12 May 2023

Eurovision: United in joy

Claire Anderson

Photo shows the Eurovision stage. BBC / Nick Robinson
BBC / Nick Robinson

Claire Anderson celebrates the harmony of Eurovision.

I don’t know about your plans for tomorrow night (Saturday 13 May), but I will be camped on the sofa with snacks in reach and sporting more glitter than your average Blackpool club night so I can join in the utter delights of the greatest music show on Earth: the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest on BBC One.

Whether you’re a superfan or silently seething at the prospect, you can’t overstate the fun when there’s such a mishmash of countries, musical styles, costumes and identities – not to mention politics – under one roof.

Thirty-seven acts are taking part in this year’s competition. You can check out the songlist via eurovision.tv: lyrics include ‘I have the power of a unicorn’, a guaranteed banger if ever there was one!

As a relative latecomer to Eurovision, I started watching for Terry Wogan’s craic and stayed for Graham Norton’s snark – their light-hearted commentary and approach to the event made laughing off the UK’s years of ‘nul points’ much easier.

When UK entry Sam Ryder exploded onto the stage last year, the nations collectively gasped – the UK knew it stood a chance! But it wasn’t the quality of Sam’s performance on the night that stuck with me, it was his comments during an interview with BBC Radio 4 afterwards, in which he described Eurovision as ‘like being in a church, because there was so much joy’.

Sam zoned in on something that believers know well – that when people come together with one mind and one spirit, laying differences aside and united by a common love, there is a connection that binds them. And music has a way of intensifying that bond. Philippa Hanna, writing for Premier Christianity, suggested that ‘music is the backstage pass to a person’s soul’ and that ‘perhaps when God invented music it was always his intention to unify people in this way’.

And while there wasn’t an outpouring of God’s Spirit across Eurovision – we live, we pray, we dream – there was a genuine flow of love, compassion and warmth that swept Turin’s PalaOlimpico as Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won in 2022. Their country was experiencing the devastation of the ongoing conflict with Russia, but its people chose to sing and be in the bosom of an international community that enveloped them. The arena awash with flags waving in support and emotions running high, Ukraine seized the victory after an overwhelming number of votes (439 points – the maximum possible is 468, which would require ‘douze points’ from all the other participating countries).

This year the UK is hosting Eurovision on Ukraine’s behalf in Liverpool, and I expect the welcome will be similarly warm. As I join the party from my sofa, I am slightly more reflective as I wonder what difference I can make in putting aside differences to show love to others.

Reflect and respond

  • If music is a backstage pass to the soul, what do the psalms tell you? Try reading one a day this month.
  • Visit eurovision.tv/event/liverpool-2023 for this year’s songlist and pray for each country taking part.

Written by

Photo of Claire Anderson.

Claire Anderson


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