Lansons Conversations

Tribute to Mark Hanson

Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Mark Hanson   A Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the life of long-time Lansons friend and ex-colleague Mark Hanson in words and with music will be held on Thursday, 9th June 2011 at 11.30am at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 8AU [Click here for map]. All those that knew Mark in life and work are welcome to attend.   Following the service at around 12-45 all are welcome for drinks at The Press House and Wine Bar, 1 St Bride’s Passage, London, EC4Y 8EJ, If anyone is planning to send flowers, Mark’s wife, Clare Francis, and Mark’s family, would instead prefer a donation to charity. Their two selected charities are firstly MIND, the leading mental health charity for England and Wales or the Mayhew Home, one of the most effective animal rescue centres in London, helping thousands of animals escape from cruelty and neglect.  You can donate direct or though a justgiving page.   Below are two tributes to Mark from colleagues at Lansons, Tony Langham and Laura Hastings, please feel free to add your own comments Tony Langham Chief Executive Like most people that knew him and worked with him I was shocked that Mark took his own life at the age of 36. In his own words his achievements as a PR man, social media guru and Labour Party digital strategist were “mega” and it’s hard to disagree. The amount and depth of feeling in the political blogosphere shows the respect he’d achieved in that world, from Alastair Campbell to John Prescott. In PR-land he climbed the greasy pole to become Deputy MD of Wolfstar after being a Partner at Staniforth. However he spent more than half his working life at Lansons, almost 8 years in two spells between 1998 and 2007, joining as a fresh faced management trainee from Lloyds TSB and leaving as Associate Director. To many of us he remains part of the Lansons family, our colleague for 8 years and our friend for much longer. Above everything else Mark was a working class lad who did bloody well for himself. The boy left St. Helens but – despite the designer suits – St. Helens never left the man. He achieved success in London without compromising his Northern roots in a way that made his family and school friends proud. At work he was perceptive, smart and relentless. He stripped problems bare, asking “what are we really trying to achieve here ?” and genuinely thought outside any box. With journalists he was charm itself or naggingly persuasive, whatever the situation demanded. To colleagues he could be inspirational but just as often annoying, infuriating and just plain difficult. He kept everyone on their toes. His 21st century reinvention as social media guru fitted him like a glove. He believed the modern world only really started in Merseyside and California in the 1960s and was desperate to join that revolution. With his early adoption of the digital world he did so – he could remain an outsider, but one that was needed on the inside, a welcome revolutionary, particularly in his beloved Labour Party. Mark was no saint, nor sinner, but a complex gemini man with more secrets than we ever guessed. After a while around Mark you became aware that there was a wall you’d never get beyond. A point where every question was returned as a question. And it was more than just privacy and professional distance. What lay behind the wall ? Many assumed arrogance and plans and schemes, noone realised that what lay behind Mark’s wall were the demons of insecurity, self doubt and blackness. At work Mark tried to create the family feel that he’d left up North. Everyone had nicknames (Mark himself was Hans to his mates) or at least extra syllables added to their names to make Kaayytie or Laaaaura. He felt the cold, sitting on a blanket to protect those designer suits. And he loved to share stories of his and Clare’s precious cats. As for his legacy, it won’t simply be a cold headstone in Wilmslow cemetery. Hundreds of Mark particles live on in the careers of the young people he mentored at Lansons, Wolfstar and Staniforth. He had a talent for making peope believe in themselves, spotting something noone else had spotted and pushing them on. Across all the tributes to Mark this attention to young lives and careers stands above all else. He truly lives on. And how best to remember him? Perhaps as part of the Lansons football team where he lost his inhibitions and became a 100% team player. More Tony Hibbert than his hero Duncan Ferguson, a team man with the heart of a lion. I know that lately he’d taken to never emptying his glass but we mainly knew him in the ‘cigarettes and alcohol’ years. So I’ll think of him as ten foot tall Mark striding onto the dancefloor at the office party one part Richard Ashcroft, one part John Lennon and one part Liam (though he preferred Noel )Gallagher. He seemed indestructible, but he wasn’t and for that reason it doesn’t seem right to leave memories there. To honour his memory maybe we have to remember that we didn’t lose Mark, he chose to leave us. Depression is a terrible illness and our world is better served if we work to remove the stigma of it and encourage those with depression to speak out. In life Mark couldn’t get enough warmth from the love, friendship, professional regard and true respect that were clearly all around him. It would be lovely to imagine that the huge outpouring of these feelings towards him over the past few weeks has somehow touched him now.  Our thoughts remain with his family and friends, and his wife Clare Francis, who we’ve known for almost as long as we’ve known Mark. Laura Hastings Joint MD Like many people the news of Mark Hanson’s death a few weeks ago has left me feeling numb. I sat at my desk watching the sheer volume of tributes, reading about the lives he influenced and touched and my thoughts below have sat on my computer since the Thursday after he died. No words have seemed enough or quite right. And to be honest, I am not good at putting personal feelings into a public space. I just haven’t been able to press the send button. But it seems right to share just a few personal memories of Mark, a colleague for 8 years at Lansons who I worked very closely with and a friend for much longer, as we head to his funeral tomorrow to mourn his loss but also mark his life. So, I dedicate this first personal online post to you Mark. I know that would make you smile. I first met Mark 13 years ago when I interviewed him fresh from his graduate role at Lloyds. He was a full on Scouser, full of energy and brimming with confidence. He told me he was ‘from the right side of Liverpool’ and ‘I would never regret hiring him’. We spent most of the rest of the interview talking football – perhaps not the best interview technique – but he was right. I loved working with Mark. Some of the time he could be difficult, stubborn, controversial with colleagues and pushy with clients beyond belief. But those traits also made him willing to push boundaries, embrace change and simply get things done. In a world where there is just so much ‘talk’, it is important to remember that actions matter so much more. Mark saw that. If Mark said he would deliver he did. He was a natural. And, as so many people have already commented, he shared his experience and ideas so generously with his teams and invested time and energy in their careers. In addition to teams here at Lansons, so many people who used to work with Mark years ago have contacted us to tell stories of how he ‘took them under his wing’. It’s a phrase repeated time and time again. I think that is just a wonderful legacy in itself. Like many people my head has been full of questions and I know from experience that it is inevitable to repeatedly ask Why? A death so young and so tragic feels impossible to come to terms with. The shock is so great. But despite all of the questions and sadness because we now know just how ill he was, I really don’t want to edit all of those good memories with that new knowledge. I want to remember him for his brightness, for his questioning and free spirit, his passion and for just simply sharing some great fun moments which make working life so much better. I have such fond memories of Mark – or ‘Marky Mark’ as many of us called him. So here goes. Just a few of my memories – or the ones that can go in writing anyway…. – Monday morning football banter. I had a particularly long good patch as a Gooner in the late 90s until around 2005 and Mark really did have a raw deal but took it with typical humour and as only true football fans know how – Lansons karaoke evenings in the early days and his so serious renditions of ‘Three Lions’ arms linked round our shoulders. The rest of us were laughing but Mark was very poker faced. Singing to England was serious stuff – My wedding. He was just so legless…well we all were – His terrible one-liners at Christmas parties in the early days. He obviously got better and won Clare’s heart – His turn of phrase, raised eyebrows and ‘Lauuuuura’ for anything he didn’t quite agree with or just thought was amusing – ‘Cash is King’ – he never wanted a birthday present from his team just cash. The same for his leaving present. He was refreshingly straight about those type of things. However, we finally persuaded him to have something more sentimental and those who know him well will have noted his chunky silver rings that he liked to wear. He was a softie at heart…. – He made an excellent ‘cup of builders’. I would have gone thirsty for the entire 8 years without Mark’s  team brews  – Advising on his Christmas gift list. Typically hopeless – His desk clear outs. His paper mountains were truly unique – His meeting scribbles – notes would be too grand a description – Toastgate.  Toasters were banned in the office for literally years – yes years – because of Mark And of course all his fantastic work…….and some of our joint ‘disasters’ too. As all the tributes have shown, he obviously went on to great things in his professional life and followed his passion in the political world. But, despite all of his achievements, he always seems to be searching for something else. I hope that he can now see that he had actually achieved a great deal. I think it is amazing how much drive, energy and focus he had against what we now know he was battling.  My thoughts are with his amazing wife Clare and his family as they try to move forward. Having lost a brother at 32, I know the journey is a long one but I hope that there is some solace both now and in the future in how many people thought so fondly of him. And, for Mark, I hope you have found peace at last.  I will miss you greatly.