When it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest there are many earworms, songs catchy songs that you can't get out of your head. What about the bookworms? For those who love to read and those who love Eurovision, look no further than these two books published in 2017.
Switzerland hosted the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 and so it is fitting that a book about Eurovision, aimed at the French speaking market, has been published. La Saga Eurovision was written by Jean-Marc Richard, famous Swiss TV presenter and journalist, Mary Clapasson and Nicolas Tanner.
The illustrated book of more than 400 pages is the result of more than two years of research and has been distributed in Switzerland, France and Belgium. It has been endorsed by Swiss EBU member RTS (SSR-SRG) and is a celebration of Nicolas and Jean-Marc's collaboration as commentators for Switzerland. "Our Swiss French audience has been able to listen to our commentary for 10 years from 2008 until 2017," explained Nicolas. "The idea of creating this book came naturally. We wanted to share all our experiences and views of the contest."
Capturing the stories on paper
Whilst Nicolas and Jean-Marc have attended the Eurovision Song Contest since the 1990s, Mary has also played a significant role in the this work. "Mary was our writer and structured the book. She made sure it was understandable and accessible for non-Eurovision fans in order to target a broader audience," explained Nicolas. "I travelled with Nicolas and Jean-Marc to watch the Eurovision Song Contest 10 times since 2005," said Mary. "I also conducted several interviews as part of this work," she added.
Over the 25 years of attending the Eurovision Song Contest Jean-Marc and Nicolas met hundreds of people. "We heard so many fascinating stories that we wanted to put them down in writing. What we tried to do is to cover the whole history of Eurovision and try explain this phenomenon. We are showing how this contest has developed from a little singing competition in Lugano to today’s extraordinary show that is viewed all over the world."
Different tunes, different perspectives
Nicolas explained that the trio were keen to tell the Eurovision story from different angles, not just from a musical or broadcasting perspective. "We didn't only want to cover the years but also wanted to share the views of some former participants and see whether it changed their careers or not. We also approached composers, EBU officials, television producers and fans to gain a clearer understanding about why this contest has survived over the years despite the critics, especially in the French speaking world." They point out that whilst there are several books available on the Eurovision Song Contest, few have been written in French, as they have been translations from the original publications.
The book includes rare pictures from over the years which accompany the interviews. Nicolas considers passion to be the key driver for this work as well as the song contest itself. "This is what makes it so special and this is why it will continue to bring so many people together. We are true fans of this contest and are convinced that Eurovision is now fully part of European popular culture and this is what have tried to showcase in this book."
A history of modern Europe told through Eurovision
In a special feature published last year we focused on several academics who used the Eurovision Song Contest as a teaching tool. Written by Chris West, Eurovision! charts the history of both the Eurovision Song Contest and the history of Europe.
Chris watched Sandie Shaw winning the Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom in 1967, and has been hooked on Eurovision ever since. He lists Sandie's triumph as one of his favourite Eurovision memories. As a teenager, Chris even co-wrote a song for the contest, but it didn’t get selected. What inspired him to write this book? We caught up with the author to find out more.
"I’d already written two books on history, using stamps as a way of looking at a nation’s (the UK’s and the US’) history," said Chris. "I wanted to do the same for Europe, but didn’t fancy doing another stamp one. Then one Saturday in May (I don’t remember which year!), I sat down with my wife to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, and we began reminiscing about contests we'd seen in the past and how much they reflected how Europe had changed (she’s from the Netherlands). I suddenly realised I had to write this book!"
Europe and Eurovision through the decades
Eurovision! provides an account of the Eurovision Song Contest through the decades interspersed with commentary on the political flashpoints of the time. "Doing the research was great – I have watched every Eurovision Song Contest, apart from 1956 and 1964, of which there are no recordings," said Chris.
"A second aspect of the research that interested me was reading up on European history. The way history moves fascinates me, sometimes slow, sometimes with incredible speed, and I found this as pleasurable as watching the contests," Chris explained.
Every day is a school day
Chris hopes that the book will become a good tool for teaching. "It's not a book to force onto unwilling teenagers, though it is a book to recommend to teenagers (or people of all ages) who like the contest and are curious about modern European history," he said.
Chris hopes that the book will help people to understand the world around them. "I hope people will come away with a deeper understanding of Europe, especially what it means to people from countries outside the old ‘core’. I don’t just mean the EU (though it helps to know how that works), but Europe in a wider sense, as something we all belong to whatever happens politically," he added.
Over the years several books have been published about the Eurovision Song Contest, do you have a favourite?