A special celebration of the Official International ABBA Fan Club's 30th anniversary
Photos © Roeland van de Velde
Report of the ABBA Fan Club 30th Anniversary Celebration Weekend – by Franklin van Liempt.
The ABBA Weekend is always a celebration to look forward to, but the Fan Club’s 30th anniversary weekend promised to be something rather special. This year, from 22-24 April, it was not held in Roosendaal but in Stockholm, the home of ABBA.
The festivities commenced with a guided ABBA walk through Stockholm. This was a limited last-minute event, but a few fans were lucky enough to get a place. It must have been a challenge for our lovely guide, Gabriella, to show people around who already knew so much about ABBA, but her enthusiasm was contagious. She took us from the Sheraton Hotel through Gamla Stan to the Opera House, Kungsträdgarden and on to the China Theatre. She also explained ABBA’s position within the Swedish political and social climate of the 1970s. However, some fans were probably more interested in more life-defining facts such as the location of the doorstep where Frida slipped in the Head Over Heels video. The tour was great fun with Gabriella’s speaker blasting ABBA songs while guiding the group through busy Stockholm.
On Friday evening, fans gathered in the lobby of the Pop House Hotel. It was an intimate setting, and a chance to catch up with old friends and to make some new ones, too. As always, Gary Collins organised a quiz with some mind-boggling questions, assisted by the lovely Ursula. Jack Lovejoy was the lucky winner. He took home the ABBA Vinyl Collection, signed by all four members. The evening was more relaxed than usual but, of course, we had to conserve our energy for two more ABBA parties that weekend…
The Big Day
The celebrations resumed on Saturday morning at the ABBA Museum, where the immensely talented ABBA Choir welcomed us with rousing renditions of ABBA favourites. In the Glashuset, in use for the first time, Ingmarie, curator of the museum, and our own Helga welcomed everyone to the ABBA Weekend. A photographic exhibition by Michael Svensson opened that day, and Michael was there to explain the stories behind the photos. In one of them, ABBA even posed in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant.
After that, there was time to visit the museum itself. If you have the chance, book the audio guide, too. Hearing Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida tell their own stories adds an extra dimension to this amazing exhibition. Jane Dickman, who had entered a competition in the Fan Club magazine, won the opportunity to be the first one to enter the new attraction - the 3D presentation of The Fifth Member. This particular attraction has undergone a makeover with lifelike images of the four members, based on the looks of the silicone dolls. Onno Conde Nieto won the chance to actually sing in the Polar Studio. Lucky guys!
Before the weekend, Fan Club members were invited to send in questions to be used in an interview with Mia Segolsson (Polar Music) and Görel Hanser. This promised to provide us with some interesting insights into the ABBA family, and indeed it did; it was incredibly interesting. However, no-one could have expected what was to happen next… Görel pretended to call Benny on his mobile but, instead, enter Benny Andersson, stage left! What a surprise! There was rapturous applause… The adjacent restaurant was empty within seconds.
Benny asked Helga and Anita to come up to the stage and gave them a well deserved thank you for all the work they have done over the past thirty years to keep the ABBA community together and for keeping ABBA’s legacy so much alive. He also answered some questions from fans and then sat down at the piano to lead us into Thank You For The Music. All the fans sang their hearts out to thank Benny for his music and for making this the highlight of a very special day.
Update: ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions
After Benny, Görel, Ingmarie and Mia had left the stage, Carl Magnus Palm was up next to talk about his new book. He had a very tough act to follow but coped well. The extensively updated ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions promises to be another highlight for ABBA devotees later this year. In his presentation, he shared some of his research into ABBA’s work in the recording studio. All the ABBA members are co-operating, and he has access to never-released tapes. This will be the closest that ABBA fans will be able to get to the real thing.
The day at the Museum ended with a group photo of all the fans who had travelled from all over the world to be in Stockholm. We all left with a fantastic goody bag which contained two CDs – Kristina at Carnegie Hall and BAO’s Story Of A Heart - and some items from the Museum shop, including a poster. We were so happy!
Across the street from the museum is Skansen, and it was there in the Solliden restaurant taht the ABBA disco was held that evening. The restaurant is right next to the Allsång På Skansen open-air stage. With a breathtaking view of the beautiful Stockholm by night, we practised our dance moves that even Frida herself would have admired. We all know how she loves to dance… and so do the fans - what a party!
Some fans did not get much of a lie-in the following morning; a boat was waiting to take them across Stockholm’s waterways. As soon as the boat had left the quay, our tour guide, Elisabeth, began her interesting commentary. Highlights were the house where Stig used to live, Benny’s Mono Music office and the Opera House where Dancing Queen premiered.
MAMMA MIA! The Party
The special weekend ended with a bang. MAMMA MIA! The Party is more than just a dinner cabaret. It is a musical spectacle on its own, during which delicious Greek food is served. For all the international fans, there were some lines in English to help us understand the story. A lovely surprise was that some lesser-known favourites (to non-ABBA fans, of course) were integrated into the story, such as I’ve Been Waiting For You and If It Wasn’t For The Nights. Mercedsz Csampai sang a heart-wrenching rendition of The Winner Takes It All that left many fans teary-eyed. The show evolved into what would be ABBA Disco Volume 2. What a party!
Thank You Helga and Anita!
As always, this weekend was an absolute success - a roller coaster ride of emotions. The International ABBA Fan Club is so much more than a fan club; it is a friends club. It has been for 30 years. Nowadays, with the internet and Facebook groups, it is easy to find people who share similar interests, but that was not the case when it all started in 1986. At that time, ABBA’s popularity was at a low point. Helga and Anita reached out and got in touch with ABBA fans from around the world. Even if you have never visited the ABBA gatherings, I hope by reading the magazines you get the feeling you are connecting with fans from other countries.
I have a group of friends that I see only once a year but, when we meet, it feels like it was only yesterday that we last saw each other. These are people I would never have met if it had not been for Helga and Anita and their fan club. So many familiar faces from Roosendaal made the trip to Stockholm in April. It tells us that we do not mind where we are, as long as our friends are with us. The Way Old Friends Do is truly the Fan Club’s natural anthem. Every year, the International ABBA Fan Club thanks ABBA for the music but, from the bottom of my heart, I now say thank you, Helga and Anita, for giving your love and friendship to us.