She was the Kid in America, but now 1980s popstar Kim Wilde is doing her bit to tempt people back into learning. Kim, who was the Britney Spears of her time and won countless pop awards, has shunned her music career for a life of picking pansies and sowing seeds. Her gardening skills flourished after she studied at a London college, and the former pop princess wants others to sign up for adult education classes.
Kim was in the region to promote the North East Bite-Size Intros programme, which is designed to make learning accessible and fun. Over a month, there will be more than 1,000 free sessions in a wide range of subjects.
The courses will be held in pubs, clubs and shopping centres to make them as appealing as possible and help make people who sign up feel as comfortable as possible. The singer, who shot to fame with hits like Kids in America and You Keep Me Hanging On, said: "I think it's a great initiative. Anything that starts giving people the inspiration and confidence about doing more education is great. It's been an incredible experience for me. I spent the last two years doing the course and it's really changed my life. I've found it very demanding and challenging, but in a really good way. I've met some wonderful people who share my passion for plants and learning. I can't say enough about it. If you have an inkling of something you're interested in, then certainly pursue it."
She is now setting the wheels in motion to set up a business, and in the meantime she's gaining valuable experience. And while her new career is taking off, she is also enjoying a new wave of popularity and fans' current love of nostalgia by performing in a series of concerts alongside fellow 1980s favourites. She was on stage at the Telewest Arena in Newcastle last November for a packed concert along with T'Pau and Paul Young. And she will be there again in December.
Kim said: "The audience was brilliant and it was really good fun. I'm making the most of it."
She was at Homebase, in Team Valley, Gateshead, to launch the Bite-Size scheme, which will run from May 20 to June 21. The aim of the campaign is to increase people's confidence in their ability to learn and encourage them to go on to more-structured learning. Taster sessions will be running throughout Tyne & Wear, Co Durham and Northumberland with courses ranging from computer skills to vegetable carving and an introduction to becoming a DJ. None of the courses lasts more than three hours.
As well as more traditional learning environments, there will be courses in such places as shopping centres and pubs. More information on the free courses is available by calling free phone (08080) 200 500.