Eurovision Anniversary – Yesterday saw London host a Eurovision Conference to celebrate 60 years of the greatest song contest in the world. It explored the social, political and cultural influences of the world’s biggest entertainment show, and Eurovision Times was there to experience it.
As part of the 60th anniversary celebrations for the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), the European Broadcasting Union hosted a conference on Friday 24 April at the BAFTA headquarters, Piccadilly, London. The conference focused on the impact of the ESC on the European public sphere in areas such as: forming national and European identities; embracing diversity; and building cultural insight and understanding.
A number of academics, commentators, past performers and those who have worked on the event, were present to explore the impact of the Contest on the European public sphere.
A special shoutout is due to Paddy O’Connell – BBC Radio 2 and 4 Presenter, Journalist and Former Eurovision Song Contest Commentator for BBC – who moderated the proceedings, and interviewed Conchita, with good-humoured vigour.
The Keynote Speeches from leading Eurovision academics (yes you can study the ESC at University) demonstrated how valuable the ESC is for helping us understand European identity from the cold war era in the 1950s to the present day.
Dr Karen Fricker (Brock University, St Catherine’s Ontario) in her talk “What Eurovision has taught us about Europe” showed how the ESC tests our pre-conceptions about what Europe is. Her well organised talk gave us 6 lessons to think about:
The second Keynote was “Eurovision: A History of Europe through Popular Music” by Dr Dean Vuletic, Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Vienna.
Dr Vuletic talked us through the history of various European alliances and networks from Waterloo to the present day, and showed how their organisation and inclusions reflect the political alliances and divisions of the day. For example, when the EBU was set up in 1950 to provide a telecommunications network across Western European countries, the Eastern European countries formed the International Organisation for Radio and Television based in Prague, and held their own “Intervision Song Contest”.
The third Keynote was “The Eurovision Song Contest: A platform for nation branding and nation building” by Dr Paul Jordan aka Dr Eurovision.
Paul’s research in Estonia (2002) and Ukraine (2005) shows how these nations used the opportunity that hosting Eurovision gave them to brand themselves as pro-Western Europe, and to celebrate freedom and independence from Russia.
A short presentation on ESC Audience statistics by Francesca Cimino (Senior Media Analyst – EBU Media Intelligence Service) provided some useful facts about demographic and viewing figures. For example, we learned that while Iceland on the face of it has a tiny audience for the Grand Final, 200,000, this represents 99% of the viewing public on the night. Go Iceland!!
There were three panel discussions, with plenty of audience participation.
Ritual – the way Eurovision creates communities
We discussed ritual bashing of the UK song by the press; show-watching rituals e.g. parties, childhood memories; the way Eurovision becomes more than just one night for fans; impact of live streaming in creating a global shared experience.
The ‘Rituals’ panel l to r: Paddy O’Connell, William Lee Adams, Aija Medinika, Dave Benton, Phil Jackson, Prof Brian Singleton
Innovation – how Eurovision has led the way in technology and social media
This panel was proud to consider the great track record of the ESC in pushing technical boundaries for live transmission and televoting. As in the Ritual panel the impact of the internet and its ability to reach out to a global audiences is considered to be an area of fast change at this time.
Inspiration – how Eurovision is a platform for diversity and a place to access national identity
Most of the discussion here was about the ESC as a platform for expressing sexual diversity.
The ‘Inspirations’ panel l to r: Andi Knoll, Fraser Nelson, Kjell Ekholm, Dr Peter Rehberg, Geert Willems, Paddy O’Connel
Some More Specials for the 60th Anniversary
Eurovision Milestones Videos
The EBU has produced a series of short films remembering significant moments in the history of the Song Contest, including:
– the first Contest in 1956
– the four-way tie of 1969
– Johnny Logan’s victories
– Ireland’s three-in-a-row
– the expansion of the Contest to eastern Europe in 1993
– the first semi-final in 2004
– Conchita Wurst’s win for Austria in 2014
Each 3-minute film uses archive from specific Contests and other relevant footage from that era. The videos are produced by SRG SSR in Switzerland and are being made available to EBU Members to enhance their coverage of the 60th anniversary.
A special website dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the ESC can be found online at 60th.eurovision.tv. The website features stories, photo and video material, as well as facts and figures from the past six decades, to give ordinary viewers, press and fans an entertaining overall perspective on the contest’s rich legacy.
Many thanks to Jane for her great report and photographs!