It was meant to be the highlight of the year for the British music industry. It ended in an arrest, two threatened writs and a welter of abuse.
The world's most famous pop star, Michael Jackson, was gracing the Brit awards with a mimed performance on a high-rise lift, 40ft above the stage, while a chorus of children sang along on stage level, when Jarvis Cocker, the gangly singer of maverick Britpop group Pulp, ran on stage with a friend.
According to witnesses, Cocker, 32, and Peter Mansell started dancing on the stage at London's Earls Court arena and flicking "V-signs" at Jackson, who was surrounded by billows of smoke. They were then allegedly swiftly tackled by security guards, masquerading as Jackson's chorus, injuring three children slightly, but not seriously, in the process.
Cocker's evening ended at Kensington Police Station at 3am, where he was not charged but is due to recommence discussions with police on March 11.
Jackson has called the behaviour "disgusting and cowardly" and claimed the three children, aged between 11 and 12, were "attacked". Cocker has denied any intent to injure, and accused Jackson of "Christ-like" delusions. Pulp's record company Island are considering legal action against Jackson. In return, parents of injured schoolgirl Ashley Moore are threatening to sue Cocker.
Cocker, whose band failed to win the three Brits for which they were nominated, said: "My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some Christ-like figure with the power of healing. The music industry allows him to indulge his fantasies because of his wealth and power.
Cocker was endorsed by Brian Eno, who was by the stage before receiving a Brit award for Best Producer. "I thought his action was heroic. Michael Jackson had a show which was self-aggrandising, pompous and utterly unpleasant.
Marc Morot, managing director of Pulp's record label, said last night: "Island Records are taking legal advice about the accusation that Jarvis Cocker attacked children."