The Eurovision Song Contest will once again dominate European radios, televisions, and computers on May 13. This Saturday, the contest between dozens of nations will reach its climax in the finals between the 26 most favored countries.
Killian Raynor of Raynor Events, who recently collaborated with Irish and Portuguese artists for last month’s Port to Port festival, is hosting a Eurovision viewing party at Cine Incrível Alma Danada in Almada-Velho. Just a short hop across the river, this curated event will include dinner, drinks, dancers, and optional donations. All proceeds will go directly to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF).
Since 1956, just over a decade after the end of World War II, the Eurovision Song Contest has served as an apolitical event uniting the nations and governments of post-war Europe. With its first edition including only seven competing countries, the contest has grown into a large musical battlefield consisting of no less than 37 countries for the 67th edition of Eurovision this year.
The unabashedly campy song contest is a widely beloved cultural event for Europeans across the continent. “When I was a kid, on Saturday night, you would go to your living room, you’d sit down with your friends and family, and you’d watch Eurovision. You wouldn’t do anything else but watch [it], and it was the only night of the year when you’re a kid and you can stay up late,” says Raynor.
Sweden and Finland are currently locked in close combat in the battle for Eurovision’s cherished glass microphone. Fans all over Europe and the world at large will huddle around TVs and computers to receive the final results in real time, but residents and visitors to Lisbon have the chance to watch the competition’s final performances in a room filled with music and dancers, with all money spent going towards a good cause.
The Eurovision Song Contest has traditionally separated itself from politics, with its primary purpose being to bring the countries of Europe together for one friendly music competition. History has, however, run its due course; various countries have been disqualified over the years for various reasons. Recently, nations like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, and Russia have been either banned or disqualified for human rights abuses or controversial and politically-coded song lyrics, or lack of funds.
Israel is taking part in Europe’s largest song contest, despite growing accusations from local as well as international groups — most recently Amnesty International — that the country is an apartheid state because of its treatment of Palestinians.
Palestine has never been able to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, despite the inclusion of the state of Israel, which covers a great deal of the same land. Saturday’s Eurovision party in Almada aims to draw attention to the exclusion of Palestine as well as raise money for the neglected children of Palestine.
The PCRF has dedicated itself to the livelihoods of Palestinian children in the Middle East since 1992 and operates in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. Its small focus has made it one of the most effective and efficient humanitarian operations in the Levant, according to Raynor.
“Bigger charities like the Red Cross have very wide goals. The PCRF is focused on just [helping] children to live. That’s pretty much it,” he says.
In the past, the PCRF has erected numerous permanent hospitals around the region, all of which have since been destroyed. Today, the PCRF operates out of mobile, temporary hospitals scattered around Palestine and its borders.
As a gay man who has spent considerable time in Palestine, Raynor believes it is important to marry the issues of Islamophobia and homophobia under one roof. “Homophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiment exist hand in hand,” says Raynor. “To bring the two together . . . through this event, I think it’s a great way to start a conversation.” Contrary to common notions pushed by Western pinkwashing and Islamophobic misconceptions in general, there is a substantial and largely accepted queer community within Palestine. “From the Palestinians that I’ve met, interacted with, and worked with for the past five or six years, I still haven’t met a homophobic one,” Raynor says.
Of course, the conflict on most people’s minds is the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in early 2022. Russia was quickly barred from competing in Eurovision, and the people of Ukraine have been flooded with financial and public support.
When asked why he chose to shine a light on the conflict in Palestine instead of Ukraine, Raynor explains that besides his personal connection to the region, he has seen the work that needs to get done in Palestine being largely ignored by the international community.
“Being in the charity sector, [you learn] that a new conflict is a great way to bring in [fast] cash to help,” says Raynor. He echoes the sentiments of many people around the world who believe it is important to not forget about the older conflicts that are still at play.
“Palestine is a slow bleed,” says Ryanor, “and Palestine doesn’t have much blood left.”
Saturday’s Eurovision viewing party will be made complete by local Portuguese drag queens and Palestinian dabke dancers. After the dinner, drinks, and dances, the festivities will move to Emoções Bar at 00h30. With hundreds of people already expected at Cine Incrível’s event, the Eurovision after-party is sure to be the Eurovision celebration of the year, regardless of the winner.
Cine Incrível’s doors open at 17h, with tables and bar seats available. The festivities at Cine Incrível will start in earnest at 19h, and the doors of Emoções Bar will open at 00h30.
Donations are optional but heartily appreciated at the doors, all of which will go directly to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.