When it comes to the team organising the Eurovision Song Contest 2020, we know this much is true: Their creativity and flexibility is astonishing and their love for Eurovision is deep-rooted. if you need any further proof, then consider this. In less than seven weeks, the team has pivoted from the cancellation of Eurovision 2020 to the creation of Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light.

Speaking to Wiwiblogger William via Skype, Executive Producer for Event Sietse Bakker conveyed passion and heart as he discussed everything from the cancellation of ESC 2020 to the goals of the May 16 replacement programme. He also mentioned how unusual this year’s circumstances are.

He said: “I think it was Jon Ola Sand who said it in an interview a couple of weeks ago — ‘Starting up a song contest after a country wins, that’s one thing. But wrapping one up before it happens, that’s even more challenging.'”

But rather than getting down, his team got up and starting planning for Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light. The alternative show will be broadcast in 45 countries, including all countries that were due to participate in this year’s contest, as well as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Montenegro.

“Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that all participating broadcasters would sign up to show it,” he says. “Almost all of them live. I was sort of thinking: if 25 would take it, I would be really pleased.”

Sietse Bakker on the cancellation of Eurovision 2020

In January 2020, when the Covid-19 outbreak hit Wuhan and other parts of mainland China, the organising team behind Eurovision 2020 started to think the virus might pose a threat to the song contest. As we know, the events evolved rapidly — and much quicker than anyone, including experts, had anticipated.

In early March, the first European countries went on lockdown. It was after the annual Head of Delegations meeting  in mid-March when Sietse knew that the event might be cancelled.

“Suddenly, you are a crisis manager. You have to deal with all the complexities. First off, trying to find ways to keep the song contest going, despite a pandemic coming over. Suddenly you are managing the first ever cancellation of the song contest, which means dealing with a team of seventy-eighty people…everyone’s sad, disappointed. Dealing with suppliers. Dealing with the city of Rotterdam, who put a lot of effort into the event.”

Sietse Bakker on Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light

“One of the first thoughts when the contest was cancelled was: how can we somehow still celebrate what the Eurovision Song Contest is all about on the 16th of May?”

One of the goals of Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light is to honour the 41 artists, who had each prepared a song for the contest in Rotterdam. Bakker said that this aspect was key to the alternative show they created.

“The second thing was to create a sense of togetherness in this crisis. If you look at the news over the last months, we’ve been talking about each other, talking about how bad the situation is in Italy; all the challenges in Spain; we’ve been talking about the UK Prime Minister who ended up in hospital… all these stories. We talked about each other. We thought: maybe we should talk with each other.”

Will Eurovision 2021 be cancelled?

Recently the Dutch Minister for Health Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament that no mass events can take place until a vaccine against the coronavirus is in widespread use. Given that vaccines can take years to develop, that raised fear among many fans that Eurovision 2021 could be in jeopardy.

But Bakker has added important context to those remarks, explaining that they were just two sentences in a document of more than 38 pages.

He also said that producers planning for next year will do their homework and be prepared for changing circumstances. If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that no one can predict what will unfold in the months and year ahead.

“We have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks, looking into what it takes to move it to next year. We haven’t quite completed this homework yet, but we hope we are able to say something about that sometime very soon.”

Are you excited for Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light? What are you expecting from the show? Let us know in the comments down below!

Read all our Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light news here

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mark dowd
mark dowd
3 years ago

This guy looks like a more mature version of Duncan Laurence!! Or do I need to go to Specsavers??

3 years ago

Sietse Bakker… he could definite get it! HAWT

3 years ago

Yes, 30 second snippet of each act, 20 minutes all together to celebrate 2020. Some celebration..

3 years ago
Reply to  Denis

3 full minutes multiplied by forty-one music videos and national fonal performances will last 2 hours. No one will stay for that.

30 seconds is more than sufficient actually, hence why commercials work so well in getting and holdong people’s attention.

And this is also a culmination of several weeks of giving tribute to the songs that were due to compete, from the home concerts to the song celebrations to the interviews as well as the alternative programming provided by participating EBU members. That’s more than enough.