Two weeks ago #MondayMemories heard how Jeremy Holloway fell into a life in the theatre when went in search of casual work at Poole Arts Centre days before it opened in 1978. From tearing tickets, to follow spotting Michael Jackson, his vivid recollections captivated our readers online across social media and in the second part he recalls more of the great shows he saw and pays tribute to the venue that set him on his way...

I only spent a year at Poole Arts Centre, but it came to define my life. I didn’t grow up with any particular interest in the theatre or music and had no idea of the kinds of jobs you could do in the theatre. I was dyslexic and left school with only one O level and one CSE, so I got a job in banking in Berkshire then moved to Poole to work at Barclays International. It wasn’t very well paid so I only went to the arts centre in search of extra cash but found I loved the work so much I never wanted a night off.

I knew pretty soon that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and applied for a one-year stage management course at Bristol Old Vic – 2000 applicants for 14 places – and got in. I then went on tour for ten years, then taught at South Devon College and finally did a degree at the age of 49 at Dartington College of Arts, then my MA.

Today, I run my own theatre company, Ratchet, and write, produce and direct plays. I’m 66 now and should be about to retire, so my whole adult life has been in theatre, but I wouldn’t have done any of it had it not been for that incredible year at Poole Arts Centre.

We had Leslie Crowther in the first summer season and the first Christmas show was Follow the Star, by the same writer who went on to write Wicked, with Harry H Corbett. He was a lovely man, he would sign anything for anyone and take time to talk to them as well. The next year was Derek Griffiths with Brian Cant and Dickie Murdoch from The Navy Lark who was the star, another great company.

I keep remembering other shows as well. We had Roy Barraclough in Staircase in the Towngate Theatre and I remember taking Showaddywaddy along to GiGi's night club in Bournemouth after their gig.

I was on the second floor when The Queen came to open the arts centre. I remember our cleaners were very upset as they’d not been allowed to clean for Her Majesty, it had to be contract cleaners and they really went to town.

Kent Opera had this double revolve with mist so that the actors could come out of the mist and star singing on one side of the stage then disappear as more came out on the other side. Another show had this 40-foot high balloon as a backdrop, ingenious design, but it was really heavy when it was blown up so it was held in place with counterweights and we had to hold on to it with hemps as well.

The first time I ever appeared on stage was as a walk-on in a play called The Relapse, Or Virtue In Danger by John Vanbrugh. It was a Restoration job as I recall and starred Louise Jameson who was Leela in Doctor Who and was also in Tenko, with a then little-known actor called David Jason – wonder what happened to him?

I also remember doing the Climax Blues Band and the support band that opened for them on tour was Dire Straits. Isaac Hayes was incredible and I remember Randy Edelman was the first person to play the Arts Centre’s Steinway in public.

Eric Sykes and Jimmy Edwards appeared in Big Bad Mouse – the two of them corpsing throughout. Brilliant. Eric did a ten minute solo spot with a telephone that would bounce back each time he hit it, and Jimmy was drunk the whole time onstage and off, but an amazing show. Lionel Blair in comedy, and Colin Baker, and London Contemporary Dance, it was an incredibly busy year.

I have an enormous amount to thank Poole Arts Centre for – I found my calling there and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without it.

Published 1 March 2021