A few weeks ago we revealed the nominees for the nineteen categories in this year’s Eurovision NI Awards. Now it’s decision time. On 16 August our jury panel will meet to deliberate over the nominees, rank their favourites and decide which artists deserve to walk away with the trophies! Ahead of the official results which will be revealed on 5 October at our live awards ceremony in the Crumlin Road Gaol (tickets available here), we introduce you to our six jurors.
Nicky is from Coalisland in Co. Tyrone and works in Belfast as an Administrative Assistant and PA. For the past twelve years he has worked in the Belfast Arts Sector for organisations like Mandela Hall, Audiences NI, Bruiser Theatre Company and the Grand Opera House and the Belfast tourism company Visit Belfast. Nicky has been a Eurovision fan since Ireland’s hey day in the early to mid nineties. His first Eurovision memory was aged seven, watching Eimear Quinn romp to victory in 1996 in a pub while on holiday with his family in Bundoran. Since then his love for the Contest has only grown stronger and in 2014 he founded the Eurovision NI blog. He has attended the Contests on two occasions Vienna (2015) and Lisbon (2018). He is also an avid fan of the Eurovision preselection shows and visited Malmo in 2019 to attend Sweden’s selection show Melodifestivalen. Nicky’s favourite ever Eurovision song is ‘Popular’ by Eric Saade (Sweden, 2011), but Eleni Foureira’s ‘Fuego’ also has a special place in his heart. He pretty much listens exclusively to Eurovision songs and late ’90s/early ’00s pop and R’n’B anthems. His favourite artist at the minute is Benjamin Ingrosso.
Denise is from Cookstown in Co. Tyrone and works as a Project Co-Ordinator for Cancer Services in the South Eastern Trust. Her earliest memory of Eurovision is watching the famous 1994 Riverdance interval act– an experience which inspired a short-lived and bitterly unsuccessful bid to become a world famous Irish dancer. Denise has been a keen fan of the competition ever since, watching the show every year and attending Sweden’s Melodifestivalen in Malmo in 2019. In 2020 she plans to visit the Netherlands to attend her first Contest. Denise’s favourite winning Eurovision song is Loreen’s ‘Euphoria’ (Sweden, 2012), though she also has a nostalgic soft spot for Brotherhood of Man’s ‘Save Your Kisses’ (United Kingdom, 1976): an eclectic mix which is reflected in her diverse taste in music more generally, with indie, RnB, Latin, and musical theatre hits frequently on rotation in her playlists. Denise will co-host the Eurovision NI Awards 2019 along with Brendan Hughes.
Brendan is a journalist working in Belfast. One of his earliest Eurovision memories is watching a schmaltzy power ballad and thinking it was awful and that had no chance of winning. That song was ‘Love Shine A Light’ by Katrina and the Waves. Loreen’s ‘Euphoria’ is Brendan’s all-time favourite Eurovision song. He remarks that it ‘…changed how people perceive the Contest’ and he reckons that as a result countries have clearly had to up their game since then, making the Contest more competitive and exciting. Brendan enjoys Eurovision as a great televisual experience. He says, ‘Eurovision works because it’s a great TV format: Three minutes each to put on a show with a catchy song, charismatic singer and captivating performance. Throw in dozens of countries with clashing musical tastes and you’ve got a winning formula, throwing up both accomplished and downright bizarre results’. Outside of the Eurobubble, Brendan enjoys listening to ’90s/’00s throwbacks and some Top 40 earworms. Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX and Troye Sivan are on his Spotify heavy rotation. Brendan’s will co-host the Eurovision NI Awards in 2019 alongside Denise Mulgrew and the duo will be hoping to give Mans and Petra a run for their money.
Romano was born the year that Italy won Eurovision with Toto Cutongo’s ‘Insieme: 1992’, which is the last time Italy won Eurovision. His earliest memory of the Contest is watching Eimear Quinn win for Ireland with his family in 1996, which also happens to be the last time Ireland won. Romano has a boring day job and as a result loves to travel – he has been to 18 of the 50 countries which have competed in Eurovision, and his travels have taken him to the 2015 and 2018 contests in Vienna and Lisbon respectively. In 2017 he attended a wedding at the same Maltese villa that was the setting for Claudia Faniello’s music video for ‘Breathlessly’ – the same wedding’s entertainment was provided by Malta’s 2014 representatives Firelight. His enjoyment of Eurovision has only increased after going out with a Eurovision obsessive, and he is looking forward to attending the contest in the Netherlands in 2020.
Raymona is a TV producer from Magherafelt in Co. Derry and living in Belfast. For her, Eurovision came alive in the ’90s. As a pop obsessed pre-adolescent she had finally mastered the full rendition of Dana’s ‘All Kinds of Everything’ and it became the family go to for background entertainment at birthdays, christenings and Christmas. However, it isn’t an Irish entry that gets her douze points for favourite ever Eurovision song. That honour goes to fellow flame haired songstress Gina G. Raymona’s love for Eurovision ‘…exceeds the glitz, glam, dodgy dancers and awkward pauses; it provides those ear worms all year round and the anticipation for what may yet still come’. When the euro pop playlist isn’t spinning she can be found listening to Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish and Patsy Cline. Pop, country and ASMR- sounds like it could be San Marino’s theme for 2020.
Martin is a social worker from Co. Armagh, living in Belfast. He doesn’t remember ever not watching Eurovision. It has always been a huge part of his life, almost like a tradition in his family. Every year the extended family would gather at his granny’s house. With all the kids fed, washed and in their pajamas, they would gather on the floor in front of the TV. His granny was a massive Eurovision fan, she liked a nice traditional song with a ‘…lovely voice and nothing not fancy’. Martin meanwhile obviously liked anyone fun and flash and CAMP and sure it all the better if they couldn’t hold a note. His first memory of Eurovision is arguing with his granny over who they liked most. Speaking of grannies, one of Martin’s favourite Eurovision moments has to be the Russian Grannies’ song ‘Party for Everybody’. He says ‘this performance had everything I needed. Lads they made pasties on stage in a rotating disco oven! A ROTATING DISCO OVEN!’ Martin has attended the Contest twice: Vienna (2015) and Lisbon (2018). Martin’s favourite Eurovision song of all time changes on a daily basis- but some of his favourites are Conchita’s ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ (Austria, 2014), Mans Zelmerlow- ‘Heroes’ (Sweden, 2015) and Nadav Guedj’s ‘Golden Boy’ (Israel, 2015).