Wilde encounter

She’s the most charted British female pop star of the 1980s and is as famous for her green fingers as her voice but did you know Hertfordshire’s Kim Wilde has more than a passing interest in aliens?  

Kim Wilde is talking extra-terrestrials. Not little green men exactly, but their space ship at least. ‘I saw a strange orb in the sky,’ she explains, her distinct voice rising with excitement, ‘and it hovered there for several minutes. It was inexplicable and I just can’t explain what I saw. I wasn’t the only witness – there were lots and it made the local newspaper. Everyone was talking about it.’  

The UFO sighting was from her Codicote back garden where she’d been having a glass of wine. ‘But I saw what I saw,’ she insists, tongue nowhere near her cheek.

So inspired was she by the close(ish) encounter that the pop star, who’s sold 30 million records worldwide and holds the record for being the most-charted British female solo act of the 1980s with a staggering 17 top 40 hit singles, wrote about it on her 2018 album, Here Come The Aliens.  

‘One of the reasons I love my garden is that there is such a big sky where I live. I can go outside and look up at that,’ she says. ‘I find the idea of space and everything about the universe fascinating. I watch everything with Brian Cox [TV science presenter and professor of physics and astronomy] in it and think that the probability of another intelligent life out there is extremely high. Of course, it had an impact on me – an entire album was inspired by that event.’  

The 61-year-old has been even more forthcoming in the past about her take on alien life. ‘I do think, obviously, that aliens have been here for ever,’ she told The Guardian. ‘They’ve been watching us forever.’ And her answer to letting the rest of us know they’re real? ‘Maybe they are even using me to put out a pop record with them on it,’ she said. ‘They might think, actually there’s that girl in Hertfordshire, the Kids in America girl. Yes, maybe we can get her, because she might get people to listen.’  

With the vast distance to their far-flung planet, perhaps alien radios had just picked up Kim exploding on to the pop scene aged 20 with the smash-hit Kids in America – all attitude, spiky blonde hair and thick, black eyeliner.  

Suddenly, she was everywhere, delivering hit after hit – 25 singles made the UK charts top 50 between 1981 and 1996 including You Keep Me Hanging  On, Chequered Love and You Came – winning a Brit Award and opening for Michael Jackson’s 1988 Bad world tour.

‘That was amazing,’ she says. ‘It was such a privilege. I did 30-odd shows for Michael Jackson all over the world.’  What was he like? ‘An artist. Such talent. But apart from the publicity photo I didn’t see him. He was so private.’  

Another pop legend, David Bowie, who Kim also supported on tour, was more approachable. ‘He would come and wish me luck before the show. He was a positive person but I was star-struck by Bowie. He was doing his Sound + Vision album and he was awesome.’  

And then suddenly she was nowhere. Yes, she was still  making music and touring, but she seemed to have stepped out of the spotlight to make way for the likes of Madonna. Kim secured a starring role in The Who musical Tommy in the West End, married co-star Hal Fowler and threw herself into family life, going to horticultural college during her first pregnancy so she could learn to create a garden for her children, Harry, now 24,  and Rose, 22.  

She said she was ecstatic to change her name on her passport, cheque book and driving license. ‘I’d had a career,’ she told The Guardian. ‘It was exhausting, that career, and I was so relieved to be Mrs Fowler, under the radar completely and bringing up kids and taking them to school and cooking toad in the hole.’  

It turned out she was so good at landscape gardening however, that it launched a whole new career. She was asked to be a designer on  Channel Four’s Better Gardens and a year later started filming Garden Invaders for the BBC. She’s written two gardening books – Gardening with Children and The First-Time Gardener and in 2005 won Gold for her courtyard garden at Chelsea.  

‘That meant I had two careers and was also juggling raising two children I’d had within two years of each other. But I loved it all and I could never choose between music and gardening. I have to do both. Though my garden is my baby.’  

It was a video just before Christmas 2012 that unexpectedly put the focus back on her pop career when she was filmed singing on a train home from a Magic FM Christmas party wearing a pair of festive antlers.  

‘It was my brother Ricky’s idea,’  she laughs. ‘We’d had too many cocktails and he suggested singing and someone filmed it.’  

The clip went viral and Kim was back in demand as much for her music as her horticultural talents. Last year she celebrated 40 years in the music industry and is back touring with Boy George, Lulu and Bananarama.  

‘There’s a huge warmth between all the artists and, of course, George and I recorded Shine On together during lockdown. We’ve been friends for decades’. 

The show is a precursor to her Greatest Hits Tour across the UK in September before spanning Europe up to the end of the year. 

‘I’m excited,’ Kim says. ‘I’m currently trying out sets. It’s going to be fun. But I tour in the autumn because that’s when I can leave my garden.’  

Does she feel under pressure to still look as good as she did when she was young? ‘There’s a certain pressure but I’ve just accepted that. It’s part of my career. I’ve never felt overwhelmed to have anything done. There are far more interesting things to think about every day than my looks. Luckily, the music industry isn’t as mercenary as the movie business. As long as you can still carry a tune, and still walk, you go on forever. My dad [early UK rock n roll star, and Knebworth resident, Marty Wilde] is 83 and has just performed to a packed audience in London.’  

And with that assessment of her future, she’s off to tend to her beloved garden – ‘I’m growing kale, beetroot, courgettes, and baby cucumbers’ – where she can sip a cold drink, look up at the big sky, and maybe have another Wilde encounter.