Nicola Biggerstaff – 14 October 2022
Europe’s biggest party, a night of unity, the ‘Gay Olympics’… Whatever your views on the Eurovision Song Contest, you can’t help but notice just how much it takes over. Every May, musical acts from all over the continent (and Australia) of all shapes, sizes (and, er, abilities) come together to put on one of the biggest shows on Earth. Many watch excitedly from their couches, judging for themselves who can, for the briefest time, win the right to call themselves the best act in Europe.
Personally, I’ve always found it a welcome respite from the rest of the everyday chaos. An escapist display of glitter, colour and camp, a Steps concert writ large. And it’s always came round at just the right time: just when those feelings of despair about our current state of affairs or personal stressors feel like they might tip me over the edge, comes a week of sweet relief. Fill your boots with Europop you don’t understand, and have it stuck in your head until those pesky thoughts go away.
Divisive by its very nature, I find myself isolated even among my fellow Common Weal staff: I pitched this article to a sea of groans and complaints, but its understandable: the vibe just isn’t for everyone. It’s loud, it’s cheesy, but it’s just the antidote for everyday ills. Cynics beware, you are reading the words of an avid Eurofan!
When the UK came second to Ukraine at the 2022 contest in May this year, it was decided we would host next year’s contest on their behalf. Despite protests from Ukrainian politicians that they could make safe a host city, the hunt was on to find one in the UK. Concentrated in the north, the shortlist contained just one city outside of England: the one we happen to call home.
We thought a shoutout in Abba’s Super Trouper, with their credentials as the winners of the 1974 Contest, would sail us through; but in the end it just wasn’t enough. Liverpool, twinned with Odessa, home of the Beatles, pipped us at the post last week and will take on the honour of hosting in May 2023 on behalf of Ukraine.
And there’s the kicker: let’s not be too upset about not having the contest a bit closer to home, because it just isn’t about us this time. Let’s not be sucked in by the British tradition of claiming things that aren’t yours as your own. The night should be a show of solidarity, not of the posturing egomania we’ve became so accustomed to post-Brexit.
This week, The Herald published an article on how Glasgow would potentially handle hosting duties given their track record, and it finally made me see sense. While Glasgow can indeed put on a show when she wants to, that’s all it is: a show. The gritty underbelly that’s never seen by the cameras, the host of problems facing us now and in the future, just don’t have the same appeal as the glamorous façade put on by politicians, contractors, and globalised logistics companies.
The COP26 conference last autumn was controversial to say the least. With delegates receiving free travel while said travel workers were on the verge of strike over pay and conditions, combined with a local spike in Covid cases in the following weeks attributed to the emerging Omicron variant (Public Health Scotland did not find a link between the conference and the outbreak), the conference has been labelled a ‘failure’ for both local image and global attempts to control climate change.
The Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2014 were arguably what won it for the No campaign, promoting the strength of union capabilities throughout the city. Now, with that ideal very much abandoned, can you think what’s been left behind in terms of social or cultural legacy? I certainly can’t, with the exception of a picture of me taken next to one of the numerous statues of Clyde, the official mascot, dotted throughout the city when I travelled in to sit my theory test.
A regeneration of the East End was deemed necessary in order to present our best looking face to the world. How has this held up? A new velodrome, some houses built by yet another housing conglomerate, and a whole lot of families and residents left out of pocket as the area becomes the latest victim to the city’s gentrification. All style, little substance. A typical show from our government.
The only potential benefit I can see is highlighting further the independence movement. Globally, the Braveheart image reigns supreme, to our chagrin. All they see is flag waving and popular soundbites. Glasgow is a piece of trivia to them, when they can point out areas of the city in the latest blockbuster, reminiscing to their family and friends about the ‘nice wee pub round the corner’ when they visited 20 years ago. These are the people we need to keep informed. Don’t let them forget us, or let the image fade into nostalgia. They won’t remember the shocking rates of poverty, addiction and disease, or how miserable it is in the rain. I recently covered the positive global press received by the free provision of sanitary products in Scotland, but they don’t see the legitimate attempts to keep our government accountable to the electorate, the work of people like ourselves behind the scenes to make this country fairer for all.
Perhaps one day in an independent Scotland, where resources are fully under our own control, we can welcome people to a more accurate image of ourselves as a nation which doesn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth. One day we can present to them a glamorous, prosperous city befitting of a dazzling night of wonder such as Eurovision. If only we could win it.