Mark Jenkins RIP: a tribute to a true originator – ‘a pioneer, a rule-breaker and a huge talent’

Marky J photo by Mark McNulty

Marky J photo by Mark McNulty

Mark Jenkins a pioneer of Liverpool clubland has died, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald pays tribute to a man who broke down barriers through music, art, style and good times.

Clubland legend‘. ‘Queen of the dancefloor‘. ‘Icon of the scene‘. ‘Fond and happy memories of him‘. ‘A wonderful character and a fantastic human being‘. ‘Hilarious, outrageous and flamboyant‘. ‘A true orginator‘ ….

The list goes on, just as the memories will. Just some of the tributes that poured across social media this week following the announcement that Mark Jenkins, or Marky J as many would remember him, had passed away. Mark was indeed a huge character, once met, never forgotten.

For more than three decades, he made his presence felt in clubs all over the city. And it was indeed a remarkable presence. Mark ran club nights of his own, as well taking a creative role in the nights of others, he put fashion shows together, there were performance art events, he was there at the centre of the dance revolution in the city in the late 80s and early 90s, and, as many will remember, he was instrumental in bringing diverse communities together on the dancefloor of Garlands, helping to remove society’s barriers, through music, art, style and good times.

Garlands was Marky J, and in many ways, Marky J was Garlands. The absolute definition of the man and his times. A gregarious and effervescent life well lived, filled with sparkle, light, music and art. Gifted with a wicked and hysterical sense of humour, with a singular laugh. You’d often hear that guttural, rasping laughter before you saw him. In the 80s and 90s days of darkness in the city, and in the hours of night, Mark Jenkins was one of those who brought the colour, and kept that colour bright.

When it came to his club nights, he knew exactly what he wanted, and he knew how to get it done. He was an imaginer, a creator, and a doer. His Bigmouth nights in Wolstenholme Square, in the years prior to Cream, were the stuff of legend. A refreshing blast of colour in an otherwise dull and dark place. Which was pretty much how he lived his life. The club, dressed to different themes, the emphasis on extravagance, it was a night presented by enthusiastic people to an appreciative crowd, and Mark Jenkins was at its heart, a pioneer, a rule-breaker, and a huge talent.

Mark Jenkins photo by Mark McNulty

Mark Jenkins photo by Mark McNulty

It seems that from a young age, Mark Jenkins thought in terms that others refused. As DJ Martin Quirk puts it, “I was at SFX [St Francis Xavier’s College] with Mark from when we were 11 in 1977. He was so intelligent and creative, his passion for art, fashion, music and culture was infectious at such a young age. We started a dinner time arts club when we were about 14 and spent every dinner hour painting and creating with about four kindred spirits to our hearts content. In a different life, Mark would have been a famous artist, no doubt about it. He grasped complex concepts so young, and had things that he wanted to say.”

Mark was later expelled from SFX for his insistence on coming to school with crimped hair and wearing make up. Not the best way to win favour in a catholic school, its fair to say, but he was unashamed, and unswayed. He absolutely celebrated his sexuality in every way he could, and in far harsher and more judgemental times in which society was less than accepting, to say the least. His attitude was to tackle bigotry, and he was tough and determined. Like so many gay men back then, he had to be.

His good friend, the poet Gerry Potter remembers that attitude well, “Mark had a pesky sense of adventure, more than a hint of mischief, didn’t look for trouble but wouldn’t back away from it either, held his ground and could be extremely loud and affecting. I remember thinking there was a much older head on those determined angular shoulders, she held a world-queery wisdom, a weather-beaten-Paris-sequinned soul. Being that visibly camp and brought up in Everton means you can’t help but “know” stuff, certainly how brutal the world can be”

That determination, stubbornness, and street-toughened outlook informed much of Mark Jenkins‘ work, and together with his innate creativity, wide-eyed optimism, and utterly hilarious attitude, has created a legacy in the city’s clublife and culture of which we should all be incredibly proud.

There’s one less bright light on the dancefloor.

With thanks to Mark McNulty.