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THAT EUROVISION FEELING

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It is almost as if Brits are afraid or unwilling to applaud anything that is remotely European, or maybe being seen to enjoy it.

It’s that time of the year again; time for the annual Eurovision Song Contest when Eurosceptics and Eurovision haters band together to pour sneering snobbery and scorn upon the UK’s song entry, whatever it may be.

Listening to the Eurovision haters is actually great fun, particularly since they are truly passionate in their hatred of the song, and the performers, regardless of talent that they may have. Such critics tend to forget that the Eurovision Song Content will capture the attention of citizens of many nations for one enjoyable evening in May.

They will add into their argument comments, such as, "We won’t win anyway, we never do", or "It’s a stitch up", and even "It’s nothing like Sandie Shaw", with the supposed killer comment being, “It’s all based on politics". Well really? Now, that’s a surprise! Didn’t their teachers ever tell them that it’s not winning, but the taking part that is important?

The Eurovision Song Contest is, in many ways, rather like Blackpool, Benidorm and Marmite; you either love them or hate them. In my case, I love them all, and particularly Eurovision, which I have watched and enjoyed since childhood.

This annual extravaganza taught me a lot about geography, since I would check out the countries represented in the contest in my atlas, and the people and languages represented would always fascinate me.

Maybe it also set the seeds of curiosity that eventually led me to live a life outside the UK. Of course, I still remember that old trouper, Katie Boyle, a personification of BBC professionalism, as she would make contact with the faceless juries in Rome, Madrid and Paris, whilst dreading those awful words, "nil point".

I value the cooperation and friendship that Eurovision stands for. It is refreshing to hear Europeans discussing songs instead of the usual arguments and debates about budgets and unemployment. My usual response to the Eurovision cynics is "If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it".

They seem to miss the point that it is not to be taken too seriously. It is just an evening of cheesy fun, high camp, glitz, and catchy showcase spectaculars. It is rarely about the quality of a song and its music. How could it be with so many countries and languages and cultures represented, and does it matter anyway?

If I go into a German, Scandinavian, Irish or Spanish bar and ask "Who likes the Eurovision Song Contest?” the overwhelming response will be positive. If I tried that in a British bar, I guess I would be booed and laughed out of the premises.

Yet come the big day, Brits will also head off to bars and parties to watch the event on the big screens, as will their European counterparts. It is almost as if Brits are afraid or unwilling to applaud anything that is remotely European, or maybe being seen to enjoy it.

In many ways, the Eurovision Song Contest represents British suspicion of Europe and its institutions.

The dislike and distrust of Europe that is now gaining ground in the UK is the result of entrenched insular attitudes of many of its citizens; flames fanned by immigration issues, unemployment and a range of other social issues, which are now finding a political voice. Sadly, I guess that the UK will never be a true and willing partner that is comfortable within Europe and sharing the European dream; negative attitudes towards Eurovision reflect many of these issues.

I am delighted that Australia is taking part in the contest this year. I have many Australian friends who are great fans of the contest, and it is my hope that Aussie enthusiasm and their usual pragmatism will help to lighten some of the more cynical British attitudes.

I will be watching the contest, supporting both the UK and Spain, although I am not that bothered who wins the contest. However, I do know that it will be a good evening spent with friends from a range of countries. Personally, I would love to see a Worldwide Song Contest, which would be a refreshing change from viewing the world through the barrel of a gun.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Expat Voice’ (ISBN: 9780992767174). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle, iBooks and Google Play editions. iPhone/iPad and Android Apps: ExpatInfo, CanaryIsle and CanaryGay now available.© Barrie Mahoney

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