The day Kim Wilde came to Lelystad and nobody believed it

Kim Wilde performed in Lelystad after Paris and Stockholm. Joris van Casteren, who grew up there, and author of the book Lelystad, visited his childhood heroine at the Center for Artistic Education.

Kim Wilde is coming to Lelystad, a friend said in September. I did not believe her. Especially not when she claimed that the concert would take place at the Centrum voor Kunstzinnige Vorming (CKV), also called De Kubus.

In that creatively designed gray brick building for Lelystad concepts, on the edge of the now half-demolished city center, I got piano lessons from Stans for years, and with ever more reluctance, a spindly teacher who smelled of mouthwash.

I did not necessarily want to play the piano, but I had to choose an instrument from my parents, who dealt well with each other despite the divorce, because I threatened to derail as many boys who grew up in the raw eighties.

As is often the case in Lelystad, this good intention turned out differently than expected: while I as a keyboard player only moderately progressed, my career as a vandal continued to show an upward trend.

Every Thursday afternoon I cycled with the piano books that I hardly ever looked at at De Kubus, where I always arrived too early. Bored, I strolled past the classrooms, where all kinds of non-musical activities such as raffia braids and pottery took place.

Although I was not a talent, Miss Stans kept believing in me, with the result that I was registered several times for one of the so-called coffee concerts that, sometimes in the presence of an alderman, were organized in the great hall.

Those concerts went so disastrous that I would rather be silent about it. It is also the reason that De Kubus never became part of the course of the tours that I have given in my ville natale after publication of my book Lelystad (2008).

Kim Wilde was a celebrity in those raw eighties, not as big as Madonna, although it did not matter much to me. She was in Hitkrant and Popfoto, songs like Kids in America, You Came, You Keep me Hangin ‘On and Never Trust a Stranger you could hear everywhere in Lelystad: from the C1000 where I filled up the shelves to schooldiscos.

I regularly went to the Quartet Shop in the Lelycentre with an older neighbor – who worked in the Martinair aircraft meal factory and who therefore had money. Besides porn and action movies, you could also rent CDs with top-40 music there. At home we transfer it to cassette tapes; I did not have a CD player yet.

So in 1988 I was in possession of an illegal copy of Close, Kim Wilde’s album, which according to experts is the ultimate eighties sound. On my wobbly walkman I played it countless often, presumably also when I was on my way to piano lessons.

I cut Kim Wilde out of one of those Hitkrant’s or Popfoto’s and pasted her into my middle school agenda. In my experience she was incredibly clever: you could not easily see such girls in Lelystad.

When the girlfriend insisted in September that it really was true, I called Bart Drost, from the local pop venue Corneel, which organized the concert. In fact, they had succeeded more or less by chance, he said. They had booked De Dijk one time, but then their own venue turned out to be too small. Drost had approached De Kubus: in the large room there was a little more space, with a little bit of plugs, seven hundred people fit in.

De Dijk had found it a strange location, but the concert was sold out and went well. “If De Dijk had not done this, Kim Wilde would never have come to Lelystad,” Drost said.

He previously worked for other venues and knew the Dutch promoter for Kim Wilde. Last year she released a new album after years of silence, during the tour she would like to visit the Netherlands with her band.

Carefully Drost brought up the Cube in Lelystad, where in the meantime, among other things, he had a cover band from Rammstein. There fireworks were involved, so the outdated room was already thoroughly examined for fire safety.

The Dutch promoter then dared to take it up. After including Paris, Marseille and Stockholm, Kim Wilde was scheduled to be in De Kubus on Tuesday, November 20, 2018.

I decided to request an interview, which was honored, to my surprise, and also to my shock. Prior to the concert, I could talk to Kim Wilde for an hour, let her British manager know.

In Lelystad there is one hotel, a gray-brown monster that seems to have been designed by a DDR architect. I suspected she would rent a floor there and that I would have to go there. That was not the case: Kim Wilde came with a special tour bus from Bergen op Zoom, so she would not stay in Lelystad. I could talk with her backstage in De Kubus, I heard from the manager.

In De Kubus there is no backstage at all, but Poppodium Corneel, which had already received a list of requirements from management, would transform part of the building as good and as bad as it was to something like that.

On November 20, I walked into The Cube. Much too soon, just like at that time. I felt 12 again, insecure and afraid to be caught somewhere. A Corneel employee said that the tour bus had not yet arrived, he would park at the back of the cycle path, so Kim Wilde could enter ‘incognito’. The employee said that they were already busy with the preparations from 11 o’clock in the morning. ‘Normally it is not all that extreme’, she said.

She showed me a list of what Kim Wilde did not have to be ready: different mirrors, two dressing tables, an ironing board, all kinds of fridges, a couch and even a washing machine with dryer.

On the list was also what Kim Wilde wanted to eat: mustard soup. This was brought in a while later by an employee of De Caterspecialist, in a large pan with burning rechaud underneath.

Meanwhile, courses and classes were still going on in different classrooms. Opposite the provisional checkout, a group of seniors was undisturbed at a long wooden table with clay and ceramics, ballet lessons were given around the corner, children with musical instruments walked in and out. Someone from Corneel said that De Kubus did not want to cancel the courses and lessons, people had paid for it. However, the hallway around the main hall was more or less turned off, the expensive instruments from Wilde’s band were already on stage.

At 7 o’clock the British manager picked me up from the foyer. “We are now backstage,” he said, as we passed a row of coat hangers. We walked up the stairs to the first floor and passed 1.05, my former piano room. At 1.16 he knocked on and disappeared. Kim Wilde opened, she did not look like the picture in my diary, rather a nice friend of my mother. I was allowed to sit at one of the dressing tables, she took place on the couch.

I told Kim Wilde that it was a great honor for Lelystad that a legend would come to perform here. She said she had no idea where she had ended up. According to her, De Kubus was ‘a rather unusual location’, but she had often appeared in halls showing characteristics of ‘a community center and a gym’. Because she wanted to know more about Lelystad, I told her the whole story: that it should have been the architectural crowning of the Zuiderzee project, a tribute to the visionary engineer Cornelis Lely. I said that urban planner Van Eesteren had also designed the city as such, but that a government planning department had stripped down its plan and had downplayed a fanciful concept, after which Amsterdam and other cities started to send surplus antisocials in this direction.

When I said that she had provided the sombre new-build youth of Lelystad with her music with little sparkles, Kim Wilde asked how it was possible that the concert, which would start at 10 o’clock, was not sold out. I thought it was shocking to hear, when I checked it later it turned out to be correct: not all seven hundred tickets had been sold. ‘You put such a city on the map and then people let it down,’ says Bart Drost. On behalf of Lelystad I started to apologize, but I did not have to, Kim Wilde said laughing. “A performance is a performance.” It did not matter to her whether she sang for fifteen or fifty thousand people. “Every audience gets the best performance, in that respect we do not discriminate.”

Kim Wilde wanted to say something about her new album, called Here come the Aliens. In an interview with her in The Guardian I had already read that in 2009 she had observed strange phenomena in the air above her gigantic garden in the county of Hertfordshire. Since then she is convinced that the earth is being watched by extraterrestrials. Extensively I got to hear the whole story again. “They are benign and love our planet,” she remarked about the aliens.

The aliens are concerned about what the people do with the earth. “They want to contact us but do not know how.” I said that this message should appeal to people in Lelystad: here it was suffocating from occult clubs that did one UFO observation after another. We spoke so animatedly, about extraterrestrial life, but also about my piano lessons, that Kim Wilde forgot about time. Her manager knocked, she had to change clothes and do all kinds of make-up. Before the concert started I could come back, for a photo of the two of us.

I walked to De Lantaarn, a café for real Lelystad residents. The regular guests said they liked Kim Wilde. They had heard of the concert but did not go there: because they did not believe it was the real Kim Wilde. ‘The real Kim Wilde is not coming to Lelystad,’ said one of them, a certain Henk. In vain I tried to explain to Henk and the others that it was indeed the real Kim Wilde. It did not seem credible to them when I said that I had just spoken to her about aliens. “It is a cover band, it simply can not be any different”, they decided. According to barjuf Roosje, many people in Lelystad were of the opinion. “It’s fake news.”

Kim Wilde could not believe her ears. “That’s ridiculous,” she said, as the photographer took pictures of us. Kim Wilde looked very different than before. She was walking in high heels and wore a very tight suit that accentuated her forms. Yes, she looked a bit like the one in my agenda again.

The concert, in the room where my piano concerts failed so miserably, went spectacularly. After You Came she did not give the audience a too large audience to silence. She said she had heard that in Lelystad she is not thought to be Kim Wilde. “Bollocks!” She exclaimed. She was ‘as real as possible’.

Kim Wilde

Kim Wilde (1960) became world famous in 1981 with the new wave hit Kids in America, a song written by her father, rock and roll singer Marty Wilde, which is actually called Reginald Smith. Both his daughter and her younger brother Ricky, guitarist in his sister’s band, took over the stage name of their father.

In the eighties Kim Wilde scored one hit after another (Cambodia, Four Letter Word, If I Can’t Have You) and toured with Michael Jackson and David Bowie. In the course of the nineties she fell silent. She married, got children and threw herself into gardening; she presented the BBC program Garden Invaders and published a book: Gardening with Children.

After a chance meeting with the German singer Nena, which resulted in the song Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime, she started performing cautiously at the beginning of the 20th century, where mainly old hits were performed. This spring a new album appeared: Here Come The Aliens, inspired by a supernatural phenomenon that she would have observed in her garden.