Formed in London in 1981, Bananarama went on to break the record for most chart hits of any all-female group in the world, which they still hold. Siobhan Fahey quit the group in 1988 while Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin continued as a duo. Almost 30 years later, the original line-up has reformed for a UK tour. Woodward told EDWIN GILSON about the emotion of the reunion and the “pressure cooker” of pop success.

How are you feeling ahead of the tour?

We can’t wait to get going. We’ve never done a tour with Siobhan which just seems ridiculous. That’s the whole point of this. It’s a celebration of our glory years with Siobhan. I bumped into her and told her she didn’t understand what it was like to go out and play our songs. This is the chance to do that.

It didn’t seem like a full reunion of the band would ever happen. Had you been holding out for it, though?

I hadn’t been holding out for it, particularly. A lot of stuff has happened to me personally over the last three years which hasn’t been great to deal with. It’s just what everyone has to deal with, to do with friends, family and illness. I felt I’d come out of the other side of that and wanted to do something new. I felt life was too short to not do something incredible and challenging. We didn’t know how this was going to work but we’ve had the most hysterical time since getting back together.

Has it been a nostalgic and emotional process for you?

It really feels like no time has passed at all. We feel like teenagers at heart most of the time. It’s very silly. There are loads of old memories and we’re all quite emotional. With some songs, we don’t know if we’re going to be able to hold it together. It’s been very nostalgic, yes. It’s like the 80s have never gone away.

You made the phone call to ask Siobhan to return to the band. What were you feeling before the call?

In my head I thought, “she lives in LA and will be ensconced in her life over there”. But if you don’t ask, you don’t know. She was incredibly shocked. She was almost stunned into silence. At first we wondered if enough people would be interested enough for us to play 15 shows, but we’ve had to increase it to 23 dates because of the demand. Now I’m more concerned that my knees will hold out for the whole tour.

Talking of tour strain, Siobhan said that the “pressure cooker” existence of being in a band 24/7 was unsustainable.

That 24/7 life is almost too much for anyone to deal with. There was a point when I thought I couldn’t do it any more, when I moved to Cornwall 20 years ago. It is a pressure cooker – at some point something is going to blow.

How will it be different this time around?

We’re much older and wiser now. We’re doing this for the right reasons. You hear about band members travelling in separate cars. For us it’s all about the camaraderie. We just have a laugh together. There was no massive falling out, it was just a parting of the ways. We didn’t speak for a while, true, but that’s what happens. You lose touch with people along the way but true friends are true friends.

It seemed like your success came very quickly in the Eighties, from your first John Peel play to appearing on Top of the Pops. Did it feel like a whirlwind?

It felt very natural at the time, but it was really quick. I think our performances show that we weren’t overly schooled in how to act on stage. None of us had written proper songs, but we developed as we went along. We certainly weren’t the finished article. I like to think we are now, but sadly I still go wrong at times in shows. I get so carried away I wander to the wrong part of the stage or something.

In another interview Siobhan said you were almost an “ironic” girl band back in the day. Would you agree with that?

Yes and no. We had quite an anarchic spirit. We were at school when punk happened and we retained that kind of attitude. We couldn’t have been more different from the girl groups from the Sixties, who were much more controlled and manufactured. We were difficult to control and spirited, which was sometimes taken as rude. We were chronically shy but strong enough to stand up to everyone. We moved in a gang – it was safety in numbers.

At one point, after you’d had a few hits, you were still living in a council flat. Why was there such a discrepancy between success and wealth?

Yeah, there was a time when we had had top five songs but were still signing on. We never got any advances for our music and therefore had no money. We had to take out a bank loan and paid ourselves a pittance. That’s part and parcel of being naïve and not knowing how things work.

You still hold the record for the most chart singles by any girl group ever. Does that mean a lot to you?

A lot of things we did make me proud but at the time I didn’t even think about them. I love it when women I meet say we were role models. We said you didn’t have to be glamorous or behave in a certain way. Style-wise, we couldn’t be more different from stuff that’s out there now. I think if you spoke to girls now they’d say they find it empowering to be on stage wearing next to nothing but I still feel that you shouldn’t have to do that. We made ourselves successful without pandering to what a man’s view of a girl should be. To go out and be successful in a pair of dungarees was brilliant.

Were you surprised to find yourself as a role model?

It still surprises me when men say they had posters of me on their wall. I think it’s hysterical. I certainly didn’t think of myself as any kind of sex symbol.

You must have some fond memories of Brighton gigs. Do any stick out?

I’ve had many nights out in Brighton. When Sara’s daughter was at the University of Sussex, Sara and I went out a lot in Brighton. We played the centre back in 1989, if I’m not mistaken. We’re looking forward to being back.

Bananarama, Brighton Centre, November 30 and December 8, For tickets and more information visit or call 08448 471515