Press events are strange affairs. Lots of people with big cameras and equally large egos offset with charming assertiveness jostle with another, not just to get the best shot, but to command the stage to get the shot they want. Such moments are in themselves as much examples of beautiful and miraculous stage direction as the television event the subjects are there to promote.
I was late to the UK and Ireland press event. The interviews were over. Even more reason then for me to force my way into a lift with far too many people in it already. Inside at one end, BBC commentator and Radio 1 bod Scot Mills was squashed into the corner. Next to me – possibly a little too close for comfort – a Swedish journalist explained to English ladies how big the national final in Sweden (Melodifestivalen) was. “It’s bigger than your X-Factor in the UK,” he squealed. “And much, much better,” I added out loud. The Swedish journalist blushed. My compatriots flashed me a look which left me feeling I wished I hadn’t opened my mouth.
No matter. I was in the lift because I didn’t want to miss an opportunity. Why was I there? Just getting a picture of Engelbert Humperdinck and Jedward didn’t seem like enough. After all, I’d had my own special time with The Dinck only yesterday. True, I hadn’t had to go far to attend the last half hour of the event (the delegates hotel is around the corner from where I’m staying). Getting a few shots seemed like all too superficial a reason.
Instead, I wanted to get a sense of Irish popsters John and Edward. Whenever I see them on television they are – it can’t be denied – effervescent. Made for television. Made for the press. Their perfectly proportioned faces with alabaster skin appeal to the broadest audience demographic. Young girls, gay men (who should probably know better) and grandparents who see their own grandchildren whenever Jedward parade around on stage.
But they can’t always be like that, can they? Are these bubbly young men like that all the time? Is there a time when the ‘performance’ switches off? And if and when it does, how do they appear then?
I was never going to be able to ask the question. Largely because my interview technique demands a few lessons in cutting back the verbosity. And anyway, Eurovision press events don’t offer the time for soul-searching questions. Press and PR people can’t afford the time. And if they did, they’d sniff danger.
As it was, I didn’t need to ask any questions. All was there to see. In bucket loads.
Jedward’s place in the Eurovision final clearly means a lot. The shot of them relieved to hear the result of their place in the final last night made that clear.
But it doesn’t end there. Jedward are clearly in control of their destiny – or like to exercise to control, at the very least. As I elbowed my way to the front of the crowd of photographers (“Really darling, just because you have big lens doesn’t mean your place at the front is sacrosanct!”) and shutters were clicking, John (or was it Edward?) was alternating between posing for the cameras and checking each shot with the photographer with the big lens.
Press appearances are surely annoying affairs for artists, required as they are to perform like monkeys for the hungry journalists. Not John and Edward. They relish the opportunity and clearly want to have some input into how the shot is framed. Considering their TV appearance, such behaviour is – even if you don’t warm to their personas – impressive.
Aside from the relative ease they slipped in and out of their TV personas, it was seeing the young (them) and the experienced (Engelbert) interacting with one another. Genuine love (or at the very least, respect) emanated from both parties. And that speaks far louder than an interview ever could.
Thanks to BBC publicity for the invite. Much appreciated.