Delegates from the UK and beyond attended the 4th OGAE Bash in Birmingham. A day of thrills, spills, and unlikely winners. Plus who would win the annual Stars in their Eurovision Eyes contest for 2009?
Back in the very handy location of Birmingham for the fourth time, this event seems to be growing in popularity year on year.
For some of us, it started with a few sedate drinks on the Friday night. Both the hotel bar and a Wetherspoon’s down the road saw the bulk of our custom, but others saw many more sights in Birmingham that night. It’s a good chance to catch up with fellow fans, recount the highs and lows of the previous Eurovision year, and of course speculate what would happen the next day.
After a late night finish, there were a few bleary-eyed souls the following morning. For those who hadn’t got breakfast at the hotel, the aforementioned Wetherspoon’s provided a handy oasis of fry-ups, orange juice and, if you needed it, beer at 10.30.
The much anticipated midday soon arrived, and the fans started to gather in the usual conference room at the Jury’s Inn. More catching-up over coffee and biscuits, with the chance to buy old copies of this esteemed publication. Of course, it’s also a chance for those not lucky enough to get to Moscow to meet the hardy annuals that did, so the Contest could be properly dissected.
On our arrival, we were given a programme of the day’s events, and told where we were sitting. I was placed at table 2005 – we there really over 2000 tables I thought? But as you’ve guessed, I’d joined the Kyiv table with eight others. In all, there were 10 tables for the forthcoming events.
By 1pm the first beers of the day started to appear, and Paul took to the flag-festooned lectern to give a few words of encouragement, praise, and how he thought the year had gone. News of an imminent website revamp was welcomed, before informing us all that we were live on the web already! Even better news was a 20 per cent net increase in membership, showing that the fan club is obviously going in the right direction. Just so you know, our membership stands at around 350, and we’re the second biggest national club after Germany. Non-members who’d attended were encouraged to join during the day.
Our first act, as it were, was the genial Monty Moncrieff, with his quiz. Last year’s quiz was an individual thing, but this year we competed as tables, with the organisers making up an extra team. We had to ‘Name that frock’, gaining points for correctly identifying the various frills, suits, skirts and even gussets(!) from acts from the last 10 contests. A great icebreaker. This was followed by 10 probing questions, testing our general knowledge of all things Eurovision, including a sneaky little question on Junior Eurovision. We then had to match up West End musicals with UK Eurovision acts from throughout the years. We never realised Sally Ann Triplett had been around so much. Finally, a round based on the number 4 to test our knowledge. The results seemed to surprise a few, with many of the middle order tables very close. But there was an out and out winner that thoroughly deserved their prizes of various CDs and the kudos of being Eurovision experts.
During the previous months we’d been voting for our favourite songs that finished fourth in the Contest. The top 12, in no particular order were soon revealed, along with the ones picked 13th-20th. What would be there we wondered? Again, a few obvious ones and a few surprises. Several things occurred to me: that the Italian language (Swi 81, Ita 92, Ita 97) is still much-loved; many of my favourites through the years all finished 4th, and it was likely there’d be a surprise winner.
The 12 songs were seen, with some good wishes from some of the top 20 performers. One group even said they’d record an English version if they won. The votes came in, table by table, with the lead changing hands several times. Our winner Once in a Lifetime, was a surprise to many, considering the calibre of the opposition. But nevertheless, highly enjoyable.
After a short break, our two special guests took centre stage. Unfortunately Jessica Garlick had been hospitalised, but Martyn Bayley sent her best wishes.
Martyn and fellow guest James Fox gave an in depth interview, talking to Marcus Keppel-Palmer. They told us of life before, during and since the respective appearances, and their general views on Eurovision. It seems that if they had their way, we’d be seeing them again as singers/songwriters. The very affable James rounded off this part of the proceedings by telling us he, along with Martyn, would be around for Stars in Their Eyes, and may even consider performing as himself in the future. He also sang an acoustic version Hold on to Our Love.
And now the break before the main event: ‘Stars in Their Eurovision Eyes’. This gave us all times to reflect on what had been a good Bash so far, top up our refreshments, and await the buffet.
By 7pm, most people were in their seats would what would prove to be a very enjoyable competition. Nine suitably dressed acts were competing to succeed Paul and Emily’s performance of Duo Datz’ Kaan. A wide variety of songs awaited us, and after an introduction from our own Dean ‘Pat Kenny’ Asker, we were off.
First on was Eurobandið or, more precisely the Schlagerboys. It’s always good to see the effort some acts put into their outfits, and these were no exception. They’d obviously been studying the dance routine down to the last detail. A good opener. Next saw our first ever gimp suit at Eurovision. An ambitious attempt at Carry Me in Your Dreams, but good nonetheless. Some of just wondered whether the midgets (sorry, persons of restricted growth) were.
Following this were seasoned annuals, this time performing as Charmed. The three girls had been involved in many previous winners, but would this continue. They assured us that they’d hardly practiced the well-coordinated dance routine, but we had our doubts.
After an interlude featuring the opinions thus far from Messrs Bayley and Fox, we were treated to Danny as Brinck. He’d been worrying beforehand. He’d had problems with his voice, and he was our first solo act. We should all remember that it takes real guts to stand up there in front of about 100 of us, so all the acts were doing well by just being there. Danny’s take on Believe Again surprised us, pleasantly of course. A good finish seemed very likely.
Another seasoned performer was Daul. He sang a memorable version of On Again Off Again a few years back with his wife. But this time he was back as a soloist performing Deli. He seemed a little nervous, but his audience didn’t mind. They liked this unusual choice of song. Our only national finalist was next on, with two guys performing Magnus Carlsson’s Lev Livet from the 2006 Melodifestivalen. You could tell they were enjoying themselves, but would it be enough?
After more expert opinion from Martyn and James we saw our final three acts. First of these was Alec Parkin. Our only song from another decade, he paid homage to the Birmingham Eurovision and sang Danijela’s Neka Mi Ne Svane, complete with costume change. He’d obviously put much thought into this, and the crowd seemed to like it.
Now I was slightly involved with the next act, but I’ll try and be as impartial as possible. Who could forget Laka from 2008? Not these four! We had a green suit, a Cleo Rocos look-alike, washing, knitting, and of course backing singers dressed as brides. What could be more normal? It’s difficult to describe how Paul, Elaine, Dermot and Iain came across, but I urge you watch their performance on YouTube for the full effect. But suffice it to say, my skills of safety-pinning people in frocks have not been wasted.
How to follow that? Well, that was the job of Michelle-Louise Lewis, with a brave performance of Düm Tek Tek”. Again, she was a soloist, which takes guts in itself. We all did wonder whether the acrobat would take us all by surprise during the song.
After all nine ‘performances’, we then had three minutes to cast our votes. We could only vote for one song, making it slightly easier. Who would win? Kejsi Tola? Laka? Brinck? Hadise? Mr Asker appeared on stage to announce that in third place was Danijela. He then asked Martyn and James to call one act on stage each. These were our winner and runner-up, in no particular order. Laka and Brinck both looked slightly surprised to be there, and Brinck had done especially well due to his earlier vocal problems. But the winner, with apparently one third of the votes, was… Laka!
So Paul, Elaine, Dermot and Iain went one place better than last year, and took possession of a trophy that would put its more famous crystal Eurovision microphone to shame. It’s even been touring the country since it was won.
Martyn and James left us at this point, and we were all very grateful that they’d stayed so late. We can only start to imagine what they thought of the whole proceedings, but I’m pretty sure it made an impression. Where did that leave us? The only thing to do now was for the disco to get up and running, so we could party properly ‘til the wee small hours. By then, thongs were starting to get a little hazy, but where better for things to get hazy than a Eurovision party?
It must be borne in mind that a lot of people put a lot of effort into running an event like this, so I’d like to thank all of them, and you can guarantee I’ll be back next year.