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Derek Jarman Prospect House
courtesy of Art Fund

Good news! Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage has been saved

The campaign just hit its £3.5 million target, meaning that the artist’s home will stay open to visitors

Although visionary British artist Derek Jarman died in 1994, his legacy lives on at his home in Dungeness, in Kent, where visitors can explore his notebooks, driftwood sculptures, and gardens. The property recently, however, came under threat. Jarman left it to Keith Collins, a close companion in his final years, but after Collins passed away in 2018, the cottage was put up for sale privately – then at risk of having its contents dispersed and artistic legacy lost forever.

The organisation ArtFund has campaigned to buy it back and to secure the future of the cottage’s contents, promising to turn the building into a “cultural hub” passing on the legacy of Jarman’s work. They launched a crowdfunder back in January under the name #SaveProspectCottage and with the support of artists like Isaac Julian, Jeremy Deller, and Wolfgang Tillmans, who donated prints and pieces as gifts to those who pledged to save the cottage, as well as Tilda Swinton, Sandy Powell, Tacita Dean, and more.

Today, the campaign hit its fundraising target, accumulating £3.5 million and counting to save the cottage. 7,700 individuals and institutions made donations over the previous months. The success of the campaign will enable Art Fund to buy Prospect Cottage from the Keith Collins Will Trust, as well as funding a permanent public programme, the conservation and maintenance of the building, its collection, its contents, and its famous garden. 

Tilda Swinton, one of the campaign’s most significant voices and a Jarman protégée, said: “When Derek initiated the project of making of this little house on the shingle the unique and magically empowering space it has come to be, not only for him, but for so many of us, it was at a time of intense uncertainty and fragility in his own life. That our casting the net of our appeal to keep this project alive has coincided with the phenomenal global challenge to community with which we are currently faced – and that that net has still come in so full of bounty – has only served to prove how invaluable this vision of future is to us all.”

Jarman bought his Dungeness home and garden, called Prospect Cottage, in 1986 – the same year he was diagnosed as HIV-positive, becoming one of the first public figures to openly declare his disease – with the spot since becoming a shrine for his fans.

According to a statement from Art Fund, Creative Folkestone, Kent’s leading arts organisation, will oversee custodial duties of Prospect Cottage, with income drawn from a permanent endowment to cover maintenance of building and garden, as well as a residency programme for artists, academics, writers, gardeners, filmmakers, and others interested in Jarman and his work. 

The garden will be restored to the levels it was kept to during Jarman’s lifetime, and for the first time, members of the public will also be able to see inside the cottage, by appointment, through a programme of guided visits. Jarman’s archive from the cottage will go on display at Tate Britain for the first time on loan – this will include notebooks, sketchbooks, letters, drawings and photographs. Gems also include the notebook he used when working on his final feature film Blue (1993)as well as his BAFTA, awarded in 1992 for outstanding British contribution to cinema, his personal SLR and Super 8 cameras, and an address book including collaged photographs of his friends beside each contact. 

Peers, collaborators, protegees, and admirers of Jarman rallied across the last few months to see the campaign to triumph: among the most notable efforts was Sandy Powell’s repurposing and auctioning of her suit. Powell wore a cream calico suit to the 2020 Critics’ Circle, Bafta and Oscar ceremonies, gathering over 200 signatures on it from the film industry including Scarlett JohanssonBrad Pitt, Renée Zellweger, Bong Joon HoLeonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Elton John, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura DernSpike Lee, and Saoirse Ronan. It was sold at auction for £16,000 towards the cause.

Tacita Dean said: “I cannot express how delighted and moved I am that so many people have come together to protect this very special place. Keith Collins loved and preserved the cottage and garden after Derek Jarman died in 1994. He laid the way for this to happen enabling us all to keep Prospect Cottage as a beacon of hope in the resilience and redemption of the creative process in times of adversity. As it was for Derek, it is for us now. Thanks Keith and thank you to everyone who has made this possible.”