England is making waves at the World Cup 2018 and are gearing up for the Round of 16. Elsewhere Wales is set to debut at this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Minsk, making it the first time one of the countries of the United Kingdom is going solo at that event. Given that, we thought it would be a nice little task to review the United Kingdom’s Eurovision track record through the lens of its four countries — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. NOTE: We’re looking at artists who represented the UK, so are not including the long list of Northern Irish acts who have represented Ireland.
The UK, of course, is a hub of international culture. So we’ll also take a look at contestants from far-flung locales who have made an impact. G’Day Miss Newton-John!
First contestant: Patricia Bredin, 1957 (“All”, the first song ever sung in English at Eurovision)
Most recent: SuRie, 2018 (“Storm”)
Best placing: Winners in 1967 (Sandie Shaw, “Puppet on a String”), and part of winning groups in 1976 (Brotherhood of Man, “Save Your Kisses for Me”), 1981 (Bucks Fizz, “Making Your Mind Up”) and 1997 (Katrina & The Waves, “Love Shine a Light”).
No surprise: England is the main source of Eurovision singers out of all the United Kingdom. It’s home to more than 63 million people, making it by far the largest of the four countries. Scotland, the second largest, is home to more than 5.3 million.
From famed Puppets on Strings to collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber to every iteration of a Eurovision pop group there can and will be, England’s status of keystone music producer and exporter is likely to remain for years to come. Four out of five British Eurovision winners trace their roots to England…even if some of these winners have decidedly international spice (more on that later). In any case, they’re all proud to hail from the land of London.
First: Mary Hopkin, 1970 (“Knock, Knock Who’s There?”)
Most recent: Lucie Jones, 2017 (“Never Give Up on You”)
Best placing: Winners in 1976 (as part of Brotherhood of Man)
It seems the Welsh have re-discovered their Eurovision ambition. Three of the UK’s last six entries were Welsh — Lucie Jones, Joe from Joe & Jake and Bonnie Tyler. They finished 15th, 24th and 19th, respectively.
In terms of winners, they can only count Nicky Stevens, from Brotherhood of Man, but their recent push is hard to miss. Would #YouDecide from Welsh options in the near future? Has the Big Flag debate of 2016 come swinging towards Wales’ favour at full force?
First: Kenneth McKellar, 1966 (“A Man Without Love”)
Most recent: Scott Fitzgerald, 1988 (“Go”)
Best placing: Winners in 1969 with Lulu (“Boom Bang-A-Bang”)
Scotland has been fairly sparse when it comes to Eurovision contestants, but they can boast the only winner to not come from England: Lulu, with the international hit “Boom-a-Bang-Bang”. Since then, only a slew of contestants have had ties to the northernmost part of the isles. Most notable is Scott Fitzgerald, who led Switzerland’s Celine Dion at various points in the 1988 vote — only to finish second by one point.
First: Ronnie Caroll, 1962 (“Ring-A-Ding Girl”)
Most recent: Clodagh Rodgers, 1971 (“Jack in the Box”)
Best placing: Fourth place in 1962 (Ronnie Carroll), 1963 (Ronnie Carrol, “Say Wonderful Things”) and 1971 (Clodagh Rodgers).
Northern Ireland’s Eurovision story is short, but certainly not boring. It has fielded three entries and two artists for the UK. Belfast-raised Clodagh Rodgers was sent as a British olive branch to Dublin in the midst of the Troubles. Even if she did face threats, the contest went pretty smoothly and she was well received by the Irish jury. Now with a two-nationality system, Northern Ireland has double the doors open if they want to advance in Eurovision endeavours.
London is a cosmopolitain hub, with countless languages, cultures and traditions mingling at every turn. That diversity extends to the country as a whole which is home to immigrant communities, which have settled and thrived in the country.
Bucks Fizz’s Mike Nolan, while raised in Britain, was actually born in Ireland.
American-born songstress Katrina Leskanich led The Waves to a smashing victory and a huge hit with “Love Shine a Light” in 1997.
Australian stars such as Olivia Newton John and Gina G made their way to stardom by holding a stint as Eurovision contestants.
They’re both British icons. But Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck have more interesting origin stories, as they were both born in what was then British India.
What do you think? Will Wales’ debut in Junior Eurovision begin a Welsh revolution in the adult version? Will we see a Scottish resurgence? Let us know down below!