On 18 March, just under 7 weeks ago, the EBU had to break the bad news: the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and the measures implemented across Europe and around the world to contain it. Behind the scenes, the EBU and Dutch Host Broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS quickly took action to find an alternative, eager to keep the Eurovision flame burning before we begin to look ahead again.
Just days before the cancellation, the Hilversum-based production team of the 2020 Contest parted ways to work from home, following the Dutch government's strict prevention measures. Just under 48 hours after the announcement, a small task force of the original production team jumped on a video call with one question in mind: "Without the song contest, how can we still give Europe that Eurovision feeling, especially in these challenging times?"
The ambition to honour the 41 artists, celebrate what Eurovision stands for and create a sense of unity across borders in challenging times — those became the ingredients for the show on 16 May.
In parallel, an idea emerged to ask all 41 contestants to jointly sing a Eurovision evergreen. In mere moments, a song that seemed to fit what we are going through was embraced: Love Shine A Light, the iconic UK winner by Katrina & The Waves from 1997. Combined with the ambition, Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light was born.
...To a speedy kick-off
A pitch was sent out to EBU Member Broadcasters, and in a matter of days, over 40 public broadcasters signed up to broadcast the show - nearly all of them live. Meanwhile, a small team in the Dutch media capital of Hilversum, a town 30 minutes east from Amsterdam, took on the monumental challenge to produce a 2-hour-long TV show for a massive audience, all while many countries were in lockdown, or at minimum, had to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines.
The last mile
In a race against the clock, the 41 participants were asked to provide footage from their homes and several broadcasters embraced the opportunity to go the extra mile by contributing with a special performance, a cross-talk or other unique additions. Graphics were made. A studio with sufficient space to facilitate social distancing was booked. The trio originally lined up to host the Eurovision Song Contest 2020, as well as online host NikkieTutorials, were prepped to host a very different show, new costumes were made, a new script was written.
And, who knows, the production team may just have a few more surprises up their sleeves along the way, brought to you exclusively by a few expected, and unexpected, Eurovision ambassadors.
And the finishing touch
With just a few days to go, the team behind Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light is fine-tuning every aspect of the show. In just under 7 weeks, with commitment and thorough collaboration with public service broadcasters from across Europe and beyond, they have prepared a heartwarming moment of togetherness for Saturday night. Europe, and Australia, are you ready?