As It Happens

'Nobody is against Abba,' says London councillor fighting Mamma Mia restaurant

London Coun. Kevin Craig says the Waterloo neighbourhood is "the wrong place for what will be, of course, a wonderful experience."
The people of London's Waterloo neighbourhood have nothing against Abba, insists a local councillor, but they don't want a Mamma Mia dinner theatre near their homes. (John Downing/Express/Getty Images)
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Story transcript

Residents of a London neighbourhood say they're not against an Abba-themed dinner theatre per se, but they don't want one in their backyard.

"Nobody is against Abba and their wonderful canon of music, but that's not the point," Coun. Kevin Craig, who represents constituents in the Waterloo neighbourhood, told As It Happens host Carol Off. ​

"It's the wrong place for what will be, of course, a wonderful experience."

Former Abba member Bjorn Ulvaeus wants to open a new branch of his Stockholm "singing theatre" restaurant, Mamma Mia! The Party, and he says Waterloo is the perfect spot.

He has the backing of Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB), a social development company that built many of the community housing co-ops the neighbourhood is known for. 

Be he does not, it seems, have the support of all the local residents. According to the Guardian, the area has been peppered with posters reading: "Five hundred drunk revellers will spill on to these streets singing Dancing Queen."

Bjorn Ulvaeus, a member of Swedish disco group Abba poses for a picture at Mamma Mia! The Party in Stockholm, where people can eat while watching a show based on Abba's songs. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

It's a concern echoed by Craig, who recently presented the city council with a a petition against the construction of Mamma Mia! The Party.

"It means that every day, hundreds of people will be flocking to this spectacle, fuelled by Abba's wonderful music, and high on life and no doubt supported by a few alcoholic drinks," he said.

"And our local community is very concerned that if this application is approved then they are going to suffer in terms of disturbance, noise and the results of inevitably hundreds of people coming together in this way."

The petition also argues that the CSCB should instead focus on building more social housing in the area. 

A map of the proposes location for Mamma Mia! The Party as it appears on a Change.org petition calling for the application to be rejected. (Change.org)

Ulvaeus has not weighed into the debate, but his co-director Ingrid Sutej told the Guardian the Mamma Mia team was "absolutely shocked" to learn about the community opposition.

"That's not something we could comment on," Sutej said. "I think that's between Coin Street and the local [residents]."

Still, she vowed the restaurant would be soundproof and the show would end by 10:30 p.m.

She also said the dinner theatre would bring local benefits in the form of jobs and apprenticeships for people who live in the neighbourhood. 

"We've gone to great effort and care to be as friendly and neighbourly as we can," she said.

Some Waterloo residents just don't want to take a chance on Abba. (RB/Redferns/Getty Images)

But Craig says pretty words are not enough. 

"The fact is there is no formal, publicly available, 100-per-cent approved visitor management plan that we can point to and hold them to account," he said. "Words are fine, but we haven't got the detail to go with those promises."

So if the owners are able to put their promises on paper, will Waterloo take a chance on Abba?

"This goes on and on and on, and a lot of people are wondering whether or not it's about money, money, money, whether or not it's a rich man's world," Craig said. "I'll stop there."

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