Jarman died 'with dignity and stoicism': Admirers praise great original talent of British cinema. Stephen Ward reports

THE long-drawn-out voyage to death of Derek Jarman reached its destination at the weekend, in a hospital room that had been filled in recent days with a procession of his ardent admirers.

It was an end that the film-maker had thought on long and hard, and spoken of often, since he was diagnosed HIV positive on 22 December 1986, a condition he revealed a month later.

When it finally came, at 11pm on Saturday in St Bartholomew's hospital, after much suffering, it was at least not a lonely death. Keith Collins, who had lived with Jarman for six years, had slept on the floor of his room at Bart's for the past three weeks, and many friends had visited right up until the end.

Nicholas de Jongh, film critic of the London Evening Standard, was among those at Jarman's bedside on Saturday night. 'People visited non-stop, of all sorts, genders and all sexualities,' he said.

'He was hugely adored. He was remarkably in control until quite late on.'

Jarman had requested that his medication be stopped, Mr de Jongh said. 'He submitted with profound dignity and stoicism to the devastating effects of the virus, although at the end he had no sight and very little quality of life.' A flood of tributes followed the announcement yesterday evening of the loss of one of British cinema's most singular and uncompromising figures.

Mr de Jongh said: 'He came out before coming out was fashionable. People felt he was the first homosexual man to tell it as it was, or is, or has been. To some people his bravura was distasteful and they even suggested he deserved to be dying - he reacted with puzzled regret. He was a gentleman.'

Marjorie Mowlam, Labour's national heritage spokesman, described him last night as 'a great artist, a great man of British cinema and a man who made what Aids sufferers go through comprehensible to many people'.

David Mellor, former Secrtary of State for National Heritage, said: 'I very much admired Derek Jarman's courage and resilience. While on a visit to Bart's I had the opportunity of talking to him, and his serenity and optimism in the face of what is a ghastly illness deeply impressed me. It will be for posterity to decide what Derek's artistic accomplishments mean but he was a man of great courage and artistic vision and kept working right up to the end.'

Melvyn Bragg, the arts critic and broadcaster, said of Jarman's death: 'It is very sad news, not unexpected but still very sad.'

Jarman was one of a great British tradition of artists, in his eccentricity and originality, Mr Bragg said. He had faced his death in an 'exemplary way'.

Angela Mason, executive director of the lesbian and gay lobbying group Stonewall, said: 'His courage, intelligence and indeed anger gave heart and hope to thousands of lesbians and gay men.'

She added: 'Derek's contribution will live on in his work and in the political movement for lesbians and gay men he helped to forge.'

The gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the group OutRage, which Jarman had supported, said last night: 'Derek made an unforgettable contribution to lesbian and gay visibility, pride and achievement.'

Despite his illness, Jarman continued to to work as long as possible, writing, painting and film- making.

And he continued to give interviews in which he spoke of his homosexuality and his disease.

He said once: 'I'm not going to be pleased to die, particularly, but I don't feel unhappy.

'After struggling with these illnesses you feel 'Well at least I won't have to do that any more'.'

(Photographs omitted)

Obituary, page 14