What does it take to organize a live international co-production right in the middle of a global pandemic? Following the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest in May, the EBU and its Members were determined to ensure the Junior Eurovision Song Contest would go ahead, under any circumstances, on 29 November.
Despite all the challenges, the Junior Eurovision 2020 team from TVP in Poland put in a herculean effort to create a truly remarkable event. In contrast to previous Contests, this year's show was mainly created remotely and required a huge amount of coordination, teamwork and working overtime.
It became apparent at the end of the summer that bringing all artists to Warsaw for the competition was going to be impossible for logistic and health and safety reasons. A decision was therefore made by Host Broadcaster TVP and the Steering Group of the competition, made up of representatives of participating EBU Members, that recordings of each performance would have to be used to ensure the event went ahead.
"Flexibility, a positive atmosphere, and a solutions-focused attitude were what pulled the team through such a challenging time," said Martin Österdahl, the new Executive Supervisor of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. "I’m impressed by the flexibility and the efforts put in by the participating broadcasters and the Host Broadcaster".
"In the end, the challenges we've faced have presented new opportunities," according to Martin. "The changes that had to be made due to the coronavirus restrictions forced the team to really innovate."
The "Eurovision spirit" of co-operation and innovation would be front and centre in the changed format.
A talented team was assembled by Executive Producer, Marta Piekarska to make the show happen. They came up with 5 or more different scenarios for this edition. Due to the uncertainty that came along with the pandemic the team had to continually adapt. In September, they decided to approach Junior Eurovision 2020 in a completely new way.
Using recorded performances and connecting live to artists in each participating country for the first time in the Contest's history meant TVP would have to employ the latest technology, which brought its own challenges.
"This year there will be something unique," Marta said. "XR and AR technologies have been utilised to create a new Junior Eurovision experience. It was difficult also to meet through online calls. I was calling at 10am with Kazakhstan, 11am with The Netherlands and at noon with Belarus. Each day for the last two months I felt like I was all around Europe," she added.
The state-of-the-art technologies are used heavily in the graphics throughout the show and allow the artists to all perform the Contest's theme song "Move The World" together on the same stage despite being thousands of kilometres apart.
"It was important to keep the Eurovision spirit alive despite the changed format", said Artistic Director Konrad Smuga. "We had to include current trends to reflect what people in Europe and the whole world are feeling right now."
Choreographer Augustin Egurrola worked with Konrad to convey the powerful message of this year's theme, 'Move The World'. "Gathering such a large group of dancers in one place safely was challenging" and "a huge event production-wise."
He wanted to emphasize that the world doesn’t only change due to major events but also through everyday work, which is the theme of the "postcards" that introduce each song. Representing "the most important occupations such as a doctor or a teacher" who in his opinion are the "silent heroes who contribute to changing the world every day" was very important.
With the year that we've had it's great to see us coming together," said Martin Österdahl. "We have 12 wonderful acts from 12 different countries and they're going to make the stage come alive and show us they will keep their dream alive no matter what."
"The co-operation between all the public broadcasters taking part has been amazing and I would like to say thank you to all of them", added Marta Piekarska. "Without them it would not have been possible to make this show."
The Junior Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast live in the 12 participating countries and on YouTube at 17.00 CET on Sunday 29 November. Online voting is open before and during the show at jesc.tv.