Monday, 31 May 2010

Eurovision and social capital - some thoughts....

Last Saturday over 8 million Brits spent a fun evening watching the Eurovision Song Contest despite the inevitability of the British entry languishing at the bottom of the pile as always. Now this doesn’t make Eurovision quite the most important event of the year – I guess the finals of the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent will get a bigger audience and one of the Great Debates in our recent election got more viewers.

However, Eurovision has become a mark in the calendar, something we share as a nation – part of the social capital of Britain. Now before you all rush off let me explain. Much of our TV viewing is only marginally social – if it’s not a solitary activity, it’s shared only with our immediate family and friends. Indeed, some critics of our modern culture single out the goggle-box as a prime culprit for the loss of social capital.

However, events like Eurovision belie that gloomy prognosis. What we see is a much broader engagement – not only the large numbers of viewers but all the other aspects of social interaction. There’s pubs and clubs organising Eurovision nights, some people get together with a bottle or two of cheap fizz and some chocolates and others make it a big family occasion. Workplaces have sweepstakes, the newspapers are full of stories and twitter, facebook and other bits of the interwebs abound with chitter-chatter. It’s more than just a TV event.

And today – whether or not we like it – these televisual events, Eurovision, X-Factor, World Cup and BGT, represent a new calendar. These are as much part of the social fabric as Christmas, Easter and Bank Holidays. But more importantly still they provide a bridge – these events allow us to interact, to get together and to share something – even something a trivial as a singing contest. We are provided with the means to engage in conversation – and this works even when the other person thinks Eurovision is a dreadful festival of plastic pop! We have an opinion, there’s no indifference and this results is positive engagement – building what has been called ‘social capital’.


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