An air of mystery still surrounds the day Baby, Ginger, Scary, Sporty and Posh came brought 'Spiceworld' to Stoneybatter. You had to be there to believe it.
On January 27th, 1998 the Spice Girls came to Ireland. More specifically, they came to Stoneybatter, Dublin 7 and Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow. They came to film their video for 'Stop', their third single from their second album Spiceworld.
One month later, they would return to Dublin to kick off their first ever world tour in The Point Depot on February 24th. Three months from there, Geri Halliwell would leave the group on May 31st, right before the US leg of their tour.
But before all of the misery of Spice Girls minus Ginger, there was joy. There was Baby, Ginger, Scary, Sporty and Posh. There was fire-engine red hair and platformed boots. There was cat eyeliner and a soft, faux-Motown sound. There was 'Stop' and there was Stoneybatter.
“It’s against the law to walk up Carnew Street and not mention the Spice Girls,” says former Stoneybatter resident Emer McLysaght of the street lined with the distinctive two-up, two-down, brick-walled houses.
“It’s definitely a matter of pride for the area.”
The stories around 'Stop' are something of folklore, with only fragments of the day getting media attention. We know that each resident earned £100 - that’s 100 punt - for the inconvenience of having their street shut down for the day. We know the girls politely knocked on doors whenever they needed a wee break.
In a move that couldn’t be repeated today, there’s an air of mystery around the video shoot because no one had camera phones to send on photos and if you somehow had a mobile phone with internet, it was a heavy-duty brick with WAP only.
It’s against the law to walk up Carnew Street and not mention the Spice Girls.
With no WhatsApp to spread rumours of celebrity sightings or no viral tweets as evidence, you had to be there to believe it and these people were.
What was the craic?
“I heard about it on the day,” says Will Curry, a former Oxmantown Road resident and past pupil of St. Paul’s CBS, North Brunswick Street.
On his lunch break, he and his pal noticed that the street was closed off and a film crew was loading in equipment. It wasn’t too unusual to see film crews - scenes from Michael Collins and Angela’s Ashes were filmed there - but they asked the security guard what the craic was anyway.
“They asked me if I could spin a hoop on my waist. I remember lying through my teeth.
“He told us the Spice Girls were making a music video,” he says. “Our initial reaction was that the security guard was messing with us.”
“At the time they were probably one of the biggest - if not the biggest pop band in the world - and easy on the eye for two hormonal teenage lads, so we thought he was winding us up. So, off we went to play football for an hour before heading back home before going back to school.”
To keep the Spice invasion under wraps, other stars of the video were kept in the dark during the audition process.
I assumed I was auditioning to be in a Carter Twins or some other Irish pop acts' video.
Marian Noble, now a production director in the Creative Industries, played the role of mini Ginger Spice in the video. “The casting call was shrouded in secrecy and I assumed I was auditioning to be in a Carter Twins or some other Irish pop acts' video,” she says. “Never in a million years did I imagine it was for the Spice Girls.”
“I remember lying through my teeth at the audition. They asked me if I could spin a hoop on my waist so, of course, I said 'yes'.
“My mam bought a hula-hoop and I started learning straight away, just in case.”
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Hopscotch with Ginger
Her lies paid off and she landed the role but instead of hula-hooping with Posh, she ended up hopscotching with Ginger, on account of her gruaig rua. Filmed down in Rathdrum, she wangled two days off school and joined an army of children who were called in for the countryside funfair scene.
Racking her memory for details, she says she was too “awestruck” to speak to them but her observations from that day capture the fascination most of us had with the girls.
“I remember seeing Geri and Emma’s big platform boots in real life and realising their feet were so small. The boots could fit me!” she says. “It was freezing cold the days of the shoot so the girls didn't come outside much and body doubles were used for the shot of their legs running. I really remember that for some reason.”
Back in the 'batter, as Will and his friends were coming back from football, they decided to investigate the film set again. They finally got confirmation from their mate Dave, who lived on Carnew Street, that the security guard wasn’t messing and that it was, in fact, a video shoot with the Spice Girls.
"And there they were. The Spice Girls dancing on Carnew Street.
“Three or four of the lads had already decided to stay off from school and head to Dave’s house for the afternoon to hang around and see could they meet the Spice Girls,” he says. He and his mate then decided to mitch off too.
“As the street was closed off, we couldn’t exactly walk up it but luckily enough there is a laneway at the back of it so we counted the gates to match to Dave’s address,” he says, adding that with no mobile phones, they couldn’t send out a text to meet them around the back. “We banged the gate down until Dave’s mam came out and opened it. She took one look at us and said ‘go on and get out there to the street to the rest of them’.”
And there they were. The Spice Girls dancing on Carnew Street.
He uttered a hello to Baby and his pal got a hug from Ginger. Another one of the lads got kicked off the set for shouting “Ow! My finger!” whenever the director yelled “cut!”. He also noted that Posh was showing off a rather sparkling new engagement ring.
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Girls from the telly
Kim Connick, a researcher in DCU’s Diversity and Inclusion Department, remembers the day less fondly. Her grandaunt Kathleen, a former Carnew Street resident appeared in the video, with Scary also making her entrance via her red front door. “She hadn’t a clue who they were,” she says of Kathleen, who was then in her 80s. “They were forever referred to as 'the girls off the telly' from then on, which - to be fair - was a lot more than any other pop act at the time.”
Even though it was 21 years ago, she’s still raging that no one told her about it until after the video wrapped. “I came home from school and was told by my parents before the news came on,” she says. “My father later admitted that he knew that morning but wasn’t allowed take me off school. I’m still seething.”
"He wasn’t allowed take me off school. I’m still seething.
All across Dublin, the likes of U2, the Hothouse Flowers and Boyzone have plaques marking out prominent locations, like their first gig or a shoe shop where Ronan Keating once worked, as part of the Rock N’ Stroll Trail but in Stoneybatter and Rathdrum, all the Spice Girls have is whispers and tales that have been altered or forgotten throughout the years.
This was one of the first shoots we ever did, all those years ago! Tomorrow we open #spiceworld2019 in front of 80,000 people in Dublin 💚🇨🇮 I cannot wait to see you all!! I’m so excited!! 😘✨ pic.twitter.com/Oa9M6HpaYO
— Mel C / Melanie C (@MelanieCmusic) May 23, 2019
As their second last official video with all five members - 'Viva Forever' was a stop motion animation video and 2007’s 'Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)' is a video that's better best forgotten - 'Stop' is a little slice of pop history.
As the Spice Girls minus Posh kick off their 2019 Spice World Tour in Croke Park on Friday, May 24th, maybe they’ll go and recreate their steps down Carnew Street way.
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