Assumingly, the majority of people change the channel when Eurovision comes on your tv every springtime. Just hear me out, what if you didn’t pick up the remote and submerged yourself in all things European for a few hours. Now would that be so bad?
The Eurovision Song Contest first aired in the UK around seven decades ago, the idea from a Swiss journalist named Marcel Bezencon – also the director of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). This 60th anniversary was honoured by a show in London and the addition of Australia to Europe’s music competition. Moreover, the EBU is a broadcasting company made up of members in 56 countries around the world who co-operate to produce Eurovision. Bezencon had the idea for Eurovision from what my Italian friend described as Sanremo. The Sanremo Music Festival has happened every year on the Italian Riviera since 1951 and is made up of varying artists singing different genres like pop, rock and opera born in different parts of Italy. This sky-rocketed famous Italian artists into the limelight such as Andrea Bocelli and the trio of Il Volo. The native Italian artists had to first perform their song and an international guest would perform it in the next time – allowing the guests to reach the Italian audience with singers like Shirley Bassey performing ‘La Vita’ in 1968 and Stevie Wonder in 1969 with ‘Se Tu Ragazzo Mio’ first debuting from the contest. As well as Sanremo’s winner being Italian’s Eurovision participant, the Sanremo music festival is still a hit, even internationally, with the televised performances in 2020 reaching 11.4 million viewers on the final night. My personal favourite from Sanremo this year is ‘La Genesi Del Tuo Colore’ translating roughly to the Genesis of Your Colour.
The first Eurovision Song Contest was held on May 24th, 1956 with seven countries performing. As the contest grew in popularity, strict rules began to be introduced to the competition with the national language having to be used in every song so judges could understand it.
Along with performances, since 1975, the contest has always had the same voting system. Voters award points ranging from 1 to 8, 1 to 10 and finally 1-12 – famously known as ‘douze points’ – to non-native songs. From 1997 when countries started televoting, all countries are now encouraged to do it. Audiences can not only stream their favourite Eurovision songs on music platforms, but they can vote by using SMS and telephone – however, they CANNOT vote for their native songs. Additionally, all countries except France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK and the host country must be in the top-10. (Eurovision website)
Now I’ve given you a rundown on the contest’s history and rules, there are other facts why people love Eurovision. It’s held in a different country every year meaning the audience (pre-COVID) get to travel around the world, exploring another culture and place. The United Kingdom has had five winners since Eurovision started – Sandie Shaw in 1967 with ‘Puppet On A String’ and LuLu with ‘Boom Bang-a-Bang’ tie win at the end of the 1960s. Brotherhood of Man won 6 years later with ‘Save Your Kisses For me’ in 1976, the Bucks Fizz had the most famous skirt-reveal win in 1981 with ‘Making Your Mind Up’ and Katrina and the Waves won with ‘Love, Shine A Light’ in 1997. Even if I haven’t fully convinced you to watch Eurovision this year, at least these will be good knowledge for the pub quizzes when COVID restrictions lift. Another significant part of the Eurovision Song Contest is the visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals – this was shown in 2014 with the Eurovision winner of Conchita Wurst for Austria singing ‘Rise Like A Phoenix,’ and the first LGBTQ+ themed performance in 1986 with Ketil Stokkan from Norway performing ‘Romeo’ with the drag troupe ‘the Great Garlic Girls’. Even though people see the Eurovision Song Contest as politically influenced, the increase in positive representations of the LGBTQ+ community is growing. In conclusion, even if you don’t speak another European language, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep the channel on and enjoy the songs.
Article by a Young Reporter
First appeared in Grimsby Telegraph 18th May 2021