We’re overwhelmed by the support we’ve had in helping us get to the halfway mark.
In less than a week, more than 2,000 funders have responded to the rallying cry to #SaveProspectCottage and bring us closer to reaching our target. Thank you for joining the campaign; we need your help in spreading the word.
Today we’re sharing Tilda Swinton’s emotive speech as to why we should save Prospect Cottage and secure its future as a centre of creative activity.
Swinton was speaking at the launch event last Wednesday, where friends and artists gathered to kickstart the campaign – and we’re sure you’ll agree it’s a moving call to action.
Tilda Swinton, 22 January 2020
“I first saw Prospect Cottage the day that Derek did.
We had driven down to find a bluebell wood to shoot in: I had remembered a wide bluebell expanse in Kent from my schooldays there. We pottered down in my ramshackle little car and found the idyll now covered in concrete… A little disheartened, we headed for the coast, abandoning bluebells in search of fresh air.
Derek’s father had recently died and left him a small inheritance. Life on Charing Cross Road had become somewhat overstimulating and Derek was looking for a place to be quieter. He had a friend who lived on the shingle at Dungeness, that pocket of southern England that sounded to me so tantalisingly Scottish, the ‘dangerous nose’, the Fifth Quarter of the globe...
We drove along the shore road and stopped to skim flat stones like flints into the waves, pocket a few pebbles that we found with perfect holes in them, little knowing that this would be the first of a thousand afternoons for us spent in much the same way.
As we were turning to drive back to London, we saw, at the same moment, a small black-painted wooden house with yolk-yellow window frames on the left-hand side of the road facing the sea. It had a For Sale sign stuck in the stones at its feet. I remember distinctly turning in without a word and stopping the car.
We knocked on the door, were let in by the charming lady who lived there and after a tour that cannot have lasted longer than fifteen minutes, were back on the road heading north.
Derek decided before we reached Lydd that he would buy it; and within a couple of months, was taking down chintz curtains and prising open the lid of the first of gazillion gallons of pitch black paint with which to anoint his new kingdom.
The pleasure he took in transforming this modest bungalow into the Tardis he created, the setting for his films, his books, his garden, the solace of the sea and the peculiar glamour of the nuclear power station (!), especially at the moment at which he discovered himself ill, is incalculable.
He made of this wee house, his wooden tent pitched in the wilderness, an art work – and out of its shingle skirts, an ingenious garden, now internationally recognised. But, first and foremost, the cottage was always a living thing, a practical toolbox for his work.
You will, quite properly, be hearing today that we are seeking to save, to preserve, a treasure that might otherwise be lost to our cultural landscape.
I would like to take my opportunity of speaking here to propose that it is that we are not seeking to set in a timewarp a precious object of historical significance for posterity only, but, crucially, to resuscitate and ensure the continued vibrational existence of a living battery: to clear space around it and feed the energy of a resource that was only ever intended to be that. This is a vision not of taking but of giving.
Just as Derek was self-determinedly dedicated to process above product, to collective work, to empowering voices that might feel alienated, my excitement about this vision for Prospect Cottage lives in its projected future as an open, inclusive and encouraging machine for the inspiration and functional working lives of those who might come and share in its special qualities, qualities that, as a young artist, I was lucky enough to benefit from alongside Derek and so many of our friends and fellow travellers.
Beyond the plaques, there are some places that offer the vision of a continued evolution as a point of encouragement and metaphysical enlightenment.
I suggest that Prospect Cottage is such a place.
Derek – memorably – said that he would prefer his works after his death to evaporate and disappear. For what it’s worth, and in honour of the supremely contrary nature of my friend, I feel fully confident that he would be extremely enthusiastic about the generosity of this vision for the continuance of the life of his beloved Prospect Cottage as a possibility for future artists, thinkers, activists, gardeners to gain from it the practical and spiritual nourishment it lent him, and for which he was – and is – eternally grateful.”