I have only met Mark Jennings three times in person, but I already have five significant memories of him:
The one where I met Mark for the first time at Likeminds
The first memory was our initial meeting in June 2010.
I was in my last year of university and interning at Aaron+Gould Social Media consultancy in Exeter, Devon. At that time Scott Gould was also running a two-day social media conference/festival called Likeminds – which, for a time, was a beacon of immense creativity to the UK digital conference scene.
The night before the first day of Likeminds, many of the delegates (for want of a better word: everyone involved in Likeminds is too cool to be called a ‘delegate’, trust me) decamped to the Phoenix in the Exeter
I went with my friend Debo* as my wingman as up until that point I had never mixed with working professionals with businesses and branding and communities before. Much less Twitter-famous ones**.
As soon as I entered the Phoenix I recall the various characters of the Likeminds scene propped up at the bar; Paul Simbeck, John Lewis, Wisdom London, and there, in the middle, a frenetic ball of energy in a distinctive hat; Mark Jennings.
I didn’t get to speak to Mark that night (Paul and I got embroiled in an hour long conversation about Germany and his past as a diving instructor), but never one to respect personal space or social boundaries, I managed to get this photo with him the next day (I suspect he had no idea who I was and just wanted me to go away):
Thus started a great Twitter friendship – the type that bards and anthropologists will write about for years to come.
The one where Mark gave me the confidence to run Purley’s First Tweetup
Mark next big assistance for me was in January 2011 when – on the night before Purley’s first tweetup – I gave him a panicked call having I realised for all of my love of social media and talking to people, I had no idea what I was doing (I had been wow’d by Mark’s phenomenal work building up the #Media140 community). Mark kindly – and with great patience – took me through the fundamentals of hosting a tweetup, even though I so obviously encroaching upon his evening.
So basically Mark was the reason this happened and went so well:
The one where Mark did my job for me
Mark saved by butt professionally in Feb 2011 when I started working p/t for Top Hat Property Services. Although I was perfectly competent at setting up and creating content for Top Hat’s various social profiles, it was lacking a certain ‘pep’. Another phonecall later and Mark advised on how he had worked for a DIY client in Scotland by tweeting every Friday a ‘Guess the tool’ competition.
Completely devoid of any originality myself, I promptly copied the idea (to great success, I might add):
The one where Mark had a party in a Soho bar and I ended up writing #givejonnyroseajob on a drunk Benjamin Southworth’s body
The second time I saw Mark in the flesh (and, yes, with the same hat I’d seen him in the year before) was at Meet140 reunion in London, April 2011. Meet140 by this time had gone international, but Mark had brought it back ‘home’ to London for one night.
I think the reunion also coincided with Mark’s birthday as there was a lot chocolate cake, champagne and merriment. Mark was his usual ebullient self and although we only exchanged a few words that night in the dingy depths of Bar LVPO in Soho – I had the pleasure of meeting some of the London digital scene’s great and good (Mark, if nothing else, is a great connector). Most notably – as at this point the #givejonnyroseajob campaign was in full flow – so I had the good fortune of being able to physically deface an inebriated Benjamin Southworth (then a hirsute ne’er-do-well, now Deputy CEO of Tech City Investment Organisation).
The one where Mark turned up in shorts to an idio business breakfast
It was Summer 2012 and by this point, Mark was working for social media agency behemoth, Spreading Jam, and had come along to support his colleague.
Although I was glad to see Mark, ever the misfiring prude, I was more scandalised at seeing his bare knees (he’d cycled in) than by any of the abrasive NWA tracks Jon insisted on playing that morning.
(if you listen, you can hear Mark’s laugh throughout)
Today, Mark send me a video (below) of him speaking at the GEEK Conference in Margate. In it he cites both #PurleyBreakfastClub and Croydon Tech City. I hope he realises that he has been a bigger part of both of these initiatives than he will ever know.
This post is just to say that although I don’t see or speak to Mark as much as I’d like, or articulate my thanks to him enough, he is very special to me and I am very appreciative of his continual support.
Mark’s banter with Gary Day Ellison (including the time they set up a mock account based on an anonymous man in the background of Mark’s profile pic, “eh?”); His exchange of reggae wisdom with Glenn Le Santo; His droll exchanges with various bigheaded London-ers in the digital scene; His occasionally sharp, frank ways and unfailing conscientiousness, make Twitter a delight for me.
Mark Jennings, I salute you!
PS I’ve also promised to take him to The Ivy one day and I’m more than happy for this post to be used in evidence against me until I make good on my offer.
PPS Sorry Mark that you get a bit grouchy on Sundays when I tweet about church X
*History has taught me: always bring another ethnic minority to a professional event to use as a decoy/sacrificial offering to the police. Trust me.
**This was a time when being ‘Twitter-famous’ and several thousand ‘followers’ was worthy of something approaching reverence.