Mark Leighton – The Late Musician Extraordinaire (1960 to 2018)
Deserves a proper send-off (Target £5500)
My name is Khalid, I’ve known Mark for more than 10 years now. I had been helping him put down his life’s work into a digital format. He was a musician (in fact in his own mind he was a rock star). He had lived the carefree lifestyle during the late 80’s and mid 90’s. In fact, he had travelled USA and parts of Mexico with nothing more than a small backpack, passport and guitar, singing his way through town after town.
My first impression of Mark was that he was abrupt, arrogant and full of himself. Although after working with him for a few weeks, we quickly saw past the initial stereotypes that we visualised about one another. We’d developed a friendship bond whereby I let him talk until he was blue in the face, and then I’d get a word or two in edgeways just so that it wasn’t a one way conversation. No really, that’s how many people remember Mark. He was quite bubbly, kind-hearted and a chatterbox! Though he was incredibly well read and informed in current affairs to keep yapping on, all the time.
Unfortunately, from 2012 onwards a few badly timed events in his life meant that Mark ended up homeless, and subsequently at a Salvation Army hostel in Whitechapel, and was only able to start getting his life back on track from around Spring of 2015 in Finsbury Park. In 2013, The Salvation Army hostel wasn’t a safe place for Mark; he had been attacked by a couple drug addicts whom he apparently “looked at the wrong way”. During that incident Mark had his back knee cap busted with chairs, and wasn’t fully able to recover from this injury at all.
Mark became a familiar face at the Blighty Café on Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park from the Spring of 2015. His bubbly and kind-hearted nature radiated through to almost everyone he met there. He had even befriended a cat there, and created a cat-house and a diorama with a spitfire to signify the Second World War theme of the Blighty café.
During the beginning of February 2018 Mark fell ill with what appeared to be just a bad cough, that then turned into a flu/chest infection, which ultimately added to the half dozen ailments he already had. However Mark was stubborn, and worried that if he didn’t go for his PIP Health re-assessment they would give him the run around for another 3 years. He’d visited the GP on 22nd February as that was the only appointment they had. And being as stubborn as he was, he didn’t want to go to any walk in clinics or Accident and Emergencies, as he felt that he would end up with more ailments “in a waiting room full of sick people”
I went to Mark's flat at 11am, on 27th February to pick him for his PIP appointment, which was at 1pm. He was gone. Didn't even make it to the appointment that he so stubbornly waited for, against medical advice. The system let him down big time! We shouldn’t have to live in fear that should we miss an appointment, we’d have to scrounge up pennies and pounds for months, living on outdated sandwiches from Sainsbury’s reduced aisle and not turning the heat on as we can survive with a fleece and scarf instead. This is what Mark was doing at times between Spring 2015 and January 2017.
Mark used to go to Blighty café, not for the coffee, but for the company. He could survive by missing a meal a day, but he couldn’t go without talking to people. The 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day where just an excuse to meet and talk to people. That and to feed the cat, that he had befriended. While he was there, he felt alive, like he had a purpose to live on. His warm-heartedness has touched so many people around him. The staff at Blighty café have even mentioned the cat appears to be missing Mark, looking around for him.
Due to some of the mind-altering medications he was on, Mark at times felt like his home was a prison, when no one was around. He’d even joked that the Salvation Army had put him on death row (his flat). I’ll say it again, the system let him down. Even though we would put on a smile and laugh at his “jokes”. I think he knew that he was waiting to die. And that he did…. my friend of more than 10 years is gone. And I, for one, don’t want the state to let him down again, by not giving him at least a proper send off. One that he deserves!
Will you help me do that? £5500 will help me do that.
If you would like to help a collaborative effort of Mark's close acquaintances to bring his music to the world, the way Mark would have wanted it to be. By creating videos for his completed works, please donate further.
If we surpass £20,000 in total funding, then the first 100 people to pledge £100 will be given a Posthumous Album CD and DVD signed by the collaborative video creators.
I’ll add a link to radio edit versions of some of his songs, which I have just edited to show everyone what his music was like.
Please donate if you really wish to remember Mark, the way he would’ve wanted to be remembered.
Muhammad Khalid-ur Rahman