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Ellie’s Postcard From Benidorm Fest Written by on February 5, 2024

As the confetti settles from 2024’s Benidorm Fest, Ellie Chalkley looks back on a wonderful experience at Spain’s National Final.

Hello Internet,

I’m sitting under a palm tree in the sun, enjoying a competitively priced alcohol-free cerveza tostada and writing you a postcard.

Wish you were here!

Ready for Benidorm Fest 2024 (Photo: Ellie Chalkey)

Ready for Benidorm Fest 2024 (Photo: Ellie Chalkey)

Actually, there’s more.

The last National Final I went to before the pandemic was Finland’s UMK 2020, a final unwise dash through airports and packed halls during the frightening first week of March 2020, at the point where they were still telling us we would be ok if we just washed our hands a bit. It was certainly an experience, combining Moomins, ice lakes, Erika Vikman in pink PVC, what we didn’t know was already a global pandemic and a final result that still slightly baffles me to this day.

So, for my first foray into international music tourism after the enforced gap, I wanted to really immerse myself in an event, and I also wanted to feel the sun on my skin—winter in Glasgow isn’t exactly brimming with opportunities to make vitamin D.

Benidorm Fest 2024 sounded just the ticket. Easily organised by booking a package holiday, I was booked almost as soon as RTVE announced the dates. Tickets for the shows themselves were a little harder and required me to be tenacious and quick off the mark. The availability of a small number of complete ticket packages to international OGAE groups might be really helpful, but I can understand that might not be compatible with how the general sale works. I managed to pick up the one show I was missing on the secondary market just as I left the UK, but I wouldn’t want to rely on that again.

Boooooo! Benidorm Fest 2024 (Photo: Ellie Chalkey)

Boooooo! (Photo: Ellie Chalkey)

I managed to keep myself from listening to the actual Benidorm Fest songs until I was packing my bags—I felt like I could trust that RTVE would deliver a pleasant assortment. Even though there wasn’t anything as up my street as ‘Traccion’ this year (which was ropey live anyway), it was good enough for a party. I’m not sure whether it was the zeitgeist or songwriting camps or a combination of both, but there certainly seemed to be at least three songs made from the same basic Logic file, and having two of them consecutively in the running order didn’t give an incredibly good impression of stylistic diversity.

The TV production of the show is as good as any I’ve seen—the full Eurovision setup in miniature with mostly thoughtful staging for each song, although a little too reliant on one form of slightly grabby contemporary dance. RTVE are all over the town making ancillary content around the Festival and finding ways to shoehorn it into the news. The whole package feels like a statement of a broadcaster ready to host our Song Contest, and all they’re short of is another stunning number to get them the win.

The view from the five star Asia Gardens hotel on the outskirts of Benidorm (Photo: Ben Robertson)

The view from the five star Asia Gardens hotel on the outskirts of Benidorm (Photo: Ben Robertson)

Outside the Festival days, all you need to do is have a good time, which is what Benidorm is for. The tourist infrastructure is all there, give or take a few seasonal restaurant and waterpark closures, so it’s very easy to spend sunny afternoons on the beach, lunchtimes judging the contenders in TapasFest, evenings trotting around the old town and nights in one of the multiple Euroclub events that pop up for the week.

I talked to our friends at Aussievision about my experience of being a groundling in the first two Semi Finals; lots of standing, no bar, a crowd of mostly men except at the back where me and some other Eurovision aunties were looking at the fun in the Green Room. For the Grand Final, I was sitting upstairs, which is where more families with kids, people with accessibility requirements, groups of young women and older couples (who might even be veteran attendees of the original Benidorm Festival) were sitting in an exciting melange with the various holders of press lanyards, telly VIPs and definitely some Spanish celebrities I don’t recognise.

During the results of the Semi Finals, we in the crowd had all enjoyed booing the jury and demoscopic results (for the simple crime of ranking things in order of quality criteria instead of general shininess and yassitude), but I was happy and surprised that Nebulossa taking the win seemed to be greeted with wide positivity and enthusiasm. Their story of a married couple of hairdressers starting to collaborate musically in their 40s is really unusual in an industry that prizes youth, and their LGBTQ allyship is welcome.

Whether the reclamation of the derogatory sense of the word for vixen (zorra was frequently translated as slut or bitch in the subtitles) is going to come through at the Eurovision Song Contest or not I have no idea, but they might manage to get a reasonable number of points through the international language of dancer’s bums. Olé!

Anyway, this postcard has gotten away from me somewhat. I’ll wrap up. Benidorm Fest is a lot of almost well-organised fun and I would recommend it to any of you.



About The Author: Ellie Chalkley

Ellie Chalkley is an all-round music, media and culture enthusiast and citizen of the internet. As an overly analytical pop fan and general knowledge hoarder she finds the Eurovision Song Contest bubble to be her natural home. She comments gnomically and statistically on Eurovision matters at @ellie_made.

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