I was going to give a full review of the final, but after watching it I finally got wind of what had happened in Moscow a few hours earlier, when a gay pride march in Moscow was brutally broken up by police as part of Mayor Yuri Lukhzov’s continued homophobic stance. Among those arrested was veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. So instead, I’ll do a much shorter review of the final, but start with links to an account on the Pink News of what happened:
Tatchell was released a few hours later:
Hmm, sounds suspiciously to me as though Graham Norton and Andrew Lloyd-Webber were treading a bit too carefully here – on the other hand, the incident received virtually zero coverage on the TV news in this country, so it would have been easy for the Moscow authorities to suppress the story (after all, they’ve had a lot more practice over the years). And nobody boycotted the evening either – instead it went ahead without any glitches. I’ve already commented on the twenty countries who qualified from the semi-finals, so instead I’ll just quickly focus on the five automatic qualifiers.
France sent Patricia Kaas, a woman with a long and very successful career (16 million records sold) and who sang a smoky chanson that felt decidedly out of place in Eurovision, but was nonetheless all the more refreshing for that. Russia, clearly determined not to host the contest in 2010, had a woman wailing in Ukrainian whilst being computer-aged on large backdrop screens. Germany had a poor man’s Ricky Martin with Dita von Teese providing minor distractions, whilst Spain went for an upbeat number that sounded just a bit too much like other upbeat numbers that had come earlier in the night. And then there was us, Royaume Uni, Jade putting in a sterling performance of It’s My Time, a ballad I dismissed as trite and hackneyed when premiered in the final of Your Country Needs You four months ago. This week, however, it’s grown on me – and the weeks and weeks of promotional touring had clearly grown on the audience, as Jade got one of the biggest ovations of the night.
After an intriguing interval performance involving people throwing themselves about on watered sheets of perspex, it was down to the scoring. These days, with forty-two countries casting their votes (including the ones who didn’t get through the semis), only the 8s, 10s and 12s are read out, the minor votes flashed up on screen in order to save time. An opening gift of 10 points to the UK from Spain gave an indication that this would not be the humiliation that we’ve experienced in the last six years. But their 12 points to Norway also gave an indication as to how the scoring would proceed. Indeed, after the first half-dozen or so sets of points had been doled out, it was already clear that Norway were heading for a runaway victory.
Nobody, however, could quite have predicted just how far away Alexander Rybak and his Fairytale would run. His final score of 387 didn’t so much break the record as smash it, a full 169 points clear of second-placed Iceland. Jade, meanwhile, finished a very creditable fifth with 173 points, our best total since 1998, and our first top five finish (or indeed top ten finish) since Jessica Garlick finished third with Come Back in 2002.
So, next year it’s Oslo, as the good ship Eurovision will berth in a liberal, gay-friendly country, thank goodness, leaving me very much inclined to go (I’ve never been to Eurovision before, only ever seen it from my living room). For the gays and lesbians of Russia, however, the continuation of a persecuted existence now the party has left town, one that could have marked a watershed moment for them – instead, the simple desire to express their identity was met with the sort of sickening police brutality that reminds you that the struggle is far from over.
And of course, the struggle also goes on in many other countries, which is why it’s important to mark the fact that today is IDAHO 2009 – the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Gaysdotcom have posted this moving video with one very simple but very powerful message on YouTube:
Now go and research the attitudes towards and laws on homosexuality in the countries of the contributors. Some of it makes for depressing reading. Like I say, the struggle is far from over.