The history of the ABBA 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)
- 1986 Fan Club founded with permission from Görel Hanser
- 1987 First ABBA Day in Hoek van Holland
- 1988 Fusion with the Frida Fan Club, and Fan Club goes international
- 1989 Media discovers Fan Club - newspaper, radio and TV interviews/features
- 1990 Fan Club first to hear about plans for a new musical based on the novel Utvandrarna
- 1991 Big ABBA revival starts, Fan Club grows
- 1992 Fan Club's address appears in Gold booklet worldwide, membership numbers explode
- 1993 Fan Club meets Benny who is promoting Josefin Nilsson's album
- 1994 Fan Club gets to listen to Thank You For The Music box first
- 1995 World premiere of Kristina, Fan Club members get preview and gala night tickets
- 1996 Tenth anniversary celebrations with world's first ABBA Museum – albeit a rather small one
- 1997 Co-operation Fan Club and record company for new Frida compilation
- 1998 Judy Craymer contacts Fan Club about her musical Summer Night City - which later becomes the smash hit Mamma Mia!, Fan Club releases CD with rare Finn Kalvik songs for which Agnetha and Frida sang background
- 1999 MM! world premiere in London, Fan Club members get tickets for previews and opening night, Finn Kalvik performs at ABBA Day
- 2000 MM! opens overseas in Toronto in front of many members
- 2001 Nanne & Maria from One More Time join 15th anniversary celebrations at new venue Rottier, big group of members travels to New York for MM! Broadway premiere
- 2002 Members brave Stockholm snowstorms for opening of new Swedish Chess production
- 2003 Issue of first ABBA souvenir single at Fan Club Day
- 2004 Fan Club handles Polar Studio auction, with fans picking up many unique items
- 2005 20th anniversay celebrations kick off with CD single gift in magazine, all ABBA members at Stockholm MM! premiere, with Fan Club members enjoying free front row seats
- 2006 Owe Sandström, Katja & Camilla and Ludvig Andersson & Ella Rouge present/perform at 20th anniversary ABBA Weekend
- 2007 ABBA and Fan Club members at several MM! premieres. Görel talks about what she and ABBA think of Fan Club in magazine
- 2008 MM! The Movie opens in London and Stockholm – another occasion when members get to see the famous four together
- 2009 Kristina in Concert at Carnegie Hall in New York
- 2010 ABBAWORLD opens, with some staff members assisting creative team and special members preview, Fan Club members occupy first rows when Agnetha joins curtain call after Copenhagen MM! premiere
- 2011 Görel Hanser, Bubi Heilemann, Ulf Andersson and Janne Schaffer are special guests at the Silver Jubilee weekend
- 2012 The Visitors Deluxe was released on ABBA Day, and the special guest was Rune Söderqvist.
- 2013 Fan Club members were the first people to get to see a preview of ABBA The Museum in Stockholm.
- 2014 A special Waterloo 40th anniversary souvenir CD was given to all ABBA Day visitors.
- 2015 Lennart Östlund (Polar Studios) paid the annual ABBA Day a visit.
- 2016 Some happy Fan Club members experience a new ABBA moment at the opening of Mamma Mia! The Party.
30th Anniversary of the Fan Club – ABBA weekend celebration in Stockholm
- 2017 Our Fan Club members were the first ones who got to see the Super Troupers Exhibition in London, and our ABBA Day guest was Hans Löfvenberg.
- 2018 ABBA announced that they have recorded two new songs, to be released in 2019. Our ABBA Day was held in Stockholm, combined with the 5th Anniversary of ABBA The Museum. Fan Club members were able to attend the premieres of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in several countries.
- 2019 We welcomed photographer Anders Hanser on ABBA Day. Fan Club members went to the opening of Mamma Mia! The Party at the O2 and were the first visitors at ABBA: Super Troupers – The Exhibition.