Back To The 80’s – We Speak To Some of the Artists From Rewind Festival

For a generation of gay men, the school disco presented a series of obstacles to be navigated with extreme caution, or avoided altogether. Now Rewind, the 1980s festival, offers redemption; the chance to “relive” your school days safe in the knowledge that everything will turn out mostly OK. Rewind, in all its arch-camp glory, has evolved from a nostalgia-fest-in-a-field to the coolest, friendliest – and certainly gayest – festival of the summer.

Featuring performances from just about anyone who ever topped the charts back in the days when topping the charts mattered, Rewind is worth the ticket price alone, just to show that the lads who made the class poofter’s life a misery at school really can change, and that when it comes to camping, no one does it better than we do!

Firstly, we talked to Katrina Leskanich of Katrina & The Waves.


Tell us about Rewind. What is it you enjoy about playing Rewind and what can people expect from your show and from the festival?

There’s always a party backstage! The atmosphere is very special. There are all these artists who never spoke to each other back in the day, now all chatty and chilled. The music is better than ever, well, we have had 30 years to get it right! I will be performing some new material as well as Walking On Sunshine. Keeps it fresh for me to do something brand new from Blisland or an obscure song from Katrina and the Waves.

Is there anyone you’re particularly looking forward to meeting backstage, and anyone you’d rather avoid?

Oh, you know, we’re all happy to be alive and still performing music people want to hear. Egos have been checked at the door a long time ago and now we just want to have fun. Most of us are shy creatures and of course even though we have been at this a while, there are still nerves floating around. Catch an artist after their performance, after a couple of drinks and it’s all happy families!

What were the best (and worst) things about the 1980s?

The best thing was the support you could count on from a major record label. No amount of money was spared to break a group. When we got signed it was a fast track, fast motion, crazy escalation to “the top” and all we had to do was be ourselves and keep showing up.  When the amount of payola was discovered, acts were suddenly dropped – it was a shock. That hurt Katrina and the Waves. We didn’t get into the trends of clothes in the 80s and generally stuck with a uniform of tight black jeans and a top from Hyper Hyper or Kensington Market. I quite like looking back at the 80s style clothing but bear in mind the English did it one way and the Americans another. Check out the clothes in a movie like Kindergarten Cop to see what I mean. Big rugby shirt tucked into high waisted Levi’s and a belt? Nooooo!

Is life as much fun now as it was back in the day?

Life is as much fun as it ever was and I cherish every day and am very thankful to have a career in music.  It took me a long time to decide to record my new album Blisland and it changed my life for the better, to feel part of the music business again and offer people something fresh.

I’ve written a book with my partner called Peggy Lee Loves London which is a photographic book about all our favourite things in London from pubs to bars, to coffee shops, parks, bakeries and our toy poodle, Peggy Lee gets in every shot. She’s a wonderful model and spokespoodle for all the things we love about this great city where I’ve lived for a few decades now.\
Why can’t the UK win the Eurovision Song Contest?

Four years ago I said we should hand it over to Simon Cowell and I recently heard that it’s finally come to his attention, so watch this space. The UK has such incredible talent and almost every year I am shocked and amazed at what we put forward to represent the UK. We need a transparent selection process which involves the general public because after all they are the voters all over Europe and if it doesn’t work for the Great British public, it won’t get votes in Europe. When we won with Love Shine A Light in 1997 — nearly 20 years ago! — It was the right song and it’s as simple as that.

Do gays have more fun?

When you put your mind to it yes, absolutely. It’s not an easy path. When I was younger I could never be truly myself, out in the open and free with the person I knew I was inside. That secret can bring sadness, loneliness and low self-esteem. It’s so important to love yourself and have the support from people in your life you hope will get it and not judge. Be grateful if you do have that and also be grateful we live in extraordinary times of change and acceptance and then go out and have a bloody good time because life is short .

Do you have a message for all our readers who will be out celebrating Gay Pride this summer?

We are very lucky the times are changing. Hearts and minds are beginning to open and I have seen an incredible shift in consciousness. Let’s always be proud of who we are and bring love and a smile to everyone in this beautiful world.  I’ll bring that — and a couple of songs!

Next up was was Joanne Catherall of Human League.

You’ve headlined at Rewind before. What do you like about it so much and what can we expect from your show?

The Rewind shows always have a good party atmosphere. We know people are coming to these type of events because they want to hear all the songs they know and love so we will be doing a greatest hits set.

Who are you most looking forward to catching up with backstage?

It’s great seeing everyone although catch-ups are short as artists come and go throughout the day.

What was the best thing about the 80s, and the worst?

The best and worst are sort of the same. It was amazing to be so successful but that meant we couldn’t really enjoy all that went with it because we were so recognisable.

Do you ever get tired of singing the same hits again and again?

The hits are what people want to hear and honestly we don’t get tired of singing them because the audience loves them and that’s what counts when performing live.
Your last album Credo was brilliant. Were you disappointed it wasn’t a commercial hit?

It was disappointing that Credo wasn’t a commercial hit but it hasn’t put us off making more new music in the future.

Then, we spoke to Carol Decker of T’Pau.


Last time I bumped into you at Rewind you told me you played there because “money and ego was a terribly persuasive combination”. Does that still hold true?

Yes. Money, ego and it’s held at the bottom at the bottom of my road!

Describe Rewind for someone who’s never been before.

It’s a trip down memory lane. That well-worn expression, “the soundtrack to your youth”. It’s full of people who were really into the bands when they were kids but also a lot of younger people who have discovered the 80s. It’s like a hit factory. Everyone gets quite a short set and plays all their hits. I’ll be doing Heart and Soul, China in Your Hand. It’s great. Everyone remembers the songs and sings along. It’s like a gigantic Now That’s What I Call Music, live on stage!

Do you ever get tired of singing the same old hits again and again?

Sometimes. I’d be a liar if I said no. But most of the time it’s wonderful. I’m a bit knackered today. I did a late show in London recently and it was fantastic. Everyone just jumped out of their seats to sing along.

Are you very busy at the moment?

Well, this year is incredibly busy. In October I’m starting a 30-date theatre tour around the UK with Nik Kershaw and Go West (both of who are also appearing at Rewind). That’s going to be massive. Earlier this year I did my own tour to promote the new T’Pau album, Pleasure and Pain. I’m very excited about it. It got a much better response than I could have possibly imagined. But it’s so difficult to sell records nowadays.

Who are you looking forward to catching up with backstage?

Well, there’s a great VIP area at Rewind, where everybody gets a chance to meet the performers. But you have to buy a special ticket. Then I’ll pop out and say hello to all the fans. There’s lot of people I want to catch up with. All my old muckers. Nick Heywood, Nik Kershaw, Heaven 17, Go West, Toyah, Hazel O’Connor. I can’t even remember who’s on (all of the above). They’ll be tons of laughter, a few bottles of plonk. In the old days we were all trying to claw our way up the charts, and everyone was the enemy. Now we’ve all been going for 30-odd years, it’s very collegiate, and we all support each other. It’s great to see everyone standing at the edge of the stage cheering each other’s performance. It fills my heart with joy to realise what a lucky girl I am!

Do you still dislike Lady Gaga?

Did I tell you that? Oh my God, I did! She’s just not my thing. But I don’t feel antagonistic towards her. I have no problem with her.

Do you have a message for all the boys and girls who will be celebrating Pride this summer?

I would say to all my lovely gay friends out there: Take great pride in your Gay Pride and have a wonderful, wonderful time!

Now for our first male performer, Leee from Imagination



Tell us about Rewind.

What is it you enjoy about playing Rewind and what can people expect from your show and the festival? It’s great. I’ve toured several times with Rewind. It’s a very clever operation and a chance to catch up with different artists from the 80s, and an opportunity to tap into their fan bases. It’s always a huge laugh. Communicating with fans is always something special. I believe in entertaining and reaching out to the audience.

Will you be wearing the outfi ts for which you were so famous in the 1980s?

Well, it’s three decades since I wore those and I’m a lot older. But I’ll definitely be giving some sparkle. Many of my original stage outfits are in the British Museum, my mum has the rest. Those clothes I wore, that hair! I don’t recognise that person anymore. Artists were so creative, everyone was at such a dynamic height, and some of that spirit is coming back nowadays. Being different is good. Being a clone zone has never been my thing.

Is there anyone you’re particularly looking forward to meeting backstage, and anyone you’d rather avoid?

Avoid? Not really. I tend to get on with everyone. I’ve appeared a lot with Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) I always love seeing the Go West guys and Rick Astley is a great laugh. We know how to take the piss out of each other.

What were the best (and worst) things about the 1980s?

On the bad side were the large record companies. But it was a very creative period. Imagination was one of the bands to use computer sequencing, and to make proper videos. And I’ve always written all my own songs. Imagination was driven by work, and we became one of the fi rst internationally successful black bands. I look back on the 80s fondly but I don’t miss the 80s. I’m thinking about tomorrow, or next year. Learn from the past but don’t live in it.

Which current performers are you a fan of?

Emeli Sandé, Tinie Tempah. Nowadays it’s very hard to fi nd what you want. There just so much. You have to pick your way through it. Very carefully. I do like, oh, what’s his name? Labyrinth. I’m very impressed by him. Brilliant.

Do you have a message for all our readers who will be out celebrating Gay Pride this summer?

Live and let live. Let every moment count. I’m playing Gay Pride in Switzerland and I previously did it in France with David Guetta. 30,000 revellers at Republic. It was absolutely amazing. I’ve played at Prides everywhere but London. I’ve never been asked!

And finally, to finish up we spoke to Hazel O’ Connor.


Tell us about Rewind.

Well, there are loads of bands. It’s a really quick turnaround. I’d like to play with my own band but instead I’ll be playing with the house band which is brilliant. And then you’ve got people like Midge Ure and Hugh Cornwell from the Stranglers who join in with the house band onstage. I’ve got Clare because she’s the best saxophonist I’ve worked with and I need her to play the solo on Will You?

Who are you most looking forward to meeting backstage?

Well, I’ve never been a smoocher, or a networker. But generally it’s a real joy to meet everyone. You don’t know where they’ve been or what they have been doing You lose touch so it’s cool. I love seeing everybody. We’re all there checking each other out.

What do you miss about the 1980s?

Nothing. If you miss things then you can never move on. I’ve never been one to miss the past. It’s happened, it’s gone. You had a great time and enjoyed it but I never miss it.

What was the last record you downloaded?

Nothing current. I listen to mostly classical music nowadays.

Do you have a message for our readers who’ll be celebrating Pride this Summer?

Yes. I’m really sorry I couldn’t come to Newcastle Pride this summer because I was asked but am just not around. Hopefully I can come next year because I love Gay Pride. And I’m just so happy that Ireland where I live has just voted yes in the gay marriage referendum. Have a fabulous, fabulous day!