Last week the Heads of Delegation met in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to formally submit their entries for the Eurovision Song Contest and learn more about the plans for the upcoming competition. Every participating country in the contest has a Head of Delegation but what does the job entail? We spoke to three Heads of Delegation to find out.
The Head of Delegation is the team leader and the point of contact for the European Broadcasting Union. They are in charge of everything ranging from the staging of the acts to coordination of the national press. We met with Helen Riddell, joint Head of Delegation for the United Kingdom, Nicola Caligiore, Head of Delegation for Italy and Edoardo Grassi who became Head of Delegation for France in 2016.
How they got there
We asked all three how they became Head of Delegation at the Eurovision Song Contest. "I started working on Eurovision about four years ago. I started off as an Assistant Head of Delegation and graduated up to the Head," said Helen. "I started in RAI, the Italian broadcaster, working in international relations and it was one of my projects to bring RAI back into the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011", explained Nicola. France's Edoardo approached the broadcaster directly, "I met with Head of Entertainment at French TV as I had some things to tell her about Eurovision. After the meeting she was surprised by my ideas and appointed me as Head of Delegation. I was so honoured."
What are the responsibilities of a Head of Delegation? "Basically you organise everything and manage the whole delegation. You make sure that everyone in the delegation knows what needs to be done", said Nicola. Helen expanded on this; "It's everything, it's pulling all the bits and pieces together. Thinking about staging, artist availability, thinking about rehearsals, working closely with the Head of Press". Some Heads of Delegation also play a role in selecting the actual artists as well, as Edoardo explains; "For me the most challenging part is picking the right artist for Eurovision".
There is undoubtedly a lot of work for each Head of Delegation but all three absolutely agree that it's an honour and privilege working on the Eurovision Song Contest. "It's a huge stress at times but it's a wonderful job". Helen agrees; “I always try and explain to people that even though it’s a competition, it’s the friendliest competition that you are ever going to come across. When you are actually in the delegation bubble you can often hear other people singing your song. All the artists are so friendly and welcoming and so supportive of each other. I think that’s the best bit about my job."
There is often great camaraderie among the Heads of Delegation which could be seen in 2016 when Edoardo was one of the first people to congratulate the Ukrainian delegation after Jamala won the Eurovision Song Contest. Many go on to become firm friends.
The Head of Delegation is also the first point of contact for the EBU in the event of a victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. At the winner's press conference Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, traditionally hands over the first initial documents to the winning broadcaster and the journey to hosting begins. Jon Ola himself started out as a Head of Delegation for Norway before joining the EBU, showing that great opportunities can arise from the role.
Thank you to Helen, Edoardo and Nicola for taking the time to speak to Eurovision.tv.