What a great day in London last week for the Eurovision Song Contest 60th Anniversary Conference, and what an honor to have been invited to attend.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) convened a brilliant event, with an interesting mix of academics, journalists, winners of the ESC, as well as fans and people from the EBU who organise the contest.
The event took place at Bafta HQ – and this is the closest I will ever get to a Bafta, so “Dr Eurovsion” and I took the obligatory photo opp… (nice jackets, huh?!)
There were two excellent keynotes from my good friends Karen Fricker and Paul Jordan (names that will be familiar to regular readers of this blog over the years), as well as panels on ‘ritual’, ‘innovation’, and ‘inspiration’, in relation to the ESC. All lively discussions, and I had front row seats for the whole proceedings.
Thanks for the positive feedback from those of you who were watching my panel via the live streaming last Friday. Should you want to relive the day (I know some had a bit of technical difficulty accessing the feed), you can do so by clicking here. My panel is about 1 hr 10 mins in.
The panel on inspiration included Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, (left) who showed a surprising affinity with the ESC! You might have seen some of his comments in the media? I thought his comments were well made! And he bashed the BBC on their poor performance in terms of our song selection in recent years, which to be fair they kinda deserve if you are a frustrated Eurovision fan, or music fan.
The panel on innovation brought out the EBU big-guns, including Jon Ola Sand – Executive Supervisor for the ESC (left)…
There were questions to the panel about the political undertones to the contest, and particularly the audience reaction (booing in the arena) to the Russian entry last year. The EBU maintained their line on the ESC being about the songs and not about the external politics. A difficult issue for some, but the point was made. There was also a bit of BBC bashing from the Q&A in the audience. Guy Freeman (second right) is Head of the BBC delegation, and many comments related to the seemingly indifferent attitude of the BBC to our song selection. There were repeated attempts by the moderator of the day, broadcaster Paddy O’Connell, to steer the topic away from the UK at Eurovision (he did a great job all day, btw), but those tricky questions and comments kept on coming! I quite like our entry this year, but we need not worry about the UK hosting the ESC next year. I think we’ll be off to Sweden again in 2016…
By mid-afternoon the energy levels at Bafta HQ were beginning to flag. But hang on, who is sitting three people away from me? Blimey – it’s only Conchita Wurst!
Conchita took to the stage to be interviewed by Paddy O’Connell, and she was on top form. And she’s funny! When asked why she kept her performance last year fairly simple on stage, she responded “Because I like to stand still”. Clearly the significance of her victory last year still resonates, in terms of human rights and LGBT issues. At a meeting with Ban Ki-moon last year, he commented that her Eurovision victory really does send a “powerful message” for the promotion of respect for diversity.
By the evening I was on a train back to Southport, and I had also made it into the EBU’s press release! You can see that here. Awesome!
We have now had a few weeks of celebrating the 60th Anniversary. What’s great is that I now have a focus for my next phase of Eurovision research: the panel on ritual really didn’t get off the ground in terms of the focus I would have thought it would, and so I’ll be working on that in the near future. More importantly for now, it’s time to get ready for Austria – the first semi-final is just a few weeks away (19 May), with the grand final on 23 May. I’ll be in Vienna, and I’ve been accredited by the EBU to be there during the week for the build-up and rehearsals. Great stuff.
In the meantime, I’ll finish with a musical interlude from Conchita Wurst, with her new single, “We Are Unstoppable”. Well, we are you know…