My Worcestershire

Toyah Willcox is a woman of many talents Ė a musical icon, a talented stage performer and even an author. As a native of Worcestershire, Toyah launched the County Councilís new recycling campaign  ĎMission Impossible: Target 75í earlier this year. 

The Autumn issue of WoW features a summary of the exclusive Toyah interview, but here you can read her answers in full... 

My Worcestershire Ė with Toyah Willcox 

With the release of your book ĎDiary of a Faceliftí and your busy schedule of live shows, do you ever find the time to enjoy living in Pershore? 

I have enough time to enjoy where I live. That said, Iím in London most days. Recently, Iíve decided to commute daily as the atmosphere in London is very uncomfortable after the bomb attacks. 

My schedule is such that I used to spend five days a week in London, where I have a home as well as in Worcestershire, but now thanks to technology I can have meetings around the world with lawyers, record companies and publishers from my office at home, which means Iím aiming to spend less time travelling to Ďthe big smokeí. 

For me, Worcestershire offers what I often refer to as Ďreal lifeí where I can be with real people who value the same things that I value Ė those are strength of community and goodwill to others. My husband Robert Fripp and myself have lived here for four years now and we wish weíd moved here 20 years ago as we both get equally homesick whenever we have to leave.

We have visitors from all over the world to our home and many are A-List names. They all go away saying theyíd like to move to where we live because it is not only a great looking place but they feel safe and welcome here. 

What do you like the most and the least about where you live? 

I like the fact that my parents are in a safe environment Ė they live in the next village. In fact, I canít think about one thing that I dislike about the area. Iím a fierce believer in farming. Itís utter madness to turn food-producing land into other usage when we are an island that may one day need to sustain itself and, considering the way things are with imports, weíre dependent on mainland Europe for a lot of our food. Utter madness, and a terroristís dream situation. 

I think this area works so well for my husband and I because we have established careers and can travel far and wide. Itís a perfect place to come home to and recharge our batteries and possibly retire. 

We donít have any of the big name shops on our high street, which I see as a blessing. It makes our high street unique in many ways. My office looks out onto the high street and whenever I see an elderly person stumble, which is too often, I also witness everyone around running to help. There was one occasion when I was on the phone doing a live Radio 2 interview when I saw a lady fall outside and I thought I was going to have to drop the phone live on air and help her, but the rest of the street got there first. Thatís what I like about where I live Ė people care about each other. I never feel lonely here because I donít think Iíve ever walked down the high street without having a conversation with someone Iíve never met before. 

The only thing I would dislike is if it were to change too much. If itís not broken, why fix it? But perhaps thatís an impossible thing to wish. Changes happen to sustain population. 

The architecture where I live is magnificent. Whenever I drive into town my heart lifts to see such a perfect high street. Some buildings are made of golden stone that glows in the sunlight and I feel immensely proud to live here. Itís almost timeless. 

Youíve been helping the County Council to promote recycling and waste minimisation recently. Do you Ďslim your biní at home? 

We most definitely slim our bin. We have a compost heap where all our vegetable matter goes, weíre vegetarian and we eat fresh local produce. We gather all our old paper and all our plastics and aluminium. The amount of recyclable stuff that two people can generate is staggering Ė we put out at least two large bags each of paper, plastics and glass every week! 

Itís so easy to recycle these days. We have regular collections on our street and once youíre in the habit of asking yourself ďIs this reusable, could it have another life?Ē you instinctively sort and save things as part of your everyday life. When Iím touring itís impossible to recycle when youíre going from hotel to hotel, so I keep all my recyclables in bags in the boot of my car and sort it out when I get home! 

Would you encourage your friends to visit Worcestershire? 

We do regularly and theyíre always amazed at how easy it is to get to and how beautiful it is. I boast often that I can get to any part of the UK in four hours without any hassle. I can drive to Glasgow, Dover, Swansea or Lands End all within a reasonable time and, believe me, I do it regularly. For a touring artist who hates the hassle of airports the geography is perfect. 

We have people visit us from all over the world, from Australia to LA, and they love it here because itís close to being unspoilt in relation to the big cities. The countryside is sublime. I adore seeing the fruit orchards, the roadside stalls and the majesty of the Malvern Hills. 

I tell everyone who loves JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings to drive to junction 7 of the M5 where the hill that inspired Bilbo Bagginsí home still stands with a tree right on the top. Tolkien knew this area well and all my life Iíve been convinced that this little hill next to the M5 is the inspiration for the illustrations that Tolkien drew himself. 

As a local Council Tax payer, do you think you get value for money? 

I think we get incredible value for money here. I live outside of Worcester City, where Iím sure the money has to spread further, but where I live we have a fantastic council that keeps our town pristine. Our local hospitals are the best, better than London, and Iím a supporter of Evesham Hospital which is superb. 

We do as much for young people as possible, giving them communal space. The services here run like clockwork. I would only fear too much modernisation. Thereís a great spirit here, itís all about the people and sometimes modernisation depersonalises everything and takes the soul out of the community. 

And finally, how would you sum up Worcestershire in one sentence? 

Worcestershire is the true heart of a country known for its history as much as its beauty Ė it has everything. 
 

Word on Worcestershire
Autumn 2005