Obituary: Stuart Marshall
Tuesday 08 June 1993
I FIRST met Stuart Marshall in 1987 when he walked into my office to interview me as a potential producer. At the end of a three-hour conversation which ranged over politics, psychoanalysis, art, music and the price of hats, he declared himself ready to take me on - and how could I resist someone who had once written a performance piece for the chimes of 14 ice- cream vans?
The first film we made together was Desire - a study of sexuality in Germany 1910-1945 (1989), on the persecution of gay men by the Nazis. Filming in Flossenberg, a concentration camp where many gay men had been killed, I remember Marshall talking passionately about the need to reclaim a history which had been forcibly and violently suppressed.
His own history had taken him through avant-garde music, video, performance and installation art, teaching, writing, film-making and Aids activism. In each of these fields he built up a formidable reputation. Born in Manchester in 1949, he studied fine art at Hornsey and Newport Colleges of Art and did an MA, in new musical composition at Wesleyan University in the United States. Subsequently he taught at Newcastle Polytechnic, the Royal College of Art and Chelsea School of Art, bringing on many gifted pupils with his vision and enthusiasm. Through the 1970s he produced over 40 musical, video and theatre performances in the US, Europe and the UK.
Marshall was a founder member of London Video Arts, a member of the Film and Video Panel of the Arts Council and an assessor on the Committee for National Academic Awards. He published essays and articles on film and video and on sexual politics, while his artistic work can be seen in many galleries and institutions, including the Museum of the Moving Image in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Throughout the time I knew him, he lived with his partner Royston Edwards in their delightful and welcoming house in Hammersmith. Here I met Stuart's ex-wife Jane Harrison, who had been his girlfriend when they were both 13 and was still his best friend 30 years on.
After Desire we collaborated on Comrades in Arms (1990), Over Our Dead Bodies (1991), Blueboys (1992) and A Bit of Scarlet (still to be completed) - all films which were in some way about the reclamation and exposition of gay and lesbian histories.
Stuart Marshall was implacably opposed to discrimination, censorship and bigotry. As an HIV/Aids activist, he delivered hard messages with wit and skill. Joining Positively Healthy in 1988 and becoming co-chair, he fought long and successfully against outright attack and sheer apathy. The film we were preparing at the time of his death was a personal plea for patient choice and the expansion of alternative medical options for people with Aids.
Stuart had a gently wicked sense of humour and a gift for camp parody; he was never averse to disarming the pompous. He was a constant, entertaining and enlightening friend.
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