Pop ‘icon’ adds spice to Off The Shelf Festival

“ICON” — that’s the word interviewer Auriel Majumdar uses to introduce Spice Girl, solo artist, songwriter, trained dancer and now author Melanie C to the stage for the closing event in the Off the Shelf Festival.

OTS is now one of the UK’s largest literary festivals, as evidenced by the star wattage of its final guest author “Sporty Spice”, who is in conversation with creative coach Auriel about her memoir “Who I am: My Story”.

And with an audience of super fans, too, who give Melanie a rapturous reception when she walks out at the Crucible Theatre  and then sit rapt throughout, interjecting occasionally with whoops of praise and cheers as the charming and effervescent star chats about her life and career.

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Melanie says she’d believed you should only write a memoir when “you’ve lived a full life” — and wasn’t ready in her twenties or thirties.

But, approaching the “big 5-0!”, she now is, and reckons she has lived “a fair few full lives”.

The 48-year-old admits she was concerned about revisiting her battles with an eating disorder, anxiety and depression, but says that had she read about other’ experiences during those difficult times, it would have given her comfort.

She hopes her book will do the same for others.

Melanie also pays tribute to her 13-year-old daughter saying “she liberated me”.

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She says being pregnant and responsible for someone else helped her tackle “years of under-eating and over-exercising”.

Following the musical phenomenon that was Spice Girls, she has gone on to enjoy a hugely successful solo career, which kicked off with a gig at the Leadmill, just a short walk from the Crucible.

But what of the music industry at that time of Britpop and Girl Power behind the scenes?

She says the group had a good, supportive management and record label.

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Looking back, maybe some things could have been handled differently, but their level of fame, she acknowledges, was “unprecedented”.

Today, she is encouraged to see musicians and sports people taking breaks to protect their physical and mental health as “in the nineties, you just had to get on with it”.

There were plenty of infectious laughs as well — including her insistence Posh Spice was “only Posh compared to the rest of us in the group!”

And she’s thrilled to be named “honorary gay, 2022” by Attitude magazine, saying the Spice Girls always enjoyed “wonderful support” from the LGBTQ+ community.

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She added: “The five of us were all about celebrating our individuality and when we performed together it was all about inclusivity”.

Auriel admits that in the late nineties she was predominantly into house music, but was stopped in her tracks after seeing the Spice Girls’ energy and exuberance during a breakfast TV performance.

As a rock chick during the same time period, I had a similar experience after watching the video for debut single ‘Wannabe’.

Twenty years later and Melanie is as effervescent and engaging as ever on stage — only this time wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “It’s a book tour hun”.


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