Toyah: It's a Mystery Why Brum's Not Britain's Hollywood


Punk legend Toyah Willcox is to help transform Birmingham into the British equivalent of Hollywood. 

The Kings Heath singer and actress is working on a secret drama project centred in her native city. 

"I'm working with writers and producers to try to create a Birmingham film industry," said Toyah, 49, who now lives near Pershore in Worcestershire. 

"Birmingham is a very exciting area because it has such diverse architecture and culture. 

"The project I'm currently working on will be very recognisably Birmingham. Cities can grow around films and you recognise many of them by the movies made there. 

"Birmingham has a lot going for it - the city has great untapped potential." 

Toyah, married to guitarist Robert Fripp, says her dream of a 'Brummywood' could come true because London is no longer the centre of every major arts project. 

"I commute every day to London but I wouldn't consider moving there," she said. "A lot of people are moving out of London now. Economically it makes sense. New technology means they can work anywhere. 

"Birmingham is an ideal location because it's in the centre of the country and doesn't get the terrible traffic problems of London." 

Toyah is currently playing Billie Piper's mother in racy ITV show Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. 

"It was great working with Billie because she, too, had a music career," she said. "The programme is quite risque and we were all very sensitive towards Billie - you can feel vulnerable when filming nude scenes. 

"I've already appeared nude in two films - The Tempest and The Ebony Tower - and also once on stage in Nottingham performing Emile Zola's Therese Raquin. 

"Half of me felt completely up for it and full of bravado, and half of me felt really shy. 

"I've never watched myself on screen so I've never felt awkward about seeing myself nude. I'm simply not interested once the job is done. After that I move straight on to the next job." 

Toyah candidly shared the details of her plastic surgery in a previous book, Diary Of A Facelift. 

"Having a facelift is very common in my profession," she said. "I don't know anyone who hasn't had one. 

"I was very nervous before surgery. Nothing is 100 per cent safe, but it was one of the most exciting things I've ever done. 

"If I hadn't done it, I wouldn't have been able to continue experimenting with image as I do now. 

"I would have been classed as an older woman trying to look like a 20 year-old. 

"Now I can't wait to turn 50. My 40s have been my happiest time and I think my 50s will be even better. 

"No-one tells you what a wonderful sense of freedom you get when you reach this age." 

Creating a Hollywood in Birmingham would make sense for this Midland all-rounder, who loves working in the region. 

She was the narrator on children's programmes like Teletubbies and Brum, and appeared in Silver Street, the Asian Network's version of The Archers. 

Toyah will be in Birmingham on November 3 to launch The Natural Living Show for Body, Mind and Soul at The Clarendon Suites in Edgbaston. 

As a former presenter of an alternative remedies series on ITV's This Morning, the show is right up her street. 

"It's a show about holistic ideas such as homeopathy, colour therapy and aura therapy, which can be used on a complementary basis with western medicine," she explained. 

"A lot of GPs now support homeopathy and colour therapy is said to be good for seasonal depression. 

"I've been very interested in alternative medicine for 25 years. 

"Arnica was the first alternative medicine I used. It's great for shocks and for bruises. I also take the friendly bacteria bifidobacterium to prevent me from getting colds in the winter, which is really important as a singer. 

"All the hospitals were homeopathic until the discovery of penicillin, around the time of the Second World War. 

"Suddenly, there was a revolution of man-made medicines but nature is so clever - it can cure many mild symptoms."

Birmingham Sunday Mercury
21st October 2007