Within a week of starting on the Pride and Prejudice project at the Museum of Liverpool I found myself in the drag room of Garlands nightclub on a Thursday lunchtime. It was then that I first met Mark Jenkins, famous on the Liverpool scene as Marky J... Over a cup of tea Mark told us the story of how he became involved in Garlands, promoting the club for over 20 years. He then kindly donated a collection of memorabilia from his years at Garlands to the Museum of Liverpool, which are currently on display in our There's no place like Garlands! display. As I met with more people from Liverpool’s LGBT communities, the more I began to realise how important Marky J had been to the creation of the vibrant, open, quirky LGBT scene that grew up around Garlands. In a time when Liverpool’s scene had been described as seedy and underground, Mark was the artistic genius who helped transform Garlands into the flamboyant club it is internationally known as today.
Mark lived his life openly, honestly, and fabulously. At his eulogy, Margi Clark described how, when he was younger Mark had received a barrage of homophobic abuse. Patiently Mark had waited for them to finish and responded,
“Yes, I’m gay and you’re straight… and I hope you have loads of kids and you’re always skint at Christmas!”
Despite the homophobia that abounded in Liverpool, Mark thrived, deservedly gaining loyal friends, fans, and legendary status across the city. The first objects I accessioned into the Museum of Liverpool’s collections were those wonderful flyers he’d kept from his years at Garlands and it was with a heavy heart that I accessioned this order of service from his funeral last week. Mark’s death will leave a large hole in the hearts of many people in Liverpool but he will be remembered at many a club night and party for years to come.