From Lys to Jamala – Happy Birthday Eurovision!

ESC Collage

Today we celebrate a little experiment that happened exactly 60 years ago on a cloudy and wet night in Lugano Switzerland. Seven countries had gathered to enter a song into a European song competition to see whether the idea of different music, language and culture could combine to make an evenings entertainment, and whether that could be broadcast simultaneously across Europe. Of course, you know I am talking about the birth of our beloved Eurovision Song Contest.

This is not going to be a long piece highlighting the why’s and wherefores of 60 years (and 61 shows) goodness, that would take a book and there are a number of those available to you including one by our very own James Scanlan (he didn’t pay me plug his book by the way!) Instead I’m going to share three of my favourite ESC moments and yes, I know I’ve only been watching for 25 years!

Abba 1974

My first moment is actually before I was born but, like any Eurovision nerd, I have watched every show that is available on YouTube! At the time Sweden was a pretty insignificant country on the music scene, they were never expected to win with a throw-away  pop song by pop group Abba. Then BAM, suddenly Eurovision produced an international pop phenomenon, Abba went global, the world woke up to the Eurovision Song Contest and Sweden were now firmly on the map. And to think Abba won with 24 point, fewer than all but one of this year’s final!

Bosnia 1993

I know I’ve mentioned this on here before but I cannot pass by without sharing this moment from 1993. Bosnia had sent their first ever act to Eurovision since the break up of Yugoslavia, however the country was still deep in war, music should have been the last thing to worry about. But they came, they sang and then for the first time ever they voted. When presenter Fionnuala Sweeney called on the votes from Bosnia, the screeching phone line, that had been problematic all through the day, brought a faint voice from within a warzone saying ‘Good evening this is Sarajevo calling’ and we saw a country taking it’s first steps into Europe as an independent nation. The applause that erupted in the hall said it all, welcome to the family Bosnia.

Conchita Wurst 2014

What to say? Without Conchita I would not be sat here writing this, I would not have been in Stockholm two weeks ago reporting on the contest, I would not have met so many of the people I am now privileged to call friends. If I am being honest my love for Eurovision was waning, my interest had been perked up a little in 2012 with Loreen’s stunning song Euphoria but it wasn’t enough for me to really step back into the shoes of Eurovision Nerd/Geek/Fan (call me what you like, I don’t care!) Then along came a drag artist, who was beyond everything imaginable, the song was grand, her voice like purest water, her performance out of this world. She spoke the same message as me and so many others, yet she also validated our voices and put the message of peace, love, unity and acceptance on to a much bigger stage. She told us we were unstoppable and, my goodness, some of us believed her!

Of course there are hundreds of fabulous moments over the past 60 years that have made Eurovision memories for so many fans, and the effect it has had on the cultures and the people of Europe (and beyond) should not be underestimated.

And so it is the hands of Ukranian singer Jamala who carries the Eurovision Song Contest into the next 60 years after winning the 2016 contest with her poignant, emotional performance of her self-penned song ‘1944’. The party continues in Ukraine in 2017…

Author: Lisa-Jayne Lewis
Source: Eurovision Ireland



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