From dancing along to the legendary pop videos as a child, to playing to a crowd of weeping fans the day after Michael Jackson died, Ben Bowman is dedicated to being the UK’s ultimate tribute to ‘The King of Pop’.

Ben, 33, quit college to pursue his dream and now travels the world paying homage to Jackson’s music in his live show Michael Starring Ben which comes to Carlisle next month.

His interest in the superstar began at an early age: “Me and my brother grew up with my mother’s vinyl collection and Michael Jackson was part of that.

“We especially caught on to him, and even started dressing up as him for fancy dress parties. I became one of those kids who learned all the dances from the videos.

“When it comes to the singing, I was around 16 or 17 and my friend asked ‘How does Michael Jackson’s new song go?’

“It was You Rock My World, I sang a couple of lines and she said I really sounded like him.”

He has performed as Michael Jackson for 14 years, starting straight out of school.

“I was at college, studying drama, and they told me I could earn £77 a night in the West End,” he remembers.

Ben, who grew up on the Isle of Sheppey, off Kent, quit the course and started booking venues.

“Even when I started, I thought it was just something fun that I could do on the side of working. I never imagined I would be a full-time Michael Jackson impersonator – it’s not like it’s something that comes up at the job centre!”

“People say: ‘Don’t you get bored?’ Our set has been the same for four and a half years, but every audience, every venue is different and an adaptation. There are definitely worse jobs in the world.

“When I started out, I had a lot of trouble trying to recreate the album versions of his songs. They’re studio works of art and you just can’t recreate that live.

“Seeing the live footage, I can study the voice in the raw and for me, the live singing on Bad is the best. The first conscious image I remember as a child is the Bad era – and it’s definitely my favourite. He had a cool, tough edge about him, and I’ve always loved that side.”

It is now 10 years since the superstar died, but people are just as keen to hear his songs and see Ben portray the ‘King of Pop’.

He said: “Where has that time gone? I still remember hearing the news and having to go out the next night in a bar to perform. It was a big bar, and there were about 700 people crammed in, and people outside. It was insane.

“I’ll never forget that night and the turn out – it would usually have been about 400 people and was almost doubled. People were crying, it was a very emotional night.”

They are still emotional. Ben says: “The fans are so passionate. The screamers and criers are my favourites.

“I absolutely love that we incite that reaction, it means we are doing something right. It’s insane, incredible, that people are drawn into it for those two hours that we perform, that they believe in what we’re doing.

“It’s a feeling I wouldn’t swap for anything.”

n Michael Starring Ben, is at The Sands Centre, September 28. For tickets go to www.thesandscentre. or call 01228 633766