Few shows from our history continue to capture the public imagination quite like the time Michael Jackson played Poole Arts Centre with his brothers on 25 February 1979.

Among the packed audience that night were two 17 year olds from Portland who had heard about the show and got tickets. A new couple, it was the very first live gig either of them had seen and ignited a lifelong love of live performance that burns as brightly now as it did then.

And in September, Kev and Liz Ryan, who now live in Dorchester, will celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.

“We’ll never know but maybe The Jacksons at Poole Arts Centre had a hand in bringing us together – I like to think so,” laughs Liz.

“I can’t remember how we got tickets but I’ve a feeling we went because Liz wanted to go,” says Kev. “To be honest, the Jackson 5 had been a bit of teenybopper group so although I knew the early Motown hits it was the later stuff I was more into – Blame It On the Boogie and the Destiny album they were touring to promote.”

Both though were thrilled to have been there.

“The Jacksons was our first gig as a couple and we were blown away by the experience,” says Liz. “The music and dancing was amazing and we feel very privileged to have seen them at a local venue! We can't remember how we were aware of the gig and didn't realise it was held at such short notice.”

Kev adds: “It was a sensational show. The showmanship was out of this world and although Michael was the lead singer the focus was very much on the group as a whole.

“I think in some of the later dates they did some of Michael’s songs from his Off the Wall album that came out later that year, but unfortunately not when we saw them.”

Nevertheless, Kev and Liz remember the entire Wessex Hall being on its feet dancing and the Jacksons couldn’t fail to have noticed the enthusiastic reception from the audience.

“It definitely got us into live music – what a show to start with, one of the best we’ve ever seen! After that we went to see Kool & the Gang, Shalamar, Rose Royce, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, loads of different bands at Poole. Then we started going further afield, travelling all over the place, not just to see bands, but plays and musicals, stands ups too.”

They’ve seen many great shows all over the country including Paul McCartney three times, Liz’s favourite Coldplay four times, Harry Connick Jr at the Royal Albert Hall and were exceptionally lucky to be among the 12,000 guests at the Queen's Golden Jubilee Party at Buckingham Palace in 2002.

“But Poole is where it started for us,” says Kev, “and it’s always special when we go back there. Like everyone, we’ve really missed being able to see live shows and can’t wait until they start up again.”

Kev is soon to retire from the Civil Service after almost 40 years service, while Liz works at Dorset County Hospital as a medical secretary. Their son and daughter have inherited their love of music and they have two grandchildren. Kev and Liz both turn 60 this year and hope to retire to France… when they can travel again and go house hunting!

Published 22 March 2021