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SpiceWorld at Leeds Museum review

Paul Clarke finds merchandise and memories at a local shrine to Girl Power

Published on March 2nd 2011.

SpiceWorld at Leeds Museum review


That moronic battle cry of the Spice Girls was the sorry soundtrack of 1996 as Britain’s most successful girl group stormed the charts.

‘There is – of course - tons of tacky merchandise sold to gullible kids. There is a room dedicated to how the Spice Girls were ruthlessly marketed and it is depressing to find they made £5m each from marketing deals alone.

A new exhibition at Leeds Museum celebrates the achievements of the not so Fab Five, who have reformed since then to lukewarm response as their individual careers zig-a-zagged in different careers.

This cleverly staged show is partly a tribute to Leeds lass Mel B – aka Scary Spice – and because local uberfan Liz West has also allowed her collection of more than 3,600 pieces to form the backbone of this retrospective.

Liz has made the Holy Grail of all obsessive fans by scoring a museum show and make no mistake this is the sort of top drawer collection that would make the music snobs in High Fidelity gave a grudging nod of respect.

Liz has not just collected the usual marketing tat the Spices Girls were happy to hawk but it contains a fascinating range of clothes the girls actually wore. There’s a glass case full of Mel B’s typically tasteful outfits, some of Baby Spice’s more demure dresses and even the Union Jack boots Geri wore in the film SpiceWorld.

There is – of course - tons of tacky merchandise sold to gullible kids. Pester power rather the Spice’s laughable claim that personified girl power. In fairness to the curators there is a room dedicated to how the Spice Girls were ruthlessly marketed and it’s depressing to find they made £5m each from marketing deals alone.

That’s the dark heart of this exhibition because the rise of the Spice Girls was the moment millions of teenagers realised that talent didn’t matter if you were a wannabe. All you had to do was pout, wear pigtails, shout a lot in a Yorkshire accent, wear a trackie or just have ginger hair and you could make millions.

The real irony behind the Spice Girls is that it was a marketing juggernaut driven by male executives, who all made a bigger fortune than the girls.

There is a direct link between the marketing genius behind the band and the vacuous X Factor generation's desperate quest for their 15 minutes of plastic fame.

But that isn’t Liz West’s fault and she has amassed a collection that is staggering its range and quality. Everywhere you turn there are platinum discs, signed posters, or a piece of original Spice clothing.

The team at Leeds Museum have pulled out all the stops to create a sympathetic - and strangely honest – romp through the career of a cultural phenomena who have outsold every other girl band in history by a country mile.

Throw in a dressing up room for the kids and a Spice Girls karaoke complete with a stage to yell 'zig-a-zig-ah' to your heart’s content and it all adds up to a must see fun exhibition that celebrates rather than mocks super fandom.

Spiceworld – the Exhibition runs until July 3 and is free entry. Leeds Museum is holding a Guinness world record attempt on April 9 when they aim to set a new mark for the largest ever Spice Girls collection. You are invited to come along as a Spice Girl – or Boy - and join in a special sing-a-long.

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Richard Hector-JonesMarch 2nd 2011.

Say what you like, but 'Viva Forever' is awesome. Hello? ... anyone?... oh...

Anon TooMarch 2nd 2011.

I'll always have a soft spot for Two Becomes One.

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