The Head of Delegation (HOD) at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest is a challenging role. The HOD represents the participating broadcaster and is in charge of the entire delegation. To find out more about the responsibilities of the job we met Mary Kingston, Head of Delegation for Ireland this year.
Mary Kingston comes from Inchydoney, in West Cork, Ireland. She is a director of the Independent Television Production company, Adare Productions which produces the Irish national selection for Junior Eurovision on TG4, one of the national broadcasters in Ireland.
Mary has worked in television for nearly thirty years and is best known to many in Ireland as a children's television presenter alongside her husband Brian Graham. In addition to her presenting work she has travelled extensively from Madagascar to the Galapagos Islands, from Kenya to Mongolia and is author of the book, Fantastic Far Flung Facts for Fun.
Over the course of her career Mary has danced with lemurs, swam with wild Dolphins in New Zealand and whilst visiting the Galapagos Islands, she danced with the Blue footed Booby, a marine bird. According to Mary, all these experiences gave her all the necessary qualifications and experience to work as Head of Delegation for Ireland in Junior Eurovision!
14 year old Zena Donnelly represented Ireland in Junior Eurovision this year but how did that come about? Mary explains, "We held extensive auditions across the country. 32 singers went forward to the five national heats and performed their respective entries for Junior Eurovision on TG4. Zena Donnelly was the eventual worthy winner".
During the event week itself the HOD works with the host broadcaster, the artist, their family and entourage as well as with the press and technical crew. In other words, the HOD often has to be in all places, at all times! "As head of Delegation for Ireland, my role role was to liaise with Adare Productions and our artist Zena Donnelly", said Mary.
Mary's involvement in Junior Eurovision goes a lot further than the event week itself. "I also produced the look and feel of the performance with Zena, Gordon Bonello at PBS Malta and Adare Productions with TG4".
During the week Mary also advised Zena during her rehearsals and worked with the press to promote the entry, Bríce Ar Bhríce, which opened the 2016 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Zena secured Ireland's first top ten placing in Junior Eurovision.
When asked about the overall experience in Malta, Mary and her colleagues were very happy with the experience. "The Irish delegation were delighted with the creative energy and support we received from team in Malta and the EBU. We are proud and delighted with Zena and her representation of Ireland at Junior Eurovision this year", said Mary.
"When the spangles, bubbles and banners were all put away and when it was time to pack our bags and go home, I had some time to reflect. On the plane, I thought of all the fun and crazy times that we shared on our Junior Eurovision journey. The moment for me that stood out was when Mariam from Georgia was announced as the winner. Within seconds of each act’s own disappointment, they gathered around Mariam and cheered. Mariam was overcome with emotion and for a while could not sing. All her friends from the other 16 countries rallied around her. The theme of Embrace became real. From the green room, I watched live as Zena, our princess warrior, had her hand on Mariam's shoulder, encouraging her to embrace her winning moment".
Mary added, "the final moments of the Junior Eurovision showed the true colours of the participants. They did not disappoint. What a wonderful group of children. 17 different countries who understood what it truly was to embrace, life, friendship and joy".