I know its been a long while since my last blog post! I’ve been busy writing up my masters transfer report to go over onto a PhD course which has took up a lot of my time and working as well. Sometimes when I get home from work, I do struggle to get motivated to do some blogging. Hopefully, as the 2017 Eurovision is now unfolding with countries choosing their artists, I should be on here more often. Time will tell!
So on to my article…
After Ukraine won last year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden with Jamala’s sublime and poignant “1944”, the contest will be held in Kyiv, Ukraine. However, the contest has not come without its problems, in terms of its organisation. The team, which was made up of 21 top level staff, who were organising the contest were blocked from making any decisions by the head of the team. As a result, these staff members who were employed by the Ukrainian Public Broadcaster (UA: PBC) resigned as a result of their on-going battle with the manager in charge. This news came days before Eurovision tickets were going on sale, but as a result, the EBU insisted UA: PBC to “stick to the timeline” in organising the contest. Hence, the contest will remain in Kyiv.
As a result of this, UA: PBC recruited Christer Bjorkman on to the Eurovision organising committee. Bjorkman has helped produce a few Eurovision events, including the contest in Malmö, Sweden in 2013 and last year’s contest in Stockholm. He is more prominent in his home country of Sweden were he has supervised the production of their Eurovision national selection process, Melodifestivalen since 2002. He also represented Sweden in the Eurovision back in 1992 with the song “I morgon är en anna dag” which placed 22nd out of 23 countries.
So, his involvement in this year’s contest should be beneficial to the production in Kyiv right? Within fan communities, there has been mixed reaction to his appointment and latest role:
Reactions towards Bjorkman’s appointment within Eurovision fandom, particularly amongst gay male fans, may also be linked to the contest’s representation of gay people. His involvement with the contest in Sweden has re-iterated, since 2013, the Eurovision as a gay-friendly event and attempted to recognise its importance as an arena of inclusivity and equal rights, no matter what your socio-cultural background. Some examples of this may include the acknowledgement of the legalisation of gay marriage in Sweden (two men are seen kissing in the ‘Swedish Smorgasbord’ interval act in 2013). Moreover, the host Petra Mede referred to her audience as ‘queens’ and while talking to a male fan in the audience proclaimed ‘…well, you just haven’t met the right girl yet!’.
Nonetheless, from fans I’ve interviewed, fans acknowledged these representations but believed they were “taking Eurovision over a bit too much” and raised internal conflicts on identity for gay male fans and how they did or did not “fit in” with such representations of gay male identity. But, for gay male fans attending Eurovision it provides spaces where they can reconfigure sexual citizenship. Markers of gender and sexuality are visible, but not definitive markers of space; its Eurovision fandom that is the unifying factor to “Celebrate Diversity”.
Bjorkman’s involvement in Eurovision can be seen as a bottom-up approach, as he has climbed the ranks from being a singer at Eurovision to being one of the most influential figures in the contemporary Eurovision Song Contest. His views towards the contest are also built on the European Broadcasting Union’s (EBU) ideals of promoting and celebrating diversity across Europe and internationally. However, it raises the issue of how fans interpret the contest’s representations, particularly regarding representations of gay people.