Updated: Saturday, 18th November 2017 @ 8:06am

One night in Paradise: M People's Heather Small says Manchester Pride is all about humanity and having fun

One night in Paradise: M People's Heather Small says Manchester Pride is all about humanity and having fun

| By Josh Willacy

Larger than life, humble yet a complete force of nature, Heather Small is the woman with a mighty voice that defined the 90s' music scene.

Twenty-one years after M People first entered the charts, Heather and the guys are still going strong, playing to thousands at V Festival last weekend.

And the people of Manchester will be treated to a wild trip down memory lane this Pride weekend, as Heather will be performing at the Albert Hall for Paradise Factory.

With a booming and effervescent laugh, Heather told MM: “I love playing to gay crowds, and gay festivals are all about having fun, an opportunity to leave your problems behind, dress up, show off, show out and really enjoy the moment and enjoy yourself because life can be hard sometimes.

“The gay community is exactly that; a community, and that’s what I appreciate the most. You look after each other and if one is in trouble then all is in trouble, and as someone who’s very family-oriented I can really appreciate that.

“Having the opportunity to sing live and do what I do best is a real blessing and I’m just excited to get up there!”

M People emerged out of the club scene in Manchester as the 80s turned into the 90s, bursting through the nations speakers and becoming one of the country’s first mainstream dance acts.

People were hooked on their infectious energy, catchy beats and Heather’s powerhouse vocals and during their 10 year reign as one of the world's biggest dance acts they sold more than 11 million records.

Heather revealed: “Manchester is like a second home to me and when I play it’s like playing to the home town due to the reception I get and it really inspires you to give your all.”

Over the years, Heather has churned out timeless anthem after timeless anthem and one in particular that has resonated with people the world over is Proud – Heather’s debut song as a solo artist which she released in 1998.

From that point on, Proud has been the soundtrack for countless moments of glory, Heather performed the iconic song at the Athens Olympic closing ceremony and it was used as the official song for the 2012 London Olympics bid.

She said: “It’s humbling because you write something, and primarily you write something and you write something for you so you can relay it to others and the fact that so many people in sport and at schools have connected with it is amazing. So many people have taken it on board and it really is wonderful.

“What it goes to show is that we are the same, there’s the same sentiments and core belief and that music is something that brings people together.”

Proud was such a hit, chat show goddess Oprah Winfrey contacted Heather and asked her to perform the single on her show when she celebrated twenty years of her career.

Heather said: “She’s a powerful strong black female, but when you see her on her level she is much more playful and quite a sexy character, without having to try, she’s got it, I’d give her that.“

Headlining the Pride weekend is international pop star Anastacia who will be taking to the main stage on Saturday. 

Heather and Anastacia joined forces with Lulu when they went on their Here Come The Girls tour in 2010.

“Anastacia is funny, very, very funny with a huge great voice, plus she’s a fighter,” Heather confessed.

“When we were on the line up people may have thought it was weird but our voices really worked together, I really hope I get to see her over the weekend.”

On Saturday, Heather will be there alongside classic Paradise DJ’s such as Tim Lennox, Dave Kendrick, Dave Booth, Huey Garry, Dylan Jeffers and Mike Allan.

The night will be hosted by The Divine David and Sister Marta, and will be an official Manchester Pride fundraising event.

“It will be amazing to be back in Manchester doing what I do best. I have so much love for the city because of its resilience,” said Heather.

“Financially it hasn’t always been the best of chases, but I think that shapes people’s character and makes them more creative and resourceful. That’s how I’d describe Manchester, characterful and resourceful.

“This weekend is about having humanity and having fun, in a place where everyone comes together regardless of gender, colour or sexuality, that’s what it’s all about.”

Image courtesy of BMI TV, via YouTube, with thanks