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Manic Monday: Welcome To Eurovision’s Most Wild Day Written by on May 8, 2023

Today, Monday 8th May, sees journalists at the Eurovision Song Contest gain access to the Liverpool Arena for the very first time. This first day has far more notable going on than normal first days in the press centre, as Ben Robertson explains. 

Welcome to Monday 8th May. This is a date I’ve had firmly on my Eurovision calendar for months, for one key reason.

This year the powers that be have decided that those journalists following the Eurovision Song Contest only get access to the press centre from this date. In previous years, journalists both in-person and online were able to watch artists’ rehearsals on stage during the week prior.

This tiny tweak is going to make Monday one of the wildest days of the entire season.

Setting Expectations

One of the key differences with the previous way of working, where the press would be granted access to each act’s rehearsals (a decade ago both first and second rehearsals, although in recent years the first rehearsals have been kept private from journalistic presence) is that so little of the Eurovision performance is known at this point. The EBU’s rationale for this change in 2023 is that they would like to ensure that the production can “perfect each performance before it is seen in full”.

The EBU’s official channels have been sharing throughout this week clips via their TikTok and YouTube platforms, but of course, there is only so much that can be gleaned from 30-second clips that I’m sure many reading ESC Insight have likely viewed multiple times already for their favourite tracks. It is customary that delegations choose the 30-second clip to highlight here that gives an indication of the look and feel of the track, but maybe holds back on some of the best surprises.

Yes, some delegations have revealed more, and we have seen extra clips from the Azeri, Latvian and Finnish teams circulate in recent days, but these are the exception rather than the norm.

Noa Kirel on the Eurovision stage in Liverpool (Photo: Sarah Louise Bennett, EBU)

But on the whole, all we have are these taster clips of each of the acts that does just that. Tease. They do little to help anybody create a subjective judgment about how great or not a performance is.

All of that is now coming on Monday afternoon. On Monday afternoon the first dress rehearsal for the first Semi Final will take place, with all fifteen songs performing in order back-to-back as well as three songs that have pre-qualified to the Grand Final. This show is open to just over 1,000 journalists on site and an unknown number online who will get to see each song on stage a few hours before the paying public gets to witness them at the evening preview show.

Journalists wanting to try and be one step ahead of the game in informing the crowd about who is knocking it out the park live will have one chance and one chance only to see the acts on stage. In contrast last year most artists performed in front of journalists for generally four occasions before that Monday night audience appeared.

That one-shot reaction will put a lot of pressure on the press corps to get it right.

Everything Else Around Monday

However, any journalist who only focuses on the competitive action and the who-to-qualify race on Monday’s rehearsal is missing out on everything else which that first run-through offers. For a start, we must remember that this will be the first time that any journalist will get to set foot inside the Liverpool Arena, and the experience of being inside the auditorium and witnessing the stage must also command attention.

It’s also the first time we get to see the show. Outwith the 15 songs we will also see the hosts, hear the script and also witness the interval acts from both the UK and Ukraine taking part in the show. Again, in the usual run of events, these added extras take focus on Monday, but now they are in full competition with the competing acts for headline space. As a journalist for Joe Bloggs Media UK do you write about Loreen and Käärijä or Rita Ora and Rebecca Ferguson? If there is space for a two-minute news clip or 500-word column, who and what do you write about?

There’s also another quirk about this particular first day in the office at Eurovision 2023. At the current time of writing four of the top nine in the betting market, including the top-heavy favourites to win Eurovision, are competing in Monday’s Semi Final. I dare say never before have we seen Eurovision Semi Finals that have had such competitive lopsided expectations, and the anticipation about what happens on Monday is going to be hotter than ever for the speculation storyline for who will be lifting the Eurovision crown in May.

What is worth mentioning here is that there’s also a volatile storyline following through lower down the scoreboard as well. This year’s Eurovision Song Contest is reverting to a 100% televote for the show’s Semi Finals. Televote only Semi Finals threaten to be a more difficult task to predict, without the ‘safety net’ of jurors there to rank songs from first place to last place and also doubling the number of points available.

A televote-only show is more fickle than the 50/50 combination, and any perceived improvements or declines coming out of a Eurovision rehearsal will likely result in betting markets reacting with bigger swings than in any time this past decade. But those bigger swings are acting on less information than ever before.

The conclusion to all of this is that Monday afternoon will be wild for every journalist sitting watching the show, be they inside the arena, press centre or glued to their screens for the online press centre.

How We Plan To Help This Storyline Flourish

Because of these extra pressures on the Monday of Eurovision week from a speculation perspective, we have come up with a new idea for this year’s Contest. We are collaborating with numerous other Eurovision community sites to create the Eurovision Audience Poll.

This idea will work in a similar way to the Melodifestivalen Rehearsal Poll that OGAE Sweden runs for the six weeks of Sweden’s national selection, which we saw was a good indicator at predicting who would qualify to the Swedish selection’s final. During the Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening rehearsals, when the public gets to see the performances for the first time, we are going to aim to ask as many people as possible leaving the Liverpool Arena that night one question and one question only.

“Who was your favourite tonight?”

We can’t do this alone and there are many different Eurovision community sites working together to make this a reality. We aim to publicly release our data collection exercise at 23:30 following each Semi Final evening rehearsal (likely 01:00 on Saturday morning for the Grand Final) and we expect it to add to the huge speculation storylines surrounding the competition.

To find out more about The Eurovision Audience Poll please check in on its website.

Whether our little project ends up predicting the winner and the qualifiers or not, I am expecting the next 36 hours to be one of the most topsy-turvy rollercoaster rides for those intensely following the Eurovision Song Contest.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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