Toyah Willcox, the high priestess of punk, is looking forward to returning to the “hot steamy” gigs of her youth.

She is playing a gig at Brighton’s Chalk Live – formerly The Haunt – on November 2 and thinks it will be a blast.

“I’m very fond of Brighton,” she said. “When I came here in the Sixties it was a quiet sleepy seaside town, slightly invaded by hippy culture.

“What I like about the venue we’re playing is it goes right back to the punk days, it’s a hot, steamy, stand-up venue, it goes back to the punk ethos.”

Toyah, actress, author and rebel, was a key part of the Seventies/Eighties’ punk scene and starred in cult films Quadrophenia and seminal punk epic Jubilee.

Now 61, she was born in Birmingham to a family she describes as remarkable and recalls the potential privilege of her childhood – her grandfather built many of the city’s landmarks.

Despite that, she calls herself the “child from hell” and says she had a violent relationship with her mother.

She attended an all-girls school where she felt like a loner, restricted by the gender conformity of a single sex school and what was expected of her.

She said: “I was never attracted to female oriented clothes, I made my own clothes. I spent my time working in the art rooms, I was left alone to explore my creativity.”

She was a disruptive student and fond of the odd protest prank. When Margaret Thatcher, then minister of education, visited her school in the 1970s, Toyah set the alarms to go off in assembly.

“I got up very early in the morning and got into school at 8am,” she said. “Everyone knew it was me.”

When she wasn’t creating her own disruption, the outside world provided its own terrifying dramas.

She remembers the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. A bomb scare in a newsagent across the road from her school brought the bomb squad out. The pupils weren’t evacuated but watched in horror as the bomb exploded while the squad were trying to dismantle it.

She said: “I remember the windows of the Edwardian school buckling in.”

In a surreal turn of events, she found herself chosen to head a group of pupils who were given bomb dismantling training.

“I was educated by the bomb squad. I was in the town with Semtex in front of us and about five of us were taught how to recognise bombs.

“I think they chose me because I was already rebelling against the system.

“What my school realised is I wasn’t part of the system but I wasn’t dumb.”

By the time she got to London and started working for the National Theatre she was ready to take on the world. It was an enormous stepping stone she said.

Her assimilation into the UK punk scene was easy she said, and very much a fast-track into the glitterati of the music world.

She was introduced to influential film director Derek Jarman and he was very protective of her, like a father figure.

“Which is ironic, as he’s badly behaved,” she said.

She met The Clash, Adam And The Ants, and, through the filming of Jubilee, Malcolm McLaren and Viv Albertine. By 1977 she was frontwoman of a band, Toyah.

“It was very purist, people who didn’t honour that punk scene weren’t invited back,” she said.

“For me it wasn’t made grubby by drugs at that time, people weren’t broken by it.

“Also that terror of HIV hadn’t come into their lives yet, it was a high energy.

“I think by 1982-83 people started to realise something was going on – something was hitting the scene.

“By 1983 they started to realise something dangerous had happened.”

By then she had moved into different circles, she had started acting.

It was through meeting Jarman that she was cast as Monkey in Quadrophenia, the cult film on the clash of cultures between the mods and rockers in the Sixties and filmed largely in Brighton.

She also went on to star in plays and on children’s TV programme Tiswas. Lesser known, she was the voiceover of Teletubbies.

She describes herself as gender neutral and always has, saying: “It’s nothing to do with sexuality, I can’t stand femininity, it doesn’t suit me at all.

“I don’t feel female, I obviously am but it’s not something I’ve worn on my sleeve.

“I always talked back then about the third gender.

“These days we are in the beginning of a dialogue, I think it’s very good the discussion is in the open.”

She talks about the expectations of her as a young woman, she was told to get married and have children and be a secretary. “It just wasn’t linked to creativity and career,” she says, exasperated.

“It’s the reason I felt so isolated in Birmingham, it repels me, people thought I was self-sabotaging. I found it terrifying to only be looked at as a female – I think now people only see the person not a female.”

She said we will only escape the gender issue when we get round the need for reproduction – “but then you’ll have the Handmaid’s Tale situation, we’ll ping pong back and forth”.

She speaks fondly of her younger friends who are always correcting her on her use of pronouns, which she welcomes. “To them I’m a generational dinosaur,” she laughs.

Karen Goodwin