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Former Soviet sanatorium transformed into venue

Khvylia, a former Soviet sanatorium on the outskirts of Kyiv, has been converted into a live music venue by the team behind the world-renowned Georgian club, Bassiani.

The Bassiani team christened the Ukrainian physiatric hospital by welcoming several thousand attendees last weekend (23–25 July) to a new techno-heavy festival called Ickpa (‘spark’ in Ukrainian).

The festival stages were arranged inside Khyvlia’s main building and across the forest surrounding the sanatorium.

Festivalgoers had the opportunity to camp in the forest or stay in the sanatorium for two nights for UAH 2,700 (€84) – all rooms sold out.

“Ickpa chose to be located in Kyiv because of its connecting location between western Europe and post-Socialist space”

The organisers established the two-day event in the hope that it would become an annual platform for dialogue between the west and the emerging electronic scenes in post-Soviet countries such as Georgia and Ukraine.

“Ickpa chose to be located in Kyiv because of its connecting location between western Europe and post-Socialist space,” say the organisers.

“We believe that the connecting point is not only geographical but, first and foremost, cultural. This proximity involves the potential for the city to become a melting pot, where social and cultural experience accumulated throughout the year is communicated through dance,” said the organisers.

The event brought together more than 40 DJs including Jeff Mills, Nastia and Salome, as well as a charity Futsal tournament and panel discussions “empowering cultural dialogue and communication between post-Socialist dance cultures”.

 


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Sheer excitement: Vertical concerts entertain fans in Ukraine

Vertical concerts have been taking socially distanced crowds in Ukraine by storm in recent weeks, as bands perform to fans stacked on top of one another on hotel balconies.

Hotel Bratislava in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev has hosted an array of acts over the past two months, with rock band Green Grey first trialling the vertical concert concept on 7 June. The popularity of the initial sold-out show saw follow-ups from hip-hop group TNMK on 4 July and rock group O.Torvald on 18 July.

Further shows at the hotel, by Ukrainian acts Pianoboy and Scriabin, are set for August.

The Hotel Bratislava concerts turn a previously tested vertical concert format on its head, as fans, rather than performers are arranged, unlike a vertical show that took place last year in Samsung KX, London, which saw acts play from a 30ft, three-storey stage, designed to fit neatly into concertgoers’ smartphone screens.

In the Kiev concerts, artists perform from a rooftop facing hotel balconies, with a view of the concerts possible from roughly nine stories of rooms, with 14 separate balconies running the length of the building.

“It’s hard to put into words [what it’s like] when you’re performing in front of the hotel, and people from all balconies are singing your songs in unison”

Up to four guests can attend the concert together on each balcony. Instead of buying tickets, fans book rooms at the hotel and pick up keys from the front desk before shows begin.

“We were looking forward to this concert,” said O.Torvald frontman Zhenya Halych following the show. “You can finally look into the eyes of those you’re performing for. It’s hard to put into words [what it’s like] when you’re performing in front of the hotel, and people from all balconies are singing your songs in unison, shining lanterns and making ‘snow’ from napkins. Pure buzz.”

The Ukrainian government this week extended lockdown measures until 31 August, requiring people to wear masks and adhere to social distancing measures in public places.

Hotels have provided the setting for concerts around the world during lockdown, with the format allowing for socially distanced shows while giving a boost to both the tourism and music sectors.

Hotels Live, a hotel-based concert series in Calgary, Canada, also saw fans taking to their balconies to enjoy a live show, whereas Sleepover Experience in Spain allows music lovers to enjoy a weekend holiday package complete with intimate live shows and artist Q&As at the Unite Hostel in Barcelona.


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Ukrainian industry urges gov to ‘stop cultural quarantine’

Professionals from across the creative industries in Ukraine last night took part in a special kind of “flashmob” to urge the government to help the sector come out of quarantine.

As part of the #stopculturalquarantine project, live event professionals shone beams of light into the sky in 25 cities across Ukraine, using a total of 5,400 lighting devices provided by rental and production companies.

More than 100 companies took part in the initiative, including festivals Atlas Weekend and UPark, which both recently cancelled their 2020 editions, venues including Caribbean Club (250-cap.), Lviv Arena (35,000-cap.) and the NSC Olympic stadium (70,050-cap.), agencies H2D and Virus Music, event infrastructure providers such as including Zinteco and Alight and ticketing companies including Concert.ua.

“We represent the modern culture of Ukraine and we are convinced that this peaceful action will go down in history,” comments Yevgenia Strizhevskaya, the founder of industry conference Kyiv Music Days.

“We ask the government to open a dialogue with us in order to develop unified rules for overcoming this crisis.”

“We ask the government to open a dialogue with us in order to develop unified rules for overcoming this crisis”

The Ukrainian government laid out its five-step lockdown exit plan last month, with the first stages of easing beginning this week, but “nothing in the current plan helps clarify the situation for the live industry”, a source in Kiev tells IQ.

“There is an obvious ban [on events] that comes with the lockdown, but we have no official bans on festivals or pretty much any clue when venues, music events or festivals will be allowed to operate again.

“Most festivals have cancelled of their own accord, because they don’t want to be a part of the health risk, or expect a ban to be put in place at some point soon. We also know that even if everything is allowed here, we are still very dependent on the rest of the world which already has measures in place.

“Hopefully it’s just an oversight on [the government’s] part and they will realise there is a massive industry that’s been hit hard and needs some information and help.”

Images and videos from the project can be found using the hashtag #stopculturalquarantine on social media. The online broadcast, available to watch back here, has been viewed over 120,000 times.

 


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United in crisis: The view from Russia

Promoters in Russia view a fall in purchasing power and a reduction of disposable income as the main obstacles facing the reopening of the live business and have united with other sectors of the industry to form a new live entertainment industry association in an effort to safeguard their future.

In Russia, as in many markets worldwide, all concerts, tours and festivals have been officially banned for an indefinite period of time. Although many local summer festivals are still on sale, “nothing good is expected for summer 2020,” Sergey Podgorny, COO of majority CTS Eventim-owned promoter TCI, tells IQ. “It is obvious that large-scale events will be the last to return.”

Podgorny says TCI is “optimistic” about starting work again in September, but cautions that a “bad scenario”, which sees no live events for the remainder of the year, is a possibility.

Most of TCI’s local and international summer events – and even some autumn ones – have been postponed, with the company turning to “economy mode”, cutting costs amid a dearth of sales.

A similar tale is told by Maria Axenova, of Moscow-based promoter Melnitsa Concert Agency. The promoter is currently working to reschedule its July festivals, Moscow Park Live and Kiev UPark, which are set to feature acts  including My Chemical Romance, Deftones, the Killers and Sum 41, to 2021, along with tours and stand-alone concerts.

“The most frustrating thing about this pandemic is that it is so very bloody unknown,” says Axenova. “What is clear, however, is that all live events are doomed at least before the fall.”

Sergey Babich of Colisium International Music Forum, which represents promoters in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, agrees that events will most likely restart at the beginning of autumn in Russia, although this could differ across the country, as each region has the authority to select its own quarantine exit strategy.

“Both quarantine and the pandemic have revealed that we have a large industry, but we don’t have an authority that can negotiate with the government”

Of Colisium’s other represented markets, Kazakhstan offers the most cause for optimism, with venues planning to reopen in June and governmental support on offer such as tax breaks, rent holidays and unemployment benefits. Ticketing company Ticketon.kz is also allowing fans to buy tickets on credit, with the agreement of banks and credit card companies, in a bid to avoid complete stagnation of sales.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s lockdown is due to be lifted on 10 May but, according to Dmytro Feliksov of Concert.Ua, events will restart no earlier than July.

“As for Belarus,” says Babich, “the situation is more difficult.” With no official event ban or lockdown enforcements, the government is simply recommending the public avoid “crowds”. The authoritarian nature of the Belarussian government has led to a general acceptance of the advice.

“No one ventures out to organised events,” says Babich. “There are a few sales for autumn, but there are a lot of doubts about summertime.”

As for promoters the world over, the issue of ticket refunds remains the “main problem” for TCI. In view of the current situation, the government has extended the grace period for issuing refunds from 30 days to 90.

So far, however, TCI has received few refund requests, as fans approach the situation with “stoicism”. “I want to believe that fans will be waiting for their artists,” says Podgorny. TCI is also working with ticketing partners to develop a strategy regarding refunds and compensation for fans.

Unlike in other European countries, the Russian government has not yet provided any direct financial assistance for different sectors. “At the very least, the industry is counting on a tax cut and a delay in ticket refunds of 12 months,” says Podgorny, adding that the government is expected to announce a new package of measures in May.

“We are bringing together those who were separate, and working together for the best future of the entire industry”

In order to gain more lobbying power with the government, Colisium and other members of Russia’s professional music industry have joined forces to create an official live music industry association. Promoters in Russia including SAV Entertainment, PMI and NCA were previously represented by the no longer operational promoters’ association Soyuz Concert.

“Both quarantine and the pandemic have revealed that we have a large industry, but we don’t have an authority that can negotiate with the government,” Vladimir Zubitsky of SAV Entertainment and Russian Show Center, said in an interview about the formation of the association.

“The Association will include all major players, all active people from the distant regions of Russia, and everyone involved in the industry: technical companies, producer centers, artist management, security, insurers.

“We are bringing together those who were separate, and working together for the best future of the entire industry.”

The 20-plus co-founders of the association are currently preparing documents for the registration process, and plan to begin in full force in the summer although, the founding group has been working together de-facto since mid-March.

The industry association is a welcome addition to Russia’s live community, as promoters predict a rocky road ahead.

“The market will not be able to recover for a year or so,” says Michael Shurygin, head of National Concert Agency (NCA). Shurygin believes that the impact of the pandemic will change even fundamental elements of the business.

“These [postponed] events have been transferred from the world of flourishing business to the world of recessions”

“Free online shows, possible new restrictions on attending live shows, decrease in peoples’ incomes – all these things will inevitably affect the customer and it is very likely there will be a drop of the show attendance in 2021,” says Shurygin.

The economic fallout from the coronavirus shutdown is a worry on the minds of all promoters IQ approached for this article. The commodity-sensitive ruble has been weakened by the collapse in oil prices in the past months, as global stay-at-home measures have led to a precipitous drop in demand.

“The drop of the ruble’s rate will greatly affect the local economy and possibly lead to higher costs (of everything),” says TCI’s Podgorny. “Combined with the collapse of many businesses affected by the epidemic and falling incomes this could be a serious problem for ticket sales.

“We will need to be more careful when choosing events and estimations for the upcoming concert seasons.”

Caution and uncertainty surrounding future shows is also affecting the deals that are currently being re-negotiated between agents and promoters for postponed events.

“All these events have been transferred from the world of flourishing business to the world of recessions, falling incomes, increased expenses and losses from 2020. So, such “re-negotiating” will not exactly be easy,” says Podgorny.

For Axenova, the “colossal fall” of consumers’ spending capacity is the main issue, especially that of the youth – “the very bulwark of our industry”.

“We all look forward to the return of a live dialogue between the artist and the audience”

“With so many businesses collapsing, we cannot expect a prompt bounce back of the market,” adds Axenova. In the meantime, Melnitsa is working on new online projects to generate financial assistance for artists and provide emotional support for fans.

Colisium’s Babich also sees the value of regular online activities to bring “additional monetisation” to the industry and for charitable purposes.

“We are very proud that online projects exist in our countries to support the medical sector, for example online concerts with donation systems in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. All money collected from these concerts goes straight to support doctors.”

Online events are being supported by the largest media outlets in Russia, such as Yandex, Rambler, Mail.ru, Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki and MTS Mobile, with the opportunity for virtual reality (VR) and 360° video.

Although such virtual experiences offer a welcome respite from the tedium of lockdown life for many, the Russian live industry is raring to get back to the real thing.

“All online efforts are a good temporary substitute, but they definitely not replace a real live show, as a soccer game on TV will not replace a real vibe of a full stadium,” says Podgorny.

“We all look forward to the return of a live dialogue between the artist and the audience.”

 


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Let us offer credit for cancelled shows, say assocs

As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert financial pressure on the live sector, industry associations and businesses in Europe, Asia and North America are asking for changes in the way refunds are issued for cancelled events.

In Europe, research shows digital footfall to event ticket sales sites has collapsed in recent months, with only travel agencies harder hit by concerns over the virus. According to Comscore, visits to ticketing sites fell by 47% in France, 12% in Germany, 52% in Italy, 55% in Spain and 26% in the UK between 17–23 February and 9–5 March.

The figures come as associations in the the UK warn of a cashflow “crisis” amid widespread concert cancellations – with British artists and managers alone expected to lose more than £60 million should a ban on mass gatherings last for the next six months – and other sectors, including cinema and aviation, similarly grapple with an unprecedented drop-off in ticket sales.

In countries including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, Russia and Kazakhstan, associations representing cash-strapped local operators are pushing for an extended refund grace period (up to 365 days), to be permitted to give vouchers in lieu of cash refunds, or a combination of the two.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is really necessary to return your ticket for a refund,” reads a blog from Ticketmaster Germany, which is supporting the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC)’s #keepyourticket campaign. “Every ticket that is not returned helps organisers, venues and [sports] clubs, even after the coronavirus has passed, and enables them to be able to organise great events in future.”

The EVVC, which represents arenas and conference centres in central and southern Europe, is inviting its members to support the campaign by sharing text and visual materials calling for solidarity with promoters and venues. “For organisers, suppliers and cultural professionals, the corona pandemic is a threat to their existence,” says the association.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is necessary to return your ticket for a refund”

Promoters’ association BDKV – which estimates its ~450 members will lose a combined €1.25 billion from March to May as a result of Germany’s event ban – is asking the German government to extend temporarily, to 365 days, the time within which a refund must be paid, as well as offer credit for tickets instead of cash refunds (a solution it says would especially benefit members sitting on large ticket inventories, such as theatres).

The former request (a grace period for refunds) is also believed to be the option preferred by Britain’s UK Music and Colisium, which represents promoters in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

In Spain, newly launched umbrella body Esmúsica (which includes the Association of Music Promoters) is also asking for a grace period, lasting until 31 December, for cancelled events. For postponed events, however, “given the exceptional situation”, the organisation says promoters must not be obliged to offer a refund, instead offering only a new ticket for rescheduled date(s).

“Several organisations and municipalities are cancelling events on a daily basis. Shows on sale for the end of the year and early 2021 are not selling. We have to work together on a reimbursement policy for postponed and cancelled shows that helps to minimise catastrophic losses,” says Portugal’s APEFE, which backs Esmúsica’s position on no refunds for postponed shows, suggesting that “purchased tickets must be valid for postponed shows without mandatory reimbursement”.

Both Esmúsica and APEFE (Association of Promoters of Shows, Festivals and Events) are also calling for a temporary reduction in VAT charged on tickets, among other relief measures.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the associations’ counterpart there, VVEM (Association of Event Producers), appears to be making headway with its campaign for ticket vouchers, with the Dutch cabinet discussing the issue this week.

“It is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers”

Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has previously asked ticketholders not to request cash refunds, while VVEM has also reportedly found a sympathetic ear in the form of economy minister Eric Wiebes, who has said the government will provide further “strong help” for the sector (though it remains to be seen in what form).

While European associations focus on lobbying their respective governments, US secondary ticketing giant StubHub has taken the matter into its own hands, announcing that – where legal – it will no longer provide refunds for cancelled events to its American and Canadian customers. Instead, ticketholders will receive a voucher worth 120% of the original value of the ticket.

The change in policy comes as StubHub, which is in the process of being acquired by European rival Viagogo, lays off as much as two thirds of its workforce, in what it calls a “difficult but sensible decision”.

Explaining the shift in its refund terms, a StubHub spokesperson says: “In normal times, we’ve made the decision to refund buyers before collecting money from the seller to offer buyers more convenience. And under normal circumstances, this works well, even with StubHub taking the risk of timing delays and some losses when we are unable to collect from the seller. With the coronavirus impacting 28,000+ events and the associated magnitude of challenge in recouping monies owed by sellers over the coming months, it is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers.

“When the volume of cancellations accelerated a few weeks ago, we were the first in our industry to offer a coupon worth 120% of the ticket value. This will now be our default option in Canada and in the US. Outside of the US and Canada, fans are defaulted to a refund.”

 


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Record attendance for Ukraine’s Atlas Weekend

The fifth edition of Kiev-based Atlas Weekend festival saw more visitors than ever before, with 538,000 festivalgoers from 75 different countries attending the six-day festival.

The festival, which took place from 9 to 14 July, featured performances from the Chainsmokers, Black Eyed Peas, the Vaccines, Liam Gallagher and Russian rock group Splean.

“We are really happy with how the 2019 edition went,” Atlas Weekend owner and chief executive Dmytro Sydorenko tells IQ. “It was our best festival yet.”

159,710 people attended the free-to-enter opening day of the festival, breaking the event’s daily attendance record.

“The point of the first day is to showcase Ukrainian music to the widest audience possible,” explains Sydorenko, stating that the number of attendees also marked a new daily attendance record for festival venue Ukrainian Expo Centre, “in all 61 years of its existence”.

“One of our main goals is to develop music tourism in Ukraine and also make the festival more prominent in markets outside of our country,” says Sydorenko. “We work closely with government departments to ease planning for foreign visitors – both artists and fans – and make sure they have the best time possible during their stay in Kiev.”

Over 250 acts from 20 different countries made up the festival’s most international line-up yet, with 30 acts performing in Ukraine for the first time.

“One of our main goals is to make the festival more prominent in markets outside of Ukraine”

Asap Rocky, who was billed to headline Atlas Weekend’s Saturday night, was detained in Sweden for suspected assault shortly before the event, leading to the cancellation of remaining tour dates.

The absence of the headliner was much talked about on social media and in the Ukrainian press, says the Atlas chief executive, admitting that “there was a lot of tension involved”.

“We have never had to deal with a headliner replacement before, especially not one that urgent,” Sydorenko tells IQ, “but we are happy that we managed to find a suitable replacement both for Asap Rocky’s fans and our festivalgoers.”

Fellow Asap Mob member Asap Ferg filled the headline slot, in a performance that “almost didn’t happen due to flight delays”.

A key goal for the 2019 festival was to be “as inclusive and accessible as possible.” Through its Mastercard Vibes initiative, festival sponsor Mastercard provided sign language interpretation at the main stage, as well as setting up a lounge area with visual and tactile installations.

“We believe in inclusivity and take pride in our efforts to make our festival a place for everyone to have a good time and enjoy music,” says Sydorenko.

The festival was held in partnership with Music Conference Ukraine, which was organised by the country’s music export office.

 


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200k fans attend biggest Exit Festival yet

The 2019 edition of Serbia’s Exit Festival broke its previous attendance records, hosting more than 200,000 festivalgoers over the four-day event.

The festival, which took place from 4 to 7 July in a disused fortress, broke its existing daily attendance record of 55,000 on the opening day. Over the four days, attendance surpassed 2018’s total of 198,000.

The record comes ahead of next year’s special celebratory edition, Exit 2.0, which marks the festival’s 20th anniversary of the festival.

Performances across the weekend came from the Cure, Greta van Fleet, the Chainsmokers, Carl Cox and Chase and Status.

Over the four days, attendance surpassed 2018’s total of 198,000

Techno DJ Amelie Lens closed the 25,000-capacity mts Dance Arena on Monday morning. Lens ended the festival with the Prodigy track ‘Firestarter’, paying homage to the band’s late frontman Keith Flint. The Prodigy headlined Exit four times, in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2016.

The festival also featured video messaged from Yoko Ono and Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, who has teamed up with Exit to develop preschool education in Serbia.

Exit organises four other events across south-east Europe: Sea Dance festival in Montenegro, Sea Star in Croatia, Revolution Festival in Romania and No Sleep Festival in Serbia.

 


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Mass staff walk-out at troubled Eurovision 2017

Twenty-one senior members of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2017 organising committee, including two executive producers, the commercial director, the event manager and the head of security, have resigned en masse.

In an open letter, published on Ukrainian website Strana, the former staff say they were shut out of the organisation of the contest following the appointment of a “new head of the competition” – presumably Pavlo Grytsak, although he is not named – last December, whereupon “the work of our team was completely blocked”.

Following Grystak’s appointment, says the letter, work on the contest “stopped for two months”, while an alternative “proposal on the distribution of powers and responsibilities” by the future resignees was rejected. “Therefore, we regret to inform you that our team can not accept such an appointment, and do not see the possibility of continuing their work on Eurovision in Ukraine,” it concludes.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organisation behind Eurovision, announced last week ticket sales had been postponed amid a dispute over the Ukrainian authorities’ choice of ticket agency. Tickets eventually went on sale yesterday, with the original winner of the contract, Concert.ua, restored to its role as the event’s ticketing partner.

It was reported in December, meanwhile – prior to Gystsak’s appointment – that the EBU had made threats to strip Ukraine of ESC 2017 over concerns about ticketing, travel arrangements and infrastructure, although executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said had “full confidence in [host broadcaster NTU] to overcome the challenges that remain”.

“We have reiterated the importance of a speedy and efficient implementation of plans already agreed, despite staff changes”

A statement from the EBU says the contest will go ahead in May as planned.

“Victoria Romanova, Oleksandr Kharebin, Iryna Asman, Denys Bloshchynski and his team and Oleksii Karaban informed the EBU on 10 February that they were resigning from their roles for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest,” it reads. “The group felt they were not able to continue work on the project owing to staffing matters at [Ukrainian public broadcaster] UA:PBC, which the EBU cannot fully comment on.

“The team have been instrumental in the planning for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and we thank them for their hard work. We have reiterated to UA:PBC the importance of a speedy and efficient implementation of plans already agreed, despite staff changes, and that we stick to the timeline and milestones that have been established and approved by the reference group to ensure a successful contest in May.”

ESC 2017 will take place from 9 to 13 May at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev. The winner of last year’s contest, which introduced a new scoring system, was Ukrainian singer Jamala, with ‘1944’.

 


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Eurovision 2017 ticket sales halted indefinitely

The sale of tickets for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) has been postponed indefinitely amid controversy over the choice of ticket agency.

The decision, taken by the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine, was announced today by Jon Ola Sand of the contest’s organiser, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). He comments: “We are disappointed with the delay to the start of ticket sales for the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, but are working closely with host broadcaster UA:PBC to resolve this situation. The EBU recognises that any tender process needs to be transparent and fair, and hope[s] that tickets can go on sale at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Kiev-based Concert.ua was previously announced as the winner of the contract to supply tickets, but a last-minute decision by the Antimonopoly Committee, reportedly under pressure from rival bidders, means the event is left without a ticketing partner with just three months left until kick-off.

“The EBU recognises that any tender process needs to be transparent and fair and hopes tickets can go on sale at the earliest possible opportunity”

Sales were due to begin on Monday (6 February).

It was reported in December that the EBU had made threats to strip Ukraine of the 2017 event over concerns about ticketing, travel arrangements and infrastructure, although Sand said shortly after he had “full confidence in the [host broadcaster] to overcome the challenges that remain”.

ESC 2017 will take place from 9 to 13 May at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev. The winner of last year’s contest, which introduced a new scoring system, was Ukrainian singer Jamala, with ‘1944’.

 


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