has launched a £3.5 million bid to raise the funds by March 31 to help secure the cottage. Much has already been given, through donations from the Art Fund, several private donations, and from the Lindbury Trust, leading artists and National Heritage. But more is needed.

If successful the money will be used to establish a permanently funded programme to conserve and maintain the building, and its contents and garden for future visitors to enjoy. Creative Folkestone will become the custodian of Prospect Cottage and oversee its long term care and running of any programmes.

The garden is creative and calming

Stephen Denchar, Art Fund Director says: “Prospect Cottage is a living, breathing work of art, filled with the creative impulse of Derek Jarman at every turn. It is imperative we come together to save the cottage, its contents and extraordinary garden as a source of creative inspiration for everyone.” The Lucy Bell gallery in Norman Street, St Leonards has an exhibition about Derek Jarman till March 31.

Image Credits: Heidi Foster , Derek Brown .

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