Yesterday saw the first ever Eurovision Song Contest conference. Show producers, past winners, academics and fans gathered at BAFTA headquarters in Piccadilly, London and ukineurovision.com was there to witness proceedings. We caught up with one of the headline acts, Karen Fricker, who gave an interesting presentation on the how Eurovision is much more than a just a singing contest. Fricker is an Assistant Professor at Brock University in Ontario Canada and co-editor of the book Performing the New Europe: Identities, Feelings and Politics of the Eurovision Song Contest. She is also a professional theatre critic and has written for the BBC, The New York Times and RTE so her thoughts on the UK’s entry this year may come as a surprise to you!
I would like to know how you became interested in Eurovision and what is your first contest memory?
My first Eurovision memory was in 2003, which is a bit a later for me to encounter the contest than most people as I am American. I was watching the contest at a friend’s house in Dublin, Ireland where I was living at the time. They were having party, it was a fantastic event, where there was themed food and a contest and I was Poland, arbitrarily representing a country. I was really surprised to find out the show was being held in Latvia as that is not a country I associated with Europe, I didn’t know a lot about Latvia. That year Turkey won and I was really surprised Turkey was even in the contest. I remember Turkey’ song was a really ethnicized number that went down incredibly well with voters. I was really curious about why that was.
I assume you have heard many of the entries for this year’s contest in Vienna. What are your predictions was this year’s event?
Everybody seems to be talking about Sweden as a potential winner. It is topping a lot of polls at the moment. It is a song (Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw) I haven’t watched a huge amount of times however the one that really grabbed me was Australia. Guy Sebastian has crafted an incredible pop song and he is a big pro. It would be really interesting if Australia won as obviously it is dark house for it to be even being in the Eurovision song contest at all.
And Australia is about 20,000 miles from Europe…
Yes however if Australia wins the next contest will not be held in Sydney.
I would like to hear your thoughts on the today’s conference. Are events such as these important for future of the Eurovision song contest?
Obviously as an academic I am always delighted to see a cultural event that embraces all of us that study it. I think there are 60 years or so of footage from the Eurovision song contest yet scholarship about Eurovision is only 10-15 years old and this is a big legitimising thing for all of those who do Eurovision scholarship. Events like this recognise the academic study of the contest as important for broadening perspectives as to what the contest means.
Finally as we are a UK based website: have you heard the UK’s entry for this year’s contest? If so what are your views on it?
I like the UK’s entry. It is a good retro number that is kind of charming yet out of step with what has been winning Eurovision in recent years. Although the video is rather lavish and tons of fun I am concerned as to how it might do in the final. Like all the other songs, it depends of how it looks on the stage.
If you would like to learn more about Karen and her work see the links below.