Junior Hopefuls Line Up

Posted: 23/8/2005 in:

After a relatively quiet summer, Eurovision fans all over the continent are gearing up for another bout of song contest mania – but this time it’s the younger contenders who have their eyes on the prize. Yup, countries are busy selecting their songs for this year’s Junior Eurovision, which takes place in Hasselt, Belgium, on November 26th.

Although the format of the show is the same, there are some notable differences between Junior Eurovision and its grown-up counterpart – and it’s not just the fact that the performers are pint-sized. Fewer countries take part, for starters – although the number of participants is growing every year – and such Eurovision stalwarts as France and Switzerland will be absent from this year’s contest.

What’s more, the previous year’s winner doesn’t automatically get to host the show – even though Spain won it last year, the Belgians have the honour of staging the contest this year, while the 2004 event took place in Lillehammer, Norway (it was originally scheduled for Manchester before the UK passed up the chance of hosting).

One other noticeable difference – at least as far as Team Eurovision has noticed – is that the UK seems to have a far better track record in the Junior contest than they’ve had in Eurovision of late. In 2003, le Royaume-Uni scored its biggest ever Eurovision humiliation when Jemini sang out of tune and wound up with a big fat nul points for their troubles. That same year, Tom Morley finished a very respectable third place in the first ever Junior Eurovision with My Song For The World. Last year, as James Fox clawed his way up to 16th place in Istanbul, Cory Spedding scored runner-up spot in Lillehammer with The Best Is Yet To Come. All of which might suggest that we’re poised to go one better in this year’s contest – but obviously we’ll have a better idea of our chances once we’ve actually chosen our song on September 3.

All of which leads us to ask the question – what’s the secret of our success at Junior Eurovision, and how come we can’t replicate that success in the main contest? Yes, we, know – political voting. But as we’ve said on this site many times before, if the UK were to come up with a decent song and singer, properly performed, we’d actually stand a chance of doing well in the contest once again, regardless of how many points the Eastern Bloc countries give their neighbours, or whether Greece and Cyprus exchange maximum scores for the umpteenth time.

The fact is, the reason we’ve triumphed in the Junior stakes for the past couple of years is because we’ve entered simple but effective songs, very well performed by the young singers concerned – precisely the sort of thing we should have been doing when it came to grown-up Eurovision. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if we followed the same sort of formula for the main event as we have been for the Junior show, we might well see a reversal of fortune. So maybe it’s time we did. Or how about getting some of those Junior songwriters to pen prospective entries for the UK’s 2006 Eurovision effort? Given they seem to be doing a much better job of it at the moment, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

As far as the Junior contest itself goes, well Team Eurovision’s jury is still out on that one. On the one hand, we’re naturally pleased to be given two lots of Eurovision every year for the price of one, and of course it does go some way to turning the contest from a three-hour annual event into a year-long concern. No sooner will the dust have settled on Junior Eurovision than preselections for the 2006 contest will begin, with some really early birds (Albania spring immediately to mind), picking their song as early as December. And before you know it, we’ll all be hotfooting it to Athens, with Kiev 2005 becoming just a distant memory.

But on the other hand, we’re not convinced that Junior Eurovision is nearly as much fun as its grown-up counterpart – maybe it’s the lack of countries, maybe it’s the fact that for people of a certain age the performers have a kind of odd ‘Minipops’ quality to them – but it just seems to lack much of the charm that makes the main contest so appealing. That said, we can’t resist tuning in for the voting which, like Eurovision itself, is still the most exciting part of the night. And however much we may debate whether there is a need for a Junior contest, you can guarantee we’ll be cheering on the UK come the big night.