British artist and gay rights activist Derek Jarman was honoured with blue plaque in occasion of the 25th anniversary of his death from HIV, at the age of 52.
Jarmna’s plaque was unveiled on Tuesday (February 19) at Butler’s Wharf, a building located on London’s South Bank of the Thames River, a short walk from Tower Bridge.
The building was chosen for having served as Jarman’s living and working quarters for spells between 1973 and 1979, experimenting with Super-8 film.
“To me as a filmmaker, Jarman was a pioneer.”
— Derek Fletcher
The decision was however deemed controversial as the Architects’ Journal editorial director Paul Finch wrote in a comment piece earlier this month, as the building more closely associated with Jarman was his tiny flat above the Phoenix Theatre near Charing Cross.
The blue plaque, the first one unveiled this year, remembers Jarman as “film-maker, artist and gay rights activist.”
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Jarman’s 1976 debut feature film Sebastiane, acted in the Latin language, created a stir with its full-frontal nudity and gay Roman soldiers.
A decade later, in 1986, the talented filmmaker found out he was HIV positive—that same year he also released the film Caravaggio, which featured Sean bean and Tilda Swinton, as well as a 20-year-old Derek Fletcher.
Derek Jarman remembered as a ‘pioneer,’ ‘trailblazer,’ and ‘important campaigner for gay rights’
Fletcher, who completed Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer’s departure and is currently directing the Elton John biopic Rocketman, unveiled the blue plaque in honour of the director.
“To me as a filmmaker, Jarman was a pioneer. He was someone you felt clever ’cause you’ve watched his films and pretend you fully understood them,” Fletcher said.
“I was honoured to have Derek as a friend and comrade.”
— Peter Tatchell
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also addressed the crowd at Tuesday’s event, remembering the artist as his “personal friend” and as a fellow activist in opposing Section 28 and raising awareness about HIV and AIDS.
“Derek was the first UK public figure to come out as HIV positive,” Tatchell said, adding: “He was a trailblazer in every aspect of his life and work—a fierce critic of everything conventional and orthodox. A true innovator. One of his favourite quips was from Dorothy Parker: ‘Heterosexuality is not normal. It’s just common.’ I was honoured to have Derek as a friend and comrade.”
English Heritage Trustee and Blue Plaques panel member David Olusoga said in a statement: “Jarman was a major cultural figure of the last quarter of the 20th century. He was a unique voice in cinema, an important campaigner for gay rights, a painter and a gardener.”
He added: “He brought a creative and disruptive energy to everything he did, at a time when it was urgently needed. We are delighted to honour him here on the South Bank, where he began to create his Super 8 universe.”