Music

The Spice Girls, me & my journey out of homelessness

Alan Smith-Allison owns a touring exhibition of Spice Girls memorabilia but his love for the group goes beyond girl power. He tells us his story from A to Z

SpiceUp Spice Girls

When he’s feeling sad and low, Alan Smith-Allison knows where he’s gotta go – straight to Spice Girls songs. “It doesn’t matter what kind of mood you’re in, just get the Spice Girls on – cheesy feel-goodness, nothing too serious,” he advises.

Smith-Allison is one of the most prolific collectors of Spice Girls memorabilia, amassing thousands of objects, from scooters to crisp packets, that form SpiceUp – the Exhibition, shifting to Manchester this week after sell-out success in London.

The Spice Girls played an important role in Smith-Allison’s life. Growing up in the Scottish village of Houston, west of Glasgow, he had a difficult home life.

“I was 15 years old when Wannabe was released,” he remembers. “Like anybody in the 1990s with worries about their sexuality, there’s angst involved, it isn’t the perfect life. Then these girls came along and said: ‘You know what? You can be who you want to be.’ I couldn’t relate to girl power massively, but what I could relate to was that it’s all right to be different, it’s all right to be yourself.”

After the relationship with his father broke down, Smith-Allison became homeless. “I had nowhere to live, relying on friends to help me until I eventually got a little flat sorted through the council.”

He trained as a chef and worked as a classroom assistant but the Spice Girls remains his true calling. In 2007, Mel B – aka Scary Spice – held a charity sale and since then, Smith-Allison has been obsessed with collecting everything he can, spending up to £200,000 at auctions.

SpiceUp – the Exhibition gives him the opportunity to share his love with other fans, and visitors to the exhibition have similar stories about how the group inspired them.

“All five girls were different so everyone had someone to relate to. We speak to people who are leaving the exhibition they will come up and say: ‘These girls changed my life. They made me believe in myself.’ That’s exactly the influence they had on me.”

What they said is true: all you need is positivity.

SpiceUp – the Exhibition opens at Manchester Central on August 24. spicegirls-exhibition.com

Images: Will Ireland

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