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Glen Vella

J’Aime La Vlie: Eurovision on a magical island

From left to right: Anja (Eurovision Universe), Hans, Esther and Dennis (J’aime La Vlie), Martijn (Eurovision Universe) Niamh Kavanagh Niamh Kavanagh, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1993 and also a participant in 2010, will perform during J’aime La Vlie. And as we now know, Anabel Conde, the 1995 runner up, will also be there. But what is J’aime La Vlie? The event is held annually on the Dutch Wadden island of Vlieland. We spoke with Dennis, Esther and Hans, three members of the organizing team. And we call it: J’aime La Vlie How did the idea behind J’aime La Vlie come about? For that, we have to go back to 2016, to a Eurovision event in Berlin. Organizer Dennis says: “In Germany they organize an annual Eurovision weekend and they ask a different OGAE to organize it every year.They asked if the Netherlands wanted to participate and they asked to bring one or two Dutch participants. And then we asked Esther Hart and Sandra Reemer. However, we found the weekend in Berlin a bit too full.” Hans adds: “On that basis, the idea was born. We can also organize something like that, only without press moments and photo shoots.” Dennis continues: “Esther brought her good friend Judith (Olthuis, ed.) with her. I was talking to Judith. I said: I heard you live on Vlieland. That is such a nice island. We went on vacation there once. Oh, she says, then you must have been to Camping Stortemelk? And yes, we were at Stortemelk. I am married to Jan, the director of the campsite, Judith said then.”, to which Hans adds: “Dennis and I knew what Camping Stortemelk looked like and so did Esther. And Jan and Judith of course too. So the five of us were actually very enthusiastic because De Stortemelk just has a very cool stage: De Bolder. All facilities are there and all summer long the crème de la crème of Dutch artists perform there. That idea actually originated in a cafe together with Dennis and Judith.” “And Louis (Klomp, co-organiser, ed.) was also there. He immediately said: then we call it J’aime la Vlie.”, Esther explained. “The first edition was of course very exciting,” says Dennis, “We had no money, we just had to wait and see whether the passe partouts were sold. It was also just waiting to see if it was all going to work. We naturally wanted to combine the island experience with Eurovision music. We may think that Vlieland is something magical, but then the visitor who has never been there should also experience it that way.”.J’Aime La Vlie certainly distinguishes itself from other Eurovision events in Europe, Esther notes. “It is a multiple day event anyway. And you’re all on an island together. So you have a lot of contact with each other, with all visitors, but also with the artists. They also just cycle across that island, so you will encounter them everywhere. You run into each other all the time and there is something very friendly about that.” Cycling across the island Which brings us to the artists who perform there. Because how do you choose them? “No blue M&Ms,” Dennis jokes. Esther explains: “There are some artists who keep a little more distance or who don’t really feel the need for contact with fans. That’s fine too, but we are really looking for someone you can imagine cycling across that island, you understand? And that it’s just fun. Of course I’m in the dressing room at events with the others. And then you have a great time and so that feels kind of like-minded. And you have less of that with others.” Hans adds: “So we try to make use of Esther’s network from Esther, but also, for example, from fellow fans. Dennis says about this: And in the press center at the Eurovision Song Contest you can already taste it a bit. For example, we brought Ary Olafsson from Iceland three years ago. I loved that one in the press center so much. He would then sit down and do a Eurovision medley himself, yes we must have it.” Hans recalls that Glen Vella also had been on the island. Esther immediately gets to it: “I had already met him in Sweden, in Stockholm and that was very nice. I thought: we just have to ask him. He came along with his boyfriend. He rode a bike for the first time in ten years. And Ryan O’Shaugnessy was the same story. I met Ryan in Munich . That was also such a nice guy that I immediately thought: I can totally imagine it. Hans adds: “We are looking for the singer songwriter kind of singers. They also fit well with into event anyway, because they fit into the island, I think they  have that kind of vibe. We try to look at that. But of course we also try to get some bigger names to join us. The first year we had a winner, Lenny Kuhr.” And now we can also add Niamh Kavanagh to it. “We also look for people who have their own musical path to follow outside of Euro music”, says Esther, “Either with their own songs or with their own CDs. Or with a theater program what they organized where we also give space to Eurovision artists to play their own repertoire.” Eurovision without the histery of Eurovision Hans remembers getting Axel Hirsoux to sing only French chansons. “That was the question, French chansons, and he himself came up with the idea of having eighteen songs. seventeen are French Eurovision entries and one is not. We didn’t ask for that, that was an extra treat for us. By the way, I think there is also an important difference with other events: we have a live band. That is also a world of difference in performances.” Dennis remembers a nice statement from one of the visitors: “It is Eurovision, but without

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