It was the 9th of May 1992 (26 years to the day that I write this!) that a young me walked into the living room of our house in Finglas and became transfixed on the image on the screen. There was someone singing on a stage with a viking longboat as the background and I immediately wanted to know more. The adults in the room seemed into it and I sat to watch with them. As the show progressed, they seemed to get more excited as it looked like Ireland might win this thing, whatever it was. True enough, we did, and the Irish woman in the greenish outfit came out to perform again. If I’m being honest, Linda Martin started the whole thing for me.
Of course, it was the Eurovision Song Contest live from Sweden and Linda did the business for Ireland with Why Me. I loved it and it began a Eurovision obsession that has lasted to this day. I have many fond memories of the contest over the years, not of the event itself even, but of great times spent with wonderful people; watching with my best friend Kiera when Katrina & The Waves won in 1997 and having to explain to the man who delivered our Chinese why we had a European flag in the window, performing Irlande Douze Points in my second appearance on stage at Ultimate in Waterford in 2008 after watching Russia win and last year, getting to experience it first hand with my best friend Patrick in Kiev.
It also brings so many great memories of my dear friend Billy McCarthy who sadly is no longer with us. When I began working in the Broadcast Centre, our office doors were opposite each other in what came to become known as Pink Alley and we’d have long debates, particularly on the mornings after the semi-final, however, the Monday morning he’d come in and rant about how someone was robbed! He was particularly furious in 2015 when Sweden beat Russia and his beloved Italy to the title. He called it a scandal! He was outraged. I smiled to myself in Kiev last year as Salvador Sobral won with his beautiful song Amar Pelos Dois as I thought how Billy would have finally approved of a winner. Those happy memories have only gone to cement my emotional connection to Eurovision further.
It is a song contest though and the music is, above all, what the competition is about. I think, for me, it can be summed up very simply in the behaviour of Niall Power at last year’s Beat Sports Awards when the DJ (Pete Windle) played Euphoria. He went around shouting at people “this is Kolyn’s favourite song. get up! GET UP!” and they did and we danced and I smiled all the way through. I have a video of me absolutely WRECKING IT (stone cold sober) to Euphoria in Reykjavik. People send me videos when it comes on if they’re in a club and that makes me smile all over again. Euphoria is my jam and people know it! Ironically (and I may point this out because I know Eoin Jackson will) I wasn’t the biggest fan of Euphoria when it was in Eurovision, although that’s because I hate Sweden catching Ireland’s winning record. I’m VERY proud of the fact that Ireland is the best ever at Eurovision and fuck those Swedish bastards if they ever take that from me!!!
Actually getting to go see it last year was such an amazing experience and one that was a long time coming. I had been saying for years I’d go and the opportunity never really arose. One year I would have something else planned and wouldn’t have money or the next, nobody would come with me. As I watched Azerbaijan looking stunning in 2012, I said to myself that the next time it’s on in a country I’ve not been to, I’d go and when Patrick and I became good friends, he joined in on the pact. Then Sweden won, then Denmark, then Austria and then Sweden again! I’d been to all of those places. Then in 2016, Jamala ethnically wailed herself to victory for Ukraine and my chance arrived. I was off to Kiev.
I won’t do the tourist bit here and will save that for another blog (spoiler alert: Kiev was nice, a bit cold in the evening and I also went to Chernobyl and didn’t die) but instead will talk just about the Eurovision itself. The first thing that strikes you is how odd Eurovision fans can be. Like, I know I’m a bit of an obsessive but I draw the line at bringing along an Irish flag and giving it a wave. There was people dressed as their favourite acts, in their country’s national dress, in costumes held together with hot glue and spit – all sorts of random shite. Patrick was having NONE of it.
The Australians are nice. Absolutely off the wall, but nice. Whoever came up with the idea to let the Aussies into the competition is genius because they were the best bunch of fans in Kiev by far. The Irish were a pain in the arse. We tried to spark up conversations with the Irish contingent a few times but they weren’t interested, the rude fucks. I don’t know if it was just that particular crowd that was in Kiev or what, although from the pictures and videos of Lisbon this week, it appears to be. It was the only real disappointment of the trip for me.
The show itself was held in what can only be described as a large concrete shed. The International Convention Centre in Kiev was adjusted especially for the event and it was just a big box with temporary seating put into the middle of it with massive curtains enclosing it. They messed up the seating plan so myself and Patrick were seated apart for the second semi-final (I was beside a very lovey Ukrainian couple who needed to get a fucking room!) so that was a bit disappointing as we couldn’t discuss as we watched. We were standing for the final and it was a much better atmosphere. The moment when Portugal won and Salvador performed the song again with his sister was a very special moment and I’m glad I was there to experience it.
There’s parts of the Eurovision experience that you don’t get to see on the telly. Euroclub is where they have evening entertainment with acts performing, DJs etc. We got to see Mans Zelmerlow and Krista Siegfrieds on the night we went which was a nice surprise. The Eurovision Village has entertainment in the day time with acts performing and LOTS of shite random local bands, food stalls and that kind of malarky.
Overall, I was delighted to finally make it to the Eurovision and I’m going to continue with my commitment to visit any time it’s being hosted in a country I’ve not been to. I can’t wait until I have to explain to my mother that I’m going to Armenia sometime. She’d love that. Little bit raging I’m not in Lisbon this year but I’m already looking forward to Saturday to see where I might be off to next year!