The UK section of OGAE is Europe's second-biggest, and has become a lot more rigorous and high profile over recent years. Well aware of the fact that many of its members can't make it to the Eurovision itself, OGAE tries to bring a little of the Eurovision magic to them. The Boom Bang-a-Bang party is no exception.
In a function room above the über-trendy Revolution bar on Manchester's Oxford Road, over 100 Eurovision fans gathered to put their knowledge to good use, and decide which of the semi-finalists they'd have in the ESC final in Oslo on 29 May. The room was suitably bedecked in flags from some of the participating nations and under the guidance of our hosts and UK President, Paul Marks-Jones, the viewing programme got underway.
First came the official preview videos of the songs in the first semi-final, some of which the audience hadn't seen. Fan Peter Walsh had spent hours putting the footage together, and he was selling reasonably-priced DVDs of them during the night. After the songs, and the now customary brief reprise, we split into groups to collate our votes for input into a master scoreboard. We also got to see some of the also-rans in the varous national finals. These led us to wonder whether some countries had picked the right songs. And what did we think of the first semi-final? A decent selection of songs and maybe one or two surprise qualifiers. After a brief pause, our qualifiers were announced as (in draw order):
Moldova, Slovakia, Finland, Belgium, Malta, Albania, Greece, Portugal, Belarus and Iceland.
Drinks suitably replenished (including free vodka shots from the bar itself) we settled down for the second semi-final. Arguably this is the stronger semi, but some favourites were likely to miss out. We also had cheers variously for Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland, but they make the cut? Again after a brief recap and the preview videos of the five already through to the final, we found out. Again, in draw order, these were:
Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, Romania, Ireland, Cyprus, Croatia and Turkey.
A room generally happy with these results then saw how lucky they could be with a small raffle. OGAE had obtained a dozen or so prizes from some of the delegations (hats, T-shirts, CDs etc) which were all well received.
And of course, nothing beats finishing off a Eurovision party than a good disco. People could request their favourites, and with the alcohol flowing, ensured that this would be remembered (or not as the case may be), as a great start to Eurovision month.
I'd like to thank Paul Marks-Jones, Peter Walsh and the rest of the organisers for putting together a very entertaining evening. Rool on Boom Bang-a-Bang 7!