CONSIDERING she’s just announced one of the biggest gigs of her career in her hometown, it’s hardly surprising St Helens-born Jacqui Abbott is a little excited.

“When I first heard, I remember thinking ‘wow’ and when I told my family they were blown away,” said Jacqui, after it was confirmed she and Paul Heaton would be appearing at the Totally Wicked Stadium in July next year.

“It’s mind-blowing to think we’re going to come to St Helens and play that stadium. I’ve lived here all my life and have a large family who’ve always come to the shows - thankfully, I’ve been told my guest list allocation will go up a bit for this one!”

Paul and Jacqui enjoyed huge success together in the ‘90s as vocalists with The Beautiful South, the band who Paul had formed after The Housemartins, and who Jacqui joined in 1994 following the departure of original singer Briana Corrigan.

It’s Jacqui’s voice you can hear on many of the band’s most popular hits, including Rotterdam, Don’t Marry Her and Perfect 10, but after leaving to raise her family in 2000, it would be 11 long years before she and Paul would be reunited as a duo.

Their fourth studio album together, Manchester Calling, which was released in March 2020, entered the UK official album chart at number one, putting the seal on a remarkable comeback.


“I never really thought about what would happen,” she said. “It was just wonderful to start doing it again. The last album reaching number one was fantastic and it feels like the cherry just keeps being put back on the cake.”

On singing with Jacqui once again, Paul said: “It was like going into your garage and discovering a beautiful, covered-up Rolls Royce that hadn’t been started in years.”

So, did she feel the same? “This time we were more comfortable around each other and certainly more appreciative of everything,” she said. “I’m good at reading Paul and his phrasing and I think he’s the same as me - we can do it without looking because you can hear the slightest inflection and where we’re going to go.

“If it worked the first time around, it’s now been bolstered even more because we’re happy and having more fun. It just comes with being older - you just appreciate everything more.”

With Paul turning 60 next year, recognition of him as one of our finest songwriters is probably long overdue.

“Paul’s songs are always observational but they dissect people in a nice way,” said Jacqui. “He’s very intuitive and he’s piled that into his songs. He used to write the lyrics in Amsterdam where it was quite dismal and they’d be tinged with sadness. Then he’d go somewhere sunny to write the music so you’ve got that balance between happy and sad. You could get these songs about someone in a horrible relationship or someone who’d lost someone and yet the music would be uplifting.

“He’s never taken himself too seriously either and yet he can combine that with this sharp observation which comes from loving to watch people, and meeting them.”

Jacqui, 48, grew up around Sutton Heath (“it was a lovely area”) and attended Grange Park High School before she was discovered by Paul as a music-loving teenager one drunken night in St Helens.

“I was in town with a friend at Crystals nightclub,” she said. “We came out and didn’t have any money to get home when my friend recognised Paul who was also in there. The group he was with called us over and said they were going to a party in Taylor Park.

“We all went to this house but the main motive for us was because we thought Paul would be loaded and would lend us a fiver for a taxi home!

St Helens Star: Stage 2 Paul Heaton  and Jacqui Abbott

“It was summer and we were all sat out on the lawn when my friend prodded me and told me to sing in front of Paul. I think I sang a Carpenters song and he really liked it and asked would I be interested in doing something. I was thinking ‘this guy is tanked and there’s no way he’s going to remember this’. But then, a year and half later this friend of Paul, who he had sent scouring the town for me, comes into Star Value where I worked and said Paul wanted me to audition, which I did - it’s incredible really!”

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott play St Helens Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday, July 22 with special guests The Proclaimers and The Lathums.

Tickets priced £35 (plus booking fees) go on sale at 9.30am on Friday, November 26 from and

Details of hospitality packages at the Totally Wicked Stadium will be announced.