'We should pull out'

Inklings Writing Group meet on Tuesdays at 10.30am in Annebrook House Hotel

Lorraine Murphy, Inklings Writing Group

“We should pull out.” “We were robbed.” “It’s all political.”

Social media was outraged when Ireland didn’t qualify for this year’s Eurovision song contest.

It is 27 years since Ireland won the contest with ‘The Voice’ by Eimear Quinn. That year, 25 countries competed. This year there were 37 countries, a drop of three on last year. Times have changed. Traditionally we heard most songs for the first time on the night of the contest, now we can stream all the songs months in advance of the contest, and we do – in our millions.

This means a unique opportunity for the entry to hit the audience well in advance of the performance. Give them something catchy, something to thrill or something to move.

Lorraine Murphy at this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool. Photo by Picasa

Irish acts are talented, they are prepared, but I feel we let them down. As a country, our artists don’t have a concept, we don’t innovate, we don’t push the boundaries. In short, we don’t invest enough in our contest in every way from finding the best song to the best act to sing it to then produce it to the standard needed.

If we are to be successful in the future, the old guard must go and our current process must change.

Last year Ukraine won the contest and the awesome Sam Ryder for the UK took second place. As the horrific Russian invasion of Ukraine raged on, the UK offered to step in and Liverpool was announced as host for 2023.

That gave me the chance of a lifetime to see the show in person. Being in the stadium when Käärijä for Finland came on is something I will never forget. The whole place went nuts. A song in Finnish that managed to have thousands of people singing with him – that’s the level we are competing at.

When Wild Youth for Ireland came on, they were fine, it was a lovely song, sung well, but when Sweden’s Loreen opened her mouth, producing that belter, it was clear which one would be remembered and therefore which had a chance of winning.

“That’s not music!” “It’s not a song contest any more!” “It’s all a gimmick.”

Fans would say otherwise. Music should move us, jolt us, make us feel. Think of your gut reaction to our own Put ‘em under pressure or the music of Riverdance. Music is more than a nice song, it’s a feeling, it’s a vibe and the top acts at Eurovision know that.

As Ireland now shares the record for most wins with Sweden, it’s time to try something new. A standalone contest (perhaps an open call) to find a song that grabs, an act that slays, and then invest in them with the best production and story they can tell.

A captivating video early on in the process and maybe, just maybe, we will have a chance.

Is the Eurovision song contest political? I don’t know. The fact that Sweden will host it in 2024, 50 years since Abba won with Waterloo isn’t lost on me. Neither is the very different jury and public votes or the whole stadium and social media chanting Cha Cha Cha, the words of second placed Finland over the actual winner, but political? I don’t know.

Let’s up our game and, if we don’t succeed… What’s another year?

• Lorraine Murphy is a member of Inklings Writing Group, who meet on Tuesdays at 10.30am, Annebrook House Hotel.