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A surprisingly cuddly Eurovision farce

When some plucky underdogs from Moldova unexpectedly won the Eurovision Song Contest, the show’s organisers were instantly worried about how they were going to hold the following year’s competition in such a small and little-visited country. But the location was the least of their worries as a procession of unlikely artists began to be chosen for the show, and everything from Norwegian black metallers, a Saudi Arabian prince performing for San Marino, and an Icelandic bloke dressed as a dog caused a cascade of complications before a single note had even been sung. Can they keep all the egos in check, or is the whole thing going to come tumbling down around them?

"Burgeoning publishers Earth Island Books have served the punk and metal scenes well in recent years. Less known is their fiction output: Tim Cundle’s Compression, Ryan Roberts’s Nimrod, Roy D. Hacksaw’s Bugger Banksy – and this comedic oddity. Utilising years of experience as a journalist reporting on the Eurovision Song Contest, Hacksaw has crafted a behind-the-scenes fiasco of escalating chaos.

"Being a humourless cynic, with zero interest in The Eurovision Song Contest, and very little in comedy fiction, Hacksaw’s yarn took some time to reel me in. When the laughs arrived in the form of a nudge-nudge culture clash between the UK, Irish and Australian delegates, and the host Moldovans… yeah, I was in. The many characters are fondly written, echoing the authors’ clear affection for the whole shebang and, while it may be an odd choice to have them speak in polite English, or slang American (“Damn straight!”), it is ultimately endearing. Balancing so many players is no mean feat, and while it can at times feel like they’re in danger of wandering, they are gamely reigned back in to the story. I have to say, contrary to my initial scepticism, many of these characters are adorable. The interactions between head honcho’s Filip & Terry are a delight (“Croatia floated by unnoticed, like a magnolia cloud“), as are the antics of production crew boss Hakan, Head of security The Ox, stage manager Hanna, Italian rapper Explodo, corny Norwegian black metallers STORMGIVER, and the ragingly alcoholic Czechian singer Jolana, to name just a few. For my money though, the heart of this tale lies in the story of Maxim and Michi. Maxim, Moldova’s well-loved, ailing singer, is known to cause an “unprecedented rush on fainting grandmothers” when he performs. Taking the passionate-but-talentless goth Michi under his wing, their developing relationship forms the beating heart of the book. As Maxim’s health fails, the underpinning tension of whether or not Michi will be forced to step into the limelight is ever present, and each time the story pivots away from them, I couldn’t wait to get back.

"The most startling aspect of this book, given that it’s written by one half of shambolic punks HACKSAW, is the timeless innocence with which he imbues both story and character. Each time your cynical self expects something truly nasty to happen, the author reminds us that this, after all, is a harmless Eurovision yarn. A refreshing tactic in such jaded times, and within this context, the plot moves fast. Set pieces career across the page as fast as you can turn them: an engineering firm secretly manufactures bootleg helicopters in part of the state-owned vodka distillery, Eastern European homophobia clashes with Eurovision camp, there’s a church-burning stage show from the racist STORMGIVER, and a sword-wielding Saudi Prince and his dagger-equipped aides. National stereotypes are, of course, gently teased, encapsulated by the Australians, the likeable, drunk punk band SPACE TRUCKERS, who perform a song called Ten More Beers. Oh, and their singer is Tony ‘Tins’ Barclay.

"Worst. Eurovision. Ever. may not be perfect, but any perceived faults will depend on your taste for either the contest itself or comedic fiction in general. Once aligned with the direction the author was going, I was all in. Hacksaw manages the seemingly impossible feat of portraying day-to-day Eurovisionwrangling in a curiously quaint, eminently readable fashion. His is a charming, life-affirming story riven with likeable characters, plenty of chuckles, and the odd belly laugh. Frankly, I’m curious to know what happened to our hapless cast in the intervening years. A sequel? Hopefully. I still won’t watch Eurovision though. Okay, maybe just this year…"

The paperback is out now and available to order from Earth Island Books. Early copies come with a limited edition pack of Eurovision Trumps. No, really.

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