Expected to reach over 200 million viewers this year, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most outrageous and flamboyant musical extravaganzas in the world. Beloved by fans around the globe, with a passionate following amongst LGBT communities worldwide, this year it’s taking place in Lisbon, Portugal.
Right now, the bouncing and infectious pop of Nessa’s “Toy” (representing Israel) is the current favorite to win is, but as always, it’ll be a colorful battle for the podium. After the performances, the tension will rise as each participating country awkwardly reports their rating of their competitors, with lots of close-ups of hopeful divas wincing or air-punching over their scores. The glorious winning country gets to host the contest the following year, and we do it all over again!
*record scratch* So why is Canada getting screwed out of the partyzone—again?
Eurovision has expanded in recent years like a ginormous, sequin-bedecked bag of microwave popcorn. From an initial pool of 7 countries back in 1956, it’s up to a mighty 43 participants today in 2018. Last year’s competition, in Kiev, reached a massive 180 million viewers. With dozens of countries tuning in, it’s the kind of huge event that ranks up there with the Olympics or World Cup—but this show happens every year! Since its inception, the contest hasn’t been afraid of taking in pulsing pop numbers from countries far beyond the “traditional” borders of Europe, with the likes of Israel, Morocco and Azerbaijan all having got in on the action (although Morocco’s song in 1980 didn’t perform too well, and they stormed off and haven’t been back since).
Most notably, Australia got the green light to dive in and take part in 2015 which was a major deal. The country is physically located on the other side of the planet and arrived to the competition in style. Now three years after their first appearance on the world stage, they’ve been back every year since.
Unfortunately, the last mention of Canada getting officially involved with the Eurovision was a plan to have Canada do its own inter-provincial version in 2007. Not quite matching the international appeal of the original Eurovision, this rather bargain-basement sounding version never came to fruition. Sadly, in 2018, Canada remains out in the cold, with no official plans currently in motion for the country to participate.
What makes this situation all the more frustrating? Canadian singers have been wowing judges at the Eurovision for years. The one and only Céline Dion won it in 1988 for Switzerland, with ‘Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi.’ In 2016, Vancouver born Rykka (for Switzerland again) became just the latest Canadian to take to the Eurovision stage.
As a country that largely speaks English and/or French, and with a huge amount of cultural exchange with the European and UK music scenes over the years, it makes even less sense that Canada isn’t involved. So despite the fact that Canadian Eurovision fans continue to see their country frozen out of taking part, they can at least relax and tune into the show right? No, no, and no.
This year, there will be no Canadian network airing the Eurovision song contest in Canada, putting the entire country in the dark, as countries around the globe can bathe in the neon glow of the competition. The contest will be broadcast once again across the United States via LOGOtv (with commentary from RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Ross Mathews and Shangela) , while China will be enjoying its fourth year of Eurovision broadcasting.
Not only does this deprive Canada of being able to take part, it also makes Eurovision viewing parties a hell of a lot harder to organise here. OUTtv, based in Vancouver, has previously shown the contest in Canada on a delayed broadcast, but it won’t be happening at all this year. Over a phone conversation, OUTtv CEO Brad Danks pointed to the time delay and the still low-level of awareness amongst Canadians as reasons.
At the end of the day, it was a technological issue in getting a live feed, which is what we really wanted. Whoever does broadcast in Canada will have to put a number of years into it before it pays off.
Brad Danks, CEO OUTv
“It’s something we continue to be interested in, but we didn’t manage to do it this year. One of the issues has been the time delay—it puts it in an odd period of time—plus it’s a ton of content. As a Canadian broadcaster, there’s a tremendous amount of our time that has to be filled with Canadian content, so it creates a real scheduling issue.
“At the end of the day, it was a technological issue in getting a live feed, which is what we really wanted. Whoever does broadcast in Canada will have to put a number of years into it before it pays off. We have talked to Logo (US broadcaster), but at this stage it would probably have to be for next year.”
Teigan Reamsbottom, a dedicated Eurovision fan based in Toronto, isn’t going to let that stand in his way of enjoying the event. He’s had a connection with the contest since childhood.
To Americans and Canadians who have no idea what Eurovision is and aren't planning to watch this weekend, here's a taste of what you're missing: pic.twitter.com/XyXltHQqB4
— Teigan Reamsbottom (@teiganish) May 7, 2018
“As a kid, two of my favourite artists were Abba and Céline Dion, and I learned that they both got their start on Eurovision. So I started paying attention to it online. Years later I signed up for an IP TV service, so I was able to get every European channel, and I was finally able to watch it.”
Soon, he became a committed fan, and the annual ritual of hosting a Eurovision party took hold. “Everyone thinks that RuPaul’s Drag Race is the gayest show on television, but I’ve got to say I think it’s Eurovision! It’s so over-the-top and outrageous, and it’s so fun. It brings together all these countries, and you discover great new talent.”
“It’s so much fun hosting them in Canada because of the time difference. You get all your friends together, you get a ton of booze, and can start drinking at noon! Everyone has listened to all the tracks, and everyone has their favourite artists. Then you just watch these outrageous performances, and it’s so much fun every year.”
Of course, there’s nothing better than the real thing. Ned Killeen is a committed Eurovision fan, and will be making the journey with a group of friends this year from his home in Ireland to Lisbon, in order to experience the atmosphere up close. Getting your hands on tickets for the actual show is nearly impossible, but he knows a great time can still be had by making the trip to the host city.
“The reason we’re going is to lap up the atmosphere. Obviously Ireland hasn’t done great over the last 20 years or so, so I don’t know if we’ll ever get to experience that kind of atmosphere in Dublin.”“It might sound a little cliché, but we’re really looking forward to the unity of it all—people coming together. We’ve always had Eurovision gatherings and parties at home, so we decided with Lisbon being pretty close and accessible, we just have to go! With Lisbon being a liberal city, that was another reason why we were comfortable going there.” “We’re going to go to the Eurovision village and really soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible.”
For Canadians, of course, it’s a far more expensive proposition. Teigan in Toronto is well aware of what that would involve. “I know it’d be a lot of fun, but also a very expensive trip. I don’t know if it would be my first vacation choice—I’d prefer to be able to watch from home with cocktail in hand.”
Finally, Teigan has gone as far as setting up a petition at Change.org, in order to push for Canada to take a seat at the Eurovision table. The goal is get the CBC, as a member of the official broadcasting group, to enter Canada as a full-blown candidate. It hasn’t materialized for 2018, but that doesn’t mean Canada can’t realize a future of Eurovision glory. “If there was renewed interest, I would totally push that same petition, and gladly put together another pitch and send it in to CBC.”
Looking for more Eurovision, check out these links to get you started: