Divina de Campo, Mel Giedroyc and a constellation of stars are going head-to-head to fill the Eurovision gap with the Isolation Song Contest
Divina de Campo and Mel Giedroyc are among 14 celebrity acts doing battle this weekend for the Isolation Song Contest.
Usually at this time of year Eurovision buzz would be sweeping the LGBT+ community. Group chats would be filled with gossip and speculation, plans would be afoot for viewing parties up and down the country, and supermarkets would be heaving under the weight of copious online prosseco orders.
This year, of course, things are a little different. Eurovision has been cancelled for the first time in its 64-year history due to coronavirus, with scheduled host country Rotterdam hopeful it will get the chance to run the show in 2021 instead.
Being a resourceful lot, fans of the contest have sprung into action organising online viewing parties of Eurovisions past to keep its spirit alive while raising money for charity.
This weekend will see another effort to fill the cultural gap left by the cancellation, with the arrival of the first – and hopefully, last – Isolation Song Contest.
Comedian and Eurovision fan Tom Taylor has asked 14 friends from the worlds of comedy, music, entertainment and drag to help recreate the spectacle from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Along with Drag Race UK star Divina de Campo and former Bake Off host Mel Giedroyc, those taking part include drag artist Glamrou, comedians Tim Vine, Nick Helm, Pippa Evas, Rob Deering and Josie Long and Jonny Donahoe (performing together), musical-comedy duo Flo and Joan, singers Joe Stilgoe and Neil Hannon, actors Kevin Eldon, Lucy Porter and Justin Edwards (a duo), and bonafide Eurovision star Måns Zelmerlöw, who won for Sweden in 2015 but will represent the UK in the Isolation Contest.
Each contestant has been assigned a country and tasked with creating an original song and music video, which will debut during the grand final on Saturday (May 2). Everybody involved is donating their time to raise money for three charities: The Trussell Trust, which services foodbanks across the UK; Crisis, which works with people who are homeless; and Refuge, the country’s largest provider of domestic and gender-based violence services.
Ahead of the grand final, PinkNews caught up with Divina and Mel to find out what they’ve got up their sequinned sleeves.
PN: Divina, you must be a big Eurovision fan.
Divina de Campo: Definitely. It’s ridiculous, it’s so joyous, it’s almost like being on acid or something. It’s just such high camp.
Remember there was the year we had the ‘We are vampires’ entry [for Romania in 2013] and it was ridiculously sexual dancing on a bright red sofa, black PVC and leather-clad people rolling over each other. Then there was the year where they were dressed like garden gnomes and you had a girl with a dwarf hat on a unicycles [Moldova’s 2011 entry].
That’s what I love about it, that’s my favourite thing about Eurovision. It is such a massive part of the LGBTQ+ calendar, because it is so camp and flamboyant and outrageous. It’s very silly. That’s what the joy of it is.
We’re surprised you’ve never taken part in it.
DDC: I am a television whore. If they give me the call, I’m going to show up!
I’ve never actually been involved in but lots of people have offered to write songs for it. We actually did write a track for it but they changed the application process last year [the public vote for the UK was scrapped for the 2020 competition in favour of an internal selection process].
That definitely barred a lot of people from being able to apply, never mind getting into the running, but I’m definitely a massive, massive Eurovision fan.
Do you have a favourite?
DDC: Dana International [Eurovision’s first openly trans contestant, who won for Israel in 1998].
That was a turning point for the entire world, having trans representation in front of 300 million people. The fact that she won, that so many people voted for her… and she was brilliant!
And Mel, you’re an old hand at Eurovision aren’t you?
Mel Giedroyc: I feel very much part of the Eurovish family. We made the Eurovision You Decide show, which was the way the BBC used to choose who was going to represent the UK, and I co-presented the semi-finals for three years running with Scott Mills.
It was unbelievable, we’d be there for the week seeing the build-up to the big night, the goings-on backstage, the delegations… it was mental. I’ve always loved it as a viewer so to be a part of it was a total joy. The fans are everything, they are so lovely.
I’ve never been to a World Cup football game but I imagine it’s that kind of vibe, only with much better contouring and outfits and no fighting.
It sounds like a cheesy cliche but it is all about love and peace. People go there for absolutely the right reasons, they go there to have fun and to enjoy the spectacle, the outrageousness, the outlandishness, the beautifulness, it’s an amazing thing, it really is.
So what can we expect from the Isolation Song Contest?
MG: It’s going to be epic, it really is. This lovely guy who’s a musician and comedian, Tom Taylor, it’s his brainchild. He asked 14 of us, people he knew either loved Eurovision, or made music or could give it something. He’s got 14 really good acts – [laughs] she says smugly. We’re all really brilliant!
DDC: My song is representing Australia. My husband’s Australian and so when I was offered it I obviously jumped at the chance.
It’s very much a drag styling of a Eurovision song, it’s a bit Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It’s going to be camp, very tongue in cheek. I’m not talking about drag in it, it’s not self-referential, it’s more Priscilla, French and Saunders.
MG: The artist representing Italy is very close to my heart. She’s called Melania, she is Italy’s seventh most popular daytime TV hostess and she’s singing a very, very powerful lament-slash-ballad in isolation, about being abandoned. I won’t give too much away but I did write the lyrics, I will be singing partly in Italian and partly in English.
My brother’s written the music, my husband filmed it all on an iPhone, my older daughter played cello on it, and I’ve got four outfit changes. I’m quite please with the make-up which was done by my 16-year-old daughter. She’s all over the contouring… it was intense. I’m really hoping that I have something of drag about me in this performance, that would be an absolute accolade. It won’t be very good drag, but I’ll do my best.
Apart from each other, who’s your biggest competition?
DDC: I’m honestly not sure, I think everybody’s bringing something different to the table, and you don’t hear anybody else’s songs until it happens. The thing with Eurovision is some of it is a bit political – which I also like, I’m a big fan of people being engaged in politics – but some of it, most of it is whether your song is good, whether it keys in with where people are at that particular point in time. So until you know what the songs are you can’t really say. But mine’s not that serious, it’s absolutely not serious.
MG: I feel very much like Hercule Poirot at this point, I suspect nobody and I suspect everybody.
And of course, you’re doing all of this for a good cause.
MG: We’re targeting three really brilliant charities: The Trussell Trust, Crisis and Refuge. All three are doing such vital work during the coronavirus. Domestic violence has gone through the roof. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be homeless while living through a global pandemic, and then you have people not taking a wage and not being able to feed their kids… it doesn’t even bear thinking about.
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But as well as that, I really, really hope it’ll be a window of escapism and silliness and fun and colour and a bit of sequin that we’re missing at the moment. Life’s gone a bit monochrome, we need some technicolour back in our lives, and I hope this fills the gap for an evening.
DDC: Charities are those who’ve been hit hardest, there’s nobody out on the streets with buckets for collections, and when people are struggling and can’t see the end in sight for when their financial issues are going to ease, of course the first thing you cut back on is your giving because in a lot of ways charity does start at home and you have to make sure you can eat. I’m in a really fortunate position so it’s really important for people like me to give back where you can.
One final question – ABBA or Buck’s Fizz?
MG: My mouth was forming the word Bucks Fizz before I could even say it, so it’s got to be Buck’s Fizz.
DDC: I’m really sorry but it’s got to be ABBA, just because they had such an enormous back catalogue and were so successful every time they entered. Sorry Cheryl Baker!
The Isolation Song Contest takes place at 8pm on Saturday (May 2). You can watch and donate money to charity here.