If you’ve never been to the Clarence Hall in Crickhowell then we guarantee you’ll want to make that the place you go to see TOYAH WILCOX. Great, intimate venue and a fantastic performer, what more could you ask for on a night out. This show is a real chance to hear the music and stories that shaped an amazing career.
It’s only when you start doing your homework to write something like this that you realise just how much Toyah has achieved.
I do come to this with a little piece of Toyah history. A long time ago I played cricket in the field at her home. It was a charity thing, which is just as well cause I’m rubbish at cricket. Toyah and hubby Robert Fripp came out to lend a bit of support. She did bowl a ball right at me, and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that she is as rubbish at bowling as I was at batting. Through every other aspect of her life though, she is one mighty fine talented woman.
Toyah is a four times Brit Award nominated singer, songwriter, actress, producer, author and storyteller. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Toyah has had 8 Top 40 singles, released over 20 albums, written two books, appeared in over 40 stage plays and 10 feature films, and voiced and presented numerous television shows.
The real peek for her musical career was between1977 and 1983 when she fronted the band TOYAH, they were a full on band too. She then went out on a solo career in the mid-80s, fortunately, the name remains the same. Her biggest hits include “It’s a Mystery”, “I Want to Be Free” and this one……
For Toyah though the music is like her acting, it’s all about the performance and stage show.
In the mid-1970s, as punk began to gain gather momentum, Toyah saw something she might belong to. About that time she said…..
“When punk started, I think it was very much about Socialism, the Labour Party, the right of the workers, the right to be heard. I saw it on a slightly different level – no matter who you are, if you had an idea, then you could be part of the punk movement. I was slightly more simplistic in how I viewed it. It was a kind of emotional rebellion rather than a cultural rebellion.”
“It wasn’t that I saw Sex Pistols and thought: ‘Oh, that changed my life’. I saw them and my reaction was: ‘I can do better, I go to London to do it’. From then on I knew I didn’t have to behave in a social norm. Because I wasn’t alone.”
By the time she formed her first band, Toyah was already an aspiring young actress. She left school at about 17 and went straight to Old Rep Drama School in Birmingham. After a year at the Old Rep, she had done some extra work at a BBC Pebble Mill and a month later, director and playwright Tony Bicat was looking for a girl to play the leading role in the BBC “Second City Firsts” play Glitter (along with Noel Edmonds and Phil Daniels).
“One day, apparently in a peak of despair, Tony Bicat went to the wardrobe department in Pebble Mill and out poured his woes, and he said: ‘I really don’t know what to do; we start shooting in two weeks’ and the wardrobe lady said: ‘There’s a girl in Birmingham you really have to see because she’s an oddball, and she has brightly coloured hair, and she’s like no one else we’ve ever met, and she does extra work’. So Tony Bicat came to the theatre school to see me and he apparently made his mind up there and then that I was this girl.”
Toyah has pretty much done it all, from Minder, Shoestring, Dr Who, Kavanagh QC, Celebrity Ready Steady Cook, The Chase and even Loose Women. For me, and so many others, it always comes back to her performance in the iconic movie Quadrophenia.
She played the role of Monkey in 1979 in The Who album-inspired film. It only added to her growing reputation of a provocative, anti-establishment figure. She remembers that time really well……
“Franc Roddam, the director, was thinking of casting Johnny Rotten in the lead role, and I went along and helped him audition by improvising with him and being a friend to him. Then the insurance people refused to insure the film with Johnny in it. So I thought: ‘Fuck, I’ve been chucked because Lydon’s been chucked’, and I went along to Franc and told him to give me the part of Monkey… and I think he was so taken aback – I was quite rude – that he gave me the part. Partly because he couldn’t think of anyone else to do it.”
Sky Arts pulled everyone together for the 40th Anniversary last year and we just love comparing the ‘then and now’ pics….
And that brings us to next year’s gig. Crickhowell’s Clarence Hall is a superb event space in the centre of one of the most beautiful towns in the Brecon Beacons. It is less than 100 metres from the ‘Best High Street in Britain’ and is the largest venue in town. This really is a special place to see Toyah perform.
TOYAH gets to the Clarence Hall in Crickhowell on Saturday 4th September. We realise this is a while away, but let’s be honest, after months of lockdown, it’s nice to have something in the diary to look forward to. If you’d more details, head over to the Woodfired Summit website here. TOYAH