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  1. Reporter's Diary: Eurovision Song Contest 2016

Live Reporting

By Helen Bushby

All times stated are UK

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Oh what a night...

Here's my take on the final, with plenty of opinions from some Eurovision commentators I spoke to. 

It's been epic - goodbye Stockholm!

How did Ukraine beat Russia?

So Ukraine confounded the bookmakers and Eurovision commentators who had been convinced that Russia - or possibly Australia - would win. 

Russia's CG effects and the brilliance of Australia's singing weren't enough to defeat jazz artist Jamala. 

Russia was the bookies' favourite for so long, possibly because it was so similar to last year's Swedish winner. 

Ukraine appears to have slipped past it under the radar. 

Simon Bennett, head of the International OGAE Eurovision fan club, told me that former Soviet countries that would “normally vote for Russia” sent it a message by voting for Ukraine instead. 

It looks like the politics of Eurovision are here to stay. 

I've written some analysis on the final for the news website, and will link to it when it's published. 

Ukraine is the winner!

Ukraine Eurovision
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Ukraine has won the Eurovision song contest with a whopping 534 votes, beating bookies' favourites Russia and Australia. 

From where I'm sitting...

Eurovision press room

This is what it's like inside the very noisy Eurovision press room...

Justin Timberlake tells finalists they should be 'so very proud'

Justin Timberlake
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As voting commences, the super-cool Justin Timberlake grooves his way around the stage to his latest single. He knows how to put on a show doesn't he?

He tells the finalists to be "so very proud" of themselves. And so they should - it's been quite a line-up.

Caped Armenia's catchy chorus


Armenia Eurovision
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Iveta Mukuchyan is another lady with a cape and a very catchy chorus.

She sings the dramatic Lovewave while her cape and hair billow behind her throughout.

You may be interested to hear that having studied linguistics, she decided to pursue music and studied at Armenia's State Conservatory. She went on to take part in the Armenian version of Pop Idol. 

And another nugget - before she goes on stage she always meditates with her crystals.

Joe and Jake surrounded by selfies

United Kingdom

UK Eurovision
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At last!! It's Joe and Jake with You're Not Alone.

This ticks plenty of Eurovision boxes with a bouncy, catchy pop song performed by singers who obviously love what they're doing. This is a polished performance and their singing is spot on. But is it distinctive enough to win?

The lads, in case you didn't know, met on The Voice and decided to team up. 

"We can't overestimate what an honour it is to be representing the UK in the biggest musical contest ever," they say. 

Check out their set full of selfies, to tie in with the song's title, obvs.

Sweet search for inner paradise


Austria Eurovision
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Zoe, who's Austrian, chose to sing Loin d'Ici in French because she said "it's French I love". Well, it is a beautiful language.

Her flowing peach-coloured dress and stunning backdrop of trees, leaves and changing seasons make for a pleasant if undramatic rendition. 

The song tells the story of the search for paradise. She says it's not a physical location but an inner image everyone can find themselves. 

And rather touchingly, she wrote the song with her father Christof Straub.

Georgia go for it with guitars and drums


Georgia Eurovision
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Nika Kocharaov and Young Georgian Lolitaz describe themselves as "absolutely different from the usual style of the Eurovision" and "experimental".

They're basically a rock band with electric guitars and drums and everything.

Their song Midnight Gold isn't your average Eurovision performance, but it's great for a bit of variety. 

Malta's Walking on Water at Eurovision - again


Malta Eurovision
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Walk on Water by Ira Losco opens with a huge image of her face, which will certainly grab your attention. 

This song is perfect for her powerful vocals and she looks very at home on the Eurovision stage. This may be because she first took part in 2002 when she came second with Seventh Wonder. 

Ira is also an advocate of LGBTI rights and supports anti-bullying initiatives. In 2008 she received the prestigious MSRQ medal from the President of Malta for her continued success in the music industry. 

She also says she "cannot say no to a burger". 

What's not to like?

Ukraine's emotional song for her great grandmother


Ukraine Eurovision
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Jamala is singing 1944, “dedicated to my great grandmother Nazylkhan”.This is expected to finish in the top three acts tonight. 

She’s the first ever Crimean Tatar to perform at the contest and her song is about Stalin, Crimea and claims of ethnic cleansing. It’s not your usual Eurovision fare.

It will come as no surprise to discover she studied at Kiev National Music Academy as an opera singer. Her long, sustained notes are greeted with roars of applause in the press room.

Jamala's song features the duduk, also known as the Armenian oboe, which adds a stirring accompaniment.

Latvia's strong Heartbeat


Latvia Eurovision
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Justs is singing Heartbeat and his boyish appearance belies his belter of a voice.

It's quite a rocky number and he commands the stage by himself.

Justs worked as a music teacher and is training as a vocal coach for popular and jazz music. Not content to rest on his Eurovision laurels, he wants to open an alternative music school.

Spain's tough Eurovision message


Spain Eurovision
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Barei co-wrote her song Say Yay!  and says it’s a "battle cry for fighters". 

This is an upbeat number and she works the stage with her moves, including a surprise one half-way through. The table next to me is bouncing and clapping - the press room seem to love it.

But Barei has a serious message. Eurovision means "discipline, hard work and self-learning" she says. 

You’ve been warned.

Can Russia win tonight?


Russia Eurovision
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All eyes are on Sergey Lazarev, whose song is remarkably similar to last year’s winner, Heroes  by Mans Zelmerlow. It’s also expected to win.

His song, You Are the Only One, features some amazing computer-generated graphics and is an urgent-sounding catchy pop number with plenty to feast your eyes on. At some points you almost forget to listen to what he's singing.

"I will do my best to represent Russia in the best possible way," he says.

"The message of the song is very positive. It is a difficult period for everyone and I believe that music should be a way out for the audience and this is what we have tried to do with our entry."

Croatia's song matched by stunning costume


Croatia Eurovision
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Nina Kraljic is singing Lighthouse, Ellie Goulding-style. She has an amazing costume, which is truly stunning.

Her song has the customary Eurovision key-change mid-way through and a beautiful, haunting accompaniment. 

She won The Voice in 2015 and says: "I have been following Eurovision since I was little and this is a dream come true."  

Lighting explodes under Lithuania's silver shoes


Lithuania Eurovision
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Donny Montell is making his second foray into Eurovision, having competed in 2012. 

"I am ready to live the Eurovision experience to the maximum," he says of his song, I've Been Waiting for this Night.

His set has some clever lighting which glows under his silver and green shoes and explodes across the floor to match them. It looks amazing when the camera pulls back. 

The song is pretty catchy, but possibly not enough to blow the judges away. 

Serbia aims to inspire with serious sound


Serbia Eurovision
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Zaa Sanja Vucic is singing Goodbye (Shelter) and is rocking an impressive pair of tasselled shoulder pads.

This is a very serious-sounding song with stern-looking dancers and singers to match. There's no messing with Zaa, who ends her song with a raised, clenched fist. The press room seem to like it. 

She wants to show that "alternative music can be inspiring and a hell of fun".

Watch out for Cyprus's blue beard


Cyprus Eurovision
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Minus One, who started as a cover band, provide a change of style and tempo after so many pop songs and ballads. 

Their rocky song Alter Ego features the band members performing behind bars. Keep your eyes peeled for the guitarist's blue beard. 

They describe Eurovision as "an incredible musical experience and possibly the best party in the world".

All eyes on Australia's Dami Im


Australia Eurovision
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Dami Im singing Sound of Silence is a firm favourite with the bookmakers. And Graham Norton, who fancies this one as the winner.

The song has amazing on-stage production and she takes the very effective step of sitting on a huge, glittering block throughout much of her performance. It focuses the mind on her song, I find. 

It's a punchy pop tune with powerful vocals. 

Dami has a degree in classical piano but chose to pursue a pop career. She also won Australian X Factor is 2013 and was mentored by Dannii Minogue.

"All my life I felt like I didn't belong anywhere. I remember the first time I watched Eurovision with my friends, I thought that is where I belong,” she says.

Poland's motto is 'be yourself'


Poland Eurovision
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Michal Szpak, who sings Colour of Your Life, is sporting a bright red jacket and has backing musicians playing red stringed instruments, in a look which is perfect for Eurovision.

There seem to be plenty of women singing power ballads, so his version here makes a welcome change. 

He previously performed in the X Factor final in Poland in 2011 with Alexandra Burke.

"I can show people true emotions and present my motto ‘be yourself whatever it takes’,” he says.

He's quite a change from 2014's Polish milk maids entry...

From dentistry to Eurovision with France


France Eurovision
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This is Amir, whose song Song J'ai Cherche has been a bookmakers’ favourite for some time. He’s widely expected to finish in the top three.

It's incredibly catchy and easy on the ear - an upbeat, happy song which everyone here seems to like. 

Here's an unusual nugget for you - Amir started training as a dentist but decided mid-way through to try out for The Voice and got into the final.

He says of his song, which he co-wrote in both French, and English: "I felt the need to write and deliver a message in a language that everyone can understand."

J’ai Cherche carries a message of achievement and love. You can't argue with that. 

Manga-style with Germany's Ghost


Germany Eurovision
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Jamie Lee, who sings Ghost, won The Voice of Germany final last year. 

She loves the Japanese Manga style, which is reflected her distinctively colourful look. Love the socks.

The song is a slow power ballad but it's catchy and looks fantastic with her set, which looks like a moonlit garden. 

But she still needs a bit of support from her Voice coach, who she rings to calm her nerves before a performance, saying "I get terrible stage fright every time".

You'd never know, Jamie.

Sweden's schoolboy star


Sweden Eurovision
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Host nation Sweden is the only Nordic country left in tonight's final. 

Frans Jeppsson Wall is already very popular at home, and how could anyone not like his song, If I Were Sorry? 

It's understated, catchy and features a cool smattering of background lighting, which spells out words as he sings.

This one has the press practically on their feet.

Aged just 17, he’s still at school, but his song (which he co-wrote) has already been streamed more than 7.8m times. 

He first gained recognition aged seven, during the 2006 World Cup, with his release of a tribute track paying homage to Swedish football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Frans is going to go far, I predict. 

Bulgaria belts it out in a cape


Bulgaria Eurovision
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This is a super-catchy song which has the crowd bouncing from the get-go. 

Poli Genova belts out If Love Was a Crime and you can see members of the press room bobbing and tapping away to this as they type. Plenty of cheers for her knock-kneed dancing.

She's wearing a cape - this is a bit of a Eurovision thing, I'd say, having watched the dress rehearsal.

Poli can’t get enough of Eurovision, having represented her country in 2011 and she also hosted the Junior Eurovision in Bulgaria last year.

Made of Stars fulfils Israel's 'lifelong dream'


Israel Eurovision
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Hovi Star is somewhat reminiscent of Antony and the Johnsons and has been very popular in the Eurovision press room.

His song starts with just a piano, Adele-style, and has delicate strings joining the accompaniment, which builds into a whopping, fist-clenching Eurovision crescendo. With fireworks.

Check out the dancers inside the spinning hoop - looks stunning but I hope they don't get too dizzy. I'd last 10 seconds in there.

He sings Made of Stars, and says it’s definitely ticking a big box for him. 

“It's been my lifelong dream to perform on the huge ESC stage. When I was six years old, I remember myself standing on our living room table and performing the Eurovision songs for my Mum."


Italy's sweet sound with flowers and balloons


Italy Eurovision
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Francesca Michielin, who is singing No Degree of Separation, won the Italian X Factor aged just 16.

This is a sweet-sounding, catchy song with a background set to match - bunches of flowers and balloons adorn the stage, with a tree as a backdrop. It's sung in Italian and English. 

She is broadening her outlook with Eurovision, saying: "This event gives me a chance to listen to rhythms, moods and melodies that I'm not familiar with, coming from many different countries."

Drumming and whistling with Hungary


Hungary Eurovision
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Freddie, who is singing Pioneer, went down very well with Mel Giedroyc and Scott Mills on BBC Four during the semi-finals.

There’s plenty to hold your attention, what with the whistling backing singers and the dancing drummer.

Freddie has a gravelly voice, not entirely unlike Rod Stewart's if you close your eyes. This is a rousing number, and just look at his drummer go. 

This is serious stuff though. Freddie says: “My song is about our inner struggles we have to face day by day, and the fact that all the answers lie deep inside of us."

And if you're feeling a bit pent-up, just bash one of his drums.   

Azerbaijan's song about a 'dramatic break-up'


Azerbaijan Eurovision
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This is Samra, singing Miracle, another popular song here. She's wearing a gold bodystocking and has backing singers in an array of white and gold, with her male dancers looking a bit like futuristic American footballers. It sort of works though.

She tells us not to be deceived by her song, saying: "Despite the fairytale-like title my sound is a dramatic break-up story. 

"I've been through the similar experience once. It's never easy to let someone go but you have to stay strong and keep moving."

Quite right too.

Slowing Down with the Netherlands

The Netherlands

Netherlands Eurovision
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Douwe Bob is singing Slow Down, which he co-wrote with his band. He says the lyrics have a “deep personal meaning”.

This is a catchy country and western-sounding number which is popular with plenty of people here, including Graham Norton. 

Douwe says: “It's a protest song against society's demands on people these days.

"It seems everybody has too little time for too many things. And so do I.”

I’m with you there, Douwe.

Colour-changing costume - very Hunger Games

Czech Republic

Czech Republic Eurovision
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Gabriela Guncikova used songwriters Christian Schneider and Sara Biglert based in - you guessed it - Sweden, for her song I Stand. 

This is one of several power ballads sung by female performers tonight. Not that it's a bad thing, just an observation. 

She's shunned backing dancers and commands the stage by herself. I have to also point out her amazing rope and crystal necklace and skirt that changes colour with the set's lighting. Very Hunger Games.

"It is an amazing opportunity to represent my country and also introduce myself and my vision to the audience and make them feel better and entertain them,” she says.

'Stop worrying about stuff'


Belgium Eurovision
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This is Laura Tesoro, aged 19, who started her career young, securing her first TV role aged eight, and by 11 was starring in Annie. 

She is sporting a lot of silver, as have several other Eurovision contestants. Her song is a good, poppy crowd-pleaser with a catchy hook and great brass backing. Slick backing dancers too.

And since you asked, here's what the song, What's the Pressure, is about. 

"It's about how the world around you is so crazy and about how you feel under so much pressure, but that in the end you have to stop worrying about stuff and just do what makes you happy," she says. 

So now you know.

And we're off!

Welcome to Stockholm's Globe arena, which holds an audience of 16,000 people, who in this case are extremely excitable Eurovision fans. 

Just check out those amazing catwalk outfits as the finalists strut their stuff. 

You're in good hands with your Swedish hosts - comedienne and actress Petra Mede and last year's Eurovision winner Mans Zelmerlow,

Mede has been pretty busy on the Eurovision front. She’s the first person to host the show twice since 1974, plus she hosted the BBC's Eurovision anniversary show with Graham Norton last year.

Er, free hugs anyone?

Free Hugs man

So this is a first for me. 

Free hugs in the press room - this guy is rushing around hugging as many people as he can. And not in a creepy way - he's just trying to make people smile.

I can't imagine this anywhere else, but somehow it works here.  

Fans flock to stadium with tinsel and face paints

The Eurovision final is just hours away and it's really buzzing here as fans gather outside the stadium. 

The atmosphere feels familiar - it's very similar the London 2012 Olympics, which I was also lucky enough to work on for the BBC. It was brimming with optimism, friendliness and a real sense of nations coming together. 

This is just the same - but with more glitter. 

I promised you some fans this morning, and I didn't have to look far. 

Tracey Stuart and Adam Bishop

Tracey Stuart and Alan Bishop, from Edinburgh, are here to support the UK, although their favourite entry is Bulgaria.  They've been coming to Eurovision since 2013. 

"I love the atmosphere and meeting everyone from all the different nations. Whoever wins will be our next holiday destination!" Tracey says. 

Alan adds: "Everyone's so easy to talk to - there's no barriers."

Margie Crouch, Reanna Craig and Adam Herd

Margie Crouch, Reanna Craig and Adam Herd are from Brisbane, in Australia. 

But - they don't want their hotly tipped finalist Dami Im to win. 

"It's a great song but it's too serious," they say. 

"Australia brought the world Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and the thing we love about Eurovision is the silliness. 

"If we win it wouldn't be right - we can't host it. We're happy to have a token entry."

Sasha Lynch

Sasha Lynch from London is frozen, and I'm not surprised. The weather has turned and it's blowing an icy gale outside. She's game enough to pose for a picture through. 

"I love how crazy it is, the fans get dressed up and I love the energy and positivity."

Carola Af Klinteberg and Erik

Carola Af Klinteberg and her son Erik have travelled from Sweden's Malmo to fly the flag for their country.

It's their second time at Eurovision and they love coming because "everyone's happy and it's a good show".

Eurovision fans

This animated group support mostly France, with a bit of Belgium and Russia thrown in for good measure. 

Gaultier Swietek, in the white jumper, says Russia will win, but Anthony Dernicourt begs to differ - he's the one wearing the Belgian flag on his face. 

Russia still expected to win

Ukraine's entry
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My latest scan of the latest Eurovision odds reveals that Russia are still the bookies' favourites, with odds of 4/6. 

Australia are still second with 3/1, followed by Ukraine [pictured] at 15/2. France is next with 12/1 and Sweden is at 20/1.

The UK is still 10th with 66/1, but it's in good company with the same odds going to the Netherlands and Belgium.  

A case of mistaken identity?

I've just been asked by one of the hotel staff if I'm singing in tonight's Eurovision Song Contest. That has to be a compliment, right?

Joe and Jake on their big moment

Joe and Jake
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I just grabbed a quick chat with UK hopefuls Joe and Jake as they left their hotel for more rounds of publicity and rehearsing. 

Jake, with his guitar slung over his shoulder, said: "We've spent the last six months working so hard for this - we're really excited."

They added it was "incredible on stage" last night, singing to a packed stadium at the jury vote performance.

This show, which isn't televised, is exactly the same as tonight's and generates 50% of the finalists' scores. 

Each of the 42 countries participating has five professional jury members, who cast their vote the night before the final.

This means that if there are any unexpected problems with the televoting, the jury votes can be used as back-ups.

So tonight, after the TV viewers have voted, the combined televote and jury vote will determine who wins. 

For those of you who like this sort of thing, here's a quick rundown on the new voting system (in case you missed it when it was announced in February).

Up until this year, each country's jury and public votes were combined and announced in one go. 

Now votes will be split - with each country's jury vote cast first, followed by the combined viewers' votes from all of the countries. 

Organisers say this will create a "dramatic finish" as the winner will only be revealed at the very end.

Nail-biting stuff.

It should be an improvement on previous years, when the winner was sometimes known for up to 20 minutes before the end of voting.

The final countdown...

Eurovision stage during rehearsal

So the big day has finally dawned. 

All of those empty seats in the stadium will be full of fans, who will no doubt find it hard to contain their excitement. I hope to be meeting some later on, so watch this space.

And what's it been like covering this huge event from inside the Eurovision bubble?

I've seen what monumentally hard work it is for the performers, hosts and everyone involved with the show.  

The rehearsals, which are screened in the press room, are an exact replica of what the audience will see on the night. 

It's a slick operation - the Swedes evidently love Eurovision - so the pressure on everyone is immense, even if they're not showing it. 

With up to 200 million people watching this, including viewers from the US and China, no one wants to put a foot wrong. 

It's also interesting to see how seriously all the countries involved now seem to to take the competition.

The "novelty" acts of years gone by are absent. Many of the entrants have cut their teeth on shows like The Voice or X Factor. So for some of them, Eurovision is a stepping stone for their pop careers. 

And for the journalists? It's fun, but incredibly hard work. There's a lot going on, a lot to get your head around (I've been brushing up on the biogs for all 26 finalists) but also a lot of camaraderie.

Laptop being temperamental? Several offers of help are immediately offered. (Thank you Metro's Benny Royston). 

Everyone here patently loves covering such a massive, unique event and so the atmosphere is great fun. 

Make-up counter by press room

And should you want your make-up doing for the big night, help is at hand outside the press room. I've always fancied some false eyelashes...

Graham Norton tips Australia for victory

Graham Norton

It's a small world at Eurovision, and who should I find myself chatting to but Graham Norton.

While preparing his commentary for Saturday's extravaganza, he gave me his take on the questions I asked Ken Bruce earlier:

Q: How many Eurovisions have you done now?

A: This is my eighth.

Q: Which acts stand out for you this year?

A: I think Australia are going to do very well. I think they might win it - they're very good. Who else? I quite like the Netherlands, they're pretty good.

Q: What do you think of the production and computer graphics that accompany the performances? Do they detract from the music?

A: No. I know when Eurovision began it was just a red velvet curtain and some potted plants but the staging has become a big part of it. People used to bring on a donkey and a cart and a bridge and a waterfall - and we had a working stove with the Russian grannies a couple of years ago. 

So staging is now a big part of it and you vote for things that are beautifully staged here, because Mans Zelmerlow had amazing staging last year. The staging won it for him I would say. It was a good song but it wasn't the best song. 

I think this year there are some in-camera graphics that I can see because I'm watching them on a screen, and they can be seen on TV. But people in the auditorium can't see them and you think - hang on - if they can't see them then we might as well just do this on a green screen and have done with it. 

But I do think staging's vital.

Q: Do you ever sigh and think "not another Eurovision", or do you look forward to it?

A: This is only my eighth Eurovision so I do look forward to it - I love more or less everything about it. 

Q: Eurovision judging can be brutal - what do you think about Nicky Byrne not making it to the final?

A: It's just so horrible for him but it's Eurovision - you take your chances. I don't know why he didn't get through because he looks great, he sounded good. The reaction of the crowd in the room is a pretty good indicator of how things are going. But poor Nicky but the Eurovision bullet. 

Eurovision stadium

Nicky Byrne 'didn't deserve' to miss final, says Ken Bruce

Ken Bruce

BBC Radio 2's Ken Bruce, a veteran Eurovision commentator if ever there was one, was good enough to spare me five minutes. Here's what we chatted about:

Q: How many Eurovisions have you done now?

A: This is my 29th - hopefully I'll make it to 30 next year.

Q: Which acts stand out for you this year?

A: It does seem as if Russia are carrying it a lot ahead of themselves - they're still the frontrunners. 

But there is a similarity and common feel to all of this year's songs. We used to have more variety and it's more difficult to distinguish between them all this year.

Q: What do you think of the production and computer graphics that accompany the performances? Do they detract from the music?

A; It's still a song contest. Music and lyrics should be almost everything. The music has to be good, but it is lifted by the presentation. I like to think it's still more about the songs than the brightness of the lights. 

Q: Do you ever sigh and think "not another Eurovision", or do you look forward to it?

A: After each final that sigh goes out! But I'm still enjoying it - it's a great thing to do for one day a year.

Q: Eurovision judging can be brutal - what do you think about Ireland's Nicky Byrne not making it to the final?

A: My heart goes out to him - it's a tragedy. He's a lovely guy and it was a good song; he didn't deserve to be jettisoned. Nicky's got a reputation and a following and he put them on the line, it was a risk putting himself out there. It's a terrible shame.

Nicky Byrne
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