SINGING in front of Paul Heaton at a party almost 30 years ago, Jacqui Abbott never could have imagined how this moment would change the course of her life and lead her to perform in front of a record-breaking attendance in her hometown.

After touring the world, recording multiple studio albums and even taking a ten-year hiatus from music, Jacqui will play her first ever gig in St Helens on Friday, July 22, in front of more than 18,500 people at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

With an influx of family and friends coming down to watch her and Paul perform on Friday evening, the mum-of-two said she is “honoured” to play at such a momentous occasion.

READ > Sherdley Park resident lays out concerns to Reminisce organisers

St Helens Star: Jacqui first met Paul Heaton outside an old St Helens nightclubJacqui first met Paul Heaton outside an old St Helens nightclub

Jacqui, from Sutton Heath, said: “The old and new Saints grounds are something that I have driven past a lot in life, and never in a million years would I have thought that this would be somewhere that we could play.

“My family are huge Saints fans and I know how much that place means to people here, so for them to see a family member up on stage is massive.

“It’s an unbelievable thing and looking at how well the gig has sold; it’s going to be brilliant for them and for me.”

St Helens Star: Jacqui said she is "honoured" to be a part of such an occasionJacqui said she is "honoured" to be a part of such an occasion

Confessing that she “did not set out to be a singer”, Jacqui, 48, said that her life has been altered by a series of “lucky chances”.

After meeting Paul Heaton outside the old Crystals nightclub in the town centre, a 17-year-old Jacqui was invited back to a party with the former Housemartin in Taylor Park.

Spending the night talking about music, she impressed the singer with a rendition of a Carpenters song and was asked would she be interested in working with him in the future.

Confessing that Paul was “pretty drunk”, she thought nothing of the meeting until around a year later, when she was told Paul was eager for her to audition as the vocalist for the Beautiful South.

Singer Briana Corrigan had just left the band, and in a matter of months, Jacqui went from working at a fruit and veg market in Church Square to recording an album and playing live to thousands of fans.

Reflecting on that time, Jacqui said: “It was such a whirlwind. I don’t think I realised the magnitude of going from what I was doing in St Helens to going on to be a member of the Beautiful South.

“It’s only when you get older that you can look back and appreciate things more, and see how much you’ve done.”

St Helens Star: Paul and Jacqui have released four studio albums since reuniting in 2010Paul and Jacqui have released four studio albums since reuniting in 2010

Since signing on as a full-time member of the Beautiful South in 1994, Jacqui went on to release a number of hit records with the band, including household classics such as ‘Rotterdam (Or Anywhere)’, ‘Don’t Marry Her’ and ‘Perfect 10’.

Yet after a successful six-year stint, the mum-of-two decided to quit music entirely in 2000, in order to raise her young family.

As her youngest son was diagnosed with autism, the pressures of touring contradicted her ideas of being a mum and while the decision was difficult, Jacqui said she felt it was the “right thing to do”.

It was not until 2010 that the singer would have a “second chance”, as Paul contacted her on Facebook to see if she would like to collaborate again.

Snatching at the opportunity, her return to the music industry marked the start of a triumphant second chapter for the pair, charting four UK Top 5 albums and a fifth waiting to be released.

St Helens Star: Friday's gig will be the first concert to take place at the Totally Wicked StadiumFriday's gig will be the first concert to take place at the Totally Wicked Stadium

After a rollercoaster journey, Friday’s gig is primed to be all the more special as it will not only be the first concert at the Totally Wicked Stadium, but the first time Jacqui has played in front of a home crowd.

With stellar support from Scottish rockers The Proclaimers and rising indie stars The Lathums, Jacqui added: “I feel very lucky to be a part of this and it’s a lovely thing to see everyone coming to St Helens to enjoy our music and the other artists.

“I’ve never played here before so it’s such a big deal to do something like this […] it’s going to be brilliant.”

Taking place on Friday, July 22, final tickets are still on sale for £35 from here and here.