As Bulgaria hosts the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for the first time how do the people of host city Sofia feel about 16 other nations descending on their city for a week? What does hosting the Contest, now in its 13th year, mean to Bulgaria?
Borislava Lozanova is 20, studying journalism and was one of the audience at the dress rehearsal on Friday night (20 November). For her JESC is a big thing for her country. “Things like this don’t usually happen. I love Bulgaria and we really need the spotlight here. We’re a small country, we don’t have much money and as young people, we don’t have opportunities here, so all the best of us go abroad. So if we make a good show, maybe things will change.”
For Anna Velikova, who’s 23 years old, is again hoping that the show will make the world see Bulgaria in a different way: “I hope it makes people see that in Bulgaria we can put on a massive show and that way we can get onto the world stage.”
BNT has also been keen to involve schools and their pupils in the contest, inside and outside the arena.
For some pupils at Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin School in Sofia, this is seen as a huge opportunity for Bulgaria.
Speaking in perfect English, the 15 year olds explained why: “We’re very excited to see people from different countries and to see their different cultures. This is a once in a lifetime event and something very different for us. It’s rare.”
“We also like to hear kids singing. Children are more emotional when they sing, more honest,” they added.
A young usher in this year’s venue the Arena Armeec, Denica Zneeva, simply explained: “We like to listen to music, it’s fun.”
For other members of the public it’s a chance to show the depth of Bulgarian talent. The show is cleverly structured, with entertainment segments interspersed between the contestants’ songs. 200 local dancers are involved in the show.
Tsvetana Krasteva, from Bulgarian National Television (BNT)’s news department came to the rehearsal with her daughter: “Bulgaria has a lot of talent, good singers. It has strong and unique music, especially folk music, and so now we can show all of this to people who perhaps don’t know the culture well.”
And then there’s just showcasing Bulgaria itself.
Eva and Lily brought their two young sons to the show: “It’s a very big cultural event. It’s about children, and it unites children all over the world. I hope too that people will see how beautiful Bulgaria is and how open we are as a people.”