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Eurovision Song Contest 2022: From stage invasions to Engelbert Humperdinck, Blue to Bucks Fizz and Cliff Richard to nil points, can the UK avoid humiliation this year?


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When a demonstrator invaded the stage during the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest and grabbed the microphone off the British entry, it would be tempting to say it marked a new low in the competition for our nation.

But what we didn't realise is that the interrupted performance by SuRie (no, I don't remember her either) on that night in Lisbon would in fact stand as something of a beacon of light for the years ahead; a yard stick to judge success in a competition in which we are about as popular as an enthusiastic Jehovah's Witness knocking on your door when you're expecting an exciting delivery.

Yes, SuRie may have finished 24th but with 48 points she managed to beat both hosts Portugal and Finland. Granted, a few of those votes may have been accrued by some good old-fashioned sympathy for her performance being disrupted by an uninvited guest, but last place we weren't.

Which cannot be said for the subsequent years.

In 2019 Michael Rice's Bigger Than Us polled a paltry 11 points and saw us end up comfortably bottom of the pile. But with hindsight, that was a rip-roaring success.

Because after 2020's event was cancelled due to the pandemic, it returned in 2021 with James Newman (brother of Whitstable chart-topper John Newman) singing Embers.

Which is fitting, because after all the votes were counted we were nothing but ash. Bottom again and this time failing to secure a single point from either the public or each nation's judging panel. It was only the second time in the competition's history - and it dates back to 1957 - when the United Kingdom polled a bit fat zero.

James Newman didn't do too well last year... Picture: EBU/Thomas Hanses
James Newman didn't do too well last year... Picture: EBU/Thomas Hanses

Which suggests that Sam Ryder - our glutton for punishment, sorry, I mean UK entrant this year - only has to score one measly little point to improve and for that to be hailed as progress. Of sorts.

Perhaps the fact he resembles a blond Jesus Christ may provide the divine inspiration clearly required to stop us being quite so unpopular.

However, and whisper it, the bookies suggest we may not only not come last but, gasp, actually do rather well this year. Let's believe it as and when we see it.

Of course, the competition has come a long way since the likes of a pre-knighted Cliff Richard turned out for us (twice, no less), not to mention the likes of Sandie Shaw, Lulu and Olivia Newton-John.

Perhaps hoping to repeat the success of having a well known name croon for us (Sandie and Lulu both won it, Cliff managed a second), we recruited, inexplicably, Engelbert Humperdinck for the 2012 contest. He repaid the selection panel's faith in him by performing first and being beaten only by Norway in our sprint to last place.

Sam Ryder will be hoping for more than nil points. Picture: EBU/Corinne Cumming
Sam Ryder will be hoping for more than nil points. Picture: EBU/Corinne Cumming

Bonnie Tyler - she of big hair and husky voice - was crowbarred in the following year and nearly doubled the points tally (she secured 23 compared to Engelbert's 12) but still could only haul us up to 19th.

But then we've not won since Tony Blair came to power in 1997, having the temerity of addressing heads of state in their native language and being pro-European. I'm not saying it helped Katrina and the Waves (they were Canadian, but let's not get picky) be crowned the winners, but, let's be honest, it can't have hurt.

This year will, soberingly, mark 20 years since a UK entry last made the top three (Jessica Garlick's Come Back). Apparently shocked by its popularity, Europe voted it's successor in 2003 (Jemini's Cry Baby) a big fat nil points and delivered that first score of scorn we so craved.

And you have to go back 40 Eurovisions to perhaps our most memorable success. It was in 1981 (remember we missed 2020 due to Covid in case you feared my maths was out of kilter) when Bucks Fizz proved that a brightly coloured dance routine, an insanely catchy pop song and the removal of the women's skirts mid-song was the recipe for success.

Making Your Mind Up not only won the competition but went to the top of the UK charts too, in an era where that was still a) quite an achievement and b) culturally significant.

Cheryl Baker of The Fizz - (most of) the group formerly known as Bucks Fizz
Cheryl Baker of The Fizz - (most of) the group formerly known as Bucks Fizz

Perhaps more remarkably, the band built on the success (Land of Make Believe and My Camera Never Lies also hit the top spot) and even today continue to be wheeled out around this time each year to relieve that night in Dublin all those years ago.

Original band members Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston all now live in Kent (in Tunbridge Wells, Broadstairs and north west Kent respectively) and all now tour under the name The Fizz (let's not get bogged down in the legal wrangles the band has endured over the years, suffice it to say original member Bobby G owns the rights to the name, hence The Fizz. And if you think that sounds daft, for a while at the start of the 2000s, Bucks Fizz was touring without a single member of the original band, fronted by Dollar's David Van Day).

To demonstrate their long-lasting appeal, The Fizz are regulars on the 1980s revival circuit. And yes, Jay and Cheryl's skirts still get ripped off (although they often remove them themselves) during Making Your Mind Up.

The next Kent star to sing in front of the global audience of countless millions (more than 180m watched last year's shindig) was in 2004.

Chatham Girls Grammar School teenager Lisa Andreas was just 16 and preparing for her GCSE when she secured a credible fifth place finish in the competition with power ballad Stronger Every Minute. Only problem for the UK was that the rising Gillingham star was turning out for Cyprus. She polled more than 140 points more than James Fox (not the actor, that would have been weird) who was our entry.

Italian city Turin hosts the big musical shindig. Picture: EBU/AtelierMontinaro (56556009)
Italian city Turin hosts the big musical shindig. Picture: EBU/AtelierMontinaro (56556009)

It seems that Medway is something of a hot bed for Eurovision contestants as in 2011 Chatham's Lee Ryan and his Blue bandmates sprinkled a little bit of established stardust on proceedings.

Not only did I Can secure 100 points, but it gave us our highest finish of the last 12 years, reaching the heady heights of 11th. Which, given recent form has to be considered one of our highlights.

You can read about more Kent links to Eurovision here.

All of which brings us to this year's showdown in Turin, Italy. Will the UK win? Almost certainly not. Will the UK come close? Almost certainly not (but this year would appear to be our best bet for a while). Does our abject failure to endear ourselves to a European audience always rile us up despite our nation's repeated antagonistic approach to them surprise us? Probably not anymore.

But, if nothing else, if you like a bit of weird pop and ludicrous costumes, then the Eurovision Song Contest delivers an evening of solid entertainment, bafflement, and, it seems inevitable this year, a win for Ukraine.

Surely they're going to win even it they just play the spoons? Ukraine's entry for this year's event. Picture: EBU/Sarah Louise Bennett
Surely they're going to win even it they just play the spoons? Ukraine's entry for this year's event. Picture: EBU/Sarah Louise Bennett

The final of the Eurovision Song Contest is live on BBC1 and Radio 2 from 8pm on Saturday, May 14.

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