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ABBA Super Troupers: The Exhibition

ABBA Super Troupers: The Exhibition

at Southbank Centre, London

There has been a little bit of Sweden in Marylebone, where the embassy sits, for quite a few years. But there is an additional Swedish area in London that is only here until the end of April. It’s at the Southbank Centre. Not the small pop-up Abba shop near the ticket office, which is easy to stumble across. No. In an unassuming little corner of the complex, almost hidden away, is a small Scandinavian treasure.

ABBA Super Troupers: The Exhibition is an immersive tour through the history of one of the most famous pop groups of all time. Forget what you know and, even, what you think you know. I believe these exhibitions are best enjoyed with child-like innocence. Allow the experience to lead you by the hand and learn everything afresh.

[Photo: Victor Frankowski]

It was opened by Björn Ulvaeus himself, sitting here in the recording studio section of the tour (if you don’t know who he is, firstly - where have you been?!? - and secondly, you need to visit this exhibition). The tour has timed entry and there is a maximum of sixteen people on each one. A guide take you through, if my memory serves, ten installations - each one is a major moment in the history of the group.

[Photo: Mikael Bodner]

In each room, the guide explained where we were, answered any of our questions and pointed out some of the interesting display items, such as this gold single [pictured above] which is for the Swedish version of Ring Ring. Abba - then known as ‘Björn & Benny/Agnetha & Frida’ - weren’t chosen by the jury to be the official entry for Sweden to the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973. The song was still released as a single, though, becoming a huge hit. The following year, they were wisely chosen as the Swedish entry.

[‘Hotel Room in Brighton’ - Photo: Victor Frankowski]

There is much to learn throughout - not just about pop music. Historic events are played out, newspapers can be read, television programmes watched. The whole piece is attempting to place Abba in context with the world about them, amidst the gloomy social and political backdrop of Britain in the 1970s. A bold move considering how quickly we are escorted through time.

[‘open-air festival’ - Photo: Victor Frankowski]

As we enter and search each room, a narrator supplies additional setting and information about our whereabouts. It is the voice of Jarvis Cocker, frontman of Pulp. Not an obvious choice, perhaps, until you learn about his love of Abba.

[Jarvis Cocker]

My favourite exhibit was the recording studio - where we were even invited to join in with the band and karaoke along to Dancing Queen.

The exhibition is fascinating and informative; the guide is fun and upbeat. All the objects on show are either from The Abba Museum or private collections. Although it lasts an hour, the time simply flies by. Perhaps a little too fast for genuine fans, who might wish to linger a little longer in this Abba-world. I loved it, though. In fifty years time, will there be exhibitions about One Direction or Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran? Probably not. And that is exactly why Abba are special. As strong and timeless as they ever were.

Ironic, too, that the nearest station to the exhibition is Waterloo… Super Troupers: The Exhibition is on at The Southbank Centre, London, until 29th April 2018. Information and tickets can be found at this address:

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