If you’ve been walking up and around Södran recently, you might have noticed a little unusual activity. The Mosebacketerrassen terrace has been in the workshop all over the winter, as Södra Teatern launched plans to renovate and remake the historic terrace with new seating, dining and bar options. A couple of weeks ahead of the launch of the new Mosebacketerrassen, we caught up with Södra Teatern’s CEO Samuel Laulajainen and Artistic Director Fredrik Granberg to discuss the changes,
To go back to the very beginning, what has this part of Stockholm, the Mossebacketerrassen area, been throughout modern history? Its name comes from Moses Israelsson, who was the son-in-law of Johan Hansson Hök who gave his name to the street, correct?
Samuel Laulajainen: There was a mill here, and that’s where the name comes from.
And that’s around 16,1700?
S: At one stage it was a circus, and later there was an early bowling alley.
And that’s where the name of Kägelbanan comes from?
S: Yes, there’s a long history of music and all kinds of arts here, since the 1700s.
Who are some of the more famous guests of Mosebacketerrassen, and what are some of the more famous incidents to have happened here over the years?
S: Cornelis Vreeswijk.
Fredrik Granberg: In the early 70s, all the singer-songwriters of the time were here, so the Vrees tradition had a big hold. But I mean, so many people have played live at Mosebacketerrassen, even Robyn has played here. Södra Teatern took over the terrace in 2012, and before that another company were in charge of the bookings. But since 2012 it’s been us, and I’ve been booking it for six years now, and been trying to develop the place. It’s a really special spot for live music, there’s nothing like this elsewhere except for maybe Skansen, and that’s much bigger.
S: I don’t think you can name a Swedish artist who hasn’t played this stage. The terrace has a 1500 capacity. Last summer, Riksteatern, who owned both the building and the operations, sold it to a private equity company, and now they own all the buildings and real estate. We work for them, and our job is to fill the house with more music and more bands. We want to give it a Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and we want to renovate the whole place. We open the terrace in three weeks. It’s a big thing for Stockholm, it’s one of the biggest terraces in the city. We’re also looking at doing some major refurbishments in the building. The lobby is going to have a huge facelift by June. It’s going to look the same, but it’ll be brand new.
When you started the renovation process, did you end up going back into Mosebacketerrassen’s history and finding out some things you didn’t know before?
S: The building is one of the most important in Stockholm. So before we do any kind of renovation, we have to learn everything about the history, even if we just want to paint a wall.
Why was the decision take to renovate the terrace?
S: That decision was taken three or four years ago? The buildings were very worn-down, and we needed a new stage and we needed new food and beverage outlets. So there were a lot of practical reasons.
F: We started the first week after the last show, last September. They’ve been building all winter. Tearing the old stuff down only took a day, there were only a couple of bars and a stage. The new structures will look completely different, new toilets, we’re making everything better.
S: There will be the facilities to produce actual food out there. We’re going to have a café for the daytime, during the daytime we’re going to focus a lot on the tourists. We’ll have a Swedish fika kind of thing going on. Then as the day goes on, it’ll turn into more of a bar scene. And now we can do proper food there, so we’ll have chefs out there working and cooking stuff.
F: And with the new set-up, we can have it open all year, if we want to. Before it wasn’t insulated.
So when it’s all done, how exactly will it look, and what will be the facilities?
S: Well, there will be a new stage, first of all. That’s probably the part we are looking forward to most. There will be seven bar units, a new daytime café. New toilets. New backstage for the bands. It’s all new facilities, new seating. Still set up in the benches like before, as that has worked well over the years, but it’s going to be brand new.
And with the new facilities, does that allow for more events over the summer, and what are your plans in that area?
F: The amount of shows hasn’t changed, as that’s controlled by another permit. But we want people to come and experience this place. Even if it’s just for fika, for baby salsa, for Death Grips or even just drinking beer or grabbing some food.
S: We’re going to focus a lot on the food and drink. So you’ll be able to order a good burger, a beer, a coffee. The most important thing is the everyday, that you can drop in and spend time here. The concerts add a little spice to the operation, but on a normal basis the goal is to be open for everyone to come here.
How much of a challenge is renovating this building and the Terrassen, that have these kinds of historical backgrounds, and need so many permits to get things done? Does it make everything a much longer process?
S: It makes it a long process, and it makes it quite expensive. But we have owners that really want to invest in the buildings, which obviously helps. But in general, the older the building is, the more difficult it is to make changes.
F: It takes a lot of planning, because we have very little downtime [in terms of schedule], maybe two weeks in January. And then we have stuff every day, so it takes a lot of planning to pause bookings and do renovations. We want to stay open as much as possible. It’s very complicated. But it’s fun as well, and very necessary. We have to be very aware of the history of the building, and we have to constantly move forwards. The things that happened here two hundred years ago are still happening, but we have to keep going and make this place feel alive, for everyone. Now we have this tradition of baby salsa, with parents and their kids going around in circles. It’s an old tradition, it’s been going on for ten years or maybe more, and there are a lot of things like that we want to keep going. It’s important to artists too. There’s a story that the stage is placed where it is, because they wanted the artists to have the best possible view. I noticed last yeah, when we did the Stockholm Americana Festival, there were a lot of American bands here, and they were completely blown away by the place.
S: It’s unique, we’re right in the middle of the city with that view.
Outside of just the requirements that your permits need, when you’re renovating something here, is it difficult to find the balance between keeping the historical style and developing something new?
S: The history is always a priority. And you have to work around it. It is always challenging. But I’m looking forward to it opening, you can keep the history in mind, and respect the history, but still make it nice and fresh.
How does it feel to have responsibility for something as historical as Mosebacketerrassen? To be the person responsible for taking care of it in this period in its life?
S: It’s a great honour. You have to treat it with respect. Fredrik books all the entertainment and the music and everything, so he’s actually the most important guy there.
F: You want to keep old traditions, but I also want to book interesting new acts, so people can say in 20 years ‘oh, you remember when Death Grips were there’. The entertainment can’t be static; it has to evolve. There is a limit of course, with laws and regulations, but that’s the challenge, to keep pushing it. And I like the blend of stuff we do. Making one type of concert, and then another for a totally different crowd. For me, that’s the best part. Being able to see 1500 people here. It doesn’t matter if they’re 19 or 65, when I go home I know I made 1500 people hopefully have a great experience. It’s a great responsibility and a great honour as well.
S: And it’s great fun. I’ve only been here three months, but I don’t think there’s a more fun place to work in Stockholm in food and drink and entertainment. If you look at the variety of things we do, it’s everything.
F: I’ve been touring a lot with my own band, and there’s not a lot of places that compare to Södra Teatern.
Finally, one last question with regards to the terrace, have you ever thought about the people that have the apartments overlooking it, the ones that get to see everything for free?
F: Yeah, they’re worth it! The bands comment on it sometimes. It’s one of the upsides of being our neighbours. I’ve never seen anything like that either. When Veronica Maggio played here, there must have been 200 people on those balconies at least. It’s better when it’s full up there, we’ve done some concerts when there’s maybe been two people up there [laughs].
Mosebacketerrassen opens for the season on April 26.
All photos courtesy of Södra Teatern.