Thursday, 12 June 2014

Now that the dust has settled...

It's just over a month since the final of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest took place and since Austria's Conchita Wurst romped home to victory. Austria hadn't won the contest since 1966 and the result this year proves that if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. It'll come as little comfort the UK's Molly of course who hoped to fare better than she did. However, we in the UK must acknowledge that we no longer have a monopoly on this competition, and as Austria showed, nobody really does. 

Conchita's victory was lauded as hugely significant by many, including myself, who saw it as a triumph of freedom of expression. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Conchita is a drag queen with a beard. Nothing more, nothing less. However in these troubled times, when countries around the world and indeed Europe, are enforcing draconian laws against homosexuality and flouting international legislation concerning human rights, Conchita's victory is significant. I understand that some might not feel comfortable using a bearded drag queen as such a symbol, that's their prerogative. What's interesting is how the result was viewed in other countries. In Russia, unsurprisingly, the government view was one of hostility and dismay. According to Russian politicians, Conchita's victory represented the end of Europe as we know it. There was even talk about them starting their own contest, an Intervision Song Contest with the Russian selection to be held in... Crimea! The results of Eurovision this year showed that people cannot be judged by the actions of their governments; the public in Russia, Ukraine and Georgia all voted for Austria despite their alleged homophobic tendencies. 

Russia and Ukraine were of course one of the main focal points of the contest, which stands as evidence yet again that Eurovision illuminates wider geopolitical debates in Europe today. Austria's victory in the contest was merely the tip of the iceberg. Austria, a country which doesn't really have any voting allies in the contest, won the contest after nearly 50 years. The Netherlands, which have failed to qualify consistently for nearly a decade, came second. Sweden finished in third position making the 2014 contest the first to have an all-western top three since 1999. In the UK four songs from the 2014 contest charted in the top 40, with the Dutch song entering at number 9, the highest placing for a non-winning, non-UK song for nearly 40 years. The myth that the UK is not interested in Eurovision has surely been dispelled by now?

It'll be interesting to watch what Conchita Wurst does in the coming months. She's already appeared on Newsnight and came across as more articulate, intelligent and informed than most of our own politicians. I use the term "she" because Conchita, the character, refers to herself as a she, as do most drag queens. There's no hidden agenda here, something that some UK tabloids should understand. Whilst Conchita's emotionally charged victory speech might be written off as a bit of excitement, I think what she said was hugely significant given all that's happening in Europe just now. It wasn't just aimed at the LGBT community, it applies to any group and as the recent European elections have shown, worryingly there is growing support for those who wish to marginalise others. I salute you Conchita, thank you for the music.  

"This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity. And we are unstoppable" - Conchita Wurst


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