Shining a spotlight on Eurovision in Israel

Everything you need to know about the kitsch competition before it kicks off tomorrow night

Israel's not in Europe, why is Eurovision being held there?
Good point. Since its founding in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest has invited members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – not Europe – to compete with their best (and cheesiest) artists. There are 56 member countries in total, including Israel. Plus, since 2015, Australia have been invited to join in on the festivities. Why? No one seems to have the answer to that one.

Rendering of the Eurovision 2019 stage at Expo Tel Aviv © KAN

Rendering of the Eurovision 2019 stage at Expo Tel Aviv © KAN

When will the show be on TV?
In the UK, BBC Four will broadcast both semi-finals on Tuesday 14 May and Thursday 16 May, 8-10pm (GMT). These will feature 17 acts, followed by another 18 acts, who will be battling it out for 20 places in the final. Speaking of which, you can catch the grand final on BBC One, Saturday 18 May, 8-11.40pm (GMT).

How many countries compete in the final?
You'd assume 20, but in fact there will be 26. This includes the countries that won the first two heats, plus the host (Israel) and the Big Five (UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain), which funds a huge portion of the competition.

Who's representing Israel this year?
Ramat Gan's Kobi Marimi, a 27-year-old singer hoping to bag Israel the trophy again with the baritone ballad ‘Home’. Will he manage it? Listen above to decide for yourself.

What about the UK?
'Bigger Than Us' is the Sam Smith-referencing pop single from 21-year-old Hartlepool singer Michael Rice, who'll be fighting to score the UK is sixth Eurovision win.

Who are the special guest acts in the intervals?
Only flipping Madonna! The Queen of Pop is set to sing two songs in the grand final, which also includes performances from former Eurovision winners, as well as an appearance from Israeli actor/model Gal Gadot. Meanwhile, the semi-finals welcome back last year's winner, Netta Barzilai from Hod HaSharon, who'll once again play her winning electropop single 'Toy'. Plus Shalva Band, which is made up of musicians with disabilities, and Israeli mentalist Lior Suchard.

Netta (Israel) winning Eurovision 2018 © Thomas Hanses

Netta (Israel) winning Eurovision 2018 © Thomas Hanses

How does voting work?
This may be the boring bit, but it’s vital and can be nail-biting at times. There are two votes to take into account for each country: the jury (made up of pro musos) and the public. The former pick their 12 favourite songs and score them in order of preference, while the latter includes the top 12 scoring songs as voted for via phone and app. As a member of the public, you can vote up to 20 times for your song choices, but you can't vote for your own country. Find out more about how to cast your vote on the BBC website.

Michael Rice (UK) in his second rehearsal © Andres Putting

Michael Rice (UK) in his second rehearsal © Andres Putting

Get involved at a Eurovision event near you.
There are plenty of free live screenings of the grand final taking place everywhere, but we've plucked out some of the more exciting Eurovision events happening this week.


Saturday 18 May
Greatest Eurovision Party Ever
The Brighton & Hove Jewish Community (BNJC) have teamed up with Sussex Friends of Israel to host the Greatest Eurovision Party Ever in a central Hove pub. As well as screening the live broadcast, there will be a sweepstake, bingo and Israeli food.
7.30pm. £10, £5 concs. Venue revealed upon purchase; contact or to book.


Saturday 18 May – Friday 28 Jun
Kjell Engman: Journey of Dreams
Not a party, this one, but an exhibition of glass sculptures by the designer of the Eurovision trophy.
9.30am-5.30pm (Mon-Sat), 11am-4pm (Sun). FREE. Gallery in the Lanes, Norwich, NR2 1AG.


Friday 17 May
Alternative Eurovision
While they won’t be screening Eurovision at this event, you will be guaranteed absolute silliness and oodles of kitsch from cabaret and comedy acts, including Vikki Stone, Des O'Connor, Victoria Falconer, Amber Topaz and Tom Mones.
9.30pm. £17. Underbelly Festival, SE1 8XX.


Saturday 18 May
Eurovision 2019
Not only can you watch the grand final in style on a 15-foot LED screen here, but there will be prizes for the best Eurovision costumes.
7pm. FREE. The Shed, Leicester, LE1 1UT.

By Danielle Goldstein

Lead photo of Kobi Marimi (Israel) in rehearsal by Andres Putting

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