A Journey to Avebury by Derek Jarman


Among the Doublevision video releases I was writing about earlier this month there’s a notable omission from those which have been reissued on DVD: Derek Jarman’s In the Shadow of the Sun was the seventh release on the label, the 1980 version of a film which was compiled in 1974 using footage from his earlier Super-8 shorts, one of which was A Journey to Avebury (1971). Several of the short films have appeared as extras on recent DVDs but the gorgeously oneiric In the Shadow of the Sun remains stubbornly unavailable.


A Journey to Avebury lasts for ten minutes, and in its original state was nothing more than silent, static shots of fields, pathways (putative ley lines, perhaps), silhouetted trees, and finally the Avebury stones. I still find it one of the most fascinating of his short films. The yellow filter gives all the shots an oppressive, sulphurous cast which turns the otherwise bucolic landscape into a place of imminent (or even post-) apocalypse. I’m reminded of the yellow skies in Charles Platt’s erotic nightmare The Gas (1970), or some of the outdoor shots in Penda’s Fen (1974) which are equally suffused with menace.


The copy of A Journey to Avebury that’s currently on YouTube is a recent version with an uncredited electronic score. I still don’t know who did the music; it doesn’t sound like Coil. Cyclobe? (It’s Coil.) The YouTube version can be found in far better quality on the Second Sight DVD of Jarman’s The Last of England.


And just to show how everything here is connected to everything else, that brooding megalith above (known locally as “The Devil’s Seat”) can be seen in at least one shot in Children of the Stones. No surprise there but the shot also reveals the place where Jarman and co. would have been standing five years earlier.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Children of the Stones
Avebury panoramas
Derek Jarman’s music videos
Derek Jarman’s Neutron
Mister Jarman, Mister Moore and Doctor Dee
The Tempest illustrated
Penda’s Fen by David Rudkin
In the Shadow of the Sun by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman at the Serpentine
The Angelic Conversation
The life and work of Derek Jarman

13 thoughts on “A Journey to Avebury by Derek Jarman”

  1. Think the music is Coil, or at least random old download sitting in my iTunes claims it to be so. Off something called ‘Twin Tub & Beaver 10″ A-side’. Same title as film.

  2. Twin Tub and Beaver is apparently a Leeds label I hadn’t heard of before:


    It could be something by Noise-Maker’s Fifes who I’d also not heard of before. Coil still seems possible, however, since David Tibet said the film was John Balance’s favourite of Jarman’s. Tibet and friends have done their own soundtrack for it but it’s very different to the DVD version.

  3. I read the old post on Penda’s Fen and note that it is now available on youtube which it seems was not the case when you wrote.

    Thanks for writing about all these 70s shows which I never saw or heard of.

  4. Maya: And it was sat in my iTunes playlist all along! I ought to have searched there instead of looking for the info online. I’ve got it in the unofficial Black Gold collection. I’ve amended the post accordingly.

  5. Thanks, Larry. I have a copy already from the time when Ubuweb had it on their site. Ideally I’d like there to be a DVD available since something sourced from an old VHS tape looks worse than the films he used to make the longer work.

  6. Thanks, Kevin. I’ll bear that in mind although I have an old set of Jodorowsky films that Raro Video did and the quality of those was pretty poor. I keep hoping the BFI might do all of Jarman’s Super-8 films, they’ve done plenty of his others.

  7. I had hoped that after Zeitgeist included Glitterbug and The Angelic Conversation in their Glitterbox collection that the others would soon be remastered and released. Oh well…

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading