Like it or loathe it, we’re all aware of the UK’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest (‘adult Eurovision’/ESC). However, it’s likely that not many of us knew there was a version for children too. That’s right, it exists. 

On Sunday 24th November 2019, the 17th annual Junior Eurovision Song Contest (JESC) took place in Gliwice, Poland following the country’s first-ever JESC win last year in Minsk, Belarus with the popular song “Anyone I Want to Be”. Nineteen countries participated in the contest, with the return of Spain after 12 years as well as the withdrawal of Israel and Azerbaijan. It was the second contest participated in by Kazakhstan and Wales, whose debuts last year gave the biggest number of participating countries JESC had ever seen. 

The UK as a whole has not participated in the contest since its withdrawal in 2006 after only three appearances. However, it did do quite well throughout its time with its best result being runner up in 2004. Despite this, JESC is still watched by many fans in the UK and our local area. Emily Herbert, a British Eurovision enthusiast, travelled to Gliwice to watch this year’s contest. She told me, “The experience watching inside the arena was amazing. To see the host country win twice in a row was something I’ll never forget - the Polish audience were ecstatic that they won and the show itself was so high-quality. Overall, a fantastic show!” 

Every year, just like adult Eurovision, a special theme and logo are chosen for the contest. This year’s theme was “Share the Joy” with the logo being a luminous kite. A first in JESC history, one of the three hosts for the afternoon consisted of last year’s winner, 14-year-old Roksana Węgiel. 

Although readers with no previous knowledge of the existence of Junior Eurovision may think the contest is not very popular, it was in fact watched and followed by approximately 11.6 million fans around the world with the arena holding an estimated 10,000 people. It is believed that the biggest proportion of TV views came from Poland themself, with 3.4 million of their population tuning in to the live broadcast in the hopes of watching their country win once again.

It was indeed Poland who took the crown for the second time in a row (a first in JESC history) with Viki Gabor’s song “Superhero”. Yerzhan Maksim achieved Kazakhstan’s best result by coming 2nd with his powerful song “Armanyńnan Qalma (Don’t Waste Your Dreams)”. He was closely followed by Spain’s Melani García with “Marte (Mars)”, a song that speaks about the prevalent issue of climate change. Most songs are written by the children themselves; this is a great opportunity for them to represent the voice of their country’s children on important world issues through the celebration of music.

One very different rule from adult Eurovision is that all the songs were required to have at least 60% of the lyrics in one of their countries national languages in order to make the contest fairer for singers who struggle to perform in English. There has however been some controversy around the rules of the ‘online vote’ introduced in 2017 which contributes to 50% of the result. Viewers are allowed to vote for their own country which provides many options for the result to become biased towards countries with a larger population invested in their country’s participation. Some people have claimed this is why Poland has been able to win, as it is evident that a large proportion of their points have come from winning the online vote both years.

Svai Dunchan, a Lithuanian Eurovision fan who watches JESC every year gave me her opinion that “Nowadays [JESC is] a little too appealing to the senior demographic (as in older than the JESC participant age range which is 9-14), and sometimes they need to bring back a little bit more child essence to it”. Being part of the senior demographic herself, Svai explained, “Nowadays I just watch [JESC] out of tradition - even if my country is no longer a part of it, I can still support other countries' songs.” 

After reading this article, you may wonder if it is worth watching JESC if you enjoy adult Eurovision and why so many other people bother to do so; Svai thinks “if [people] want to see the Eurovision fun that there usually is in the main contest, Junior Eurovision usually delivers more of it, and in larger quantities”.

All photos were taken by Emily Herbert

Article written by Dina Motashaw