Toyah Willcox: Singing star says “Every human being, whatever their age, still has potential.”

After nearly 50 years in the spotlight, chameleonic singer and actress Toyah Willcox has no plans to stop performing any time soon.

Born in Birmingham in 1958 with a spinal condition and a clubbed foot, multi-talented performer Toyah Willcox burst onto the entertainment scene in the late 1970s. As well as releasing over 20 albums and having eight top 40 singles, she’s appeared in 40 stage plays, 10 feature films – including Quadrophenia – and also narrated the globally popular children’s TV series Teletubbies. She lives in Dorset with her 77-year-old musician husband Robert Fripp.

Toyah Willcox

Toyah Willcox has had a successful career in entertainment

You’re as busy today as you were 40 years ago. Do you never feel like slowing down?

I’m still very, very happy working. And I’ve always felt as a woman every decade we reach is a completely different human being. It’s important to keep working through these decades, otherwise we will disappear, and we will be stereotyped. I’m 66  this month so I find it very important to show you can have a healthy elderly middle age upwards.

What’s the best thing about getting older?

Your perspective is far clearer. And things that would have upset me when I was younger, just don’t even touch me now.

As you get older do you increasingly appreciate the brevity of life?

Yes. Time is very precious, and I think knowing the limitations of time makes you spend your time really wisely.

Toyah Wilcox

Toyah, still a passionate performer

How strong is your, ‘making the most of it,’ mentality?

I have exactly the same drive now that I had when I was 16, 17 and 18, but I’m very realistic that the world moves on. The younger generations definitely move on without you. And they have to. They are building a future. They’re building our future.

They’re building their lives, but I believe every single human being on this planet, whatever their age, still has potential so what I’m trying to do is to be potential appropriate because there’s really no point in me thinking, ‘I’m going to go on Top of the Pops or do some rave. I’ve got to be potential appropriate and not waste my time on old ambitions.

Are you as passionate about performing now as you were at the start of your career?

I’m equally passionate, but I love change. I really love variety. So, I find that if I go into a new genre, or I go into a new project, it just invigorates absolutely every cell in my body.

So yeah, I’m very passionate about my work. I love my work, and I’m very passionate about my audience. I like my audience to see me breaking new territory.

Toyah

Toyah has a new single coming out in summer

What are your ambitions for the future?

I’ve got three books on the go. I’ve got a new single coming out over the summer. There are some fantastic acting roles coming in. As I get older, I will do more and more acting because the singing won’t go on forever as you do start to feel a bit vulnerable in certain workplaces.

How important to you is it to acknowledge your mortality and to prepare those left behind for the eventuality.

The one thing my parents could not talk about was their mortality. When Dad had a stroke, he was put on the Liverpool care pathway.

There was some consciousness about it all the way to when he died, six days later, where he was starved, he had no water, no painkillers.

He had a really bad death, but he never ever talked about what he wanted, how he wanted to be buried, or how he wanted to be treated so we were all running around completely second guessing how to behave because the dialogue had never been had.

Need help organising your estate?

Estate planning for later life

Presumably you’ve taken a lesson from that experience?

We’ve all written wills, and we’ve all made plans. I think it makes life better. Funerals for the people who are still here. I don’t think they’re for the people who pass. As soon as you pass, you move straight into the next process, and I think it’s really important that we leave instructions.

Becoming successful is a huge challenge but maintaining that success over decades as you have done is an even tougher task. How have you maintained your popularity over so many decades?

My work is like no one else’s work. It is unique. I’ve not, I’m not copying anyone. I’m toying. And I’ve always worked really hard for Toyah. And now young people – through my Sunday Lunch series on YouTube – have discovered me for the first time as well.

Reflection and mental rest are pivotal to maintaining good health as you get older. How do you relax?

I love walking. I adore walking and there’s places I can go in Cornwall where I can disappear.

Toyah Willcox is performing at the Let’s Rock festival this summer. For tickets visit www.letsrock80s.com