ESC Insight

ESC Insight

Newsletter: The only festive playlist you’ll need this year…

Newsletter: The only festive playlist you’ll need this year…

But before all that, I asked the ESC Insight editorial team to nominate some of their favourite Eurovision-related Christmas songs. Here’s what we came up with – we hope it provides a suitably festive soundtrack to your holiday season…

ESC Insight Christmas Playlist

NaviBand – Plakali Vetry

This lovely seasonal song is a couple of years old now, but I still don’t feel like enough people have heard this. Belarus’s nicest couple have had quite a big 2017 (2 albums, a tour and Eurovision) and with the heartwarming news that they’re expecting a baby band member, 2018 looks set to be even bigger… Ellie Chalkley

Sandra Nurmsalu Kvartett – Jõuluingel

How about Sandra Nurmsalu’s version of “Jõuluingel” a traditional Estonian Christmas Carol? – John Egan

Gunnar Ólason – Komdu um jólin

For a Christmas song with a double-dose of Eurovision, check out “Komdu Um Jólin” by Gunnar Ólason. This member of Two Tricky and Sjónni’s Friends turned Tozzi and Raf’s evergreen “Gente di mare” into a fabulous Icelandic-language holiday song. – Samantha Ross

Tina Karol – The Christmas Story

I can’t settle on just one song, rather just an artist. The Christmas Story special from Tina Karol – filled with traditional and Ukrainian seasonal favourites… – Sharleen Wright

Conchita & Ina Regen – Heast as Net

It has to be Heast as Net by Conchita and Ina Regen for me. This wasn’t really intended to be a Christmas song, but started as a YouTube collaboration for fun. The song was then given permission to be released by writer Hubert von Goisern and immediately hit the charts in Austria and has now kind of morphed into a song for Christmas.

The song is written in the Austrian dialect of German and includes yodelling. Yes folks, Conchita learned to yodel – and it’s very, very good! – Lisa-Jayne Lewis

Paula Seling, OVI, Chiara Siracusa & Niamh Kavanagh – Happy New Year 

Okay it’s not strictly Christmas, but here in Scotland we’ve always got half an eye Hogmanay and the New Year celebrations. so I’m going with a live version of ‘Happy New Year’ that racks up the Eurovision spotters points as it’s a four way between a huge number of Song Contest favourites – Paula Seling, Ovi, Chiara, and Niamh Kavanagh.

Plus it’s Abba when they were in full-on Fleetwood Mac ‘Rumors’ mode (well, as full-on as polite Swedish high society would let them). Who doesn’t love a big family argument and an awkward morning after during the festivities? – Ewan Spence

Shirley Clamp – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

There’s only one possible nomination I could make for this week’s playlist. Swedish singer Shirley Clamp is well known and much loved by Eurovision fans for her six participations at Melodifestivalen. Back in 2004, she also released this utterly ridiculous Schlager-fied take on the Band Aid classic ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’.

Why did Shirley feel compelled to reinvent the song so dramatically? Did any of the royalties go to charity? Is she aware how inappropriately joyous she sounds as she belts out the immortal line “Well tonight Thank God it’s them, instead of you”? I have no idea, but one thing I do know is that this is the only version of the song that I dig out all year round. Enjoy… – John Lucas

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Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways, with Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways, with Ellie Chalkley

Ellie has been sitting behind the Île de Bezençon  customs desk all summer, getting judgemental about everyone’s favourite Eurovision records, but now the tables are turned and she’s got to defend her own selections. Lisa-Jayne Lewis is temporarily wearing the customs officer’s formal hat and epaulettes, and isn’t prepared to let the records through easily…

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways, with Ellie Chalkley

The ESC Insight crew are enjoying their last few days on Île de Bezençon before National Final season starts, revelling in their favourite Eurovision related songs and stories. In the last episode of this series, Ellie finally gets her chance to have her favourite Eurovision songs assessed. Stay up to date with the Eurovision Song Contest at

Eurovision Castaways will return in May… Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast as the new season gathers pace for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

You can support ESC Insight this Christmas by joining our Patreon campaign. For a small monthly payment you can offer us the opportunity to increase and expand our Eurovision coverage. Just visit today.

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Eurovision Insight Podcast: Interviewing Nicoline Refsing

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Interviewing Nicoline Refsing

Staging and production has always been a particular interest of mine. I studied it way back in school as part of GCSE drama. Instead of focussing on the acting I decided to study the module of staging and lighting design – one of my earliest jobs in the world of theatre when I was 15 was as a follow-spot operator for that year’s pantomime at the Civic Hall in Guildford. Ever since then I’ve been hooked on the little nuances of stage and screen production that enhance performances and can take something excellent and turn it into something outstanding (or in some Eurovision cases, something winning).

It was a treat to sit down earlier this year and chat with Nicoline Refsing, creative producer of the Eurovision Song Contest in  2014 in Copenhagen, and now creative producer of a number of the country productions since then, to talk about what goes into making the content that we see on our screens – or in the arena if we’re lucky enough to be there!

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Interviewing Nicoline Refsing

Lisa-Jayne Lewis talks to creative designer Nicoline Refsing on staging Eurovision, working with individual acts, and the wider world of televisual entertainment.

We also have a video edit of the interview, if you would prefer to match up conversations on staging with the relevant images.

Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast over the winter for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

You can also support ESC Insight by joining our Patreon campaign. For a small monthly payment you can offer us the opportunity to increase and expand our Eurovision coverage. Just visit today.

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Reviewing Eurovision Young Dancers 2017

Reviewing Eurovision Young Dancers 2017

As viewers in the United Kingdom were settling down on Saturday evening to enjoy the annual BBC spectacle that is the final of Strictly Come Dancing, another dance competition of different nature was taking place too. The 15th Eurovision Young Dancers competition took place in the Czech capital city of Prague, the city that also hosted it in 2015.

This show is a highlight for me as a former dancer. I studied tap, ballet and modern as a child at the Lynton Stage School and then moved on to Hurley’s School of Dance to study Latin, Ballroom and modern jazz – I love to dance, I don’t really do it anymore, but of course, I can’t resist Eurovision Young Dancers as a showcase of modern dance performance from around the continent.

The rules are simple, all dancers must be between the ages of 16 and 21 and may compete as a solo performer or as a couple, no groups are allowed. None of the performers are allowed to be paid professional dancers, the contest is designed for amateurs.

Here Come The Dancers

This year’s contest actually saw the lowest number of participating countries with eight dancers taking to the stage, but this should not be seen as a cause of concern; numbers fluctuate, circumstances change and situations differ. In total 37 countries have participated over the years since the contest began in 1985 and as with all Eurovision events is open to any country who are member of the EBU.

On our first glimpse of the stage, if I’m being honest made me think of the pictures we’ve just seen of the stage in Lisbon for ESC 2018 and Junior Eurovision’s 2016 stage! We got an introduction to the performers (similar to the flag ceremony) they are introduced by name and country.

We then met our jury. Czech Daria Klimentová, having spent 18 years as a principal dancer with the English National Ballet, she retired in 2014 and is currently working at the Royal Ballet School in London. Itzik Galili, who wanted to be an astronaut but became one of Israel’s leading dancers and choreographers, what can I say the aeronautics industry’s loss is the arts industry’s gain! Ambra Succi a street dance and contemporary dance teacher from Italy, currently living and working in Sweden, Ambra choreographed Loreen to Eurovision victory in 2012 at the Eurovision Song Contest and has choreographed for a number of well known shows such as X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance and other Eurovision Song Contest performances.

Each solo item was separated by a postcard in true Eurovision style. I’ve very much appreciated these as they’ve shown of a city that I love very much, not least because it’s where my brother lives! If you’ve never been, don’t wait for a Eurovision event, it’s a great place for a weekend getaway.

Here’s my run down of the competitive performances, as they happened…

Norway – Anna Louise Amundsen ‘These Days’

Anna is in a white lyrical style of dress, the arches on the stage are like cracked metal. Norways dance is an absolute hybrid of lyrical, contemporary and jazz. There’s a little hint of Mathew Bourne style ballet. Daria is impressed with the jumps and thinks this is a very strong show opener. In her backstage interview immediately after performing, Anna Louise is happy with her performance and was excited by the challenge of opening the show.

Germany – Danila Kapustin ‘Desde Otello’

Danila is brave in his costume choice, white dance trousers and bare top. The lighting is very clever in the opening shots, flooded in red lighting and lit from above highlighting the bone and muscle structure of his body. As a student at the famous State Ballet School in Berlin, I was expecting something extremely balletic in presentation and this did not disappoint. Beautifully presented, but Ambra wants him to use more of his back and lower shoulders more.

Malta – Denise Buttigieg ‘Q. W’

Denise starts this strong, it’s hard for me to type as I watch because I just can’t take my eyes off the screen! She is in a soft brown/gold skater-style dress. The music is rhythmic with only spoken word, no sung lyric at all. This is absolute contemporary modern dance style, not balletic at all, Denise is incredibly flexible but has great control of that flexibility. Ambra doesn’t agree, she thinks that Denise needs to work on her strength and control.

Portugal – Raquel Fidalgo ‘Esquiva’

Fashion-lover Raquel in in green halter top and olive green dance trousers, the lighting is green and it all melds very nicely together. Coming from the contemporary dance world it is easy to see this influence on the way that Raquel moves. I like that she’s using levels of dance, from the floor all the way to maximum stretch for her as well as leaps and jumps. The music is pure drum rhythm of quite a Brazilian flavour. Itzik likes the combination of movement and rhythm. In her post-dance interview Raquel speaks of the friendships made with the other performers.

Group Dance #1

The first four competitors now take to the stage in a group dance which has been choreographed by Czech Petr Zuska. The dance has been rehearsed in a short time since arriving in Prague and is part of the judging process. In the group dances the judges are looking at how the performers work together with each other and the movements, also how they interact during lift and connected movements.

Poland – Paulina Bidzińska ‘La Certa’

Paulina comes from the world of classical ballet and her operatic music immediately confirm that this is where she is most comfortable. Paulina is really using her entire body her, limb extensions are wonderful and her musicality is probably the best I’ve seen so far. Ambra is impressed with the use of her spine to create the shaping in the dance.

Slovenia – Patricija Crnkovič ‘Disintergration’

Patricija has been here before, she represented Slovenia in 2013 at EYD. This dance is a piece of modern dance. Patricija is very expressive with her face as well as her body, her confidence also comes through the dance, there was no holding back at any point, she put everything she had into this dance. Itzik agrees that her facial expression along with her movement were very good.

Sweden – Christoffer Collins ‘Solo – X’

Christoffer is another very expressive dancer, he is wearing casual dance clothes, a plaid red and black shirt and black trousers. The music is very contemporary and ‘Swedish’ and the dance itself is super contemporary, I wonder if it might be a bit too alienating for casual viewers of the show but his body shaping is very good. Daria says it’s interesting, but she remains a little unmoved by the dance.

Czech Republic – Mical Vach ‘Monologue’

Dressed in all balck but using the light and shadows of the stage to add to this impressive piece of contemporary modern/jazz fusion. The music is a solo Cello which Michal seems to be very in tune with. The performance was very strong, yet there is a softness to Mical’s movements which is very compelling. Mical’s dance used almost the entire dance space available. Itzik was impressed with Mical and thinks that he has a bright future ahead of him as a dancer.

Group Dance #2

The second of the group dances also part of the judging process, this is not an interval act, it all counts towards the final scores. This group feature the most classically trained dancer and the most contemporary style dancer in the same group, so the choreography is designed to reflect that. It could have been easy with two boy/girl parings to make this dance a couples dance but it’s not. The four are actually beautifully choreographed together as a dance ensemble. Whilst you can see the ballet/contemporary strengths in each dancer, I personally prefer this to the first group piece.

The Dance Off

The jury now select two finalist who will go into a final dance off to determine the winner. Itzik reveals that the two finalists are Paulina from Poland and Patricija from Slovenia. The final dance off sees the two finalists performing a duet dance, using the same music that has been used in the group dancers.

The jury have decided the winner, it falls again to Itzik to reveal the winner as Paulina Bidzińska from Poland, this is Poland’s third win at Eurovision Young Dancers. The most successful country at Eurovision Young Dancers is Spain who have five wins in their belt although they have not participated in the contest since 1999.

Congratulations to Poland and to Paulina, and to Česká televize and the EBU for another fantastic show. I am looking forward to 2019 when we will see the next edition of Eurovision Young Dancers. All eyes turn now from this contest to the next of Eurovision’s special events; the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 from Lisbon.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Do We Need Alcazar featuring John Lydon?

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Do We Need Alcazar featuring John Lydon?

Less than a week away until the first National Selection show (Albania’s Festivali i Këngës) we have two more names from internal selections, many more names announced for other National Finals, and a little bit of Christmas cheer from Malta.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Do We Need Alcazar featuring John Lydon?

Ewan Spence brings you the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, more singers selected, more songs submitted, and more budget allocated for Lisbon 2018. With music from Christina Magrin.

Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast over the winter for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

And if you want to support ESC Insight as we cover the Song Contest, please visit our Patreon page,

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Support ESC Insight Today Through Our Patreon Page

Support ESC Insight Today Through Our Patreon Page

If you enjoy ESC Insight’s coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest and if you would like to support us creating podcasts, articles, radio shows, and commentary for you, now you can, through Patreon.

It’s important to stress that ESC Insight is not going anywhere – we’re deep into planning for Lisbon 2018,  Junior Eurovision 2018 in Minsk, Young Musicians in Edinburgh, and everything else in-between. While everyone loves free content, the content isn’t free to make. The Insight team has spent a lot of time creating the content that you have grown to love over the last seven years, and we want to make sure that we can continue to run the website for many years to come, to support the team, and keep covering the Song Contest as best we can through in-depth writing, high quality podcast series, and on-the-ground reporting.

We are launching a Patreon page for ESC Insight so you can further support our coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest.

ESC Insight and friends in the press room at Eurovision 2017 (image: ESC Insight)

ESC Insight and friends in the press room at Eurovision 2017 (image: ESC Insight)

How Does Patreon Work?

Patreon takes care of the card payments and money transfers. Once a month Patreon will collect the donations from our supporters and make a single payment to ESC Insight. We will receive ninety-five percent of your donations (less government taxes, of course).

It also allows us to distribute content to those of you who support ESC Insight through our Patreon page.

Of the two different funding models – per item or per month – we’ve decided that ‘per month’ works best for ESC Insight. If you sign up to support us through Patreon, you can decide how much to support us on a regular basis, from as little as $1 per week.

Patreon’s Reward Levels

Our initial reward level of $1 a week is listed as $4 a month. No extras, no bonus content, just consider it simple thank you to the team behind ESC Insight every four weeks. We would love it if every reader at least considered this but there is no obligation to donate.

Our main reward level is $10 a month. Think of it as offering ESC Insight team a coffee every two weeks – and as a thank you for those taking part at this reward level we are offering you two pieces of exclusive content every month.

Patreon supporters will be involved in choosing subjects for our ‘Ask ESC Insight’ columns where you can talk and ask the team their opinions on important Eurovision issues. You’ll also have a new podcast series to listen to, as Ewan Spence showcases the music of the Song Contest and in the charts at the time as we explore the ‘Eurovision Decades’.

If you want to offer us a little bit more, then our $20 a month level is the equivalent of buying us coffee per week. Given we put a new podcast and content piece up on the main site every week you’re looking at ‘a coffee for content’. We’ll also send you some ESC Insight branded merchandise every quarter (so four deliveries a year) as well as access to the Patreon-exclusive content.

We also have a $50 a month level – which we were tempted to call the Ralph Siegel Level – for those of you who want lend a huge amount of support to ESC Insight. As well as the Patreon exclusive content of the $10 level and the merchandise from the $20 level, this level offers each of you a one-of-a-kind artistic print based on a deep analysis of the Eurovision Song Contest and your favourite country.

JESC Commentary, Ewan Spence and Lisa-Jayne Lewis (image: ESC Insight)

Ewan Spence and Lisa-Jayne Lewis on commentating duty (image: ESC Insight)

The Positive Impact On ESC Insight

The regular podcasts, features, and articles on the ESC Insight website will continue, but your support through Patreon will go a long way to making ESC Insight a self-sufficient operation. At the very least we’re hoping for the site’s running costs to be covered, and to be able to partly support the travel costs of our writers who cover the Contest across Europe. Although our writers are volunteers, being able to offer paid commissions to them is one of our longer-term goals.

Your Support Will Make A Difference

If you’d like to be involved with supporting ESC Insight, have a look at the rewards we are offering. If there’s one that fits with you, great, click on it and let’s get started and work together to make this your best Eurovision year ever!

Our Patreon page can be found at, please go there for more details on what Patreon means to us, the reward levels offered, and to sign up.

Ellie and Lisa-Jayne interview Francesco Gabanni

Of course we’ve made a podcast on how you can support ESC Insight. Hit play and listen…

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