Andrea Collins: Environmentalist looks back on life with the stars

March 30, 2016

Andrea Collins was married to pop star Phil Collins. She resembled any of The Beatles’ first wives when the couple met in theatre school: young, long blonde hair and petite.

This is how Andrea looked in the photo she contributed to the article I wrote about her for the Gulf Islands Driftwood when we both lived on Salt Spring Island, BC.

Following is the article:

Gulf Islands Driftwood — Spotlight

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Andrea Collins: Environmentalist looks back on life with the stars

by Tanya Lester

When I drove up the long drive to Andrea Collins’ home near Dukes Road a few weeks ago, Paul McCartney’s voice singing “It’s a long and winding road that leads to your door” spun out of my auditory memory bank and into my consciousness.

Once I got to Collins’ door, I found her wrapping up a meeting with the group of women producing a calendar of clothes-free Salt Spring females to raise money for Texada land acquisition (note: to save the land from being clear cut).

While she made us a pot of black apricot tea, Collins talked about the Vancouver concert by big name musicians set for August 9 she is involved in organizing.

I told her I wanted to know about the rest of her life.

Out on the patio, with a view of the emerald-green Gulf Islands, Collins took me back to London in the 1960s. The Beatles had invaded Britain’s capital city and had conquered the Western world. Every young, red-blooded Englishman or boy wanted to be a musician.

Phil Collins was no exception.

He was intelligent and multi-talented, especially when it came to anything to do with the arts.

At the Barbara Speake Theatre School, he met another very intelligent and multi-talented young person. Her name was Andrea Bertorelli.

Even though  they were only 13 years old, they were clearly well suited for each other.

At 14, they started dating. It was the beginning of a relationship that continued for many years and travelled across the continents.

Andrea and a friend name Lavinia were soon invited into the Motown-style band whose drummer was Phil.

The band, called The Real Thing, played music made popular by black American artists, including Sam and Dave, and Aretha Franklin. Usually the girls did back-up vocals, although Andrea also remembers singing Dancing in the Street up front.

At the same time Andrea was making her way on the big West End theatre stages for which London is rivalled only by New York.

Phil’s mother, June Collins, was associated with the school as a talent agent who sent young people out on play and television show auditions.

Andrea landed a part in Maggie May, a musical set in the Liverpool docks (and made popular in the song by Rod Steward). She acted the young female part of the play’s namesake for two years until she turned 15.

Next came a small part and understudy work — which lasted another two years — for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with Vanessa Redgrave in the lead role. Andrea recalls Redgrave as friendly, intelligent, political and a feminist. And she did something almost unhead of in the ’60s — she never wore a bra.

Andrea decided that point that she wanted to attend art college and was accepted by the Camberwell School of Art. Since she was still only 17 years old, she decided to take some time out before attending college and teach dance to the younger students at the school.

Andrea’s father died when she was 18 and she decided not to go to college. A year later her mother met and married a Canadian so the family, which included Andrea’s brother and sister, moved to Vancouver.

At the same time, Phil began drumming with a band called Genesis which was soon making it big in Europe. He phoned and asked her to come back to England but she was already involved with someone in Vancouver.

From that relationship came her daughter, Joely. When things fell apart, Andrea became  a single parent. “I learned the importance of being a good mother and how difficult it is to do well,” she said.

It was now the early 1970s and Genesis  was breaking into North American markets. They came to perform at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. By chance their gigs immediately before and after Vancouver were cancelled so Andrea and Phil  in a eight days together.

He left on the rest of the tour after Andrea promised to move back to England with Joely in a couple of months. Two weeks later, plane tickets and a coupile of passes for a Genesis concert in New York arrived.

Andrea and Phil were reunited. All the Genesis band members, their partners, children and roadies congregated together in communal style at an English country manor where the band created its Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album.

It was six weeks of drinking tea mingled with quite a bit of boredom, Andrea admits. She would sometimes get together with a couple of roadies and cook huge meals just for the sake of doing something.

Not long after re-locating from London to a large country house, their son Simon was born and then Genesis embarked on a world tour. Andrea soon realized that raising children didn’t fit well with the touring schedule and eventually chose to stay at home.

Peter Gabriel had recently left the band and Phil took over the vocals. After two years of almost constant touring, their marriage began to fall apart. “You can’t be a family and be on the road all the time,” Andrea explained.

Today, Andrea doesn’t believe that their son Simon (“who was born singing and drumming”) will have same difficulties. Record companies promote their bands through music videos now.

After a painful separation and divorce, Phil released a solo album called Face Value.

About a year later, Andrea decided to move from England back to Vancouver to be with the rest of her family.

In 1992 Andrea was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and also became involved with environmental issues. She went to Clayoquot Sound where activists were protesting the clear-cutting.

“I soon realized that I was too sick to take any kind of active role in the movement and needed to spend time healing myself first,” she said.

The first thing Andrea did was move out of the city and re-locate to Salt Spring. “I guess you could say it was love at first sight.”

She says another reason she moved here was because she believed the Islands Trust protected the area. Texada Land Corporation’s current logging is just one example of her growing realization that this is not so

In 1997, Andrea was well again. Since that time she has been involved in creative projects related to the environment in some way. She co-produced a film with her daughter Joely (a Gemini-winning actress) called Summer Love — The Documentary, which is about a 24-hour-long outdoor rave-cum-tribal-gathering of some 10,000 people each year. “We had it shot guerrilla style,   using four mobile and digital camera crews,” Andrea said.

The crews followed Joely, her then boyfriend and ractorave promoter James Hutson, a friend and fellow, and z actor/raver called Mike Andaluz, and Andrea’s son Simon who performed there, while they experienced the event.

Despite its critics, Andrea sees “rave culture” as a global phenomenon and an ecological movement connecting young people with their tribal instincts through dance and trance-like music.13.

Summer Love airs on Much Music on July 13. It was included in underground and independent film fesitvals around the world as well as being nominated for two Leo awards for best documentary sound and editing…

Andrea has just finished co-producing  a compilation  CD with , Noah Pred called Natural State — Westcoast Techno-culture for a Sustainable Planet, which has been officially endorsed by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

That group will receive a percentage of the profits once it is released. All of the musicians are under 30 and include several Salt Spring musicians.

Andrea’s involvement in the attempt to save the Texada land is her current focus. Along with her Save Salt Spring Campaign Fund, her artistic talents are being utilized in the calendar of nude women along with friend Ruth Tarasoff.

As well, there will be a benefit concert on August 9 at the Commodore, which she is helping to organize with Paul Brosseau. The show will feature Randy and Tal Bachman, Chilliwack, Tara McLean and Simon Collins….


To read more of the variety of posts in this blog go to and

Tanya ‘s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (you can purchase it from the author or from, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters and Women Rights/Writes. These books are available in some  libraries and the last three are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

Tanya is a tea leaf and tarot reader; a reiki master and a house sitter. To access her services contact her at or call 250-538-0086. Her website is and she has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.









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