Pro-Palestinians intimidate gayest day of the year

Slovenia goes full-on Eurovision (EPA-EFE/JESSICA GOW)


Forget Gay Pride and gay history month. For Britain and Europe’s gay community the event of the year is, and has been for decades, the Eurovision Song Contest finals. And it is happening this Saturday.

What is not to like? Great clouds of excess, ripped dancers and outrageous costumes, all washed down with glitter, mirror balls, smoke and the most preposterous of over-the-top performances and vampish camper-than-you TV presenters. It is quite gloriously fabulous.

This year was to be no different. In the great gay clubs and venues of London, nights of jollity and excess were on the cards. London’s venerable doyen of the scene, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (“the Palladium of Drag”), had teamed up with Eurofest for what they described as a “live screening and after party, 7 pm to 4 am.”

“Following last year’s historic win by Loreen with Tattoo, the contest returns to Sweden for the seventh time, and third in the city of Malmö for what promises to be a spectacular series of events, all of which you can watch live on the big screen at the iconic RVT.”

Elsewhere, Electrowerkz in Islington had booked screening the final, after their regular popular but singular ROAST event (“Men only: Bears, chubs, muscle bears, trans bears, etc, one big dark room”). Fire Club was ready with its Eurovision afterparty.

Yet now they have mysteriously cancelled these events. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern has put a terse message out in its social media pages, “Royal Vauxhall Tavern will not be open for any event on Saturday night 11th May 2024.”

Electrowekz have similarly removed reference to the Eurovision event. No explanation is given for these odd moves – after all, a sell-out until 4 am is a big earner for these venues.

But if you look a little closer the explanation can be found. Some of the few commentators thanking them show Palestinian flags.

A staff member at one club that is cancelling its event told me that their “Instagram page started receiving a lot of threatening comments and they decided to pull the screening.”

Why all this? Why the rush to close and fear? Simply because Israel made it to the final of the contest with a song called Hurricane, sung by Eden Golan. The song itself was censored as it was thought to reference the Hamas-led pogrom on October 7th with its initial title “October Rain.” Golan altered the song after Israel’s President asked her to.

There is a growing campaign to boycott Eurovision amongst pro-Palestinian protests. There is of course a near-total lack of gay rights in Gaza and the West Bank. Any suggestion that the only safe space for LGBT types in the whole Middle East is Israel is dismissed as “pink washing.”

Though pro-Palestinian protestors have failed to bully performers out of competing – and contest organisers have introduced a ban on Palestinian flags at the Malmo event – they have begun to succeed in intimidating gay venues in London from doing what comes naturally and just enjoying the night for what it is, a fun evening.

The organisers make it clear that the competition is apolitical. However, we know that countries vote in blocs that are far from apolitical. We also know that whatever happens and however good the UK entry is, it will prop up the bottom of the table – and that has absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.

Not in the slightest.