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Derek Jarman gets blue plaque memorial 25 years after his death from HIV

Derek Jarman gets blue plaque memorial 25 years after his death from HIV

The blue plaque dedicated to Derek Jarman

The life of avant garde filmmaker Derek Jarman has been commemorated with the unveiling of a blue plaque in his honor. The plaque was unveiled today at Butlers Wharf Building, 36 Shad Thames, London, SE1 – where Jarman lived in the 1970s.

Jarman was famed in the British film world, first as a stage designer and later as a director. He made cult queer movies such as Sebastiane (1976), groundbreaking in its depiction of gay sex.

Other notable works include Jubilee (1977) and Caravaggio (1986). He also made pop videos, including It’s A Sin for the Pet Shop Boys and Ask for The Smiths.

Derek Jarman in 1991
Derek Jarman in 1991 (Photo: Gorup de Besanez – CC BY-SA 3.0)

He was an outspoken campaigner for LGBTI rights and public about his HIV status at a time when there was huge stigma around AIDS. His final film, Blue, consisted of nothing but a soundtrack over a blue screen, reflecting his own failing eyesight due to HIV-related blindness.

He died 19 February 1994, aged 52. Today’s unveiling of the plaque was led by actor and director Dexter Fletcher, who starred in Caravaggio. Fletcher took over directing duties of Bohemian Rhapsody when original director Bryan singer was fired. He’s also helmed the upcoming Elton John biopic, Rocketman.

Peter Tatchell pays tribute at Derek Jarman blue plaque unveiling

The blue plaque scheme is operated by English Heritage. Hundreds of blue plaques adorn buildings where famous people once lived. They are only decided after someone of note has been dead for at least 25 years.

Among those to speak at today’s unveiling was human rights activist, Peter Tatchell.

‘Derek was a personal friend and I worked with him for many years. He was a strong supporter of the LGBT+ direct action group OutRage! and was arrested in 1992 when we tried to march on Parliament to demand the repeal of anti-gay laws.

‘Derek was the first UK public figure to come out as HIV positive, at the AIDS and Human Rights conference that I organised to parallel the World Health Minister’s first summit on AIDS in 1988.

‘He was a trailblazer in every aspect of his life and work – a fierce critic of everything conventional and orthodox. A true innovator.’

‘A unique voice in cinema, an important campaigner for gay rights, a painter and a gardener’

English Heritage Trustee and Blue Plaques panel member, David Olusoga, said: ‘Jarman was a major cultural figure of the last quarter of the twentieth century.

‘He was a unique voice in cinema, an important campaigner for gay rights, a painter and a gardener. He brought a creative and disruptive energy to everything he did, at a time when it was urgently needed.’

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