Derek Jarman outside Prospect Cottage Photo by Howard Sooley

Derek Jarman Pocket Park blog – part 10

Springing into life!

Spring has sprung and the Derek Jarman Pocket Park is blooming and flourishing again!  It was heartening to see many of last year’s spring bulbs reappear and this year’s allium and tree lily bulbs starting to grow as well.  The tulips with their range of colours were much enjoyed and admired by visitors.

Orange tulips in front of a yellow wooden structure

The hellebores continued to flower but unfortunately, they had some unwelcome guests in the form of greenflies.  We decided to try a few natural ways of dealing with the greenfly invasion, including removing them from the flowers by hand but where there were too many for this approach, we tried using a home-made garlic spray as a repellent.  One of the volunteers made the spray using a handful of crushed garlic cloves boiled in water and then left to infuse for a couple of days before sieving the mixture and decanting the liquid into a spray bottle.  We sprayed the hellebores and there were fewer greenflies at our next gardening session, so we like to think it worked!

plastic spray bottle marked 'GARLIC SPRAY'

The greenfly outbreak illustrated one of the challenges we face in maintaining a city container garden such as the Derek Jarman Pocket Park in an environmentally friendly way, ensuring that the garden builds a natural resilience to pests and diseases.  In our own gardens at home, we are able to include features that attract natural predators such as birds, frogs and hedgehogs but in our city-centre setting, this is not so easy.  With this in mind, we decided to try adding a birdfeeder to the garden in the hope that we can attract some city birds to become regular visitors and hopefully, they will also help themselves to a few greenflies too!  We realised that none of us had seen any birds in or near the garden apart from pigeons so it will be interesting to see if the feeder can attract any other types of birds.  We will let you know how it goes!

David, a white man wearing a blue jumper holding a box of seedlings
Two volunteers planting seedlings into a planter in the garden

Some of the volunteer gardeners have been growing a range of flowers from seed to add to the garden during the coming months.  The first lot of seedlings was planted at the beginning of May, and more were added later in the month.  So far, we have added some Salvia sclera (clary sage), Antirrhinum (snapdragons), Calendula (pot marigold), Helichrysum (everlasting), Agastache (anise hyssops), Tagetes patula (French marigold), Tagetes erecta (African marigold) and Tropaeolum Majus (Nasturtium)which we hope will add colour and interest to the garden during the summer. 

As well as the carefully nurtured seedlings, we have also noticed a few self-seeded plants starting to appear, which is always exciting!  In among the tulips, we have enjoyed seeing delicate forget-me-nots starting to flower…

tulips and forget-me-nots

…and a cheeky but stylish thistle has taken up residence on the shelter’s living roof!  We’re looking forward to seeing it in flower soon.


Recently, three of us from the Derek Jarman Pocket Park team were lucky enough to get tickets to the showing of BLUE NOW, a live screening of Jarman’s final film, Blue marking the 20th anniversary of its completion in May 1993, just months before his death. 

Blue features a continuous unchanging shot of blue (International Klein Blue) accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Simon Fisher-Turner using sound effects, performed music, rhythmic elements and moments of silence. The film focuses on Jarman’s lived experience of AIDS as he nears the end of his life, with spoken fragments from his diaries about his declining health, particularly his loss of sight.  

Headshots of 6 people all in the colour International Klein Blue

BLUE NOW screened the same continuous shot of blue accompanied by a new score composed and performed live by Simon Fisher-Turner and the excerpts from Jarman’s diary read live by four actors, theatre makers & poets – Russell Tovey, Joelle Taylor, Jay Bernard and Neil Bartlett who also directed the live screening. The whole performance was further enhanced by the BSL interpreter who not only interpreted the spoken word but also the soundtrack through wonderful combinations of gesture and hand movements.

Being in the audience for BLUE NOW was a moving and powerful experience. Listening to Jarman’s words interpreted and read by current members of the LGBT+ community, all of them leaders in today’s performing arts world. It was as though they were performing on the ‘shoulders of a giant’ who had gone before them, blazing a path for the LGBT+ artists of today and the future.  The newly composed live score was mesmerisingly beautiful, captivating our attention from the first sound to the last and to the silence beyond.  We felt very privileged to be at one of only four UK performances of BLUE NOW and if by any chance more live screenings are held, we would recommend you grab yourself a ticket without delay!

– Hazel Errey, member of the Derek Jarman Pocket Park Group


The Derek Jarman Pocket Park is supported by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Pocket Parks, Pride in Ageing at the LGBT Foundation ManchesterThe IGNITION ProjectRoyal Horticultural SocietyExterior ArchitectureThe Postcode Lottery Trust, Manchester Wellbeing Fund and United Utilities.