Tomorrow night is the annual Eurovision Song Contest, a pan-European music competition where each of the nations of Europe can put forward a musician or band and hope to win the chance to host the following year’s contest. Last year’s winning act, Emmelie de Forest, was from Denmark, so this year’s competition will be broadcast from Copenhagen.
In Britain the main focus is always the ‘final’ on the Saturday night, but there have been two semi-finals this week. They’re broadcast here on under-threat TV channel BBC Three, and I bet a lot of Brits don’t even know about them. I think this because the semi-finals don’t matter to us Brits - Britain is one of the largest contributors to the European Broadcast Union, the producers of Eurovision, and it means that British acts automatically qualify for the final. This is along with thoseacts from France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Consequently the semi-finals are not a big deal here, and are mostly watched by those more fanatical about Eurovision.
For most of the past few years, we’ve been to Eurovision parties, where we watch the final as a group, usually with ample amounts of alcohol. This started sometime around 2007, when one of our friends was an international student from Canada – we tried to convince her that Eurovision was a major cultural event. I think she believed us right up until the show started, when she realised it was just a massive camp-fest. Which it is, but that’s one reason why I like it so much. Another other big reason is getting to laugh at the various novelty acts that invariably make it through to the finals, and then get increasingly frustrated at the end when none of our European neighbours decide to vote for the UK entry. And there’s the commentary provided by Graham Norton throughout the night.
This year, we’re hosting a Eurovision party ourselves for the first time. Not a big one, and most of the people who are coming are the same ones that we watch Eurovision with every year. It’s probably the last chance we’ll have to host a Eurovision party in our current flat, as hopefully by this time next year we’ll have bought a new house.
The UK never does particularly well in Eurovision and we’ve not won since the 1990s, but we still enter every year. Despite putting up reasonably well-known acts, such as Blue, Engelbert Humperdinck and Bonnie Tyler, we haven’t placed inside the top 10 since 2009.
In the past there has been a public vote to choose the act that we sent to Eurovision – usually called A Song for Europe – but since 2011 the decision has been made by the BBC. This year’s act is ‘Molly’ with her song ‘Children of the Universe‘ – it’s not really my kind of song but hopefully it’ll do well. Molly, incidentally, is not using her full name of ‘Molly Smitten-Downes’ in the competition.
Political events often affect the results, and it will be interesting to see what effect the recent issues in the Crimea have on Ukraine and Russia’s rankings. It may also reflect Britain’s historically poor performance, as the rest of the Europe hates us apparently. The current rise of the UK Independence Party may indicate that the feeling is mutual. I wonder what UKIP’s policy is on Eurovision?