I have never seen the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. This Sunday will see the Contest’s 15th iteration and I am yet sit down and watch one from start to end. The more I thought about it the more I realised I don’t think I could recall a single song from the past 14 years of JESC. The full extent of my exposure is when the winner pops up to awkwardly promote Junior in that lull during the voting of the main Contest. The fleeting glimpse never sufficiently grabbed my attention and made me watch in November though. But why?
It may be something of a simplification but I’m not likely to watch it if it hasn’t been on British TV for over a decade. With a lack of host broadcaster in the UK since 2005 there has been no way of watching it on the old fashioned ‘proper telly’. Of course in that same period the inexorable rise of streaming services means that this really shouldn’t be an excuse. However, the dearth of coverage in the UK must surely play a part.
Growing up with the main Contest it always felt like it had a significant presence on the BBC. The debate over the effort put into the participation at Eurovision can, has and will rage on but the level of coverage from the BBC has always been hard to miss. Every year it feels like a big live television event akin to a major sporting contest or a reality TV show final. The Eurovision Song Contest is basically the Bake Off final for musical coeliacs.
Compare this with Junior of which I have absolutely no memory of ever seeing when ITV covered it. I was 13 at the time of the first Junior Contest, a similar age to the majority of the performers and yet no recollection of any promotion or broadcast. No link up with up with CITV, no real push to get kids my age watching it, no real effort made. If you’re trying to attract a younger audience with Mark Durden-Smith and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson as commentators then surely ITV were just setting themselves up to fail
There is something to be said that whenever any competition has a ‘junior’ element the implication is that the competitors aren’t at their peak. These are highly talented young performers still honing their skill and maturing into their voice. Outwith ESC I have a few other obsessions (I know, the horror!). Formula 1 has been a love of mine for as long as Eurovision. I pour over every practice and qualifying session and watch every race with multiple screens of data. However, the junior formulae on the way up to F1 may come into my field of interest occasionally for a fleeting race or two every year. Never would I go out of my way to watch it. I also have a keen interest in track cycling having volunteered at an international event in Glasgow just after London 2012. When the Junior World Championship came to the same venue a few years later, I didn’t even go as a spectator, never mind volunteer.
Whilst JESC isn’t exactly used as a feeder to the Senior version (O’3GNE & Tolmachevys excluded) like motorsport or cycling there still seems to be something within me that can’t take an interest in very talented, hard working young people doing something amazingly well. Perhaps jealousy plays a greater part than I first assumed. It may sound harsh but I just can’t muster the enthusiasm for the junior competitors that I do for their senior counterparts.
Probably the most important factor is there’s just something about child performers I find inherently uncomfortable. This maybe as a result of years of the mawkish ‘end of the pier’, Britain’s Got Talent parading out cutesy little girls and boys performing saccharin sweet songs. On occasion the BBC decides that as part of group routine or for a special programme Strictly will have kids take to the floor. Seeing children as young as primary school age dressed in full dance regalia looking like mini adults is excruciatingly creepy to highest degree.
Whilst I’m aware that JESC is far more sophisticated than this I’m afraid this is what comes to mind when one thinks of child performers. Even if that in itself is not enough to dissuade me from young performers it’s also knowing the pushy parents will be lurking in the wings. I’m sure this isn’t the case for every mini singer, actor or dancer but whenever I see one all I can think of is the excellent League of Gentleman sketch involving the hideously overbearing parents entering their young daughter into a beauty pageant. If there’s one thing worse the precocious kids it’s the ghastly parents behind them.
This year though I shall attempt to cast aside my negativity and throw myself wholeheartedly into the Contest. I want to enjoy it, after all it gives a little Eurovision fix when we’re still a month or two away from National Final Season. Whether I will actually enjoy it though, remains to be seen.