Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Eurovision Song Contest’

Eurovision: A Return to Authenticity?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 14th May, 2017

NB&D Eurovision nightMost years I watch the Eurovision song contest in the company of fellow Liberal Democrats, and this year was no exception, with a jolly event last night at the home of the Chair of the Newham and Barking & Dagenham local party and his wife. Even during an election campaign it’s good to let one’s hair down once in a while. Besides, the idea of European nations coming together to celebrate — along with the odd outlier like Australia — chimes in well with the LibDems’ pro-European character. Among the membership of the local party there are nationals of a range of other EU member states, as well as Asian and Afro-Caribbean activists, making it one of the most multicultural in the country.

Salvador SobralAs for last night’s Eurovision show, even though I still lament the passing of Terry Wogan, it struck me as a distinct improvement on some recent years, for a couple of main reasons. The first, naturally, was Portugal’s victory with Salvador Sobral and his ballad Amar Pelos Dois. Quite apart from the poignancy of the singer’s health problems, he showed that you don’t need over-the-top light shows and pyrotechnics to win. The simple act of singing a good song well is rightly what it takes. The second thing that cheered me about last night was that far more entries than usual sang in their own language, rather than in English, as had become the fashion. In my view, that is how it should be, as Europe is a stunningly diverse continent when it comes to languages and culture. We should champion that diversity, and celebrate it (as indeed the European Union does). And what better way than the annual songfest that is Eurovision?


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Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 17th May, 2009

IDAHOToday is the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). Some people in Britain and other parts of Western Europe might think such an event is unnecessary, as great advances have been made here in countering discrimination against peope on grounds of their sexual orientation. But the rough handling of Gay Pride activists in Moscow only hours before yesterday’s Eurovision Song Contest was a timely but unpleasant reminder of the prejudice and injustice that still exists in parts of eastern Europe, let alone beyond.

Liberal Democrats, such as Evan Harris MP and the MEPs Sarah Ludford and Sharon Bowles, have been in the forefront of action in both the House of Commons and the European Parliament to get proper legislation guaranteeing equal rights for sexual minorities, as well as countering homophobia. I have pledged that if I am elected on 4 June, I will press for European legislation to ensure the mutual recognition of civil partnerships between EU member states that have them, as this is not the case at present. Liberal Youth and DELGA (the LibDems’ LGBT group) have also been particularly strong in raising awareness and campaigning about homophobic bullying in schools.

In some countries of the the Middle East, the situation  for LGBT people has seriously deteriorated, not least in Iraq, where killings are now common — yet another negative consequence of the US-led illegal war. So, IDAHO is important, to remind us all of human rights abuses targeted at people solely on the grounds of their sexuality. 

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Israeli Eurovision (Dis)harmony

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th February, 2009

Israel’s choice of artists to represent the country in the Eurovision song contest in Moscow in May has put the cat amongst the pigeons, as the Jewish singer and peace activist Achinoam ‘Noa’ Nini will sing in tandem with the Israeli Arab performer Mira Awad. They will perform four songs, all in a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic and English, on Israeli TV, from which viewers will choose the song that they will take to Russia. While geographically outside Europe, Israel qualifies to participate because the Israeli Broadcasting Authority is a member of the European Broadcasting Union. Commenting on this surprise choice of representative performers, in the wake of the Israeli asssault on Gaza, Mira Awad said that Arabs and Jews have no choice but to find a way of living together. ‘It’s very important for me not to go back to the corner and just disappear.’

Her decision has come under fire from some Palestinians who have accused her and Noa of being accomplices to Israel’s ‘killing machine’ and of abetting Israeli government propaganda. While I can see where such critics are coming from, there is no question of the two artists’ sincerity. Moreover, the last thing needed in the tense and polarised Middle East region at the moment is for people to try to stamp out dialogue and cooperation between divided communities. Music is a particularly appropriate medium for this, as Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said underscored with the creation of the Seville-based West-East Divan orchestra, which employs both Jewish and Arab players.

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Is There Anything More Camp Than Eurovision?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 24th May, 2008

I have never really appreciated ‘camp’. Graham Norton sets my teeth on edge. But there is something wonderfully over the top about the Eurovision Song Contest — especially when one sees it at a Eurovision party, as I did with Lewisham Liberal Democrats this year. We all drew lots (at a pound a ticket) to see which country we would represent. I got the hosts, Serbia, which was never going to manage to replicate the butch originality of last year’s female effort — and didn’t. Moreover, the two smarmy presenters in Belgrade were pretty cringe-worthy. One or two of the songs were actually rather good, not least Ukraine’s, and Russia was a justifiable winner. Bosnia and Herzogovina entered into the crazy spirit of things. Spain was simply embarrassing. The guy in Stockholm announcing the Swedish votes seemed to be out of his head.

For some time now, in the UK, Terry Wogan’s commentary has been part of the carnival. He was as wry (and sometimes outright bitchy) as ever, though by the end he was souding weary, and genuinely miffed that the British entry came joint bottom (though at least without the indignity of ‘nul points’). It’s true, as he said, that voting goes along political and geographical lines these days, though actually most of the top places were won by reasonable numbers. If Wogan retires, I suppose we might end up with Graham Norton next year. Will that be more than I can bear?


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