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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Eurovision memories - Copenhagen 2014

The Eurovision torch will never go out…


On 16th May 2014, Concita Wurst captured our hearts and was rightfully crowned ‘Queen of Eurovision’. It is a richly deserved accolade that sums up the essence of Eurovision as a beacon of equality, tolerance and flamboyance. But we’ll come back to all of that…

For our circle of family and friends however, Eurovision has another Queen, a Queen whom those of us from Birmingham, know has reigned supreme for decades and whose crown was in place long before Concita grew her first wisps of facial hair. Her name is Judith Mullineux. She happens to be my mother, but that is of little import to all things Eurovision. At Eurovision she is not wife, not mother, not sister or daughter, it is a place where she sparkles, centre of the buzz and brouhaha, adding light and sparkle to the party. In fact family attendance has traditionally been positively discouraged. In cahoots with partner in crime Malcolm, she has attended every Eurovision since it graced the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham in 1998. Since then she has faithfully followed the contest to whichever city it rolls into in its annual celebration of all things glorious, glamourous and glitter-fuelled. She is a font of all-Eurovision knowledge able to name every winner, runner up and loser the contest has produced. She also has an uncanny knack for celeb spotting, once famously trying to adopt Jessica Garlick to replace me as her much more worthy daughter.

This year however, brought a significant birthday and Judith made the nervous and slightly uncomfortable decision to allow myself, my father, my husband and our very dear friend Rhys to crash her Eurovision weekend in Copenhagen. See, she was aware that we had been in apprenticeship for the last few years, slowly earning our Eurovision stripes and this year, finally, fretfully she decided we were ready. My husband and Rhys are lifelong friends and each May we congregate at Rhys’ house for a Eurovision party replete with quizzes, Euro-cuisine and, often, Cher. It seemed the natural next step that our shared Eurovision fervour should at some point earn permission to attend the main event. So the perfect storm of a big birthday, a Scandi venue and an appropriate level of Eurovision training meant that 2014 was the year that we would graduate from Euro-apprentices and fly as fully fledged Eurovision fans.

Before we left we were given strict instruction about how the weekend would ‘work’ and how we were to behave to keep up the gold standard. On arrival in Copenhagen, we had travelled from Cardiff, while Judith and her entourage had travelled from Birmingham so we had agreed to rendez-vous at the central station. As we settled in the café for a drink I revealed the Concita ‘beards’ I had painstakingly fashioned out of felt and elastic. As we donned them, Judith visibly relaxed and a look of pride flickered in her face, she had done it, she’d passed the magic of Eurovision on to the next generation – she could see that we really ‘got it’ and that we would add to and not detract from the fun she had planned for the weekend.

Steffan, Rhys and I shared a beautifully boho and impossibly stylish flat rented to us by Andreas a mysterious musician and coffee shop owner in the XXX area of Copenhagen. Due to the prohibitive prices of eating out we dined on the glamourous fare of humungous sweet and sticky Danish Pastries, Pizzas and Prosecco from the strategically placed Netto across the road and Steffan’s Place hotdogs (we loved the name for obvious reasons!)- modest pickings but honestly some of the best tasting food we’d ever eaten. The weekend was everything we had hoped, fuelled by cheap Prosecco it was a blur of excitement, fabulous outfits, fantastic entertainment, stylish surroundings, bicycles and fizz. In terms of Eurovision itself we had bagged a bargain by winning tickets to the ‘Jury Final’ which was every bit as good as the final. Judith, naturally had tickets to the Semi-final, the Jury Final AND the real bonafide Final, like I said, she’s a pro. So while she disappeared of to the main event in a cloud of Union Jacks, the rest of us spent Final night in a bar in central Copenhagen due to the drizzle which put us off watching it on the official Eurovision screens. We couldn’t have hoped for a better venue – the atmosphere steadily built from a gentle buzz to a glorious crescendo as the final went on and a fabulous live band played, while the votes were counted.

It was then that the magic happened, vote after vote after vote rolled in for Concita. Country after country declared their acceptance and appreciation with two small words – ‘douze points’. In that moment when she raised the trophy above her head, Concita’s victory summed up everything that makes me proud to call myself European. In that moment, we proved ourselves to be a continent of peace, tolerance, acceptance, and togetherness. What a sharp contrast to the dark and depressing lurch to the right the following week in the Euro-elections. By passing on her passion and giving us permission to partake Judith had allowed us to experience the beauty that is a contest that manages to combine the the quirky, the original, the beautiful and the downright silly and celebrates every single moment of it. Eurovision is about being yourself and being proud of that. It is about friendship and fun and laughter. So thank you Judith, the torch has well and truly been lit for us, the next generation…. See you all in Vienna!

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