Kim Wilde: 'I couldn't choose between gardening and singing!'
- Credit: supplied
She’s the most charted British female pop star of the 1980s and is as famous for her green fingers as her voice but Kim Wilde, who is performing at Heritage Live at the South of England showground, has cultivated more than a passing interest in aliens
Kim Wilde is talking extraterrestrials. Not little green men exactly, but their space ship at least. ‘I saw a strange orb in the sky,’ she explains, her distinct voice rising with excitement, ‘and it hovered there for several minutes. It was inexplicable and I just can’t explain what I saw. I wasn’t the only witnesses – there were lots and it made the local newspaper. Everyone was talking about it.’
The UFO sighting was from her back garden where she’d been having a glass of wine. ‘But I saw what I saw,’ the pop star insists. Her tongue is nowhere near her cheek. So inspired was she by the event that Kim - the iconic star who’s sold 30 million records worldwide and holds the record for being the most-charted British female solo act of the 1980s with a staggering 17 top 40 hit singles - wrote about it on her next album Here Comes The Aliens.
That was released in March 2018, nine years after her close (ish) encounter, but it’s shaped who she is today. ‘One of the reasons I love my garden is that there is such a big sky where I live. I can go outside and look up at that sky,’ she says. ‘I find the idea of space and everything about the universe fascinating. I watch everything with Brian Cox [the physicist and professor of Physics and Astronomy] in it and think that the probability of another intelligent life [being out there] is extremely high. Of course, it had an impact on me – an entire album was inspired by that event.’
Kim, 61, has been even more forthcoming in the past. ‘I do think, obviously, that aliens have been here for ever,’ she told The Guardian. ‘They’ve been watching us forever.’ And her answer to letting the rest of us know they’re real? ‘Maybe they are even using me to put out a pop record with them on it,’ she said.
‘They might think,’ she continued, ‘actually there’s that girl in Hertfordshire, the Kids in America girl. Yes, maybe we can get her, because she might get people to listen.’
It’s hard to reconcile this earnest, shy Kim with the girl who exploded onto the pop scene at 20 with the smash-hit Kids in America, all spikey blonde hair and thick, black eyeliner.
- 1 5 of the best places to visit in Cheshire this summer
- 2 Where to watch the Perseids meteor shower in East Anglia
- 3 5 wild swimming spots in Cheshire
- 4 Hoards of spider crabs on Cornish beaches are not a danger to the public
- 5 17 amazing experience days in Hampshire
- 6 The incredible Cornish stone structures with an exceptional history
- 7 4 of the best places for open water swimming in Hampshire
- 8 The 5 best spots for wild swimming in Somerset
- 9 11 pretty riverside pubs in Hertfordshire
- 10 Scotney Castle makes an appearance in Netflix's The Sandman
Suddenly she was everywhere, delivering hit after hit – 25 singles made the Top 50 in the UK charts between 1981 and 1996 including You Keep Me Hanging On, Chequered Love and You Came - winning a Brit award and opening for Michael Jackson’s 1988 Bad World Tour and David Bowie.
‘That was amazing,’ she says. ‘It was such a privilege. I did 30-odd shows for Michael Jackson all over the world.’ What was he like? ‘An artist. Such talent but apart from the publicity photo I didn’t see him. He was so private.’ David Bowie was a little more approachable. ‘He would come and wish me luck before the show,’ she remembers. ‘He was a positive person but I was star struck by Bowie. He was doing his Sound + Vision album and he was awesome.’
And then suddenly she was nowhere. Yes, she was still making music and touring, but she seemed to have stepped out of the spotlight to make way for the likes of Madonna.
Kim got herself a starring role in Tommy in the West End, married co-star Hal Fowler and threw herself into family life, going to horticultural college during her first pregnancy so that she could learn to create a garden for her children, Harry, now 24, and Rose, 22.
She said she was ecstatic to change her name on her passport, cheque book and driving license. ‘I’d had a career,’ she told The Guardian. ‘It was exhausting, that career and I was so relieved to Mrs Fowler, under the radar completely and bringing up kids and taking them to school and cooking toad in the hole.’
But she was so good as a landscape gardener that she was asked to be a designer on Channel 4’s Better Gardens and a year later started filming Garden Invaders for the BBC. She’s written two gardening books – Gardening with Children and The First-Time Gardener (both Collins) and in 2005 won a Gold award for her courtyard garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show.
‘That meant I had two careers and was also juggling raising two children that I’d had within two years of each other,’ Kim says. ‘But I loved it all and I could never choose between music and gardening. I have to do both though my garden is my baby.’
It looked like her green fingers were taking over from her voice though until Christmas 2012 she was filmed drunkenly singing on a train home from a Magic FM Christmas party wearing a pair of festive antlers.
‘It was my brother Ricky’s idea,’ she laughs. ‘We’d had too many cocktails and he suggested singing, so we did, and someone filmed it.’ The clip went viral and Kim was back in demand as much for her music as her horticultural talents.
Last year she celebrated 40 years in the music industry and is back touring with Boy George, Lulu and Bananarama - ‘there’s a huge warmth between all the artists and, of course, George and I recorded Shine On together during lock down. We’ve been friends for decades’ - at Heritage Live at the South of England showground on 16 July. She’ll also be back on the road throughout the UK in September with The Greatest Hits Tour - with special guest China Crisis - which sadly doesn’t come to Sussex. ‘I’m excited,’ Kim says. ‘I’m currently trying out sets. It’s going to be fun, but I tour in the autumn because that’s when I can leave my garden.’
Does she feel under pressure to still look as good as she did when she was young? ‘There’s a certain pressure but I’ve just accepted that,’ she says. ‘It’s part of my career. I’ve never felt overwhelmed to have anything done. There are far more interesting things to think about every day than my looks.’
And she’s not worried about her music career coming to an end anytime soon. ‘Luckily, the music industry isn’t as mercenary as the movie business,’ she says. ‘As long as you can still carry a tune and still walk you go on forever. My dad is 83 and has just performed to a packed audience in London.’
And with that she’s off to tend to her beloved garden - ‘I’m growing kale, beetroot, courgettes, and baby cucumbers’ - where she can sip a cold drink, look up at the big sky and maybe have another Wilde out-of-this-world encounter.
Kim will be performing at Heritage Live at the South of England Event Centre, Selsfield Road, Ardingly, on July 16 alongside Boy George & Culture Club, Bananarama, Lulu and DJ Fat Tony. from £50.60 ticketmaster.co.uk