Wilfred van Dellen (right) Wilfred van Dellen (right) Wilfred van Dellen

“Annual post-Eurovision depression”

Written by  Annelotte Huiskes Wednesday, 10 June 2015 14:25

"Best Eurovision song? That’s a tough one. Eres tu or Loreen's Euphoria?" Eurovision fan Wilfred van Dellen can’t decide; there are just so many great songs to choose from. Back in his student days, he arranged for the spectacle to be shown on a big screen at the COC, the association for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Limburg where he worked as a volunteer. But ever since he saw the real thing in 2011, the screen just doesn't cut it anymore. Now an educational psychologist and teacher/researcher at UCM, Van Dellen and his partner will head for Vienna in late May to see the 60th song contest. "It’s a sort of bubble – a highly addictive one."

This interview takes place a good month before the festival. Still, the trip to Vienna has long been booked and tickets secured for the fan zone. "The fan zone is the area near the stage where the fans stand cheering after every song. It makes for juicy pictures, which are flashed up between performances. After the first time I saw it in Düsseldorf I remember thinking, I’m so close I could throw a can right at the singer’s head, with all of Europe watching. You’re right at the epicentre, jammed into a hall with 30,000 people and all those cameras. You know those images will be beamed live onto TV screens in millions of homes, and I'm standing right in front of it. It’s an overwhelming experience."

Last year in Copenhagen, Van Dellen and his partner happened to get their faces on camera. "It was barely two seconds, during the song by the Greek contestant. Straight away my phone started vibrating and I got dozens of messages: 'You were on TV!' "

Parallel universe
"At the end of the day I'm still an academic, so I like trying to figure out what I find so great about it. I know it's kitsch and camp. But what really appeals to me is spending a whole week partying with people from all over the world who love Eurovision just as much as I do. It’s like you’re entering some kind of bubble. For an entire week, you get to immerse yourself in a parallel universe where the rules are different to normal life. There’s the constant stimulus of a big stage, bright lights, never-ending music and all those nationalities around you; it gives you a huge energy boost. I always come back fully recharged."

But returning to the daily grind is not easy. "Every year I get post-Eurovision depression, honestly. There should be academic research on this. I think it's comparable to what students experience after an exchange programme. After such an intense week I get really bad withdrawal symptoms. Last year I had to get back to work straight away; that was a mistake. Fortunately, this year I have a few days off to recover slowly."

Social statement
Also special for Van Dellen is that, despite the element of competition, there is no aggression. "You're around all these people with massively in-depth analyses on who’s going to win and, more importantly, who’s not. In that sense they’re a bit like football fans. And yet no one ever gets into fights there because his or her country didn't win." In this, Van Dellen sees glimpses of a peaceful and united Europe. A song contest is no place for politics. As he sees it, the audience did wrong to greet the Russian candidate with loud booing after the invasion of Ukraine.

Still, Eurovision is more than just entertainment. According to Van Dellen the statement that last year's winner Conchita Wurst made, as a woman with a beard, was a very positive one. "She's also from Austria, which makes it all the more exciting. Over the years the song contest has built up a tradition of shining a spotlight on minorities; take Dana International, the transgender Israeli artist who won in 1998. Or this year's Finnish delegation; they’re a sort of Jostiband [a Dutch orchestra for musicians with intellectual disabilities]."

This, Van Dellen suggests, may explain why the Eurovision Song Contest is so popular in the gay community. Both on and off stage, gays, transvestites and transgender people are well represented. "When I'm there with my partner we’re finally in the majority. We're not part of 10% of the crowd, but 80%. And for couples from countries where homosexuality is frowned on, it’s really great that they can turn up and just be lovers. It gives minorities the chance to just be themselves."

And the winner is ...
What does winning mean in the context of Eurovision? In Van Dellen’s view, Anouk did better than her ninth place two years ago might suggest. "She managed to get the Netherlands into the grand final after nine years and put the song contest back on the map here. And she inspired Ilse de Lange to enter the competition as well. Although she and Waylon came second, their song was played all over the world. These days they’re saying the Netherlands has brought some real songs back into the contest. Small, intimate and well executed. And now Trijntje Oosterhuis will be representing us. My partner’s a big fan; I think she'll make it into the finals, but she won't win. And I don't see that as such a bad thing."    


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