In Defence of Eurovision

By Georgia MacPherson

On Saturday night from 6:30 to midnight, households up and down the UK sat down for a marathon viewing of Eurovision programming on BBC1 and BBC2. Celebrating old favourites and the contestants whose moment in the spotlight was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic, what could have felt like 5 and half hours of compilation videos went by surprisingly quickly for those die hard fans who were missing their usual Eurovision fix that comes around every May.

Fun fact: Greta Thunberg’s mother represented Sweden at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest!

Many of those who are reading may roll their eyes at such a positive review of the night, after all why should the BBC block out the prime time Saturday night slots for a celebration of the least cool night of the year? It’s true, even from a huge Eurovision fan, Eurovision has never been cool, even from its inception. One of the longest running television programmes, even in 1956 when the competition began, the twee pop songs and operatic ballads did not capture the rock “n” roll craze that was spreading across Europe.

Images above: Lucinda MacPherson and daughter Georgia; Lucinda dressed to support Russia

‘The only competition that would let Jedward on our screens twice’

But that’s what so wonderful about Eurovision and what drew in 182 million viewers last year. Unashamedly camp and wacky, it is the only competition that would let Jedward on our screens twice, and the only night on television where one might see Russian grannies baking biscuits on stage, a fake DJ pretending to scratch and the son of an Icelandic minister for foreign affairs dressed in BDSM gear, all in the space of an hour. With winners including ABBA, Celine Dion and Dana International, Eurovision has not only been the excuse for many of us to bathe ourselves in glitter for one night of the year but has also been the springboard for many careers that we still celebrate today.

Fun fact: Portuguese rebels used their 1974 entry as the signal to start the Carnation Revolution!

I was worried that this tribute to Eurovision would be awkward and stilted, and while yes, at times the replacement 2020 show “Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light” felt slightly clunky, isn’t that part of the charm of Eurovision? In a time when we’re all craving normalcy, listening to Graham Norton make fun of the technical lag between different countries is a welcomed constant in the Eurovision universe. The shows felt heartfelt and sincere, and even though I’m not the biggest fan of X Factor reject and veneer poster boy Ryland, his commentary on BBC2 brought comfort when we’re all seeking a sense of community.

Fun fact: In 2003 Belgium’s entry was performed in a completely made up language!

Eurovision this year wasn’t the same as the previous 64 competitions, and yet somehow it felt more needed than ever before. In the spirit of the first Eurovision Song Contest, the main show did succeed in its own way of bringing Europe together, with landmarks across the continent and beyond lighting up in honour of Katrina and the Waves winning entry “Love Shine A Light”.  Campy and slightly amateur at times, watching the past and cancelled entries brought a sense of pride to this little household in West London as I hope it did for others who watched. In other words: Long Live Eurovision!

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