Fifty years ago saw the most controversial Eurovision Song Contest in history. Sophia Deboick looks back to an event that began with intrigue and ended in farce.
Eurovision is rarely without a row, but this year’s contest – which culminates on Saturday night – has already ranked highly in the controversy stakes. Israel bagged the 2019 hosting job with one of the strangest winning performances yet, as Netta clucked like a chicken through her undeniably catchy Toy. A cultural boycott was almost immediately threatened.
The Icelandic entry, ‘anti-capitalist BDSM techno band’ Hatari (or ‘Hater’) have been accumulating column inches, with speculation that they could be banned from the stage because of their avowed stance against the Israeli government.
Meanwhile, the contest has been overshadowed by Ukraine-Russia tensions for yet another year, with Kiev withdrawing its selected performer, Maruv, because she wouldn’t sign a contract banning her from performing in Russia, adding she refused to become ‘a puppet for the political arena’.
There is still some way to go, however, to rival the controversies which unfolded 50 years ago, in what was the most controversial Eurovision ever. In March 1969 the competition became a PR exercise for one of western Europe’s two post-war dictatorships – Francoist Spain – which pulled out all the stops to maximise the contest’s power as an advert for the country…
The New European, 16 May 2019, pp. 19-22.