Kim Wilde’s most wonderful time of the year
12:40 09 December 2014
Ahead of her sold-out performance at Knebworth House this month, pop icon, gardener, DJ and presenter Kim Wilde discusses Christmas past and present and being happier than ever in the village of Codicote
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,’ sings Kim Wilde happily. She explains it’s her favourite Christmas song because it never ceases to evoke ‘lovely childhood memories’ of singing and dancing around the Christmas tree with her father Marty Wilde, the legendary 1950s’ rock-n-roll singer, and mother Joyce, who was part of the 1950s’ ensemble the Vernon Girls. ‘As I was growing up in the 60s, that song was everywhere. As soon as you heard it on the radio, you got excited about Christmas.’
This is a time of year for Kim to reminisce about days gone by and ‘appreciate life’s blessings’, but also to get stuck into the season. That includes a plan to dig out the Christmas tree she’s been growing in the back garden of her home in Codicote and spending an entire day decorating it with her family. ‘Ever since I moved back to Hertfordshire more than 20 years ago, Christmas has always been a lot more joyous and about family unity.’
Christmas is Kim’s favourite time of year, so it’s no wonder that her latest musical offering is the Christmas-themed album Wilde Winter Songbook comprising 12 personal and festively emotive songs, most of which have been written by the singer. One track, Song for Beryl , expresses her admiration for a dearly-loved and sadly-missed friend she met while working on a community-garden project at sheltered living accommodation in her home village.
Kim explains she and her family made an instant connection with Beryl, who lived at the shelter, and it wasn’t long before they adopted her as a grandma. ‘She lived a polar opposite life to anything I have ever experienced,’ Kim explains, ‘I enjoyed being in her company and learning about a different way of life.’ The video for the song was filmed in Vanstone Park Garden Centre in Codicote – a place both Kim and Beryl treated as a second home.
Before her move to Hertfordshire, Kim talks of a lonely life ‘living out of a suitcase’. She says the move, to be near her family, made absolute sense: because ‘it has always felt like home’.
Having burst on to the music scene as a spiky-blonde, punk-rock-influenced singer in 1981 – hitting number two in the charts with Kids in America before a string of further hits in the decade – she spent a lot of time on the road and in the studio. Today she is still touring, but can mix European dates with heavy-metal legend Alice Cooper earlier this year with ‘never being happier than at home’ with her husband, actor Hal Fowler, and their two children. ‘I really enjoy doing the gigs but once it’s done I can’t wait to get back to my home and family and our garden.’
This month, in a change from rock venues, she will get the chance to perform in an intimate setting in front of her family, friends and guests, at a Christmas party at Knebworth House, which will be ‘a real family affair’. She is looking forward to it: ‘Coming from an era where music videos held reign, singing live is a privilege – but singing in your home county with members of your community watching is even more special.’
Having had a career that was so international, Kim chose to take time out from her music career to focus on motherhood after the birth of her first child. ‘I didn’t see anything more important than raising my children. Had I not taken a break from music I would have missed my children growing up.’ While at home with her children, Kim did make sure to pass on her love for creativity and music. Following the family’s rock-n-roll tradition, Kim’s son Harry, aged 16, is in a band named Blighty while studying for a diploma in music. He has also performed live at the Rhythms of the World festival in Hitchin – as has Kim’s daughter Rose, who at just 14 is establishing herself as a singer-songwriter.
With such strong musical genes it could be said that their confidence and talents are inevitable. However, on recalling her own early career in music, Kim says she couldn’t have imagined writing her own songs at such a young age. ‘It wasn’t until my third album that I even attempted to write my own songs,’ she says.
Growing up around influential people in the music industry and being the daughter of a much-loved musician, Kim initially didn’t believe she could match up to those she had such great admiration for. But now, using her experience, she tells her daughter: ‘Song-writing is about message and intent and inspiration.’ She adds that the craft is also empowering and a valuable parenting skill: ‘I’m not saying I’m a perfect parent, but I can pass my musical knowledge on to my children and it will help take them towards their goals.’
Over the years, Kim has jumped in and out of the music industry as well as becoming an expert in horticulture – writing two top-selling gardening books and winning gold at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2005.
She has also helped local causes and charities, such as Waste Not Want Not, a community enterprise in Stevenage that rescues plants and horticultural materials from landfill, nurturing them and then selling them to the public to support the homeless and socially excluded. She is also a supporter of Hertfordshire County Council’s Get In the Frame campaign that encourages people in the county to get involved with fostering young people.
She says, ‘If I have the power to support something that can make a positive change to the lives of those less fortunate, then why not?’