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Spice Manchester

Rachel Flynn samples a life less ordinary at their Summer Masked Ball

Published on July 25th 2008.

Spice Manchester

I don't know what changed, but the thought of another night out in town no longer fills me with giddy excitement. And as all my friends are coupled off and staying in with a take-away, I'd struggle to find anyone to go with anyway. As a 30-year-old with a good job, a nice flat, and few real responsibilities, in theory I should be having the time of my life. But in reality, I can't help feeling a bit bored.

You have to know yourself and what you like doing, and choose the activities you're interested in. It's not like you can just turn up to anything and hope to meet the perfect person.

Apparently, I'm not the only one. Spice is an adventure sports, activity and social club designed especially for people who feel like they could be getting more out of life, whether that's by doing something different in their free time, meeting new people, or just by getting out more. They run activity days, nights out and holidays for their 15,000 members based all over the UK, and the Manchester group is as active as any.

Last Saturday, I decided to see for myself whether it could really make life more interesting. Along with my friend Clare-Marie, I went to Spice Manchester's Summer Masked Ball at Lancashire County Cricket Club.

The invite itself was enough to make Saturday afternoon a little less dull. This looked like an occasion that demanded a proper outfit – one with matching accessories and co-ordinated nail vanish rather than something thrown together ten minutes before the taxi arrives. And we were right to make an effort. The reception room was full of evening gowns and crisp suits, with masks ranging from the delicate and demure to the downright daft with Bart Simpson and Zorro both making an appearance.

We were handed a glass of bucks fizz and left to mingle. I'm not really one for mingling, especially not while I'm on my first drink, but it wasn't long before we'd accumulated a few friends – ladies who'd come to the ball on their own with the intention of making some pals on arrival. This says a lot about Spice. The members are very friendly so you can turn up without knowing a soul. All round the room, people were chatting to relative strangers without any awkwardness.

This may be something to do with the average age of attendee at this particular event. At 25 and 30, Clare-Marie and myself were probably the youngest there, with the majority in their late thirties to mid fifties. Without wanting to make sweeping generalisations, there's something about people on the other side of their twenties that makes them a little more approachable. They don't stand around looking shy or standoffish until someone dares speak to them. They get on with it and enjoy themselves.

The MD of Spice, Dave Smith, who we were sitting with at dinner, said this enthusiasm is normal for a Spice event. The age group however wasn't as typical.

“The more active events attract a younger crowd,” he explained. “The type of people you get at Spice depends a lot on the activity. Things like paint-balling and go-carting attract younger men, whereas something like dream analysis attracts more women.”

This is valuable insider information for people who want to use Spice to find a partner. Although it isn't a dating agency, singletons make up 75 per cent of the membership so the opportunity to meet unattached people is a big part of its appeal. But sporty blokes who are considering developing a passion for psychic development sessions so that they can meet loads of women should probably adjust their approach.

I spoke to a lady, Helen, who met her partner at Spice last year. She said, “You have to know yourself and what you like doing, and choose the activities you're interested in. It's not like you can just turn up to anything and hope to meet the perfect person.”

Helen said that the atmosphere at Spice is different from that at a straightforward dating agency, where the sense of expectation and pressure can be crippling. For many members it's more about doing exciting activities and meeting new friends than finding a soul mate.

Dave Smith describes it as an “adult youth club” and I could see what he meant – particularly when the disco began after dinner. I've never seen a dance floor fill up so fast. Everyone knew 'Living on a Prayer' word for word. The floor thinned out when they played The Foo Fighters, but Bryan Adams's 'Summer of 69' got the crowds back.

There were balloons, party poppers, and much hilarity surrounding two character actors dressed as Mary Whitehouse, then later as Pauline Calf-alikes. We left at about 11pm, confident that everyone was having a really good time. But was it something we'd do again?

I'd definitely go to a Spice event but I'd choose something more likely to attract a younger crowd. A scan over the website gives plenty of options: gliding, rounders in the park, skiing holidays, theatre trips, mountain biking, wild camping.

To become a member, you pay £36 per quarter or £144 per year, then the cost for each event – which varies depending on the activity. So walks and Latino dancing sessions might cost about £6 while a diving with sharks trip costs £170. A ticket for the masked ball cost £36 which included a three course meal. As a large organisation, Spice gets some very good discounts, particularly on their activity holidays.

Clare-Marie agreed that she'd be interested in becoming a Spice member, mainly because of the huge range of activities you can do. “I heard so many great stories about what people had done,” she said. “Things like ghost-hunting, wine tasting evenings and trips to Las Vegas. Because Spice's programme covers all interests and ages, there's going to be something that appeals to you. There could be things you have always wanted to try but have been put off because of the amount of organising involved, but with Spice, it's all sorted – all you have to do is turn up.”

Find out more about Spice Manchester at www.spicemcr.com

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Dave (Man Utd)July 25th 2008.

I went to the Masked Ball with Spice. It was a great evening - lots of really friendly people, well organised by the groups' co-ordinators, a great venue with nice meal. I've been a member of the Spice Manchester group for over 12 months now. I would recommend it to everyone, it's fantastic and it really has changed my life for the better.

StevieJuly 25th 2008.

I've been a member of Spice for nearly four years, ever since I moved to Manchester and didn't know anyone at all. The first night one the town involved karaoke in front of complete strangers, and I haven't looked back since! Paintball, Dragon-boat racing, social events, and I can highly recommend the holidays, especially the Centreparcs weekends (at one of which last year I met my lovely Alison!). P.S. Zippy is right about the younger crowd: I’m 34 and would have been at the Dragon-boat racing if it hadn’t clashed with both the summer ball and my shift pattern. That may be the only problem with Spice, so many events, so little time!

zippyJuly 25th 2008.

I could not make this one..albeit have been a member fr 5 years and its practically my whole social life..ive done over 7 holidays and 70 weekends during the five years and have a great crowd of friends..s for age.. its irrevalent *im 40* but my friends in spice range from 25 to 70+my only regret is not joining sooner.. as everyone has a positive attitude about being on the events, I always have a great time and have tried so many things I never thought I would..x ps the usual younger crowd that would have been there, were away for the weekend competing & supporting the competitors in the national dragon boating event *weekend* that takes place twice a year.. see the website http://www.spiceuk.com for pictures..

idleJuly 25th 2008.

For clarification the two ugly tarts are most definately not the ladies with the smiley balloon who are perfectly lovely I'm sure...I'll stop digging now!

Rock ChickJuly 25th 2008.

I've been a member of Spice for 3 years now, having moved to Manchester with work, and not knowing a soul here. It's got something for everyone, as there's a full and varied calender of sporting, social and activity events to join in with. I've made dozens of really great friends. For me, the Summer and Christmas Balls are one of the highlights on the Spice calender, a real opportunity to dress up in your best glad rags, enjoy a lovely meal then dance the night away.I'd recommend Spice to anyone who finds themselves stuck at home too much, or is just looking for something new and exciting to do. Oh, and lots of new friends!

AnonymousJuly 25th 2008.

The Spice crowd are fantastic people. Its a brilliant social group and a great way to try new and interesting things. Recently I've been shooting, camping, learning circus skills and dancing. Have enjoyed some fantastic dinners out, some excellent workshops and am about to book a winter ski trip with them (am also tempted by the Everest trip but think that may be just a little too adventurous). Yay!

Dave (Man Utd)July 25th 2008.

PS - I'm 21 years old (so in fact I was probably the youngest people at this event) and although Rachel points out that she and her friend were younger than the majority, I really don't feel its affected my enjoyment of Spice events whatsoever. When I attend each and every event, I am confident of meeting other people who have the same interests as me and age becomes irrelevent because everybody is having a great time.

idleJuly 25th 2008.

I was there too and what a superb night. Dancing, a meal and a few drinks in friendly company where everyone just wanted to have a good time. The little extras were much appreciated too, like the 'Two Ugly Tarts' - honestly that's there name and I'm not being derogatory as you can see in the picture!I can honestly say that if you feel yourself stuck in a rut and want to get more out of life then this is just the tonic you need!

Chris(Avilon)July 25th 2008.

I've been a member for 18 months a friend dragged me into it but ive got to say it was the best thing ever. As a group i have never met a group that get on together and are as accepting as Spicers ar

RuthybabyJuly 25th 2008.

I have been a Spicer for around 14 months, and have made some fantastic new friends, and tried things i never thought i would (Pole Dancing eek!). The great thing about Spice is that the people who join are in the same boat, stuck in a rut / newly single, basically wanting more from life! All i can say is i wish i'd joined sooner, can't imagine being without them now xx

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