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BBC Eurovision Producer Helen's Dusseldorf Blog

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BBC Eurovision Andrew BBC Eurovision Andrew | 12:20 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

We asked long-standing BBC Eurovision producer -  and very nice lady - Helen Tumbridge to give us her unique insight to the first couple of days of this year's competition. Here's what she had to say




Last night I had a dream I went to Germany.


In this dream, I ran across many miles and into the arms of Duncan James, Antony Costa, Simon Webbe and Lee Ryan… we embraced, we hugged, we swapped phone numbers.  OMG. It wasn’t a dream at all.  I now have all four members of Blue on speed dial (they’ll regret the day they swapped numbers with me).  Until now the most famous person I had on speed dial was… errr, ummm, the bloke that used to be Mr Blobby.


So yes, it’s May, I’m in a place where they drive on the other side of the road, so it must be Eurovision. All hail the Kings and Queens of Eurovision, whoever you are, and let’s bow to the majesty of our music.


This year, as you cannot have failed to notice (even my husband has cottoned onto the fact) that Blue are representing the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest with their song “I Can”.  Last week all we talked about was “I Do”, from next week it’s going to be “I Can”.

 Blue at the Eurovision press conference

The BBC has charged me with looking after the UK act.  Those of you that have suffered my blogs these past years will know that many have passed through my hands;  Andy Abraham, Jade Ewen, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Josh Dubovie.  When will the BBC ever learn not to let me loose with handsome young men?  Do they not remember what happened to Alexander Rybak?  In fact, what DID happen to Alexander Rybak?  He’s gone very quiet, I’ve not heard one twang from his fiddle this past year.


And here I sit in my hotel room with a lovely view of a car park thinking Eurovision thoughts.


Today is Sunday, I think.  After a while the days do tend to blend, let’s just say it’s Eurovision Day 3. We arrived on Friday, Eurovision Day 1 in my new order.  The flight over was spectacularly uneventful, so we reminisced on our flight to Serbia three years ago and our in-flight snack.  When we asked what it was, we were told “it won’t kill you”, and they were right, it didn’t.  I’m still here.  So I can recommend the sandwiches on the Serbian national airline.  But enough of then, this is now.


Eurovision Day 2, Saturday for those not keeping up…it’s really not hard.


So yesterday, off we went to the arena.  The aptly named Düsseldorf Arena, so called ‘cos it’s in Düsseldorf.  I have an interesting piece of information.  It’s rare this happens so make the most of it.  The Düsseldorf Arena is in fact a football stadium and to accommodate Eurovision this year, they have kicked the home team out (let’s call them Düsseldorf United ‘cos I’ve not a clue what they are called) and the ESC organisers have built them a pop up stadium next door.  Can you imagine doing this to Manchester United?  I doubt very much that Alex Ferguson would appreciate the call.  Anyhow, Düsseldorf United have been very helpful, I shall stop supporting Tottenham United and cheer for them instead.

 Dusseldorf Stadium

It’s becoming apparent that I’ve not mentioned Blue much.  Just to type their name makes me all a quiver.  I’m not very good around pop stars.  I tend to ask them ridiculous questions like “Do you know Phil Oakey from The Human League?” and ask for their autographs and then try to get them to sing at my kids’ school fête. I haven’t asked Blue yet, but I’m working on it. Take That are busy.


Anyhow, Blue are possibly the nicest, politest, most charming young men I have ever met.  If I wasn’t married (am I married?) it would be a toughie to decide which to take home to my mother.  Every fan who asks for a photo, every journo who asks for an interview, every person who approaches them - they give their time.  There are fans outside our hotel who want pictures every time Blue leave or enter, and they never refuse. Now, I’ve worked with a few in my twenty years at the BBC (obviously I was 7 when I started) and this can’t be said for all I’ve worked with.  Of course, I wouldn’t be so indiscreet as to tell you who… and anyhow, I’m saving that for my book, available soon in all good book shops.


So off we went to the arena.  Goodness, aren’t we there yet Helen?  The arena is massive, Düsseldorf United must be very popular.  And for some reason the Germans are terrified at the thought of anyone getting stuck in a lift so they’ve  switched them off and we have to walk up and down several flights of stairs to get anywhere.  My calves will be so toned by the time I get home.  So, once I’d been administered oxygen and colour had returned to my face we had a safety briefing.  How I wish it was “Blue and I went clubbing” or even “Blue and I went to a party”, but alas, at my age it’s “Blue and I went to a safety briefing”.  However, I am proud to say that Blue and I are now officially trained in Eurovision safety.  I wonder if we get a badge?  I love a badge me.  We are especially trained in stairs and that they can be dangerous, a fact that I’m sure you will all agree, can never be overstated.


This event never ceases to amaze me.  After all these years you’d think I’d be blasé to Eurovision, but no, it staggers me.  The production, the organisation, the sheer scale.  NDR are the show producers this year and a very good job I’m sure they’ll do, but they couldn’t do it without an army of volunteers.  Not only do they not get paid, they also have to pay for their own accommodation and wear very bright red t-shirts with “Can I help you?” written on the back.  So I’ve asked them all if they have Phil Oakey from the Human League’s phone number.  They don’t.


Blue went to their dressing room and started a vocal warm up, led by Daniel - one of our two backing vocalists.  Now Daniel is one of the loveliest, funniest, gentlest people on this earth - but when Daniel’s in charge you do as you’re told.  If Daniel told me to sing, I’d ask “how loud?”.  If Daniel asked me to take a running jump off a cliff I’d ask “which cliff?”.  Quiet frankly, I think if he heard me sing he would ask me to take a running jump off a cliff, but Düsseldorf is not known for its cliffs, so he’ll have to wait.


What gems of inside information about the arena can I share with you?  You know, backstage at Eurovision it’s all very similar year by year.  True, we don’t have Eurovision biscuits like we had at Moscow, and there is a certain lack of the pot plants that I grew so fond of in Belgrade, but the Germans run a tight schedule, and although the kiosk has much to be desired for its choice of sandwiches, they do sell a good piece of cake.  The calories I used walking up and down those stairs are hopefully testament to this.


By now, you know the score, we have the in-ear monitoring session, we hang around backstage and then we walk to the stage.  I’m quite liking the ‘walking with Blue’ thing. Photographers and camera crews follow us wherever we go.  I’m just grateful I had my teeth polished before we came out here.  The camera crews obviously don’t want to talk to me, but I’ll be giving a mean flash of my bobby dazzlers in the background.


On stage, the rehearsals commenced.  It wouldn’t be first day rehearsals if there wasn’t a bit of drama.  All I’m going to say is that I spent a lot of time looking for my “N”… and I promise you, I absolutely give you my word, that by next Saturday, there will be a “N”, or I’ll no longer have a job.


And then back to our hotel we went. Everyone seemed happy with how things went, and I was just happy that no one had fallen down the stairs.


Now, as time passes by, it takes more and more time for a girl to get ready for a red carpet event. A girl of my age needs about 3 months. Try doing it in 15 minutes.


But, I did my best, slapped on some make up that in the hope I’d be giving that sexy/smudgy look in the twilight, put on some shoes that quite frankly gave the original meaning to ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ and met everyone else in reception.  Simon Webbe said I looked hot.  I didn’t like to point out that he was looking in the other direction and wearing sunglasses.

 The red carpet event in Dusseldorf for Eurovision 2011

Having worked at the BBC since Noah came out of his ark, I have been to two, yes, just the two, red carpet events.  One last year in Oslo, which technically, was a pink carpet affair, and this one in Düsseldorf.  It was the best red carpet I have ever walked along.  I was slightly disturbed that my dress became rather statically charged (I blame a cheap red carpet weave) and clung to me in a hideous fashion, but no one seemed to notice it.  The red carpet was 160 metres long, my feet are throbbing as a result.  But, should London 2012 be short of an event for the Olympics, I can highly recommend this as a new one.  It was just amazing.  Press, fans, slightly worrying hangers-on abounded as we slowly made our way along.


I think Blue spoke to every person along the way.  They’ve even started to talk to me without that wary look in their eyes.  Bless them again.  Should I ask them about the school fête now?


And for me, the highlight of my day/life was spying Radio 1’s Scott Mills.  I HUGE HEART Scott Mills.  He’s reporting for the BBC Three coverage of Eurovision semi-finals and also commentating on both shows - Tuesday and Thursday, 2000 – 2200h (I said I’d give him a plug).


But enough of that, he’s also my new TV husband.  Obviously he’s yet to know of this and possibly a restraining order is hanging in the balance, but if there was a man I could run away into the sunset with it would be Scott.  Now, please don’t start calling me saying I’ve already taken Blue home to meet my mum and that I can’t possibly have Scott as well.  I’ve thought this through.  I’ve made plans.  I’ve got a large shed at the end of my garden, they can all live in there.  I’m sure the rabbit won’t mind.


Where was I?  Oh yes.  At the end of the red carpet the Mayor of Düsseldorf was waiting for us.  I knew it was him ‘cos he had a big chain round his neck.  I shook hands with the Mayor, tried to say something in German, and I think I may have also curtsied.


If I see the job advert for Mayor of Düsseldorf, I might apply.  Firstly, you get to hang around at the end of a red carpet meeting Eurovision folk.  Secondly, you get to live in a really beautiful building.  What’s not to like?  I wonder what it pays?  Anyhow, into the building we went.  Now, I would tell you what this building was called, but facts?  Pah.  They’re really not my sort of thing, they do tend to get in the way of my blog, so all I can tell you was inside it was like being in the Wizard of Oz’s house (in my head).


The whole purpose of the red carpet, the fans, the press, my clingy dress was to celebrate the opening night of the Eurovision Song Contest.  Because indeed, the Eurovision Song Contest has officially opened.  I know so, ‘cos the Mayor said so.  He also said a whole lot of stuff I didn’t understand ‘cos I did French at school.


So, now it’s officially begun, those little Eurovision butterflies have started fluttering inside me.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  I love Eurovision.  Nothing on this planet is like it.  If only the world over was like the Eurovision world, we’d all be living in a much happier place.  Yes, that place would involve ripping your skirt off from time to time, but let’s face it, for a bit of peace, I think we could all do that.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sounds cool. I hope you keep up the good work this year and maybe ask Hurts next year to do the songs in a Song for Europe format seeing as the EBU are changing the selections. They really would like to do it and have a huge European fanbase ;)

  • Comment number 2.

    Never mind about the Rhine trip. Are Blue coming to the fete?. Thank you Helen for your always amusing blog which is now an integral part of the countdown to Eurovision. Looking forward to tomorrow night. Could you give Lena a kiss from my husband . Thank you x


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