Wilde about Gardening

Kim Wilde had to deal with celebrity at the age of just 20 when her first single, Kids in America, launched her to fame. She enjoyed success as a pop star throughout the 1980s then moved into television, engaging in a brief but highly-publicised relationship with Chris Evans before marrying and settling down. Having children turned her on to gardening and she has presented a number of TV gardening shows. This weekend, Kim will be at the Dundee Flower and Food Festival where a garden which she designed will be on display.

I was just two years old when Kim Wilde’s biggest hit, Kids in America, was released, but it’s a song I remember well from my childhood, as it seemed to be played non-stop during the 1980s. Spiralling house prices in Dundee mean I can only afford a flat, so I don’t tend to watch many gardening programmes. However, a quick glance at Google reveals she’s become as much of a gardening diva as she was a pop diva, fronting Better Gardens on ITV and the BBC’s Garden Invaders.

It’an odd change of career, I tell her, from a pop star to Charlie Dimmock’s rival as your dad’s favourite piece of gardening-show talent!
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” she answers. “When I got married and had children we moved into a house in Hertfordshire. It had a garden, which was great, but I used to get really frustrated that I didn’t know what I was doing in it. I just didn’have a clue, so I went on a horticultural design course at Capel Manor College in Enfield. It was just a summer course, but it taught you the basics and I enjoyed it and got very into it. After I finished that I was asked to do Better Gardens, which was the first time I had presented a gardening show. It all happened pretty quickly and in some ways I was very unprepared for it. I was expected to know more than I had any knowledge of at the time and it was very hard work. Because you can never know it all with gardening, there were a lot of times when I had to wing it quite a bit. It was hectic!”
After presenting the show for a season, Kim decided to get serious about gardening, and undertook a two-year City and Guild qualification. “I went on and did two series of Garden Invaders and felt much more confident about it.”

Did being famous already help her get into her new career, I wonder? “Having been on television and being famous obviously did help a lot, but at the same time it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day you’ve got to deliver, and being famous can’t help you with that.”

I ask her how it felt to be thrust into the limelight when she was just 20. “It was a lot of fun, actually. Because I was so young, I took the whole thing in my stride and just enjoyed it. I think it might have been harder if I had been older. It’s great being a pop star when you’re young.”

She is refreshingly modest about her music career though, which is a good thing in these days where many minor celebrities would sell their own granny for a spot on I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here, or any number of other car-crash television shows.
“I’ve got no illusions about my pop career or the era that it happened in. The 1980s were a certain era and I had a place in that. I enjoyed myself at the time, but wouldn’t say I was overly proud of it or the type of music that the 1980s was about. I had a bit of success and I’m very happy about that, but at the same time I’m glad I got out when I did. I think it was the right thing to do.”

Kim still performs, though, and last year had a successful two-week tour of Australia. “I do still like performing and occasionally still do 80s tours, which are really good fun. It’s great because all the pressure is off and you can just go out there and have a laugh.”

Was she ever tempted by the drink and drugs that seem to be rife in the music industry? “Not really, I just avoided that scene. I’ve never really been much of a party girl. I mean, I do like to party sometimes, but I just wasn’t part of that in-crowd. I think a lot of it has to do with your upbringing. My parents were both musical and my dad was famous. They would talk about drugs as if they were very boring, so I’always thought that drugs were dull and that it’s just boring people who do them.”

Kim’s dad, Marty Wilde, was and still is a famous figure in his own right. A well-known rock ‘n’ roll musician in the 1950s and 60s, he toured with the likes of Eddie Cochrane, Billy Fury and Cliff Richard. Even though well into his 60s, he still tours prodigiously, and has over 100 gigs under his belt this year alone. Indeed, anecdotal evidence from those in The Courier office old enough to remember reached my ears about the time that Marty Wilde played Dundee’s Caird Hall in the 1960s.

A colleague recounted a time when a gig was delayed and almost cancelled because Marty and a fellow performer, Vince Eager, both arrived wearing the same jacket. A row ensued, and the fans were kept waiting while the two stars bickered over their wardrobe!

Kim, perhaps unsurprisingly given the number of tours her father has undertaken over the years, does not remember this episode. She tells me her four-year-old daughter Rose wants to grow up to be a gardener – just like her mum. Is this something that pleases her mother?
“Yes, it is. It’s nice that my daughter thinks I’m a gardener, not a pop star. I think I’d be happier if that’s what she grew up to be.”

Kim is certainly putting lots of effort into her new-found passion for all things horticultural. In preparation for her appearance at the Dundee Flower and Food Festival, she created a design for a garden. At the show, her design will be brought to life, thanks to the efforts of staff and students at Dundee College, who are working in conjunction with the Craigmill Skills Centre at Strathmartine Hospital who will be creating the garden on-site. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with my design, and how they choose to interpret it,” said Kim.

She has now found happiness with her actor husband Hal Fowler, and has two children, Rose (4) and Harry (6). Before she settled down, however, Kim had a number of highly-publicised relationships – none more so than her six-week fling with Chris Evans, whom she met when co-presenting the Big Breakfast. The pair were the centre of a media frenzy for the duration of their relationship. Does she feel this contributed to their break-up?
“I don’t blame the media,” she says. “If you’re famous then you’re putting your private life out there, and can’t really complain when people want to know more. I only think it’s bad when they go too far – by intruding on your land or taking pictures of people coming out of drug or alcohol rehabilitation clinics. It’s a tough one to call, but I don’t think the media is very sympathetic to celebrities who moan about the coverage they get all the time. That just makes it harder on yourself.”

So what, then, are Kim’s plans for the future? “I’m writing a children’s book just now, which will come out next spring, and I’m in discussions with producers over what would be the right thing for me to do, television-wise. I’m not desperate to be on TV, though. I would like to do something with children, because I think it’s important to get them outdoors young and get them into gardening. Especially over the last century, having an awareness of your environment has become important, and children are the guardians of the future.”