No matter how different we are – we’ve all been shaken. At some point over the past few weeks our thoughts regarding the COVID-19-virus have transformed from laconically to confounded. As if we’ve suddenly realised how seriously this worldwide contagion really is.
We’ve all been gloomy. About what the virus would do to our lives, to our loved ones, to our society, to our money.
We’re all confused. What is it that I can do right now? How long will this take? What if I get sick?
We all wonder whether our leaders are doing the right thing. We hope that our doctors and nurses and caretakers are able to hold on. We comfort our children and do what we can help out the elderly. We try to encourage others, we try encourage ourselves.
We see different European countries roll out different strategies. But all of us feel the same things: fear, worry, confusion, courage, optimism, pessimism. Yes, circumstances differ wildly per region – what’s happening in Italy is different from what Lithuania is going through, Iceland has a different experience from Israel – but we would all recognise each other’s emotions. Because we are all human, no matter where we live.
And as humans, if there’s one thing we need to be able to get through something like this, it’s distraction. Comfort. Entertainment. We watch movies. Read books. Play games. Listen to music. Maybe even: listen to Eurovision music.
Or at least, we did. We were looking forward to the 65th edition of the Song Contest with all of its wonderful entries. But, as much as anything else, that joy has also been affected by the virus. Who even cares which place your country currently ranks with the bookmakers when you’re worried about your best friends losing a lot of money? What do we care who performs in the interval when we’re worried at night about waking up with a sudden fever?
Some people have voiced their thoughts already: ‘cancel the entire festival, we can’t be bothered anymore, it’s too frivolous for these times, we need answers and guidelines.’
But what a missed opportunity that would be.
Should the festival be held with a huge audience if the virus is still active and spreading in May? Of course not. Organisers must make wise and informed decisions, based on facts and the guidelines drawn up by experts. But if we are allowed to make one wish, it would be: don’t cancel this festival completely. Don’t postpone it by a year. A decision like that takes away a wonderful opportunity to connect on a wider European level.
Especially because we are all riding the same storm, and because art and music fulfil such an important role in times like this, we can only hope that the management of the European Broadcasting Union, the producers, organizers and decision-makers will understand that 2020 offers them – more than ever – the opportunity to show the true value of Eurovision.
How? The producers will undoubtetly come up with many appopriate ideas. But here’s a suggestion for the weeks leading up to the festival: what if we ask all of the participants to record a musical encouragement at home in the coming weeks? Some artists, such as Diodato from Italy, have already done something similar for their own country. So how about we ask them specifically to record a more Europe-wide version, to speak or sing to everyone who wants to hear it. And share that on the EBU website.
And then what? Should delegations be unable to travel to Rotterdam, maybe they could perform live, each from their own country. Anyway: use our shared COVID-19-experience as a theme, mention what has been happening in clips, in interval acts, in what the presenters tell us. Use the festival as a beacon of non-political solidarity. Show us that Eurovision isn’t an escapist island. This is something we would especially expect from The Netherlands – a country known for its international perspective on things.
The Eurovision Song Contest was once conceived as an instrument to unite Europe. How could an effort like that possibly make it to its 65th birthday to now shrug and turn its back on the shared fate of all Europeans?
Hence this appeal: if the authorities decide it’s for the best to cancel the entire festival, then so be it. But if not – please make this the most memorable edition ever. Eurovision: please provide us with the necessary distraction. Eurovision: please encourage us. Eurovision: please unite us.