Eurovision is an institution that’s older than I am. It’s a festival of song that brings the countries of Europe together for at least one evening in the year and it is a celebration of the unity and diversity of this great continent.
It’s a serious business yet it is not to be taken too seriously. There is money at stake with large sales of recordings to be made, enormous viewing figures to be had and a hefty bill if you are the country that is unfortunate enough to win. (You are probably best to come second!)
It’s an opportunity for us to marvel at the way our different cultures express themselves, a chance to laugh at our amusing ways, to snigger at our quaint and eccentric customs and yet to show solidarity with our 740 million fellow European brothers and sisters.
It all starts with weeks of build-up, selecting the songs, choosing the singers and reducing the numbers of entries to a more manageable twenty six. On the big night the show is broadcast from a huge arena in the country of the previous winner, filled with over enthusiastic fans, friends and families of the contestants.
After a short introduction the songs get underway against a backdrop of a mildly sarcastic commentary from a notable celebrity with each tune prefaced by a video postcard from the songster’s country, that tries to capture the very essence of their place of residence in thirty seconds of film. The songs represent all possible musical tastes from euro disco, unintelligible wailing and eastern promise to boom bang a bang trash.
Once everyone has had a go a show is put on from the host nation that manages to cram in every possible cliché that they can think of to entertain the huge viewing audience while the voting is opened to the public. Then the fun begins with the announcement of the results.
It is here that the real Europe comes to life with countries voting in ways that show the similarities in culture and taste but with all the twists and turns of our nation state politics. The votes hint at the formation of hoped for political alliances, give thanks for previous support and reveal the mild slaps for past transgressions.
This year’s show from Malmö has been one of the best in years with a great production and a high standard of entries. Denmark has won and the Eurovision prize is making its way across the Øresund Bridge in time for next year but the real winner once again has been Europe with all its quirkiness and fickleness and fun. You either love or hate Eurovision but I for one can’t wait until it all comes round again.