Eurovision: One Leeds graduate’s road to success in the song contest

Alumni news

TV and digital broadcast producer Joe Mason discusses his part in turning around the UK’s fortunes in Eurovision.

Leeds is currently buzzing with excitement. The city has been shortlisted as one of the potential hosts of next year’s Eurovision Song Contest. And one Leeds graduate was at the heart of this year’s UK entry.

Joe Mason (Broadcast Journalism 2014) worked as a digital producer for the BBC in Turin, where Sam Ryder’s song Spaceman won second place. It was an astonishing turnaround considering the UK’s entry in 2021 received the dreaded ‘nul points’ in Rotterdam.

“It’s super exciting, we can’t take away from an outstanding victory from Ukraine,” he said.

“Kalush Orchestra were absolutely amazing. But it does feel like a win for the United Kingdom.

“It’s going to be a massive honour for the UK to host Eurovision in our house. It’s Ukraine’s party, we’re just providing the house for it.”

Listen to Joe’s journey on the latest edition of the in My Leeds Story podcast. 

The UK was named as next year’s host for Eurovision after the decision was made to not have the contest in Ukraine, due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.

And for those who worked on the UK’s campaign, it’s been an opportunity to dispel some of the preconceptions that many Brits had of the so-called ‘politics’ of Eurovision voting. 

“I know a lot of people in the UK used to blame politics, or they’d say nobody in Europe likes us. But I knew that wasn’t the case,” Joe said.   

“I would sit there watching at home and I would just be getting frustrated by the UK’s results, and I just wanted to learn and understand why we weren’t doing so well in the contest.” 

His passion for Eurovision took him to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) - the main organisers of Eurovision – in Switzerland, before returning to the UK in 2020.  

Sam then got a job as a freelance digital producer for the BBC, and after the country’s humiliation in Rotterdam, the small team worked “to change the fate of Eurovision in the UK”. 

For Joe, his journey to working on Eurovision all started with the skills he attained while studying at Leeds. 

“My time at Leeds was a total game changer in terms of everything I ended up doing in my career.  

“Leeds provided so many opportunities for me. I was heavily involved in the student TV station and student radio. That partnership between the university and union was something I never anticipated I would benefit from, going to university.” 

The host city for next year’s contest will be announced in the autumn, with the bidding process well under way.  

Joe is waiting with bated breath – like the rest of us – for the result. If Leeds is crowned the winner, he knows exactly where he’ll be taking the UK’s Sam Ryder on a night out.

“If Sam Ryder was coming to Leeds, there’s only one place I could take him [for a drink] and that’s The Old Bar in Leeds University Union. It’s the place where every night starts and it’s the place where every night should end.”