As the queen of uplifting pop anthems, it is hard to imagine anybody doubting the talents of M People songstress Heather Small.

The 51-year-old was responsible for the iconic 2012 London Olympics theme Proud as well as the thumping vocals of 90s favourites Moving on Up and Search for the Hero.

She has sold out the biggest arenas and shared stages with legendary stars.

But Heather, who will be singing at Christchurch’s Regent Centre on Sunday and Monday, tells Seven Days her glittering years at the top of her profession have by no means always appeared certain.

Brought up in a small flat and born to immigrant parents, things could be tough.

She recounts harbouring her singing ambitions in secret until a conversation with a school careers advisor, which for some may have proved a confidence-shattering moment.

“She just looked at me and laughed,” Heather reminisces.

“But I was quietly determined. I remember thinking to myself ‘I won’t tell anyone – but I will show you’.”

And show them she did.

A grafter, Heather took knocks along the way and remembers vividly the moment her first band was dropped from their record label.

For her, achieving success meant hitting the road again, picking herself up and playing endless gigs.

This is an area of the industry she thinks has changed in recent times with the creation of shows like Pop Idol, The Voice and X Factor.

“We had talent shows – but not shows that promised you the world, that would promise you international superstardom after six weeks,” she says.

“The ways of getting discovered have changed.

"A band going on the road and staying in and gaining a following before being signed – that doesn’t happen so much at all.

“It is very different now. I would say it is harder.

"But I would say it is maybe easier to make music and get to an audience of some kind.

“But to make a living, to make it a career, to turn that passion into something that you can do full-time – that is definitely a lot harder.”

Heather’s career sky-rocketed after M People broke into the charts – and things have never been the same since.

So, for her, this latest tour is a celebration of the last 30 years and fans can expect to be treated to all Heather’s old favourites.

“I signed my first deal at 21 and here I am at 51, known as a singer and still, I think, I’m a better singer than I’ve ever been,” she beams.

“It’s just joyful, it’s uplifting, you want to advance, to sing – that’s what I want to celebrate.

“I still have this joy for singing, this joy for performing and I like to get up in front of an audience – even though it’s nervous beforehand.

“When I’ve got my mic in my hand – I am in the right place – I know this is where I should be.

“So to share that with other people – that makes me happy.”

There is no doubting Heather’s passion.

And she is well aware of how much she has achieved, but that doesn’t stop her from being down-to-earth and still getting a kick out of it – she is more conscious than anyone of how far she has come.

“To make that journey, to have that dream and for it then to come to fruition – that still always excites me,” she declares.

“Whatever you do, if you do it on your own terms – then that’s what puts the cherry on top.”

For tickets to Sunday and Monday’s shows at the Regent Centre, both starting at 7.30pm, call the box office on 01202 499199.