Headliner Heather Small is set to put on a big show when she closes the first night of this year’s Sunniside Live.
The M People singer, famed for her powerful vocals, will perform on Friday, July 7, at the annual festival in Sunniside Gardens, with Madchester legends Happy Mondays headlining the following night.
Heather, whose hits include Moving On Up, Search for the Hero and Proud, says there’s nothing quite like performing to an outdoor crowd.
“I absolutely love performing outdoors, it’s so much fun and you always get a more eclectic, inter-generational crowd,” she said. “Plus there’s nothing quite like singing and dancing outside. It’s very liberating and freeing.”
She added: “I think it’s great that Sunniside Live is in the city centre, not in a field somewhere. There’s a certain amount of pride and joy in having an artist come to your city. People want to show off what they’re about and take pride in their environment.”
The singer is set to perform a mixture of hits from her time with M People, as well as from her successful solo career and she says she’ll be giving the people what they want.
“People can expect fun from my set, “ she said. “I like to get out there and enjoy myself and hopefully that translates to the audience and everyone catches that wave.
“I do the songs I’m known for. Not just as a performer, but as a fan, I think about what I’d want to see. It would be like going to see Shirley Bassey and her not performing Diamonds Are Forever, I’d be really disappointed. So I fully understand why I’m there.
“When I sing songs they mean something to me, whether they be dance tracks or ballads, they have to touch me. So the songs never get old to me because I always put my heart and soul into them. They still mean a lot to me.”
Heather’s solo track Proud has gone on to become an anthem for a whole host of special events, including London’s successful 2012 Olympic bid, the 60th anniversary of VE Day in Trafalgar Square and dozens of sporting events.
Across the Pond, it was even used by Oprah Winfrey when she was looking for a song to sum up the work she’d been striving to achieve over her 20-year career. She got in touch with Heather and flew her over to perform.
“I always wanted to be in a position where I could sing the first few bars of a song and people would instantly recognise it and join in,” she said. “It’s a privilege as a performer. And it’s a privilege that people part with their hard-earned money to come and see me.”
Despite her songs being used for global events, Heather says their ability to reach out to new listeners is what makes her proud.
“Having Oprah Winfrey use my track was a real stand out moment, but what also means so much to me is the amount of school assemblies that use the music,” she said.
“These are young people that weren’t even born when it was first released, but it keeps me on a level with the young generation. What applies yesterday, still applies today and tomorrow – those core values don’t change. I feel honoured that schools use the track.”
Sunniside Live is set to be the highlight of a busy year for Heather in which she’ll also be touring across Europe and releasing a new record.
She said: “I’m 52 now but when I turned 50 I said to myself that I wanted to get out there and sing more, and I’m truly loving it.”
l Tickets for Sunniside Live, which takes place on July 7 and 8, are priced £17.50 for the Friday and £22.50 for the Saturday, or £35 for a weekend pass from http://sunnisidelive.co.uk/
l We have a pair of tickets to give away to see Heather Small at Sunniside Live on July 7, plus a pair of weekend tickets to both days. To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: which of these is a Heather Small song?
Fill in your answer, contact details and whether you would like a Friday or Weekend ticket, and return it to Sunniside Live Competition, Katy Wheeler, Johnston Press North East, 2nd Floor, Alexander House, 1 Mandarin Road, Rainton Bridge Business Park, Houghton, DH4 5RA.
Alternatively, email your answer, contact details and choice of ticket to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk