In her show Lady Sings the Blues, Val Wiseman admits she has set herself a tough challenge. For in it, she celebrates the work of one of the most influential, and distinctive, singers of all time.

“There will only ever be one Billie Holiday,” said Val. “She had a unique voice, but more than that she had a unique way of approaching a song.

“She was a composer’s nightmare as she would deconstruct a song, strip it right back, and then put so much of herself into it that she made it a totally different song.”

Holiday’s tragic personal life, from her early days caught up in child abuse, then prostitution, followed by chronic heroin addiction, and her early death at just 44, make the Holiday legacy even more poignant. “That emotion and turmoil is reflected in so many of her songs,” said Val.

Backed by a band of leading jazz players, Val is quick to point out that Lady Sings the Blues is not a tribute show.

“It is a celebration of Billie Holiday’s songbook,” said Val. “I don’t set out to be an imitator. In the show I do chat to the audience telling them a little more about her life. I have studied her phrasing and style, but it is still very much me singing.”

Val is delighted the show is coming to such a prestigious festival like Colne.

“Jazz and blues festivals are tending to diversify more and more. I often get comments after a show along the lines of ‘I don’t like jazz, but I really loved what you did tonight’. Billie Holiday was very much a blues singer as well as a jazz singer.”

  •  The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival is in Colne over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Headline acts include Booker T, Joan Armatrading, Courtney Pine and The Blues Band. Lady Sings the Blues is on the International stage at Colne Muni, at 3.30pm, on Sunday. For full details and tickets call the festival box office on 01282 661234, or visit