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The Raft of the Medusa: a unique experimental broadcast commission

Date posted: 14.04.2015

An innovative new audiovisual commission celebrating the legacy of Derek Jarman has been developed through an ongoing partnership between Film London Artists' Moving Image (FLAMIN), BBC Radio Drama and Cast Iron Radio will be broadcast this weekend.

The Raft of the Medusa, is an ambitious new multi-platform collaboration between writer Simon Armitage and filmmaker Richard Heslop, featuring music by Simon Fisher Turner.


Developed in response to Jarman's unrealised project of the same name, The Raft of the Medusa fuses radio play and experimental film to create an engaging multi-layered work.

The Inspiration

Shortly before his death in 1994, Jarman was considering making a film based on Theodore Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa (1819), which depicts a group of desperate men, abandoned on a raft at sea. He wrote about it in his notebook and discussed ideas with collaborators, but the film was never made. Armitage and Heslop were inspired to collaborate as a tribute to Jarman.

A Unique Collaboration

Taking clues from Jarman, Armitage has developed a radio drama inspired by flood and isolation. Set in the near future after months of continuous rainfall, Armitage's play depicts Bella and Jude (voiced by Catherine Cusack and Amaka Okafor) marooned on their flooded farm, cut off from any contact with the world outside.
Filmmaker Heslop, who also worked as Jarman's cinematographer, builds on Armitage's narrative to create a visually striking film work. Heslop's film pays tribute to Jarman's passion for painting and colour and also features a short sequence of Super 8 footage of Jarman himself, shot by Heslop during the making of The Garden.

Additionally, musician and long-term Jarman collaborator Fisher-Turner has crafted a specially composed soundtrack for the play.

The Raft of the Medusa play will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 2.30pm on Saturday 18 April and the full audiovisual work will subsequently be available to view via the BBC iPlayer

About the Partnership

The Raft of the Medusa project marks the third successful collaboration between FLAMIN and BBC Radio drama, following 2008's The City Speaks, an innovative multi-platform celebration of London based on an original narrative by Peter Akroyd, and 2012's Dickens in London, a series of 5 short works with visual by Chris Newby commissioned as part of the Dickens' bi-centenary celebrations.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield. A recipient of numerous prizes and awards, he has published 10 collections of poetry, including Selected Poems (2001), Seeing Stars (2010), his acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007) and more recently The Death of King Arthur (2012).

A broadcaster and presenter, he also writes extensively for television and radio, is the author of two novels and the best-selling memoir All Points North. In 2010 he received the CBE for services to poetry.

Richard Heslop
Richard Heslop graduated in 1984 from St. Martin's School of Art film department with a BA honours in film/fine art. He became a cameraman on Derek Jarman's film The Garden (1990) and The last of England.

In 1991, he directed Floating for Channel 4, which was awarded Best Short Film in the Semaine de la Critique at the Cannes Film Festival in 1992. That same year, Heslop joined Oil Factory - a prolific London-based production company for music videos and commercials and has since been writing and developing feature film scripts as well as progressing his work in photography, illustration, video installation and his collection of unique conceptual art pieces.

Simon Fisher Turner
Simon Fisher Turner became Artist in Residence at the ICA in 1980. While working as a driver for a management company in the early 1980s, Fisher Turner met film director Derek Jarman. Although he admits that, initially, he "had to ask people what to do", he composed soundtracks for Caravaggio, The Last Of England, The Garden and Edward II, and finally Blue, Jarman's last feature film before his death.

The Raft of the Medusa
will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 2.30pm on Saturday 18 April, preceded by a short documentary examining Jarman and his art by Jonathan Watts.

The Raft of the Medusa is a Cast Iron Radio and Film London Artists' Moving Image Network production. Supported by Arts Council England. 

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