I had obviously had my head in bag during the build up to Eurovision this year. It had totally escaped my attention that a bearded man in a dress was to feature in the competition, a fact which would have increased my anticipation. I am always full of admiration for those with the courage to promote freedom and acceptance and when Conchita Wurst took to the stage, hers was a more dramatic statement than most.
I have always loved the Eurovision Song Contest both as a spectacle and for its ability to surprise. Once something at least masquerading as a serious musical affair, the extravaganza is now more a vehicle for testing the water, promoting national attributes and publicising the deliberately left field. Good songs and interesting artists still occasionally emerge but the contest is now both tongue in cheek and rather political.
This year was always going to be more interesting than most with the situation in Ukraine, an increasing frustration with Russia’s activities and in the wake of Russia’s increasingly public anti-gay stance. Camp is king at Eurovision but Wurst’s inclusion was always going to raise temperatures and divide opinion. With several nations threatening to ban coverage of the Austrian’s contribution the outcome of the competition turned into a gripping melodrama and one I may have missed had I not seen the introduction to the broadcast which briefly showed Conchita.
Once I realised the enormous potential for drama I eagerly took my seat to watch the story unfold. The hysterical reaction to Wurst’s performance gave a hint as to what would transpire but until the votes were in I was still wondering whether she would divide and conquer or divide and fail. The rest of the proceedings did seem a bit like after the Lord Mayor’s show with the usual mix of half decent ballads, forgettable folk songs, symphonies of strings, Euro pop and some things that defied definition. There were some decent offerings in the show but it was all about whether or not Conchita would win.
Conchita did indeed win and by a considerable margin. It must have rankled with the Russian authorities that their own people and those of their traditional allies clearly voted in droves for the transvestite. I thought the presenters were going to choke when having to announce the points and I could feel the fall-out from my home in Berkshire.
It was a magnificent victory for freedom, diversity and acceptance and one enjoyed extremely graciously by Wurst who despite the extravagant attire and provocative image, remained humble throughout the proceedings and seemed genuinely surprised to have won. I am sure her much publicised story did wonders for the viewing figures too as the prospect of an act even more out there than Lordi and Dana International would have been too good to miss for most potential viewers.
Ultimately everyone was a winner at Eurovision except the Russians whose singers were booed and whose intolerant and oppressive policies received a major smack in the face. Better still, Wurst now tops the download chart in Russia. How fabulous!
Sally Stacey is a keen writer, small business owner (retail) and avid fan of Eurovision!