Having been rejected by continental Europe, Justin heads to Dublin.
Justin Lee Collins attempts to enter the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest. Having already ruled out the UK as a possibility, JLC travels to all corners of Europe searching for a country that will accept him as a singer. Along the way, he encounters a number of previous entrants, a wealth of Eurovision experts and a mountain of red tape.
The Eurovision Song Contest was started in 1956 as a way to bring together the nations of Europe following the destruction of World War II. Since that time, a total of 1,100 songs have been performed, and the show is now watched by 125million people across the world. “For one night of the year, all nations are equal, brought together by the magic of song,” says Justin. Having been a fan since childhood, JLC is determined to be involved in this year’s event. “What better way to understand it than to try and enter it?” he asks.
Initially conceived at a drunken party, the plan is to travel the length and breadth of Europe in search of a nation that will accept Justin as its representative. “Europe’s just a great big family,” he says. “And I’m a Eurovision orphan looking for a home.” But the task will not be easy: many countries refuse to accept foreign entrants, and most of those that do have already started the selection process. Before he attempts to conquer Europe, Justin enlists the help of Eurovision expert John Kennedy O’Connor to come up with a shortlist of potential targets.
The first stop on the European adventure is Estonia. JLC gets straight on the campaign trail and scores a major success when he is invited to perform on national television the following morning. Buoyed by the news, JLC meets with Estonian pop star Koit Toome, who represented his country at Eurovision in 1994. Koit promises to watch JLC’s TV appearance, and even agrees to write a song for him should he be successful in his bid. However, there may be a problem more immediate than song choice. “The best thing to do when you’re going to be on TV the next morning is to get an early night,” says Justin. “I want to tell you I did this, but I can’t.”
A bleary-eyed Justin leaves his hotel before 6am the following day and heads for the TV studios. “I feel terribly sick,” he reflects. By 7.20am, he is standing in the wings, preparing for a make-or-break performance. “I’m in a television studio in Estonia about to sing ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ for the first time in my life – live,” he says. Whether good or bad, Justin’s performance is enough to earn him a meeting with a member of the Estonian Eurovision delegation. However, the news is not good. Owing to a late change in the rules, Estonia is no longer accepting foreign entrants for the competition. A crestfallen Justin returns to his hotel, only to receive further bad news. A flood of emails from across Europe has closed a number of doors. “My map of opportunities has shrunk,” he says. The only viable options remaining are Andorra and Ireland.
Refusing to be beaten, Justin arrives in Andorra with renewed vigour. “This is no time for holding back, no time for humility,” he says. “I’m fighting for Eurovision survival.” His aggressive approach quickly bears fruit and earns him a live interview on national radio. Determined to make the most of this opportunity to shine, Justin sings live, promises to bring the trophy home and even insists that he will be a low-maintenance performer. However, it is not enough. A few days later, news comes in that Andorra will not be entering this year’s competition.
Justin’s only hope of performing now rests with seven-times winner Ireland. “The anticipation is starting to mess me up. I think I need to get very drunk this evening,” reflects a nervous Justin as he arrives in the Emerald Isle. But will the Irish throw Justin a lifeline, or is his Eurovision dream over before it has even begun?