Is Mamma Mia! The Party going to face its Waterloo?
“Mamma Mia! The Party is going to be about as useful to the Waterloo Community as the Blitz”
Resident’s View – By Ivor Dembina
Imagine this: The kids are safely tucked up in bed. You have finished your cocoa, brushed your teeth and said your prayers. Sleep beckons and you prepare for your favourite dream. Namely that you’ll wake up the next morning and the ugly bit of derelict land across the street has been magically transformed into a beautiful set of homes for local people, complete with a children’s playground and a small park.
Then, wallop! From the street outside, the sound of five hundred drunken revellers’ songs comes crashing through your bedroom window, and the window of your kids in the next room. The guests at the uninvited street party are singing ABBA songs. And they are singing them over and over again. They seem like a friendly enough crowd, but on closer inspection they are a raucous collection of coach party drunks, stag-dos and hen parties.
Is this a nightmare? No, it’s real, and, what’s more it’s not just tonight, but every night, six days a week and twice on Saturdays. And, to add insult to injury, it’s all going to emanate from a building on that disused piece of land you like to dream about. It’s enough to stop you sleeping at night. Welcome to the world of Mamma Mia! The Party.
What is Mamma Mia! The Party?
Good question. Its advocates like to call it a show, but there is no stage, just some actors and singers traipsing around the audience who sit at tables, stuffing themselves with food and drinking gallons of alcohol. Its promotional video leads one to the inescapable conclusion that the absence of a stage is because no-one in their right mind would sit down to watch such dross. And it’s all being planned for here, in the London borough of Lambeth.
Mail on Sunday Journalist Liz Jones went to review its original incarnation in Stockholm: ‘I understand now why Swedes drink too much and want to kill themselves… I have in front of me a bowl of humous that has developed a worrying crust and a glass of bad wine… Inches from my nose is a failed drama school-type, gurning into her head mic, emitting what was once a fantastic song which has long been since murdered… I literally cannot stand it, and very soon pipe up with my own rendition of Baby Can You Hear Me, SOS’.
What makes things worse is that the owners of the land are the misleadingly-titled Coin Street Community Builders. Yes, spot that word: Mamma Mia! the Party is going to be about as useful to the Waterloo Community as the Blitz. It’s an outrage, cynically positioned on the corner of Stamford Street and Cornwall Road, in the very heart of the housing co-ops that were so vigorously fought for many years ago.
Local resident and black cab driver Mudzi Mehmet says: ‘It’s a travesty that an organisation such as Coin Street Community Builders has approached the Abba group with this awful idea! This land has been earmarked for community use for nearly two decades and Coin Street Community Builders have not built one single flat in all that time.’
Emboldened by the successful campaign to get rid of the Garden Bridge, local opposition is building. The media is beginning to take an interest, local MP Kate Hoey is getting involved and the Lambeth planning website is being deluged with objections.
Cornwall Road pensioner Anne McKenna says: ‘Peace and quiet are our most valuable commodity these days and it will be a tragedy for people like me if this monstrosity with late night and early morning revellers goes through. We have to fight this.’
Let’s face it: the noise, the traffic pollution and the general late-night disruption to a quiet area should be enough to cause this project to be abandoned.
Another local resident, Judy Smith says: ‘Mamma Mia! the Party is an insidious and invidious proposal: a cabaret and party venue smack in the middle of a residential area and on the corner of an already overused major road.’
So, what’s this all about? Well, to quote a famous line from a well-known ABBA favourite – ‘Money, Money, Money’. As a local planning objection document puts it: ‘The only economic beneficiaries for this project will be Coin Street Community Builders (who seem to have forgotten their original remit to serve the community) … a successful partnership with the highly respected and popular Abba organisation, an international brand, would be a triumph to the detriment of community.’
Abba were a great pop band. They achieved their success by breaking rules. They were Swedish, they wore naff outfits and they produced songs with lyrics so joyfully mindless that you couldn’t help remembering and repeating them. But now, they are breaking one rule too many. They are putting their own thirst for yet more money above the basic needs of people in our area. The producers of Mamma Mia! The Party laughably claim it will add to the area’s cultural mix. But this show hasn’t been produced so much as excreted, and it’s our local residents who are going to be left with the social effluent on its doorstep.
Or to put it more succinctly, as local resident and artist Franco Bosio says: ‘Mr Abba don’t give a damn about the people.’
Well, some of us do. Hence STOP THE PARTY!, a campaign by people in our area to send the folly of Mamma Mia! The Party the same way that we sent the Garden Bridge. Right down the river. As the major planning objection concludes: ‘The lines are drawn for the next Battle of Waterloo to start here to preserve our precious and privileged historic right to exist as a peaceful inner London community.
Applicant’s View – By The Mamma Mia! The Party organisers
Conceived by Björn Ulvæus of ABBA, Mamma Mia! The Party is a theatrical experience set within a Greek taverna, where guests enjoy a three-course meal while the story unfolds around their tables. Characters sing ABBA songs accompanied by live musicians, dancers, acrobats, special effects and more. We are hugely excited to bring this unique concept to London, following its enormous success in Stockholm.
Operating for a maximum of five years, our proposal is to create a 500-seat temporary venue on the empty site on the corner of Cornwall Road and Stamford Street. This location, moments from the Southbank Centre, with its excellent public transport connections, is fantastic and we look forward to adding to this already diverse cultural hub.
We are delighted that the rent we will pay to Coin Street Community Builders, a social enterprise, will be used to support its extensive community activities, including youth clubs, family support sessions and sports camps, and management and maintenance of properties and Coin Street’s public realm, including Bernie Spain Gardens and a busy stretch of the Riverside Walkway on the South Bank. In the longer term, we understand that the permanent use of the site will be as the second phase of the neighbourhood centre and that the site has never been earmarked for housing.
While it is natural that some within the local community have concerns, we have been genuinely saddened by the reaction of some residents who actively oppose our plans. The main worry is clearly that our guests may be disruptive as they arrive and leave the venue, and we have worked hard to address this issue. We will now be closing 30 minutes earlier than previously planned; with the show finishing at 10.15pm our guests will have over an hour to disperse gradually. There will be no performances on Tuesdays.
During our two years operating in Stockholm, we had absolutely no issue with drunk, disorderly or anti-social behaviour among our guests, most of whom are over 40, and we very much anticipate the same in London. However, we are not complacent and do understand the importance of proper visitor management so already have a robust plan in place, which has been expertly developed by the former Head of Event Services for the London 2012 Olympics.
Given the close proximity to Waterloo and Southwark tube stations and well-connected bus routes, we are confident that we can limit the number of coach trips while also encouraging the use of sustainable methods of transport. We take our obligations to residents very seriously and are confident that we have the best team in place to manage visitors seamlessly and without causing disruption to our neighbours.
In response to comments we received during our local consultation we have also made a number of design changes. We reduced the height and size of the building while adding solar panels and a green roof. The venue will be fully soundproofed so that no noise will be audible from outside during performances.
It has been our aim from the very start that these proposals must tangibly benefit local people. We believe that they will do so by creating over sixty new local jobs, offering apprenticeships with our catering contractor and providing hands-on training opportunities in lighting, sound and other technical facilities. In addition to establishing a community fund, we will also be making the venue available to local community groups for activities, training and meetings when Mamma Mia! The Party isn’t on.
We very much look forward to becoming an active part of the community over the next five years and are confident that we will be a well-run and courteous neighbour to all those living locally.