Eurovision is a bit like Marmite - people either love it or hate it. Tell us why you love it!
I think many love to hate it, and sometimes I hate the fact I love it so much… It is camp and colourful, and embraces all of the diversity of cultures across the continent, wraps it up in sequins, and says ‘this is us’. For me it’s the ultimate guilty pleasure, often sickly sweet, bad for you (or your musical sensibilities) and hilarious for all the wrong reasons- and its one that is best enjoyed with other people having a bit of banter about what you’ve just witnessed. There’s no event quite like it that is viewed across the whole of Europe (and beyond - see below), and few spectacles where you can still enjoy something truly bonkers in the name of entertainment.
2015 is the 60th anniversary of Eurovision - who have been your favourite acts over the years?
I grew up watching Eurovision, with one of my faintest early memories being allowed to watch the acts in 1982 (in Harrogate, after Bucks Fizz skirt-ripping triumph in 1981), and being told the next morning that my favourite Nicole had won. It was also the one time a year I could explain to my geographically challenged friends where my Mum and funny name came from (the defunct Yugoslavia), and of course I was able to crow about the mighty Riva winning for my ‘home’ country in 1989 with ‘Rock Me Baby’.
There’s been so many stars to go through the Eurovision mangle, from ABBA to Celine Dion, not all of them will be names beyond my household. I’ve got loads of faves, most of which get trounced by fairly mindless gimmicky numbers and political bias, but for me my stand out would be the 2006 winners, Finnish rockers Lordi, for sheer spectacle.
And the worst you can think of?
In the pre-FACT Eurovision era I’d have a gang of mates around to watch it, and have our own little contest with such categories as ‘Worst Moustache’, ‘Most Inappropriate Outfit’ or the ever popular ‘Mum, I’ve Got Something To Tell You’ award – which is even more fun then guessing who will actually win. There have been some shockers that slip through, even in these days of Eurovision semi-finals, thanks to the voting power of national diaspora which has led me to shout ‘No’ so loudly my other half had rushed in thinking someone died.
I really feel for the much maligned Jemini from Liverpool – the last UK act to get ‘nul points’, having started on the wrong note and stayed there – and used to get ever-so-slightly star-struck whenever I’d see Chris Cromby working at the Ted Baker shop in town. The UK sent far worse efforts during the ‘couldn’t care less years’ of UK entries (James Fox, Jessica Garlick and Josh Dubovie anyone?).
Who are the acts the UK needs to watch out for this year?
Well, pretty much all of them, as our European chums don’t quite look on the UK with the same 20th century reverence anymore (Thanks Dave / Nigel), but I’ll be behind our act ElectroVelvet all the way as it's undoubtably something ‘different’ and might just glimmer in a sea of belters and ballads. I’d say that old masters Sweden are the favourites for this year's event, but I’d see Italy as an impressive outsider that has got a good chance of sneaking in there.
The semi-finals have shown that we will have some suitably spectacular acts to look forward to, all trying to grab your attention and stick out from the crowd. You’ve got to hand it to Eurovision and the great voting public though, as you never know who’s going to storm it on the night.
Australia are competing in this week's final - they're clearly not part of Europe, so for all the Eurovision novices, what's going on?
Well for over 30 years, our Aussie friends have had the pleasure of watching the Eurovision Song Contest on national television, and its irreverence and brashness has meant its been a fixture of the TV calendar down under. Last year there was an homage to the three million or so Australian viewers, and this year they were awarded a special one-off place in the contest as a reward for years of watching (and paying for that pleasure). If they win they will get to come back next year – and their entry is actually someone I remember from my time living out there. Back in 2003 on my elective in Sydney I followed Australian Idol and watched their Eurovision entry Guy Sebastien win the crown (albeit with a massive afro and a few extra pounds), so I’ll be sneakily chuffed if they do it.
What can audiences expect from the Eurovision Party at FACT this Saturday?
You can expect all of the Eurovision splendour but on a massive screen, with lots of like-minded folk, a bar to bring in drinks from plus our usual buffet to get through the singing marathon. We get folks getting dressed up, plenty of flags flying and giggling at Graham Norton’s camp commentary. It’s suitably camp fun, and we normally have so many raffle prizes that we get folks coming away with all kinds of goodies. If you’re going to pre-load before a night on the town come watch Eurovision with us and then stagger off on to your next adventure!
What's your role in the night's proceedings - we've been told the event is rated 18+!
Ha, well I’m delighted to be hosting the festivities and welcoming everyone to Vienna for the 60th contest – I’m pretty sure there’s no sex and violence, but innuendo-a-go-go so you have been warned. Personally I’d welcome anyone and everyone who wants to see it, but let’s just say there’ll be a fair few who enjoy a little lubrication with their Eurovision.
And apparently there's going to be a "Make Your Own Beard" station - explain!
This must be an homage to the truly lovely Conchita Wurst (who I got to meet in Dublin, swoon), who came on stage like a Bond-girl with a Jesus beard singing ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ to blow away the opposition at the 2014 event. Therefore we salute the bearded beauty with an opportunity for boys and girls to get hairy with us. No superglue we promise…
You're also involved with Liverpool Pride - can you tell us more about what you do with them, and this year's event?
I’ve been a trustee of Liverpool Pride since it started in 2010 as a community response to the tragic death of Michael Causer. Its best known for organising a bright colourful march across the city and the festival event in town, but we’re here to be a campaign to challenge homophobia and transphobia and bring our diverse communities together.
The LGBT community owes a lot to Eurovision for helping to break down barriers and raise awareness of the struggles across the world. After all, Eurovision is part of the gay community – whether it be dancing to Bobbysocks ‘La det svinge’ on the scene or Dana International as the first trans winner and of course Conchita’s rousing speech after she won last year. This year’s pride theme is ‘Love is no Crime’, and Eurovision is one way to stick it to those countries like Russia who are actively repressing gay people
Some of the profits from ticket sales from the evening will go towards supporting Liverpool Pride as well as BBC Children in Need - is this important to you?
Yes, this is one of our fundraisers that we do all year round to help support the cost of putting on Liverpool Pride festival as well as supporting great community projects. We’re run by volunteers, so anything that helps to make a difference for supporting LGBT people in our city is really welcome.
For more information about what’s coming up for Liverpool Pride and other events all year round come see us at www.liverpoolpride.co.uk
Book your tickets now for Eurovision Party at FACT, this Saturday from 7pm. Don’t leave it too late, tickets are already flying out! £1 from every ticket goes towards BBC Children in Need, and £1 to Liverpool Pride.