When Derek Jarman died of AIDS-related causes in February 1994,
his death was widely reported in the national press. Seven years
previously, when he first learned he was HIV-positive, his name
was known almost exclusively to dedicated filmgoers and cognoscenti
of the artistic avant garde.
Between diagnosis and death, Jarman produced no fewer than five
feature films and as many books, painted furiously, made pop videos,
created a singular garden in the shingle surrounding his simple
fisherman's cottage at Dungeness in Kent and became an impassioned
and provocative spokesperson not only for gay men everywhere, but
for anyone oppressed by reaction and bigotry.
Jarman's story stretches from the bleakness of post-war Britain
and his peripatetic RAF childhood to studenthood at the Slade and
work as a designer for such figures as Frederick Ashton, John Gielgud
and Ken Russell. It tells how energetic home movie-making with dazzling
friends and a hand-held camera led to distinctive features like
Sebastiane, Jubilee, The Tempest, Caravaggio and Blue. It is the
tale of a painter and a gardener, of a vivid bohemian existence
in the warehouse studios that once lined the Thames, laughter and
anecdote, wild parties and wilder sex.
It is also the story of sexual fear and repression, the devastation
of a disease, inimitable courage and grace in the face of protracted
and painful death, and a love as singular as any of the films or
the garden which Jarman has left as one of his many legacies.
Tony Peake knew Derek Jarman during the last seven years of Jarman's
life. In researching this biography, he has received unprecedented
co-operation from Jarman's family and friends and been given unfettered
access to Jarman's papers and film archives.
'Every great life is made greater by a great life, and Peake has
given Derek Jarman the biography he deserves.'
Simon Edge, Gay Times