From sexy lisps to the book lists

She has gone from possessing the sexiest lisp in pop to presenting Songs of Praise. During her colourful days as a punky priestess, she rocked the rafters of the Oxford Apollo as she stamped around the stage in all her raging glory, dressed like the sort of warrior woman your mother warned you about, writes George Frew.

Her gigs would attract fans of all sorts, from university colleges to residents of the Cowley Road. 

Her more thoughtful fans could also catch her appearing at the Oxford Playhouse, in roles like that of the flighty Constanza in Schaeffer's Amadeus. 

She made a highly effective Peter Pan in pantomime here, too. 

Back then, Toyah Willcox had a bit of a reputation for duffing up journalists who wrote things about her that she didn't like but then, she was always capable of giving herself a hard time. 

During a pop career that involved 13 top 40 singles and 15 albums, she expressed the hope that one day, she might actually produce something she liked. 

And while she was appearing in plays likeThe Tempest and movies such as Quadrophenia and regularly being voted 'Sexiest This, That Or The Other,' Toyah would dismiss herself as "a midget" (she clocks in at 4ft 11ins). 

She comes from the Midlands and went to the sort of posh school that has the words 'Young Ladies' in its name, where she failed most of her 'O' Levels, music excepted. 

All this and more can be found between the covers of her autobiography, Living Out Loud, which she was busy signing copies of last night at Oxford's Borders bookshop. 

Toyah's been married to rock guitarist Robert Fripp for the past 15 years. At 42, she seems more comfortable in her own skin and sounds like she wouldn't trade her new career as a TV presenter for a pop comeback if you offered her a pile of tenners the height of Carfax Tower. 

She admits: "Doing book signings can be embarrassing, though you get four people turn up at lunchtimes and 400 in the evening," she laughs. 

You're as likely to catch Toyah on the telly presenting The Holiday Programme as the aforementioned Songs of Praise. 

She lists her current hobby as "feminist theology" and has one main regret: "I wish I'd been a little wilder when I was younger it would have made me more emotionally independent." 

This is Oxfordshire
8th February 2001