The Garden Museum Opens

Sunday 5th July 2020

Garden Museum completely the first to re-open. With an exhibition about Derek Jarman who always knew me but I don’t know why. Royston was buoyant. I arrived too, but wracked with fear and dread. The masks and visors.

So we re-start, if that’s what it’s to be, as we ended in dread March – in the museum world.

Reggie Cresswell, Robert Nevil and Eddie Sedgwick were at the same school as Derek Jarman but years later of course. Somehow he was meshed in. With great randomness I was taken to a flat in Newcastle in the early 80s. The idea was to meet a spectacularly yuppie Gay of about 19 who had already gained the best terrace in the city as well as black and chrome decor, all from computers. This person was Keith Collins, later the partner of Derek Jarman, and described upon his own recent death in 2018 as a train driver. So I do sometimes wonder if it was Keith Collins that I met in that flat. But who else could it have been?

The Garden Museum exhib is immersive: a total visit to Prospect Cottage, the unusual Jarman home on the waste sands at Dungeness where I visited with Val last year. Once again I was crunching on the Dungeness pebbles with Royston. That was noisy and Royston was noisier. We had our actual memories, the films, Royston at the 40th birthday party, me trying to say that I’d actually been to the place only last year and there were notices plastered all over the hut saying ‘Go away’ and why and Royston saying It was obvious and thus we were making so much noise an American woman said, ‘Can you keep your voices down?’ We didn’t like her. Inside the cottage, as I hadn’t been before, not least because of the signs saying, ‘Go away’, Royston said he was foremost a designer and look at his remarkable handwriting. It was the handwriting of a designer. Royston said the paintings were a bit gloomy. What with the strain and nerves, whenever I bent towards an exhibit there was a need to talk. All I could gather was a life with more suffering and energy than is usual in a life: painting, film-making, writing and gardening. But really Prospect Cottage was an anti-chamber to Death, where Jarman laid out his wares knowing he would soon be cut off. He was not diminished but braced.

Once I glanced at his autobiography and sensed humanity, not squeaky and political like some of the Gays.

It’s cost £3m to save the real Prospect Cottage – which is a lot for a small hut.

After bellowing in Prospect Cottage, we roamed through the permanent exhib at the Garden Museum. Who should be there but Edmund Haakon, the opera critic, horrified by the masks and the separation. We found from a display that Beth and C. Lloyd had been picnicking at Dungeness (extraordinary choice of picnic site) and by chance come across Prospect Cottage and its owner who was astonished to discover whom he was talking to. It ended up with Beth writing to D.Jarman for advice on plants for her gravel garden which she was planning.

In another hut in the perm exhib is a film of Royston talking to his sister in her garden about it. Charming. And important as a leading Black gardener.

Then it was lunch outside in the windy conditions. The restaurant semi-open. Screens, visors, masks, gloves. Royston and the semi-aquatic Head of the Garden Museum were above it all, eyes only on the future. The Head’s going to have that roundabout at the foot of Lambeth Bridge taken away and the Old Lambeth Road marked out in a new garden next to his Museum. Then there’s the September swim to Tresco. I was the only one wracked. Maybe it’s my time of life. Or my nerves.

Derek Jarman: Handwriting of a Designer

Derek Jarman: Handwriting of a Designer

Derek Jarman: Painting of Dungeness: Gloomy, Royston said

Derek Jarman: Painting of Dungeness: Gloomy, Royston said

Derek Jarman: His Books. A Lively Mind

Derek Jarman: His Books. A Lively Mind





Posted Thursday, July 9, 2020 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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