This week #MondayMemories hears from Mark Chizlett who got in touch following the recent article about the origins of Lighthouse...
“I wanted to thank you for taking me back to what was the best year of my life to that point – when I turned 17. I passed my driving test that year and my car for the summer was my dad’s MGB with a soft top. I was tooling around in that, going to gigs at Poole Arts Centre and having the time of my life.
I’m not sure it’s a traditional ‘coming of age’ story but I saw my first rara skirt at Poole Arts Centre and like everything else at that time it felt hugely important!
In fact, I’d already been going there for a few years – I suppose it was at the heart of everything I did back then. I was born in Winton and grew up in Bear Cross but went to Poole Grammar School from 1975 until 1981. That meant I had to catch a bus to Poole and then get on the school bus out to Gravel Hill, so I saw Lighthouse, or Poole Arts Centre as it was then, being built – from the derelict terrace housing that was on the site to this brand-new venue.
It instantly became a meeting place for a group of us teenage boys who would get together in the seating by the first-floor bar and play Dungeons and Dragons. We would sit there rolling our dice for hours. That went on for months until they eventually got fed up of us and we moved out to the pub next door to Williams and Glyn bank.
But it was during that time I went from playing Dungeons and Dragons to going to see bands. I grew up with the music of my parents’ era and loved Buddy Holly until one Christmas when I suddenly changed from wanting The Best of Buddy Holly album to absolutely having to have the latest Status Quo record after seeing them play Rockin’ All Over the World. I had all their records and it got me live music, mostly at Poole Arts Centre.
I’d started going to the Under 18s discos in the Wessex Hall. I’d cycle over from Bear Cross, spend a couple of hours in a sweaty boogie, then cycle back again. I had a job a part-time job at Tesco and earned £7 a week. Concert tickets were only about £2.50 so between Poole Arts Centre opening in 1978 until about 1982 I saw loads of bands – The Clash, The Jam, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sham 69, King Creole and the Coconuts, Gary Numan, I’m sure I saw some very smooth soul bands as well. I loved the energy of the punk and new wave bands, then the glamour of the new romantic bands like Duran Duran – I was desperate for a John Wayne shirt – but if we saw the seats out we knew it was more grown up.
I remember one time coming out to find someone had bent the wheel of my bike and this girl who I didn’t know said I could take it to her house and leave it there, in the course of which... well, we were teenagers and they were very innocent days!
I got a job with Barclays in 1982 at Latimer House opposite Old Orchard where I met my wife and then in 1989 I was moved to Cheshire and life took a different turn, but for those few years Poole Arts Centre was at the heart of everything I did – even if I want to other venues the arts centre was always the preferred option because you could get close enough to feel part of the show and it was easy to get home.
We live in Staffordshire now, but we have a flat in Poole and come down as often as we can. We were lucky enough to see Tim Brooke Taylor in I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue at Lighthouse in the January before lockdown. It was a great show, really well done and it was incredibly sad to hear the news when he died a couple of months later.
Now that the lockdown laws have changed we’ve just started coming back to Poole again and it has made me think how wonderful it is to have a world class venue at the heart of the community – it's not something to be taken for granted.”
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