After Eurovision was cancelled for the first time in its history last year, the contest is finally upon us once again! And boy do we need it.
Many were disappointed after the announcement in March 2020 that Eurovision was off. I felt sorry for the organising team and delegations, many of whom I consider friends, as so much work had already gone into it. For many it was a sense of loss, and whilst that sounds dramatic, especially considering what else was going on in the world, Eurovision really does mean something to people. Some people might not understand, and it’s sometimes difficult to convey, but this event is about togetherness, friendship and let’s be honest, a whole load of fun.
That said, with hindsight, cancelling Eurovision in 2020 was absolutely the right decision.
Some fans questioned why it could not have been downscaled or done remotely. Producing Eurovision within a year is challenging enough, without reshaping the entire format in a matter of weeks. Aside from the practical difficulties, it would’ve been a shame to cobble something together which didn’t do the format justice. Then there is the pandemic – it really would not have been appropriate to have the event take place whilst bodies were piling up across Europe. Instead we had a tribute show, and whilst it wasn’t the cheeriest of viewing, it was appropriate and struck the right tone, a difficult balance to get right.
It is fair to say that organising Eurovision in 2021 has been a challenge but it’s one that the Dutch have risen to. And judging from rehearsal footage, they’ve done a brilliant job. With a series of scenarios, they literally planned for every eventuality, including even producing Eurovision in a lockdown situation. This planning meant that regardless of what happened, Eurovision would go ahead. This sparked joy.
It has been quite a year and there is a real appetite for fun and even escapism – and Eurovision this year will provide that. It has given many people something to look forward to and with a pretty decent bunch of songs this year, the stage is set for an exciting race to the finish. As for the winner, I’ve listened to the songs too many times and have simply lost any sense of critical judgement!
On a more serious note, we need Eurovision. It’s a joyous event, and even a beacon of hope in sometimes dark times. As I type this, the words spoken by ABBA’s Bjorn spring to mind. In a speech in 2016 he said: “For me the Eurovision is a powerful symbol and I would say, even a weapon in that fight against the dark forces that want to drag us back to the middle ages again. Those hours when the final is on the air, is one of the few times nowadays when Europe gets a sense of what it’s like to be unified. It is more relevant than ever.”
And so say all of us.
Wherever you’re watching from, I wish you a happy, safe and enjoyable Eurovision 2021!