Toyah Wilcox looks forward to the Rewind Festival

PUBLISHED: 10:15 03 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:36 04 July 2017

Toyah Wilcox Photo Lorne Thomson

Toyah Wilcox Photo Lorne Thomson


It would be a mistake to look at Toyah Willcox and think of no more than her big hits of the 80’s, says Kate Houghton, but that doesn’t mean you can’t scream and shout and celebrate every note.

Toyah Willcox is remembered by most of us who were tweens and teens in the 80’s for her massive hits of the opening years of that decade, including I Want to be Free and It’s a Mystery. These songs may not have made number one in the UK singles charts, but those of us who were there (albeit only just) can still recall the lyrics, the passion and the energy of the artist and of the age after hearing a single bar or reading a single line of a lyric. This instant recall, whether you bought the singles yourself, or spent your pocket money on Adam Ant, Kim Wilde or Smokey Robinson, who shared the top ten with Toyah and I Want to be Free in May 1981, is one of the reasons why the music of the 80’s has never really gone away and has in the last ten years or so experienced a revival of mammoth proportions.

Talking of never going away, Ms Willcox, now 59, hasn’t stopped performing, in one guise or another, in 40 years.

‘I’ve never been ‘away’,’ she says. ‘I play to more people now than I ever have; I do it incredibly well and have done for 40 years. I do four shows a week and I make sure I look after myself,’ she tells me. ‘On a show day I am very quiet, I just don’t talk. Like anyone given a chance to do something they love for a long time, you build on it. The artists I work with work all the time, not just now and then.

‘I love what I do. It’s not a chore, not a burden for a moment. The audience gives so much back and while I have a good voice and good body movements I will keep going. My range covers four to five octaves and you can’t fake that! ’

Toyah had a rather rough start to her life, born a twisted spine, clawed feet, a clubbed right foot, one leg two inches shorter than the other and no hip sockets, conditions that demanded years of surgery and physiotherapy. This led to bullying at school, exacerbated by a speech impediment. Without doubt the experience of her early years drove her to acts of rebellion and a defiance of authority and of following any path she hadn’t set herself. A refusal to conform to social norms or expectations proved to be the starting point for all her achievements, as both an actor and singer, but success (never mind lasting success) wouldn’t have followed had she not had enormous talent and presence, which you can witness for yourself should you be lucky enough to have tickets for Rewind North at Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire this summer.

‘I love Rewind Festival,’ Toyah says. ‘It’s just joyous. People come because they love the music, not simply on a nostalgia trip. The average age there is 25; these people weren’t even born when we were first performing! They’ve discovered the music for themselves.

‘Everyone that was successful in the 80’s was really, really good. The sustained presence of the music and the sustained quality of the performance means that everybody you see performing at Rewind is absolutely brilliant. You can’t carry on working if you can’t deliver.

‘Back in the 80’s we were all working so hard we never got the chance to know each other. You could be on Top of the Pops and on a plane to Belgium straight after to go on a TV show there; we toured non-stop. Backstage now it’s great to catch up with everyone and yes, there is some reminiscing!’

Rewind North

4 – 6 August 2017 |

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