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  • Al Jennings

The Wonder of Eurovision

Saturday 16th May 2020 would have seen the Netherlands hold the 65th annual Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam before being cancelled due to outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. Following a convincing win by Duncan Lawrence in 2019, Rotterdam won the right to hold one of the world’s largest televisions event.

Love it or loath it, Eurovision unites Europe in the universal language of song. For the last sixty-five years countries around the continent have battled it out to show the rest of Europe their greatest, and sometimes strangest, musical outputs.

Whilst the format of the Eurovision Song Contest has changed since is conception in 1956, the aim and its purpose has always remained the same. Still recovering from the devastation of the second world war, the European Broadcasting Union set up an ad-hoc committee, committed to searching for ways to bring together countries in a light entertainment programme.

From just seven countries in 1956, the contest has grown to over 40 competing nations, over two semi-finals and a Saturday evening prime-time event. The contest has always grown alongside the changing face of Europe, with the 90’s welcoming many former eastern bloc countries. It has launched the careers of ABBA and Celine Dion and various other artists who have achieved success since their participation. Eurovision is a platform to reach the masses and all in three minutes!

In recent years the contest has been the focus of some criticism for seemingly political voting, the sometimes-bizarre musical styles and often completely random staging. This has been most vocal in the United Kingdom who have not done particularly well over recent contests – it’s often seen as; camp, cheesy and kitsch – however, sending subpar efforts over recent years doesn’t help its cause!

Whilst it’s all about the music. The voting segment of the show also provided many highlights. From rather awkward moments between spokespersons and presenters, yes, Ulrika Johnson we’re looking at you! To Greece and Cyprus consistently giving each other it’s 12 points, where possible. All add to the theatrics of the competition that Europe has come to love.

2020 was shaping up to be another stellar year. With 41 countries entering into the contest preparations were in full swing to provide Europe with an excellent week of entertainment. With no dead cert winner amongst fans and pundits – the contest was shaping to be one of the most open competions in recent years. The contest was officially cancelled on 18 March 202 as the Coronavirus began to sweep across the country. Various other methods of holding the competition were being considered – however, it became apparent that cancellation was inevitable as it was unable to guarantee the safety of its contestants and the thousands of people that had planned to attend the event in Rotterdam.

The contest may have been cancelled but that means there is no reason why Europe couldn’t live its own Celebration in its own way. Alongside the EBU, the host broadcaster put together a Europe-wide replacement event called “Eurovision: Shine A Light” which beautifully showcased each of the competing songs alongside some special guest performers such as Mans Zelmerlow and Maria Serifovic performing their winning songs. The tone was just right, and it was a fitting tribute to the songs that were unable to compete for this year’s crown.

Other events have taken place. Various Eurovision Websites have held their own contests on Social Media. The EBU put together various Eurovision Home Contests on their YouTube channel featuring artists from 2020 and years gone by performing their hits at home.

The audience and fans have a massive impact on the contest. Often considered the heart of the competition. The audience make the show – and it has a special place within the LGBTQI+ community. Many fans have missed the unity and community that the competition creates.

Therefore, journalist and Euro-Fan, Rob Holley set up a Twitter-based initiative entitled #EurovisionAgain where every Saturday on the lead up to the contest, where fans watched together a previous contest and tweet along in real time. The initiative caught the eye of the EBU and helped to get some previously unavailable older contests online for fans to enjoy. Generally received a welcome distraction to the Pandemic; #EurovisionAgain has also gone on to raise over £15,000 for various LGBTQI+ charities in the United Kingdom. It proves for a great evening’s entertainment, complete with its own voting, it is an excellent opportunity for fans to interact and offer opinion on last year’s songs. Throw a little bit of shade and distract us from this difficult time.

Supported and endorsed by the EBU has seen fans able to relive some classic contests from the past, including Birmingham 1998, Dublin 1997 and more recently Brighton 1974 – all have which have not been broadcast since their respective competitions.

What I adore about #EurovisionAgain is the chance to look back at some of the most defining moments from Eurovision’s illustrious past. Celebrate its entries. Relive its often wonderful and bizarre interval acts and wonder in amazement at some of the outrageous staging’s and costumes. The evenings fan poll also gives the opportunity to right a couple of wrongs and crown a new winner for that evening.

Whilst Eurovision 2020 didn’t happen this year, the fans have united to show love to the songs that won’t get their three minutes of exposure all over the continent.

Eurovision continues to unite people all over the world, just as it did back in 1965, going forward the Eurovision will continue to help Europe rebuild – this time from the Coronavirus. Whilst this year will be slightly different. Its message will continue to show that we are not alone, and that things will go back to the way it used to be and together we will come out of the pandemic stronger.

Eurovision will return in 2021, and it will be bigger, better, and even more FABULOUS than before!

But in the meantime, if you want to join a bunch of Eurovision fans on a trip down memory lane, then #JoinUs every Saturday night at 7.45pm GMT and donate the cost of a nice drink or nice bottle of wine to a great cause as we experience #EurovisionAgain – it really is a great way to spend an evening during this Lockdown and a great distraction from current affairs.

12 Points Eurovision – We salute you!

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