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Get to know Australia's Head of Delegation - Josh Martin from SBS

For many years we've all known Paul Clarke from Blink TV as the Australian Head of Delegation. In a recent transition, Josh Martin has taken over the role with Paul concentrating on his role as Creative Director.

We caught up with Josh to find out more about him and his connection with Eurovision.

So you’ve been involved in SBS’s coverage of Eurovision for some time but now you’ve stepped in a Australia’s ‘Head of Delegation’ from Paul Clarke. When did you all decide to tweak that change of approach?

We’ve been transitioning to this for a while now. I joined SBS about 3 years ago, with our last internal selection, Jessica Mauboy. I was passionate about SBS and Australia having our own internal selection show and commissioned Eurovision – Australia Decides. What this means is that Eurovision has become a year-round project for us, and the time was right for us to re-align the roles. Paul and I have worked together for many years – all the way back to when I was a producer and presenter on a music show at the ABC, so this just feels like a natural evolution.

There’s many aspects to a Eurovision delegation. From creative to logistics. What do you see as the biggest challenges for you?

Eurovision is such an important event for SBS. There is a whole army of passionate fans here who are lucky enough to actually work on Eurovision – publicity, production, marketing, social, legal, on-line, editors – not to mention the entire technology and broadcast team who make it happen. A lot of Aussies find it hard waking up at 5am to watch the show, but spare a thought for the broadcast team who are at the SBS Studios even earlier those mornings, manning the studio to make it happen. Not only do they have to be wide awake and ready for any eventuality, they also have to get their costumes on. You haven’t lived until you see a bunch of burly techs wearing crowns and frocks in a control room at 5am! In Europe of course, we have the whole delegation including Myf and Joel and the artist and their team. So it’s a huge undertaking for us, and my job is to make sure things run as smoothly as possible. So to answer your question – the biggest challenge for us really is making sure we all get enough sleep!

Although the Eurovision Song Contest is a competition, do delegations share information and tips between each other?

Absolutely! One of the things I love most about ESC, is the fact that we get to work and socialise with so many talented and wonderful people who are all amazingly good at their jobs. We tend to see each other at least 3 times a year – the HOD meeting, the September Workshop and the main event itself. This creates a real network of support and we are all friends on Facebook and WhatsApp comparing notes and holiday snaps regularly. Its often said that Eurovision brings people together – and its exactly the same behind the scenes too. Plus we all like good food and a drink after work!

Australia has already built a strong reputation at Eurovision. How do you see us evolving and continuing our success?

I think having a national final has already changed the game for us. Our inaugural winner, Kate Miller-Heidke was cut from a different cloth from our previous entrants. Zero Gravity was a completely different song, written by an independent artist that initially bemused a lot of people. But Kate’s extraordinary creativity, talent – and lets face it bravery – led to one of the most memorable Eurovision staging in years. It was both over the top, yet artistic and I think it inspired a lot of people. This year with Montaigne, we have taken another direction again. She is an indie artist, who is incredibly popular with the Triple J audience, and we haven’t had an artist like that before. Our plan is to continue to grow the audience here in Australia, in order to attract the best, most exciting artists and songs and help provide this pathway for Australian musicians and songwriters. To date, we have been lucky enough to qualify every year – but we can never take this for granted. We need to keep evolving, to try new things, to surprise and delight people – and we need to send the best we have because it makes the job of qualifying just that little bit easier.

And yourself, what has your Eurovision journey been like, when did you first see the contest and get into it properly?

Like everyone, I have been aware of Eurovision for a long time, thanks to SBS’s coverage since 1983 with Terry Wogan’s commentary. I was a casual viewer, but I think it was Lordi who made me sit up and really take notice. They were amazing – with a particular shout out to the keyboardist! Here was an act that was so unlike anything I had ever seen before that I was hooked. I then started to really take notice through the years of Loreen, Mans, Nina and of course Conchita. But it was the switch to the live Broadcast at 5am with Guy Sebastian that really confirmed it for me. There is something magical about waking up at that time, and feeling connected to this bright, exotic, exciting event and watching it with millions of other people that is really addictive.

If we were to look at a playlist of your Eurovision favourites, which non-Australian entries would we find on there?

Depends on the mood! In 2019, I loved the Tulia performance and was devasted when they didn’t qualify. Keiino were awesome, Conan Osiris was mesmerising. Further back, who can go past Eleni’s Fuego, Rasmussen, Ilinca and Alex Florea’s yodel/rap duet, Mans, Loreen – the list is endless! I really do like some classic Eurovision too like France Gall, Domenico Modugno’s Volare and do I really even need to mention Abba?!

Australia Decides is done for another year, are you happy how the second year went and how the show is evolving?

Incredibly happy! This is a huge undertaking for SBS and the Blink team. As true fans, we pour our hearts and souls into it. We learned a lot after the first one, and it was a great opportunity to build on that first year. I think the calibre of artists and songs were amazing in 2020, and each artist had a completely different approach. Our audience increased, which is no small feat in the current linear TV climate, and we had a huge amount of people watching on SBS On Demand, and tuning into our stream internationally. In fact, we were trending #1 on Twitter in both the UK and France, and #3 globally. How amazing is that for the Australian music industry? The best part for me is seeing the thousands of fans in the audience getting a taste of Eurovision without having to fly to the other side of the world. The vibe was really electric and welcoming and that is so special.

And what will the next few months look like for you and your team?

Meetings, meetings and more meetings! We have already started working with Montaigne on the staging and performance aspects. We have the HOD meeting in March where lots of things start to come together as well as the Postcard shoot around the same time. In Australia, we have started working on a marketing and social campaign and our Head of Press starts working on the publicity roll out and campaign both in Australia and in Europe. There is a surprising amount of paperwork involved, from hotel bookings, to fun stuff like Pixel maps for LED screens and everything in between. Of course we also have other non-Eurovision projects, including the massive Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras which we are doing Live this year for the first time which is going to be amazing.

You have an impressive CV of work achievements, when growing up was the TV industry something you always aspired to get into?

Funnily enough I studied theatre at University in Queensland. I loved the feeling of a live performance in front of an audience, but quickly figured out that it’s very hard to make a living in the theatre world. I also loved making short films, music videos and whatever else would pay, before getting my first real TV gig from Paul Clarke on a new youth music channel on the ABC called Fly TV. Eurovision is the ultimate, in that it combines all these things – live performance and staging, cutting edge technology, music and theatrics. So I couldn’t ask for a better gig really!

And what was your first ever job?

Oh gawd.. I was a potato packer at my parents supermarket. I got paid $2 a sack, to transfer the spuds from the hessian sack, to 2.5kg bags. I would have been about 10 years old, and to be honest, I was more interested in the “price check” microphone at the checkout. I remember getting in big trouble from my Dad for singing Madonna’s Like a Virgin through the supermarket microphone! As a 10 year old! Obviously, it was inevitable that I would one day work on Eurovision…

Your work life seems to revolve around travel, food and music – are those personal passions of yours or just things you’re good at making TV about! I mean they are three pretty good things, right?

I really believe though that travelling and seeing the world changes you. You get a new perspective, understanding and tolerance of other people and cultures that is so important to keep you grounded and empathetic. Food and music are both amazing entry points for this and yes it’s going to sound a bit cliché, but these things really do bring people together.

And finally outside of work life what do you like to do, what keeps you balanced?

Ha! Work/Life balance is a tricky one for all us! But I am a mad home cook and find it the best de-stress, along with long walks with our rescue dog, Pie. And like most people, I love a good streaming binge (shout out to SBS OnDemand!)

Thanks for your time Josh and bring on Rotterdam!


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