People often ask me why I like going to Eurovision and why I'm interested in it. It's funny, when you think long and hard, what is it that appeals? The music? Sort of. The excitement of visiting new places? Absolutely! The low costs? Absolutely not! The friends made along the way? Bingo! It's funny, Eurovision really is an exciting and interesting world. I managed to do a whole load of research for my PhD on the back of my attendance at the Song Contest. It's not just about that for me though. Yes it was a site of fieldwork, it was also a hobby, a bit of fun, an excuse to visit countries that perhaps I might not have otherwise. I do like a lot of the songs of course. However it's not really about these things when it comes down to it. It's really about the company. If I didn't have such fun with the people there, then I doubt I would enjoy it really. It's not about where you are, but who you're with.
Eurovision is changing. The EBU have hinted that adjustments to the format may well take place in the future. To put it bluntly, Eurovision has grown too big for it's boots. Whilst the number of countries competing will undoubtedly still remain large, the length of rehearsal time (two weeks at present) and the scale & cost of the event (Baku will have that record for a while) look likely to be curtailed. This may well have an impact on the level and amount of media accreditation available for the contest as well. It looks like the days of lavish welcome receptions for all, aftershow parties and dare I say it, Georgian parties, are numbered.
2011 already saw a different approach to the party circuit at Eurovision. Accreditation did not guarantee entry to the Euroclub and certainly not to the official welcome reception. Many fans and journalists felt disappointed and at times, because of the actions of others who would have sold their grannie to get to the ball, I too felt a little frustrated. At the end of the day did it really matter? Not really. Having been one of the fortunate few to have attended the opening reception, as lovely as it was, I didn't have the usual banter with those around me, the vast majority of people I know were not there. Dusseldorf showed that it doesn't really matter what party you attend, it really is who you're with that counts.
In July I was honoured to attend the civil partnership of Diarmuid and Willie, Irish friends of mine who held their celebration in Waterford castle. It just shows you that Eurovision really does unite people. It was a truly special occasion and I felt humbled to be a part of it. On the Friday the main reception was held with over three hundred guests. So many of the Eurovision gang were there and what a blast! I have honestly not had that much fun or laughed so much in a long time. A week later my throat was still sore from all the laughter. Of course it wouldn't a be Eurovision wedding without Eurovision stars performing! Niamh Kavanagh was the compere for the evening and what a fine host she made. Of course the lovely Nicki French was there and put on a superb set that had everyone on their feet. It was so lovely to see people outside of the Eurovision bubble, have conversations about real life and to meet so many of Diarmuid and Willlie's family and friends. It truly was a special event and the memories of which will last for a long, long time.
So basically going to Eurovision is really like going on a trip with a hundred mates. If you're with your friends, you'll have a good time. What's the point in being at a party with nobody to talk to when you could be down the pub enjoying the craic? As people turn their attention towards Sweden 2013, that might be worth remembering. When it comes to Eurovision, you've got a friend...