As a country of camp, there is no Maltese person alive who doesn’t have at least one fond family memory of the Eurovision. Years and years ago, before my sisters and I were allowed to set off into the village of sin that was Paceville on the weekends, we would sit down in front of the telly as a family and watch it together.

For one shining night, the whole family (who, I hasten to add, have literally no musical inclination) would become critics of the highest order. Even my dad, who usually can’t be lured into caring about these things, would have something to say.

Ours was a ritual replicated by many, if not most, Maltese families to such an extent that, years later, I read that the two periods when pornography streaming is lowest on the islands are those falling during the general elections and the Eurovision.

As I got older, I strayed away from the glittery path. Occasionally, someone would hold a party in its honour that I would attend but it wasn’t the same. Like a child believing in Santa Claus being deprived of their faith by a benevolent friend, you can’t unhear certain things. In my case, I was just fed up with our voters insisting on sending one weak ballad after another and then spending days complaining about how we were wronged when voting time rolled up.

Productions like last week’s Malta Eurovision don’t encourage people to follow their dreams

I had no plans to watch this year’s Malta Eurovision Song Contest offering either but, then, I was invited to someone’s house to watch it and decided that it would be okay to dip my toe in again. Little did I know how disappointed I would be, and not with the singers.

I mean, in all honesty, I don’t know who thought this year’s production was a good idea. Like something out of a secondary school concert at the parish hall, everything looked amateur and homemade (and not in a good way).

The red-carpet interviews were awkward even though the female presenter was smiley and engaging, and I’m still not over the part where the contestants were filmed walking off the red carpet onto an austere main stairwell landing with sad-looking plants. It honestly looked like someone was making a home video in 1986.

When there were breaks, and we would be given access to the green room, you could literally see everyone just standing around, trying not to look uncomfortable. It was really disconcerting to watch and must have been even worse to experience. These singers spend months and months and hundreds if not thousands of euros on their performances; the least the country can do is give them a live audience and some energy. The whole thing looked tired and that includes the trophy.

I’ve said this numerous times and I’ll say it again: while art, culture and music remain second-class citizens in this country, we cannot call ourselves a civilised nation. We cannot keep using taxpayer money to resurface roads several times over and then keep adding more budget cuts to the sectors that make this grey earth a little bit more enjoyable.

Productions like last week’s don’t encourage people to follow their dreams; they just remind them that they could do better somewhere else.

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