It sounds like the stuff of legend, but 42 years ago this week Michael Jackson appeared at Poole Arts Centre... with barely 48 hours’ notice! 

It was Friday 23 February when the tour promoters for The Jacksons Destiny World Tour phone the arts centre to ask if they could fit a show in the main Wessex Hall on Sunday night, 25 February. Having established it wasn’t a hoax – stranger things have happened – the team swung into action, recruiting students from Poole College to sweep through the town handing out hastily prepared leaflets and proclaiming the band’s imminent arrival. 

It wasn’t as easy a sale as some might think. This was still six months before Michael Jackson released his solo album Off the Wall that would pave the way to his coronation as the King of Pop and although The Jacksons had hits such as Show You the Way To Go, Goin’ Places and Blame It On the Boogie, they were a long way from the hit machine they had been as The Jackson 5. 

(When the group left Motown in 1976 they also left brother Jermaine who was married to label boss Berry Gordy’s daughter Hazel. He was replaced by Randy.) 

Nevertheless, this was big news in Poole and the show sold well. So well in fact that by Sunday afternoon a large group of fans had gathered in the car park and at Stage Door waiting to welcome their idols. At Michael’s insistence, one lucky fan who had made a welcome card was let in and introduced to the brothers who signed autographs. 

Before the show Michael asked the stage doorman Tony Burns if he could book a transatlantic phone call for him, then had a coffee and chatted with Tony about The Beatles and football. 

The groups extravagant stage set was too big for the Wessex Hall and although they used the fibre optic peacock backdrop, the underlit perspex set didn’t fit. 

Cherry Haynes, one of the original usherettes as Poole Arts Centre, remembers The Jacksons concert very well: “They wore these peachy-orange jumpsuits and he [Michael] can’t have been more than twenty. He did his famous moonwalk across the stage and the audience went wild. 

Were you there? Maybe you were the lucky fan who got to meet the brothers? We’d love to hear your stories. Email marketing@lighthousepoole.co.uk. 

Published 22 February 2021