AS has been the case for many musicians, lockdown has been a difficult time for Alison Wheeler.

With her band The South prior to lockdown the gig calendar was full with the band playing sold out shows all over the country; then Covid struck and everything stopped virtually overnight.

"The arts were affected so badly," said Alison who with The South will be in Blackburn on Sunday night - one of the first shows back at King George’s Hall. "I didn’t know what to do, music and performing has been our lives for so many years.

"I think from March last year to December I was in a bit of a funk. It was the first time I’d stopped touring and performing in 25 years and I was just lost."

Then Alison saw a songwriting course advertised on Facebook which reignited her passion for music.

"I’d always thought I’d like to write more and it was the spark I needed,” she said. “I really enjoyed writing this year although it’s not really band stuff, it’s more country pop. But I’d like to be able to write songs for other people to do."

With lockdown restrictions coming to an end and theatres reopening, The South have started to hit the road again.

"I never thought I’d be excited about staying in a Premier Inn, but I have been," laughed Alison.

"I get to do the mum thing during the week but then over the weekends, it’s time for the band. Having a hotel room to yourself is just heaven.

"Getting back together with the boys was really strange, we hadn’t performed together for so long but even during our first rehearsal it was like we’d never been away."

The South have had a remarkable career, formed by members of The Beautiful South who wanted to carry on when chief songwriter and singer Paul Heaton went solo in 2007. Since then they have become of the country’s favourite live bands showcasing classic songs such A Little Time, Rotterdam and Perfect 10.

Most recently Alison has shared band leader duties with Gaz Birtles, formerly the band’s sax player who took over when original singer Dave Hemingway retired from the band in 2017.

"Gaz is so at home now as a frontman," said Alison. "At our first show back he just went crazy, he really let himself go - it was like a release of all the tension and worry that we’ve all had over the last 18 months.

"The audience picks up on it when you are having a good time and we have always had such fun on stage. Already with the few gigs we’ve done post lockdown, that enjoyment factor has increased.

"I suppose it’s made us realise how special it is to be able to do what we do and entertain an audience and bring a little joy into their lives."

As well as welcoming back one of their favourite live bands, one thing fans are always eager to know is if there will be any original South material. The band’s only album to date, Sweet Refrains was released in 2012.

"I think we’d all like to work on some new music at some point," said Alison. "Maybe I should try and start writing with our style in mind."

But for now The South are just happy to be back on the road doing what they love.

"It’s a bit like Russian roulette at the moment," said Alison. "But we’re taking all the precautions we can and we know that audiences are desperate for the return of live shows."

The South, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Sunday, September 5. Details from