Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Dancing Ledge

Dancing Ledge

Derek Jarman
Edited by Shaun Allen
Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Dancing Ledge
    Book Description:

    From his sexual awakening in postwar England to life in the sixties and beyond, Derek Jarman tells his life story with the in-your-face immediacy that became his trademark style in his films and writing. Accompanied by photographs of Jarman, his friends, lovers, and inspirations, the candid accounts in Dancing Ledge provide intimate and vivid glimpses into his life and times.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7514-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. A Footnote to My Past
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Derek Jarman
  4. I The Rough Cut
    (pp. 1-28)

    All through Christmas, spent in this old farmhouse high on a windy hill in Tuscany, I have told myself I must begin recording the labyrinthine saga of the Caravaggio film – 1.30 and the family has left for a hunters’ lunch with thecontadini, who have been chasing wild boar all morning through the maize fields and woods along the banks of the Ombrone, which glitters below. The first sporadic bursts of gunfire were to be heard at sunrise, and upon coming down for breakfast I found the maid, Zara, in tears: her dog had just died. Shot, I thought,...

  5. II Painting It Out
    (pp. 29-58)

    Great-Uncle Tommy, who worked with my grandfather in India, had a secretary called Merle Oberon. When she later became a film star she never failed to invite him to her premieres, until one day he unwittingly mentioned their shared past.

    At seventeen my mother, Elizabeth, went to the Viceroy's ball. The Vicereine of India had an obsession with imperial purple. The tablecloths and every detail down to the purple sweet-wrappers reflected this megalomaniac vision.

    In the early twenties there was a slump in rubber consumption which followed the boom in the Great War; the slump devastated the plantations in Malaya....

  6. III The Thaw
    (pp. 59-87)

    Life was to change for ever after my return from America in the autumn of 1964. By October I had discovered my first gay pub – the William IV in Hampstead; and shortly after, the La Douce in Poland Street and the Gigolo in the King’s Road. These were two of a handful of gay bars which were the only haven in a city of eight million souls. From our flat in Priory Road I could walk to the William IV, but on several occasions went to the Gigolo, quite prepared to do the two-hour walk back to West Hampstead...

  7. IV The Most Beautiful Room in London
    (pp. 88-104)

    In August 1969 I moved into the first of a series of warehouses on the river front. Upper Ground was at the end of Blackfriars Bridge. It was a large, airy L-shaped room. After seven years in cramped Georgian terrace houses and basements the change was exhilarating. There was space to spread out – to entertain – for friends to stay without falling over each other. Life could be a bit Spartan in winter, but the summers were an idyll; and the old brick buildings – all of which have now disappeared under improvements — a delight.

    The area was...

  8. V Home Movies
    (pp. 106-130)

    The ‘home movie’ nights of my childhood were the most exciting. To watch Grandma Mimosa cutting up the Sunday chicken in 1929 seemed no less than a miracle – in Grandfather’s home movies with their title cards: ‘BACK TO SCHOOL, YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW THEY FELT’, and, ‘BANG UP TO DATE LANDING IN GAY PAREE IN SILVER WING, LANDING LOADF OF 19’. Thirty minutes of film would cover as many years, and there was always a chance the old projector might break down. Half-way, in 1939, when my father took over the filming, everything broke out into the most brilliant...

  9. VI St Sebastian
    (pp. 132-159)

    I met James Whaley, who was to become the producer ofSebastiane, at a Sunday lunch. He asked me what I did. Films. ‘What sort?’ ‘Little ones.’ Have you ever thought of features? No – impossible! Well I’m going to make one, he said, what ideas do you have?The Tempestperhaps. I’ve always dreamed of that; I chatted with John Gielgud for a whole evening about it. He said if he did it he would film it in Bali. I’ve made a script of it. Prospero’s a schizophrenic locked into a madhouse – Bedlam. He plays all the parts...

  10. VII Chelsea on Ice
    (pp. 160-172)

    Spring-Summer 1977: The Super 8 film I was planning with Jordan took off like a roller coaster after the success ofSebastianeat the Gate. The John Dee script was pirated and used as a framing device; Jung’sSeven Sermons to the Dead, and theAngelic Conversationsof the good doctor Dee were scrambled withSNIFFin GlueandLondon’s OUTRAGE. ‘See natures splendours, mans achievements’ – by March, HI☭H; FAS卐ION as it was called at first, a R.I.P. OFF Films production, was xeroxed like a fanzine.

    Throughout the filming a debate raged about the title of both the film and...

  11. VIII Stormy Weather
    (pp. 174-198)

    At the end of July 1978, I went to Taormina in Sicily to help with the Italian pre-publicity forJubilee. The trip proved as disastrous as I had expected. The film was shown on the last night of the festival at 2.30 a.m.; I left an hour into the film, leaving an audience of nine in the cinema, of whom at least four were asleep. The lonely and isolated days at the festival were brightened up by meeting Paul Morrissey, whose rather awful attempt at ‘Carry On Sherlock Holmes’ was showing. I found it difficult to equate this urbane, besuited...

  12. IX The Oblivion Digits
    (pp. 199-226)

    AfterThe Tempestit seemed a matter of months before a new project would be funded. But I miscalculated the resistance to anything that does not reflect the commercial norm. The budgeting of my films was virtually non-existent — no chance of anyone making much more than a simple wage; and the subject-matter, though acceptable to an audience once the films had been made, was wholly unacceptable in any of the legitimate channels for film-funding in this country. NotSebastiane, Jubilee, norThe Tempest(except for a mad moment of commitment by Don Boyd) would have stood a chance of...

  13. X Dancing Ledge
    (pp. 227-241)

    I have a very low opinion of art and an even lower opinion of what is accepted as art, put high on a pedestal, high as it is possible to make it without rendering it totally invisible. Incarcerated in bunkers, sold, bartered, and reproduced so that even the most potent images are nullified, ‘art’ is eulogized into something other. Unobtainable, it has a negative function in the education process. Culture begins at school and is completed at university, by which time all aspiration to selfhood is stifled, and the mind is colonized by dead wood. How right Duchamp was to...

  14. XI An Inventory
    (pp. 242-243)

    Conducting an inventory. At forty I have debts of £2,000 to the bank and a further £1,000 to friends. I have no stable income, and although Nicholas hopes to sort things out in Rome, it is always tomorrow. I’m stuck with this project like an iron lung – it’s too late to go back, and in any case, impossible to think of anything untilCaravaggiois completed. I have no car or television. There is no office except for this room, which is eighteen by fifteen feet, painted white and rented. It has a walk-in bathroom and kitchen. There are...

  15. XII Epilogue
    (pp. 244-246)

    From the end ofJubilee– July 1977, Dancing Ledge, Dorset.

    I love these rocks with their emerald-green pools and sea anemones – the sea roaring against the cliffs with their huge silent caves. Jenny changes into her white Elizabeth dress which Christopher has made with lace gloves and great chandelier drop jewels. Her lady-in-waiting, Helen, bustles among the rocks, and David, who plays Ariel, puts in his jet-black contact lenses. The sun comes out fitfully.

    Elizabeth: All my heart rejoiceth at the roar of the surf on the shingles marvellous sweet music it is to my ears — what...