6 Sep 2017
In 1994, an episode of the BBC television documentary strand Arena focused on the queer English filmmaker Derek Jarman. It served as the premiere of Glitterbug, a compilation of Jarman’s Super-8 films, created in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Glitterbug was preceded by a brief contextualising introduction that included an interview with Jarman, in which he discussed the experience of making and screening his films in warehouse spaces in London in the 1970s: “It was a really amusing thing to do”, he said, “because everyone came to watch them. So I used to hold these parties, wonderful parties. And everyone would come. Nobody paid any attention to the films whatsoever. They were all there, they all brought cushions and lay on the floor. We showed a proper film – 16mm, something, you know, a proper feature film, and then we would end up with the Super 8.” This anecdote is often repeated, in slightly varied iterations, in histories of Jarman’s 1970s era – many of those repetitions admittedly authored by Jarman himself – recurring and sealing into lore a distinctive sense of a space and supportive queer group conducive to innovative creative practice.
Glyn Davis is Reader in Screen Studies at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. He is the Project Leader of the three-year HERA-funded ‘Cruising the 1970s: Unearthing Pre-HIV/AIDS Queer Sexual Cultures’ project. Recent publications include the co-edited Warhol in Ten Takes (BFI, 2013) and the co-authored Film Studies: A Global Introduction (Routledge, 2015), as well as contributions to the journals Aniki, Cinema Journal, MIRAJ, and Screen. Glyn is currently completing a book manuscript entitled The Exhausted Screen: Cinema, Boredom, Stasis.
Image: Derek Jarman at Bankside