Sixteen years after bursting on to Britain's music scene, the Spice Girls reunited yesterday to proclaim the return of "Girl Power" for a new generation.
The five women reunited briefly at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London, which in 1996 provided the backdrop for the video of "Wannabe", the breakout song that sparked their rise to global stardom and topped the charts in 30 countries. Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown and Geri Halliwell had been brought together – reluctantly or otherwise – to promote Viva Forever, a new musical featuring their songs which is due to open in the West End at Christmas.
The reunion did not last long. Shortly after the 10 minutes the group spent on stage posing for the assembled media, Beckham – unarguably the most famous of the five – was already on her way to the airport bound for Los Angeles, leaving the others to complete the publicity round.
The group recruited Judy Craymer, the brains behind Mamma Mia!, to oversee the project and Jennifer Saunders to write the script.
Although their glamour might have faded now, the Spice Girls remain icons of the 1990s; their use of nicknames, unique fashion sense and "Girl Power" mantra undoubtedly inspired other girl groups. They had nine No 1 singles and sold 75 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling female group in history.
Both the group and video location have been transformed since "Wannabe" was released. For yesterday's launch, gone were the tracksuits, replaced by designer labels – including Beckham's own – while the hotel itself has also been lifted from a derelict shell to one of London's most luxurious buildings following a £200m renovation project.
Halliwell, who quit the group in 1998, said: "Sixteen years ago, I couldn't imagine when we wrote the lyric 'Zig-a-zig-ah' it would end up in a West End show. It's absolutely amazing."
Times may have changed, but the Spice Girls' message remains the same. Beckham said: "We are going to be introducing a whole new generation to Girl Power. What we do individually is really empower women as well as collectively. I hope a load more people will come on board. We're just so excited."
Since the group split up, Beckham has become a fashion designer, while other members have gone on to solo careers and appeared as judges on reality television shows.
Halliwell said how great it was to be back with her fellow band mates. Indicating the others, she said: "She's nice, she's nice, she's nice. I'm lucky to know these girls." Brown jokingly replied: "You're just saying that because you left."
The group reunited in 2007 for a tour, with tickets selling out in 38 seconds.