I was strolling along Shad Thames this afternoon when I saw a poignant photocopied memorial and posy of flowers in memory of artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman. It had presumably been put up on the tenth anniverary of his death on the 19th February.
It mentioned his time as a resident of the area (before Conranisation). I'm now trying to recall which of his films - Jubilee or the Tempest - that has quite a few scenes shot in the area. I have a memory of Toyah Wilcox frolicking near to Tower Bridge.
A few yards on, I looked up at the cargo bridges that span the street, and discovered that someone is trying to suburbanise Shad Thames by growing evergreen shrubs on the extended balcony to their flat provided by the bridge.
Would Jarman have been aghast at this final loss of the area's industrial character, or found it hysterically funny???
I hope that Jarman wouldn't be aghast. More likely he might have been passing through, having long moved on, and would have been observing the changes through his film-maker's eye.
Most people who were attracted to the river's edge in the early years (the 1970s) were attracted bt the availability of cheap space where they could pursue their own brand of city living. Jarman was one of the more profile members of that community. But things have changed since those heady days.
Today's incomers are looking for residential property (and fabulous wealth in appreciation?) rather than the industrial grime and edge that existed 30+ years ago. Noise (from traffic or industry) is seen as an inconvenience rather than the soundtrack to 'life in the city'.
Glad somebody noticed the Derek Jarman posters, flowers and candles at Butlers Wharf. We put them up on Thursday, 10th anniversary of his death. The information I have about his South Bank homes is as follows (mostly from Tony Peake's very good biography):
In 1968, Jarman had his first taste of riverside living in a house on the South Bank awaiting demolition, where he shared studio space with Peter Logan and the painter Tony Fry. Shortly afterwards he moved to a warehouse at 51 Upper Ground, near the corner of Blackfriars Road, a place that was to become 'a Mecca for London's avant-garde' with its parties thrown by Jarman with Peter and Andrew Logan. Guests at the farewell party in the summer of 1970 included Tennessee Williams and 'Ossie Clark, dispensing joints on the stairs'. Shortly afterwards the building was demolished to make way for the IPC Tower.
Next stop was 13 Bankside 'on the top floor of a riverside warehouse alongside Southwark Bridge. To cope with
the cold in the warehouse, Jarman famously set up a greenhouse for his bedroom. Bankside too became famous for parties, and for film showings as Jarman began experimenting with Super 8. In summer 1972, Jarman had to move again to make way for another demolition, filming a final walk of the area called 'One Last
Walk One Last Look'.
The following year, Jarman moved to a new home/studio in a semi-derelict warehouse at Butler's Wharf, next to Tower Bridge. Jarman lived on the third floor of Block A1, with neighbours including Andrew and Peter Logan. On the waste ground next door Jarman filmed the ritualistic fire scenes for 'In the Shadow of the Sun', with a fire maze, candles and flashing mirrors. The finished film was finally released in 1981 with a soundtrack from Throbbing Gristle. 'Jubilee' was also filmed locally in Southwark and Rotherhithe, and at the former dockside in Deptford where Jordan was filmed dancing round a fire including a burning Union Jack. L
Parties at Butlers Wharf included the 1975 Alternative Miss World, which Jarman took part in as 'Miss Crepe Suzette' and in 1978 when Adam and the Ants played Jarman moved out in 1979. Revisiting in 1991, Jarman noted 'The money has gilded the heart of it... everything else is scrubbed all the fun vanished'.