It’s over 20 years since the Spice Girls stormed the stage and one man’s collection of memorabilia dedicated to them is about to go on show in Limassol. ALIX NORMAN speaks to him
Twenty two years ago saw the release of the first Spice Girls ads: half-page magazine pieces advocating the newest, hottest band, set to “take the world by storm and spice up your life”! There was a bit of spiel, a lot of colour, and a picture of five girls, individuals with personas clearly created to capture every corner of the market. Whether you saw yourself as Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Baby or Posh, here was someone with whom almost everyone could identify…
Before long the Spice Girls’ presence was ubiquitous, testament to the band’s ever-cleverer publicity machine which ensured that, for the next four years, the biggest girl band in history were never far from the public consciousness. For the first time, we could all buy whole-heartedly into a brand which spanned the entire market: Spice Girls lollipops, Spice Girls motorbikes, Spice Girls party favours, Spice Girls toys, Spice Girls dolls… “They were probably the first band to realise they could cash in on the phenomenon,” says Alan Smith-Allison. “They merchandised everything. Everything!” And he should know. Because, in celebration of the Spice Girls’ 20-year anniversary, this Scottish-born local resident is set to exhibit his mind-blowingly extensive collection of – you guessed it – everything Spice Girls, at the Limassol Marina.
“I’ve got costumes, iconic outfits they’ve worn on stage and in their videos; I’ve got shoes and boots and hotpants and dresses; music and toys and dolls; sweets and bags and books and even one of the Spice Girls motorbikes… Excluding a private collector in the UK, it’s the biggest collection of Spice Girls memorabilia in the world. The Guinness World Record for a collection of Spice Girls memorabilia stands at 2,066 items. And if I haven’t already got that, then I’m not far off!”
While the majority of Alan’s collection is stored “at the house of my incredible father-in-law in the UK”, over 1,000 items are currently being shipped over to Cyprus for the exhibition, which will showcase the magic of the world’s biggest ever girl band. “It’s going to be incredible fun,” Alan reveals. “A nostalgic trip through pop history, a feel-good extravaganza of everything girl power in full-on technicolour.”
Along with the costumes and memorabilia, organisers have planned a myriad of intriguing diversions: a walk-through timeline of the band’s single releases and achievements, records broken and still held; solo stages featuring items the Girls have released under their own, individual names; and an exclusive documentary… “It’s truly for everyone: you don’t have to be a Spice Girls fan to appreciate the exhibition; whether you were into the Spice Girls or not, this is pop music history we’re sharing here. So you’ll not just be recognising things you knew about the group, but also be discovering a whole load of things you didn’t!”
Such a massive undertaking has clearly been a long time in the making. “Obviously when the band were releasing singles and things, I was collecting them, and buying all versions of their records. But the actual collection of memorabilia didn’t kick in until about 2007,” Alan explains. “The Spice Girls were everywhere when I was 15 or 16 years old. And, growing up in a little farming village outside Glasgow, it was the Spice Girls who encouraged me to explore the world, see a bit more of what was out there. I liked the brashness of them, the catchy music. But it was their mantra that appealed to me most, I think: empowering and encouraging people to be what they wanted to be; the idea that you could do anything you wanted if you worked hard enough – they made me believe I could go on and do whatever I wanted in life.”
Now in his mid-thirties and running a successful business on an island he clearly loves, both Alan and his collection have come a long way. “The very first thing I bought, other than music, was Mel C’s Elvis Presley costume. I knew it, and knew how iconic it was – and I couldn’t believe I actually owned it. It still had the original safety pins in it, and was covered in coffee stains! And of course once I’d got one piece, I realised I could own more actual pieces of iconic music memorabilia!”
The costume set Alan back roughly £400 – “some of the stuff at the auction went for thousands of pounds, but this stuff can be accessible in financial terms if you know where to look and how to bid” – and he admits to having dropped over £7,000 in one sitting, during an Outnet sale of clothing from Victoria Beckham’s time as Posh Spice – “the girls frequently donate items to charity, especially charity auctions in aid of their favourite causes”. He’s also spent over £1,000 on one of the branded Aprilia motorbikes in “pink and blue with yellow handlebars!”, snapped up a red velvet diamante jumpsuit worn by Geri Halliwell on the Girls’ World Tour, and secured Mel C’s Spice Up Your Life video costume – “all black elbow pads and goggles!” – both of which set Alan back about £1,200. “And I have the little black Victoria Beckham dress from the Wannabe video, their first ever release – that was 800 quid, I think.”
With all this and much, much more about to appear in public for the first time, Alan is understandably excited about the Limassol exhibition, and even drops a few hints about “emailing a certain Spice Girl regarding the possibility of attending the opening!” But while this exhibition will mark 20 years of Spice Girls’ history, for Alan the journey is far from over. “I don’t think there will ever be a point when I can say I’ve got everything. That would be impossible. So I’m just going to keep on collecting. It’s what keeps me interested: discovering tiny little bits of the Spice Girls’ legacy that maybe even I have never seen before…” Perhaps, in another couple of decades, we’ll all be attending the 40-year exhibition. And why wouldn’t we Wannabe?
The Spice Girls Exhibition
At the Trakasol Cultural Centre in Limassol Marina between July 23 and August 21. For more information email [email protected], call 99 041790 or follow the hashtag #spiceupcyprus. Tickets are available from ticktehour at a cost of €10 for adults, €5 for children, €7 for students and concessions, and €25 for a family of 2 adults and 2 children. Tickets booked in advance will receive a discount of up to 30 per cent