Jacko's 'Messiah' gig: who could forget it?

3rd July 2009 at 01:00
Former pupils and staff recall moment Jarvis Cocker ambushed performance

The pupils were under strict instructions not to speak to the king of pop as they provided a backdrop to a rare UK performance.

But it was not Michael Jackson who stole the show, and the children employed by the late star were caught up in the dramatic scenes.

Former pupils and staff from the Barbara Speake Stage School in East Acton, London, have been reminiscing about their time with Wacko Jacko following his death last week. They were recruited by the singer for his Brit Awards appearance in 1996 when Jarvis Cocker famously invaded the stage.

The Pulp front man was protesting against Jackson's depiction of himself as a Messiah figure - he wore a striking outfit while adopting a crucifixion pose (pictured). The 50-year-old, who died of a suspected heart attack last week, was surrounded by the children.

Cocker was arrested after allegations that three of them were hurt in the fracas, but he was later released without charge. Jackson said he felt "sickened, saddened, shocked, upset, cheated, angry", but he praised the pupils for their professionalism.

Barbara Speake, still in charge of the school, which she established in 1945, agrees. "Our students are used to working with famous people, and those who worked with Michael Jackson just got on with what they were asked to do," she said.

Jackson's agents contacted the school to find children who could dance and sing. Several went to audition and were successful. They were chaperoned at rehearsals.

Ms Speake does not recall that any pupils were injured, and Jarvis Cocker strongly denied, as he described it, "shovelling kids over the barriers".

The children involved were so professional they didn't mention their brush with fame once they were back in lessons. "It was just another job to them," Ms Speake said.

TES Forums

'Oh no it's the Diana effect', but 'for all his faults I'm sad'


I felt very sad to hear that he had died, mostly for his children and his family.

It's a real shock. He seemed like a very intense, emotionally troubled person, and I hope someone in his family is able to give his children some stability, affection and protection.


I only bought one of his CDs on Thursday. I reckon he had a heart attack because he actually sold an album - sorry, it's all my fault.


It's true. Dead as mutton. On the one hand, I'm not surprised, given the strain he put his body under; on the other, it's a real shock. Him and Farrah Fawcett in the same day!

His music was the soundtrack to my youth. I have just listened to him sing Ben on YouTube. What a lovely voice, and he still looked normal then - for a 13-year-old made to wear a yellow crimplene suit. Right at the end he broke into a smile and looked like a proper boy.


Maybe what will be remembered is the talent and the sadness, rather than the circus that his life became.

Jude Fawley

Oh, no! Here comes the Diana effect. Will I be able to purchase milk tomorrow? Will unemployed dockers lapse into grief? Will Corus employees break under the strain of bereavement?


For all his faults, I am sad.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today