Celebrating life or profiting from suicide? Hampstead rocker to turn Ian Curtis’s final home into museum

Musician Jeff Shapiro

Musician Jeff Shapiro - Credit: Archant

Jeff Shapiro is to turn the home where Curtis committed suicide into a base for Joy Division fans, finds Alex Bellotti.

It may have been the setting of one of pop music’s biggest tragedies, but a Hampstead musician is hoping to turn Ian Curtis’s last home into a museum celebrating the Joy Division front man.

Jeff Shapiro was approached to plan and design the project by his friend, entrepreneur Hadar Goldman, who secured the Macclesfield property with a last minute bid of £190,000 – nearly twice its asking price – after being inspired by a failed crowdfunding attempt by fans.

The terraced building housed Curtis and his family until 1980, when the punk legend hanged himself in the kitchen at the age of 23. Having looked set to be used as a home, many fans are relieved it will now be saved from obscurity. But others question whether creating a museum would be celebrating suicide.

Shapiro, however, insists it is rather a celebration of Curtis’ life, the band and the scene they inspired.

“It’s very hard to understand how things worked at that time and how someone like Ian Curtis could end up killing himself at the age of 23,” the 38-year-old says.

“At the same time, I think they stood for something really powerful, although for a short time, and that’s some of the reason we feel this could be very special.”

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As a member of rock group Playing Mars, Shapiro is a long-time fan of Joy Division and cites them as a “big influence on anyone who does alternative, slightly dark music – something that’s a bit more individual and unique”.

His immediate plans for the building include securing it blue plaque status, before proceeding with planning applications, holding a competition for art students to help with the design and launching a website where fans can share new artistic content.

Shapiro admits neither he nor Goldman have cleared the project with Curtis’ widow, Deborah, or daughter, Natalie, but insists they will approach key figures “in a very soft way” once plans are finalised.

“The whole thing is hopefully going to be documented in a good place. Taking it forward will be the online thing, which will be taking it into the future and creating maybe new opportunities for artists.

“People can use the website to showcase their alternative music and talents – whether it’s poetry or art or anything else. It’s trying to look at Ian Curtis; who he was, and what he stood for.”