A New King
May was an exciting month in the UK, as it was ‘Corovision’ (Coronation + Eurovision)! TV Slovenia assigned me to work on both events. Generations of people in the UK, as well as across the Commonwealth, have lived under the rule of just one monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. I am part of a generation who will most likely (if the universe permits me a long life) live under three monarchs – that’s quite something.
Celebrating the rule of the late Elizabeth II and the Coronation of the new King Charles III was an exciting time, with so many questions running through my head: what kind of king will he be; what will the new Queen’s agenda be; will Charles continue to fight for environmental causes and side with us in our worries about the Earth’s future? As a monarch, Charles must remain neutral. Does that mean the end of everything he’s contributed to the fight against global warming?
I was at the Coronation, on a chilly, wet May’s day, in front of Westminster Abbey, witnessing a huge historical event as King Charles was crowned, watched by at least 250 million people around the globe.
I was broadcasting the event for my audience back in Slovenia. It was funny, because it was the Coronation of my King, but I had to broadcast as a foreign correspondent. The trickiest thing was what to do towards the end, when the UK’s National Anthem was played. It is my anthem as well, and I had to do the honour of singing along, as it was the first time we officially sang God Save the King! (To some people there, of course, it was the first time in 71 years…)
I stood in front of the Abbey, commentating on all the beauty and glamour of this historical event, and it made me proud to be British and at the same time humbly honoured to show this ancient ceremony to my fellow Slovenians.
The Songs And Silliness Of Eurovision
Parallel to the royal glamour, Liverpool was the centre of a very different glamour: a punky, rocky, crazy one at the biggest musical competition in the world (as well as the silliest one) – the Eurovision Song Contest 2023!
Last year’s winners, Ukraine, could not host it this year, as they are still at war. When the event was moved to Liverpool, it seemed a simpler venue than previous years, its modesty hinted at by an absence of the usual prestigious gatherings, parties and events.
I was swinging between the two events, from the beautifully decorated avenues of central London to the homely yet charismatic Liverpool. From the celebration of the new King and Queen to the city where the Union Jack flew alongside that of Ukraine – this is the story of Europe, where war proves itself a repetition in every generation so far. I still remember as if it were yesterday when my country, once part of former Yugoslavia, was at war. Bosnian refugees escaped to Slovenia followed by wild animals such as bears and deer… Slovenia has since become one of the largest wildlife habitats in Europe.
While in Liverpool, we filmed the first rehearsals of the band Joker Out, who were representing Slovenia at Eurovision. They are a pop-rock-band – great performers, charming and stylish. I silently wished good luck to Slovenia, a country that hadn’t seen its performers on stage at the Eurovision final for many years. Another important moment that I was grateful to experience. I was also thinking about my audience in Slovenia, and their possible disbelief at witnessing me in Liverpool one day, and the next in London showing the final preparations for the Coronation. Well, the train ride only takes two and a half hours, but I meant something different. Were they fed up with watching the same face again and again, every day on all the news programmes?
I was working non-stop, sleeping only two to three hours a night, focused just on one result: I must deliver for my audience. They don’t know how I feel, they don’t know how thirsty I am, how my lips are cracking because I am dehydrated, how hungry I am because I have no time to eat, how my skin has layers and layers of foundation to cover up the lack of sleep…
I finished my day’s broadcasting from Liverpool Arena and was sitting with my colleague Niko Karo from TV Slovenia, editing the documentary that would be aired an hour before the Eurovision finals. The air-conditioning was brutally cold, we were wearing scarves, and after a few hours there I couldn’t feel my toes and fingers. But I managed to fulfil my editorial remit – three to four TV news stories each day, plus directing and presenting on the documentary film, ‘Joker Out in Liverpool’. Niko and I both got sore throats, and I felt it going to my chest.
I thought, “What am I going to do about the Cannes Film Festival?!” I was accredited, I already had meetings confirmed and I was still writing more emails to confirm further meetings. I had two projects for Cannes: the feature film of ‘The Story of Europe’, and six episodes of the series ‘Three Little Hearts’.
A Royal Encounter
The day before the Coronation, while I was broadcasting in front of Buckingham Palace, a crowd suddenly gathered behind the fence and I couldn’t work out why. And then I saw an empty spot where I could squeeze in – as a good journalist I thought I’d check out what on Earth was going on… and OMG! I looked over my right shoulder and I saw His Majesty The King. He was already next to me, so I spontaneously curtseyed and said: “Your Majesty”, putting my hand towards him. He shook my hand! And he gave me a gentle smile; I think he liked the way I did it, the proper way. Seconds before that I heard a man calling him Sir, and I held my breath, thinking: ‘Why did you even bother to come out to see him?’ (I learned these manners many years ago when I was on the committee of the Foreign Press Association and got an invitation to the Buckingham Palace garden party.)
Straight after that, I rushed to a hotel to film an interview with the Slovenian president, Nataša Pirc Musar, who I’ve known for many years. On my way, I managed to Instagram my handshake with the King and by the time I arrived at my interview the president and ambassador had already seen my post. They told me: “You probably don’t want to wash your hands yet!”
The day after the Coronation, I enjoyed a few hours with my beautiful friends while people across the country finished their garden parties by watching the live broadcast of the Coronation Concert from Windsor Castle. But I had to pack my bags and move to Liverpool for a week.
The Rush And The Aftermath
Eurovision is a gay event, in both meanings of the word. It’s a happy time, with happy people, rehearsals and parties. But this year it was gay and also sad. No one was able to close their eyes to the Ukrainian refugees who were invited to the shows and rehearsals. So many sad stories, so many broken lives. It even feels horrible to admit that the music was such fun. This contrast between Europe being at war and Europe celebrating made me not want to be a journalist, broadcaster, and correspondent – I thought, why am I here, about to film one of the funnest TV shows, interviewing super-creative bands, who deserve to be on one of the biggest world stages, but things are just not good.
With all this swooshing around in my head, I was interviewing many talented performers. With La Zarra from France, everyone told me she wouldn’t give me an interview, and I thought ‘Fine’. I checked her schedule, I saw when she would be heading over for a rehearsal, and I stopped her. I said to her very seriously, pointing to my shoulder-padded sweater: “Hi Zarra, look at my Balenciaga top, Givenchy shoes, Chanel bag – I am literally half French, so you must give me an interview!” She laughed. Her agent started telling me how busy she was, when Zarra quickly pointed at me: “What is your favourite brand of champagne?” I shot out: ”Pommery”, and at the same time she said: “Ruinart”, then she laughed and said: “Can we do it after my performance, like in an hour?” “Absolutely,” I said.
My cinematographer colleague Niko laughed; he couldn’t believe his eyes and ears.
It was my first time filming with him, I hope he enjoyed it. On the Monday afternoon, just before we started filming the documentary, he worried that we wouldn’t have enough time: “Four days for this film, Nina! And you haven’t arranged any of the interviews ahead of time! How will we do it?” Well, I replied that in my universe all the films are done before we start filming them. He wasn’t happy, nor convinced. I assured him that we will finish filming for the documentary by Tuesday night, then we will edit for two days and by Thursday we’ll see what we’re missing and how much extra time we had. This was one of many Eurovision Song Contests I’ve worked on – my first one was in Tallinn in 2002, so I know what I’m doing.
And so it was – we finished on Tuesday night, we had some champagne, then we worked until the early hours. Wednesday was again hard work – and, yes, in between we did several broadcasts for TV news.
The highlight of Eurovision was Käärijä with his song ‘Cha Cha Cha’. I loved the song, I super-liked him and his performance, and the song was so Eurovision – amazing! I wanted him to win, he was my favourite. He had a big truck parked next to the Arena, and inside was a Finnish sauna, where he was hosting all the other singers and bands. He was genuine and good-hearted, one of the nicest people I have ever met.
Next year, Sweden will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision performance, so it was very important that they invested a huge amount of money into Loreen’s performance. When I interviewed her, her energy was almost mystical, and she is as beautiful in the changing room without make-up as she is on the stage with all her glitter. She explained how she builds up her performance from one step to all the moves, and how the singing is only one segment of her whole art. I knew it – she would be the ultimate winner. But I still hoped for my Finnish friend. Hours after everything was wrapped, we met for the last time backstage, and spontaneously hugged each other.
It was very sad for the acts that didn’t win. They tried so hard – all the performances, rehearsals, filming the interviews, and then three minutes on stage that eliminates you forever. For three minutes, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are watching you and if you don’t win…you are just done. Back to your cultural hall in a small suburban town, performing for a few hundred fans.
While they were packing up and it was over for them, I was still editing and filming stories for the TV News. Our documentary, which was streamed on TV Slovenia an hour before the Eurovision Song Contest, went well. We completed it by Friday morning, a day before streaming, so it was all great. And the audience liked it so much that I even got thank-you letters, which almost never happens.
Straight after Eurovision, I flew to Cannes for the famous film festival. My voice was gone, my chest was heavy, my nose was blocked… After my first day, with all the scheduled meetings, I went to my hotel, had a long shower and just crashed. I wasn’t well. There was no chance to postpone my meetings for the next day. I had no medicine with me, and I woke up after four hours of sleep and it was only around midnight. I ordered a bottle of champagne to my room and kept on working, replying to emails, sending my pitch docs.
I was at my first meeting on time at 9am, but I had no time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I was invited to a party but I crashed again, and again I woke up four hours later at around midnight and again – emails, Zoom meetings with LA, etc. Then I realised I needed to complete an application form for the potential funding of my PhD research. One of the first questions on the form was to write my date of birth. With all the multi-tasking from Corovision and Cannes, and preparation for the APR (annual progress review) of my PhD, I couldn’t remember a basic thing that every four-year-old knows… what was my date of birth?!
I decided to order a glass of champagne. It arrived very quickly. That helped me remember that my date of birth was in my passport and my passport was in the safe. I put in the usual code and it didn’t work. I’d forgotten my code, as well as my date of birth! I got very hot, what was going on?! I needed to complete this form before sunrise and I couldn’t call anyone at this time in the morning. Hold on, I thought – what about the internet?
I jumped onto Google, typed ‘Nina Kojima’, scrolled down and suddenly found a very interesting article about me – who wrote this? I was scheduled for several interviews at the end of May and for June, but I was totally unaware of this one. I clicked on the page and the headline was: ‘How can she do all of this?’. The subhead was: “She’s making a TV documentary, working every day as a journalist, making another feature film for the cinema, and on top of this she’s writing her thesis”. Wow! Is this really me?
Well, sleeping a maximum of four hours (or some weeks only two to three) gives me more time than the average person on this planet has, and I multitask, so I do many different jobs, and yes… my friend is always asking me why I have no wrinkles on my neck or face, and here is the answer: You sleep four hours or less, you’re not gonna get any wrinkles… Although I can’t scientifically prove this!
Saying all that, I didn’t know my date of birth at that moment, but luckily the internet did! (Although please, do not believe everything written on Wikipedia about me.) I cancelled my first two morning meetings, I had a big breakfast and after that I was just sitting on my bed in a very nice hotel room. For the first time I realised that the hotel was very beautiful, that my room was super-modern and most likely I could be its first resident. I called the reception and told them about the safe and they said straight away that the safes were new and that they are all glitching, it is some kind of a software problem, and they are replacing them.
The next few days in Cannes were super fun, I went to all the parties, and when I got back to my room I was preparing for my APR, the last one ever. In September 2023 I am enrolling onto my fifth and final year of research in Ethics of Space Exploration, with my thesis pending. The title of my thesis is ‘Ethics in Extraterrestrial Nanotechnology’. The APR went very well!
Well, I must be a bit of extraterrestrial to manage all of this, is my answer to the journalist who wrote an article about me. I couldn’t read the article in full because I’m not subscribed to the newspaper, but I must say that I have zero time to think about myself, because I want to deliver my goals – they are so important to me that basic things like my date of birth don’t matter at all. All the stars and planets above us have been there for billions of years and no one knows their actual date of birth. But they’ve been there for much longer than me, and they spur me on to contribute anything positive I can, in my short life, which is why I’m trying so hard to do this.