In 1986, he was diagnosed HIV positive, and became one of the first British public figures to speak openly about the condition. Prior to his diagnosis, he had protested Margaret Thatcher’s Britain in a series of paintings entitled GBH, which demonstrated a punk rebellion against life under such constrictive conditions. His film The Last of England (1987) was a further angry kick against Thatcher, protesting the infamous Section 28 legislation that banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’.
After his diagnosis, he bought Prospect Cottage in Dungeness. The cottage sits on the Kent coast, between the Dungeness nuclear power station and the beach. The power station looms omnipresent from Prospect Cottage, visible from inside looking out. Between a nuclear power station and what is mythologically referred to as Britain’s only desert (technically Dungeness receives more than the required 250ml or less of annual precipitation, but the myth has persisted even since the Met Office dispelled it in 2015), Jarman cultivated a garden that is remarkable for its vitality, its idiosyncrasies, and particularly its rebellion: for existing in a place where it shouldn’t, much like Jarman himself as a queer body in 1980s Britain under a Conservative government.