Fan who masterminds Spice Girls exhibition wins plaudits from Mel B

As a schoolgirl, Liz West loved nothing more than dancing around to her favourite Spice Girls hits.

But Liz, 25, was no ordinary Spice Girls fan – and has masterminded an extraordinary exhibition due to open at Leeds City Museum later this week.

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Over the years, Liz has collected a staggering 4,000 pieces of Spice Girls memorabilia, ranging from badges and pencil sharpeners to dresses worn by the girls, worth thousands of pounds.

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A whole series of items, including a pink and blue Spice Girls scooter endorsed by the girls at the height of their fame, will go on display at the museum as part of Spiceworld: The Exhibition.

And Liz's exhibition now has the ultimate blessing – from Leeds's very own Spice Girl Melanie Brown, also known as Mel B.

The 35-year-old star, now living in Los Angeles, said: "I'm very excited that this Spice Girls exhibition is showing in my hometown of Leeds. It makes me even more grateful that not only people around the world, but the people of Leeds, are still showing so much support for the Spice Girls.

"I really hope that everyone will like this exhibition. It is truly an honour to have such an extensive collection of our past be brought out for everyone to enjoy."

Liz's own fascination with Mel B and the rest of the Spice Girls started when they released first hit single Wannabe in 1996.

Like most 11-year-old girls at the time, Liz bought their debut album Spice and memorised the words and dances to all the songs.

She soon developed a thirst for collecting Spice Girls memorabilia, starting with items available for 1 at her local pound shop.

Liz, now an artist and photographer, said: "I used to save my pocket money and if I wanted something more expensive, I just had to save up for a bit longer.

"My family thought it was going to be a phase and didn't want me to spend my savings or a huge amount of pocket money because they thought it would be a flash in the pan. I was always quite determined it wasn't going to be."

Liz's collection was boosted by the rise of online auction website eBay, where she successfully bid for some Spice Girls bargains.

After the band split up in 2001 after nine number one singles, three albums and a blockbuster film, Liz started collecting items from the girls' solo careers.

Collecting memorabilia can be frustrating as well as rewarding – Liz once asked a shop worker for a carrier bag from Victoria Beckham's DVB Denim range and was turned down, despite the jeans costing hundreds of pounds.

Liz said: "That made me really really angry. The carrier bag was so beautiful and I was desperate to add it to my collection.

"It wasn't Victoria's fault and it was nothing to do with her but I was so angry. At that moment I thought about getting rid of the collection but I calmed down again in a few hours, as always."

Liz, a former student at Leeds College of Art, came up with the idea for the exhibition herself after completing a work placement at a museum and art gallery.

She wrote to museums all over the country suggesting the idea and was delighted when Leeds City Museum agreed to meet her.

She said: "I was over the moon when they agreed to hold the exhibition. I've really enjoyed organising it and putting it all together – it's something I definitely want to do again in the future.

"I just hope that other people enjoy seeing it. For me as a schoolgirl,

the girl power message really hit home. I love the strong, powerful female vibe – nobody since the Spice Girls has captured my attention quite so much."

The Spice Girls – also known as Melanie Brown (Mel B), Melanie Chisholm (Mel C), Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell – scored

their first hit with Wannabe in 1996.

They went onto enjoy a string of number ones, including Say You'll Be

There, 2 Become 1, Spice Up Your Life and Viva Forever.

Geri Halliwell left the band in 1998, with the rest of the band splitting in 2001 to concentrate on motherhood and solo projects.

Mel B, who was born in Harehills and grew up in Burley, now lives in LA with husband Stephen Belafonte and daughters Phoenix Chi, 11, and Angel, three.

Leeds City Museum curator of exhibitions Helen Langwick said: "We are really excited about the Spiceworld exhibition starting at Leeds City Museum this week and it is fantastic to have the support of our own Mel B for it.

"The exhibition is free so is the perfect way for all Spice Girls fans to see this amazing collection all together for the first time and for people of all ages to take a trip down memory lane."

Spiceworld: The Exhibition opens to the public on Friday and runs until Sunday, July 3.

For more information, visit www.leeds.gov.uk/citymuseum.

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