The history of the Fan Club

If there ever was a time when not to start an ABBA fan club, 1986 was that year. The fans had finally started to accept that the band would never get together again, the ABBA Magazine had ceased to exist, and most fan clubs had already closed down or were about to. Worst of all, when the much awaited live album was finally released, it failed to chart at all in most countries and was not even released in the UK. Just a few years earlier, it would have topped the charts all over the world.

Still, in The Netherlands, a group of fans thought that ABBA were too good to be forgotten and decided to start a fan club anyway – one they named ABBF – Agnetha, Benny, Björn, Frida Fan Club – because the members had moved on, with Agnetha and Frida busy with solo projects and Björn and Benny involved in Chess and with Gemini. Looking back, to steer clear of the word ABBA in the name might have been a stroke of genius as they immediately got the green light from the members' spokesperson, Görel Hanser.

The Fan Club's first years were humble ones; the magazine was typed on an old typewriter, first in Dutch and later in what can only be described as basic school English. The photos were all in black and white and often came out pretty blurry. Even though a professional printer was involved from the start, the pages were stapled together at home – a labour of love. Even though the Fan Club had a small mail order shop (these days the web-based ABBA Fan Club Shop that sells items from all over the world), helping fans to get records and items not released in their country, the books hardly ever balanced. When the magazine moved on to have a full colour cover, the same cover was used for a whole year to save money...

The hard work took its toll, and most of the original staff members moved on to do other things, leaving Anita and Helga (and the printer) with the sole responsibility. At times, they were close to giving up but, with the help family members and friends, they managed to keep the club going. More people from all over the world heard about the Fan Club through other fans and pen pals – remember, those were in the days before the internet - correspondents started to contribute stories from all around the globe, and the magazine began to look more professional. The big breakthrough came with the huge ABBA revival in 1992 – the ABBA Gold booklet included the address of the Fan Club, and thousands of letters from people who wanted to know more about ABBA and join the club came in. Since then, Helga and Anita have been running the club, organizing functions and taking care of the magazine and website together with a small, dedicated, international team.

The Fan Club Day started as a small gathering of local Dutch fans who got together in a pub to talk about and listen to ABBA's music, but it has outgrown many venues since. People started to come from all over Europe and even from Australia, the USA and Japan, and the format changed dramatically – welcome additions were the big record fair, video shows, exhibitions and special guests performing or talking about their work with ABBA – Benny's son Ludvig and his Band Ella Rouge and Owe Sandström, who brought a load of ABBA's stage outfits, paid us a visit and for our silver jubilee in 2011, our special guests were Görel Hanser, Bubi Heilemann, Ulf Andersson and Janne Schaffer – and the famous ABBA disco in the evening. Eventually, one day was no longer enough, and the event turned into the ABBA Weekend, with things like pub nights with quizzes and canapés, screenings of ABBA-related films at the local cinema and even organized trips to see Mamma Mia! performed nearby. Needless to say, once the annual party is over, it does not take long before the planning for the next event starts…

Undoubtedly, the Fan Club reached a milestone when it got the blessing from Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida, as well as Görel Hanser and the record company, to change its name to what it really had been all along – The Official International ABBA Fan Club.

The 30th anniversary was celebrated in Stockholm - with a tightly packed ABBA Weekend. There was a quiz night, the popular disco was held at Skansen, with a beautiful view of Stockholm, followed by an ABBA boat tour on Sunday and dinner as well as more dancing at Mamma Mia! The Party. However, the actual ABBA Day took place at ABBA The Museum with special guests Görel Hanser, Mia Segolsson (Polar) and a surprise visitor - Benny. He answered some questions, thanked the fans for their loyalty, played Thank You For The Music with the fans singing along, and thanked Helga and Anita for being solid Super Troupers, running the Fan Club.

Highlights (a few – the true list is almost endless)