eurovision further highlights how britain doesn’t want a brexit
Ahead of his Eurovision party at The Glory, Jonny Woo discusses his love affair with the song content and why it matters now more than ever.
blue, eurovision 2011
Eurovision is a night when all of us dive into the deep end of Europe, from the "alarm clock Britain" office workers who pretend they didn't watch it, through the millions of Pinot blush-ing Mums tapping their novelty slippered feet vicariously, to show-offs like me who take it too far. Even here in multi-racial East London, along the Europhilic banks of the Haggerston Riviera, it's an eye-opening night, and a special occasion when even the most hipster artiste puts down their lathe and gives in to a night of gawdy telly.
I've been a big fan for most of my life. As a child I had to go out of the living room during results, so excited was a young Woo. At the Edinburgh Fringe I once performed in a Eurovision-themed show, A Night Of A Thousand Jay Ashtons, in which one Guardian critic walked out of. I forgot about Eurovision in the 90s, swapping it for ecstasy, and then tuned in again around 2010 - actually going to Dusseldorf with friends for the semi-finals ("we all left our wives at home" as Paddy O'Connell often jokes of Eurovision goers)
I was shocked to note how much the contest had grown. Massive LEDS screens, the latest in hydraulics, over 40 participating countries. To anyone who works on the stage the sheer level of attention and frenzy makes you salivate!
But this year there's a big difference. There's a little elephant in the room. Britain is just weeks away from the totally embarrassing and unnecessary Brexit referendum which Davey C tossed out as a carrot to try and defect Tory voters from feeding on Farage's nutty rhetoric.
Of course, if we leave the EU, we can still enter Eurovision - Phew! I mean, if Israel, Australia, Russia and Turkey can (and the US are tipped as the next on the Eurovision hit list - with Justin Timberlake flying into Stockholm this Saturday to do a number). No, obviously entering Eurovision was never going to be a deal breaker for referendum votes, but preparing for a Eurovision party reminds me of why it's just so good to be a part of Europe! This year I'll be dressing up as 2013's entrant Margaret Berger and perform her song I Feed You My Love, my drag sister Ma Butcher says she's doing Loreen but like every year, she'll probably stage dive around the pub in a pig's nose knocking things over and spilling drinks. Douze points!
Like Europe herself, there are many dimensions to Eurovision. It's full of language, culture, styles, attitudes and we are so much more enriched by it. I love getting to see some of the presenters from other countries too - there's something weird about them, and I worked out what it is - they're genuinely nice! We chuck a lot of money at Eurovision and if we chose to pull our fingers out and put a bit of effort in we might do better and we would enrich it in return.
Like us, France has been sending cooky arrogantly bad entries into the contest for years, this year aside when they succumbed to the new selection process for Eurovision known as The Voice. And other countries are really going for it too. The sound of the songs has finally updated itself from "boom bang a bang" tambourine crap to quite polished EDM pop.
I don't think we should have the Euro. I don't know the economics of being in or out, I'm a professional drag queen (have you seen my legs?) But I see a highly enriched county from letting Europe in. Yes, I think borders need controlling and our social security needs looking at, but that's all administrative stuff we can do internally. I know that all the people on Chatham High Street where I grew up certainly don't have eastern European accents - despite claims by locals! The estuary twang was alive and well last time I visited my Mum.
If America want to join Eurovision in a few years time that's fine, Eurovision has an audience of 200 million and growing. Over the last few years Eurovision has really upped its stakes, it is we - the United Kingdom - who are the embarrassing part of it.
One thing which I'd rather not have though is an American Europe, or an American UK. Mono-cultural, mono-lingual, mono-monied! Europe is a colourful cultural mash up and we are so much better off for it.
The Glory's Eurovision party is on Saturday with screenings and performances on two floors and a Eurodisco until 2am. www.theglory.co
Text Jonny Woo