Wales’ long fifty-year wait to hoist the Red Dragon over a Eurovision Song Contest came to an end on Sunday November 25th in Belarus, with its historic debut on the Junior Eurovision stage. Despite a brilliant effort from Manw, ‘Perta’ could only pick up 29 points from the public, a classic ‘nul points’ from the jury, and ultimately finished twentieth out of twenty
But it’s not a bad result. In my opinion, not at all.
Every Loser Wins
S4C worked on a top-notch advertising and promotion campaign around Wales to raise awareness of Junior Eurovision, the debut of Wales, and the platform offered to numerous young performers in the county. The question is what happens with that investment? Will Wales be seen in Junior Eurovision 2019 in Poland? Will there be an option to add a Welsh flavour to the Adult Contest in May? And what of the future?.
Executive Supervisor Jon Ola San was clear in the EBU press conferences; as the lead National Broadcaster, the BBC has absolute priority over S4C. With over eight million people tuning into the Grand Final in May and handing the BBC the number one show of the evening, don’t expect the BBC to hand over the Adult Contest to S4C (although I’m sure S4C would be happy to pick up May’s entry slot, even if it did mean singing through a Semi Final).
But having the BBC running the entry shouldn’t mean that the Welsh language is ignored. As well as the Welsh commentary from Trystan Ellis-Morris, November’s red button offered Stifyn Parri’s English commentary for those watching the Contest from Minsk. Could a similar arrangement in May allow for a Welsh commentary team to be an option alongside Graham Norton and Ken Bruce on Saturday 18th May from Tel Aviv?
Preparing for another Eurovision commentary (image: Ewan Spence)
Why should the BBC go through with an opt-in red button to provide Welsh language commentary?
Wales has participated in two different Eurovision shows and is now an active member in the EBU’s Eurovision family. As well as their debut to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest this year they also competed in the Eurovision Choir of the Year in 2017, finishing second. And there’s more. During the early nineties Wales competed in the EBU’s ‘Jeux Sans Frontieres’ and were even voted the best runner up for the 1994 edition.
Providing multi-language options is not unknown at the Song Contest. Aside from Belgium and Switzerland who have broadcast the Contest in their respectful state broadcasters since the Contest began in 1956, smaller countries, especially on the Baltic side have supplied opt-in commentary teams for their minority language respectively. An example is Finland who since 2005 have sent a Swedish language team to the Contest alongside the Finnish team, both provided by their countries state broadcaster Yleisradio.
Though many could be wondering, what difference would this make and why it should be option for the United Kingdom?
As a country, Wales is ready to show Europe and the world what it can bring to the world of the Eurovision Song Contest. S4C has proven this over the years with Junior Eurovision and Choir of the Year. It’s unlikely that the BBC would consider sharing the TV broadcast with S4C (but not impossible), but as a national public broadcaster, the BBC should consider alternative viewpoints for the Contest, and the Welsh view is one of the most visible.
The next step is surely to have a Welsh commentary team covering the music from Tel Avi in May. Even if they’re following it from a studio in Cardiff it can still show up on the red button for TV viewers potentially with a simulcast on BBC Radio Cymru.
Junior Eurovision 2019
The ESC Insight team would love to see S4C continue at Junior Eurovision, but as noted Jon Ola Sand has said that the BBC would have absolute priority for the UK spot if it wished to enter Junior Eurovision. I personally don’t want to see Wales and S4C forced out of Junior Eurovision.
The Junior Eurovision Song Contest is the only Eurovision show which still has a rule regarding national languages, it gives countries with minority languages an equal platform to share their culture, music and language on a Eurovision stage . Where the Adult Contest has relaxed its language rules Junior continues to enforce a certain amount of discipline in keeping to a distinctive multi-cultural vision.
I don’t think Wales’ appearance will be a ‘One Hit Wonder’ at Junior Eurovision, I have high hopes that next year S4C will flying the Red Dragon on stage in Poland, with an entry selected through another heavily promoted national final.
And The Future
Well what does the future hold for Wales in Eurovision? I think come 2022 with the rapid popularity of countries such as Australia and Kazakhstan in both Eurovision and Junior Eurovision I can possibly see more of Europe recognising the Welsh language in music and quite possibly in the next three year, especially if Wales can either achieve a top 5 placing or indeed a victory, then we could quite possibly see the BBC showcasing Welsh language entries into the ‘You Decide‘ National final.
And if that happens for Wales, perhaps Northern Ireland and Scotland won’t be too far behind.