Skip to main content

Geri Halliwell

The teachers who introduced this star to drama and literature spiced up her education and made her move into writing that bit easier

The teachers who introduced this star to drama and literature spiced up her education and made her move into writing that bit easier

The teachers who introduced this star to drama and literature spiced up her education and made her move into writing that bit easier

I loved Mrs Flitt, my form teacher at junior school. She was warm, kind and fair. I once went to her home for tea - beans on toast I think - because my mum was working and couldn't bring me back in time for the evening performance of the school play. I was short for my age and when a girl once threatened to throw me over the railway, Mrs Flitt intervened in a gentle way and sorted out the problem without causing a drama.

I was so fond of her that I put her in my first book. Recently I went back to the school, now called Beechfield. It was Walter de Merton, Watford, when I was there. I read to the pupils, but unfortunately Mrs Flitt had left. I felt more nervous reading then than I ever did performing with the Spice Girls.

Mrs Medina, my English teacher at Watford Grammar School for Girls, also got a name check in one of my stories. She was an elegant lady who looked a bit like Diana Rigg. I've always loved writing and reading, and I enjoyed drama. Mrs Medina introduced me to Shakespeare. We studied A Midsummer Night's Dream, and she took us to the open air theatre in Regent's Park to see it performed. She encouraged me to write and believed in my ability to perform. She often asked me to read in front of the class.

Because I liked Mrs Medina I wanted to please her and when I once forgot my lines in the school play, I really felt I'd let her down. I was so upset, the next morning I hid under my desk and she looked at me half in dismay and half with humour. Then I got braces and started to lisp badly and she was rather disappointed by all the lisping and spitting when I read out loud.

I got a C in English and could have done much better if I hadn't spent so much time chatting at the back of the class. I always enjoyed the social aspect of school. I was talkative and cheeky, but always polite, and rarely got into serious trouble. I did bunk off once - but I got caught and put in detention. I missed a music lesson because I didn't like the teacher.

It wasn't until I was 20 that I really got the most out of education. I went to college to study English literature at A-level and by then I was old enough and mature enough to appreciate it.

Mrs White recognised that I was ready to learn and she helped me to access literature. I suddenly understood the wealth and power of words. We studied Hamlet and D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, and for the first time I started getting great marks for my essays. Mrs White, who was a thin little bird-like woman, was passionate about her subject and l found her passion contagious. I started reading Oscar Wilde and joined book clubs. I asked questions in class and re-connected with my early enthusiasm for reading and writing. Mrs White took us to the Donmar theatre to see Alan Cummins in a great production of Hamlet.

Then one day I was pulled out of class to be told that my father had died. I was paralysed with grief, but Mrs White helped me through. I found comfort in words and read and wrote dark poetry that I was too shy to show to anyone.

Soon after, I went into the music business so my attention was distracted from my studies, but when I was with the Spice Girls I felt most comfortable and confident writing lyrics. I've written six books in the Ugenia Lavender series, and according to Mum, writing is what I was meant to do.

Geri Halliwell, the former Spice Girl turned author, has written a series of six books for children. The third, Ugenia Lavender and the Burning Pants is published by Macmillan Children's books today. An audio book of each title, read by the author, is available on CD and download. She was talking to Pamela Coleman.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you