Published: 06:00, 16 May 2020
Love it or loathe it the Eurovision Song Contest is back for your viewing pleasure, albeit in a stripped-back non-competitive format.
The cheese fest often billed as music's answer to Marmite has evolved into a global extravaganza watched by nearly 200 million viewers worldwide.
Famed for its dodgy pop singers, glitzy gimmicks and allegations of political vote rigging, many fans were disappointed to hear it had been shelved this year.
Now BBC bosses have answered their prayers and put together a replacement schedule for Europe's greatest song contest set to air tonight.
It will start with a one-off documentary before beaming live a special non-competitive version of the contest where fans can sing along at home to entries past and present – including one from Kent.
Here we take a look back at some of the county's most memorable contributions to the competition.
Eurovision 1981: Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up
The year 1981 saw Royals Charles and Diana tie the knot, the very first space shuttle mission and Bucks Fizz's bid to conquer Europe.
Their playful skirt-ripping routine was to become a defining moment in the contest's history as the band tore up the competition to win by four points.
Now nearly 40 years since the pop group powered to victory with Making Your Mind Up, they will be performing from their living rooms in Kent as part of tonight's virtual show.
The most recent line-up – consisting of Cheryl Baker, Jay Aston and Mike Nolan – now tours as The Fizz.
Jay Aston takes lead vocals on the band's latest track From Here to Eternity, which she recorded just hours after receiving a diagnosis of mouth cancer in 2018.
In an emotional chat on ITV's Loose Women she revealed she had surgery to remove part of her leg to rebuild her tongue.
The singer, 59, is currently self-isolating at her home in Westerham, Sevenoaks, as she is deemed at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.
She will be joined virtually by fellow band mate Cheryl Baker, who now lives near Tonbridge.
The 66-year-old is no stranger to the contest having also performed with pop group Co Co who finished 11th at the 1978 contest – the lowest points tally of a UK entry at that point – before returning once more with Bucks Fizz.
During lockdown, the singer performed a stripped-down solo acoustic version of their winning song with her guitarist husband and twin daughters at home.
The TV presenter and former Dancing On Ice contestant previously lived in Ightham, Sevenoaks and has sung Kent’s praises on several occasions.
In fact, she was once said to have called for the village's medieval moat to be recognised as the eighth wonder of the world and named Leeds Castle in Maidstone as her favourite beauty spot.
Cheryl is also patron of Abigail's Footsteps, which supports parents of stillborn babies, and is the Medway Messenger Charity of the Year for 2020.
Cheryl Baker visits KentOnline
Eurovision 1996: Gina G – Ooh Ahh... Just a Little Bit
There are strict rules in place for Eurovision competitors and so it often surprises viewers to see Australia at the contest since 2015.
But in reality Australians have been entering long before then – including for the UK with a little help from a certain county.
In 1996 it was the turn of Brisbane-born Gina Gardiner, better known as Gina G, to take to the stage with her Eurodance anthem Ohh Ahh... Just a Little Bit.
The pop princess finished eighth despite being odds-on favourite to scoop the crown but that didn't stop her from going on to conquer the UK charts.
It was produced and remixed by Steve Rodway who ran Kent-based record company FX Music.
The Grammy nominated music producer was born in Cambridgeshire before moving to Kent where he remixed tracks by the likes of the Spice Girls under the alias, Motiv 8.
His collaboration with Gina G would end in a drawn-out contractual dispute over royalties however after her songwriters petitioned for well “… a little bit more”.
The singer would attempt to enter the competition once more in 2005 but came last out of five entries in the heats – including behind a controversial contestant from Kent – but more on that later.
Eurovision 2004: Lisa Andreas – Stronger Every Minute
In recent years we have seen lots of veteran performers and even a group of Russian grannies baking bread but in 2004 the contest saw one of its youngest ever competitors.
Lisa Andreas, from Gillingham took to the stage at the tender age of 16 and finished fifth with her power ballad Stronger Every Minute.
It would have been one of the UK's best showings if hadn't been for the fact she was representing Cyprus – which she qualified to do through her Greek-Cypriot mum.
A pupil at Chatham Grammar School for Girls at the time, Lisa was granted two weeks off despite her looming GCSE exams.
Prior to the competition she had mainly performed in pubs and karaoke competitions, including one held at the Strand in Gillingham where she took first place.
At the contest in Istanbul she dazzled audiences across Europe with her low-key performance and received points from all but three of the 35 countries participating in the voting.
She returned to school on Monday with plenty of new plaudits and went on to pass all ten of her GCSEs.
Eurovision 2010 and 2012: Kirsten Joy
At the turn of the decade BBC bosses looked to serial hit maker Pete Waterman to stop the rot and produce the song for Europe.
He penned the track That Sounds Good To Me but the rest of Eurovision didn't appear to agree with the sentiment as it stayed firmly rooted to the bottom of the leaderboard.
Lead vocals were given to Josh Dubovie who was joined on stage by backing singer Kirsten Joy, from Walderslade, Chatham, who would go on to have a continued association with the contest.
The former Rochester Grammar School pupil started her musical career in plays and singing in gospel choirs, including at Rochester Cathedral.
Such was her love for Eurovision in 2012 she was called upon to act as a member of the national jury selected to grade each song.
In a further twist, she would apply to represent Switzerland at the 2015 version of the contest following in the footsteps of superstar Celine Dion who triumphed for the Swiss at the 1988 contest.
Sadly it was not to be as they opted for another act but this did not stop Kirsten from forging a successful career in music.
After a memorable blind audition on the inaugural season of The Voice she shared a stage with Gary Barlow and is now performing with pop group Clean Bandit.
Eurovision 2011: Blue – I Can
It would fall to another Chatham-based singer to try to turn the tide of dismal UK performances at Eurovision 2011.
Boyband Blue became the first established name to feature for Britain at the competition since Katrina and the Waves swept to victory in 1997.
Lee Ryan, who was born in All Saints Hospital, Chatham and attended Chatham Grammar School for Boys, toured Europe prior to the finals in a bid to drum up support for their single I Can.
The re-united group was even depicted in the children's television cartoon Boo and Me performing the song as expectations began to mount that this could be the UK's year.
It would go on to place as Europe's fifth favourite on the night according to the televote but the song finished in eleventh place after it was tallied up alongside the jury vote.
This would usually have been considered a good showing for the UK had it not been for them being beaten to the top ten by terrible twins Jedward who, representing Ireland, finished eighth.
Members of Blue hit out at the contest which they deemed "too political" and all later went on to declare themselves bankrupt within years of the show.
Lee would later be arrested for drink-driving and was banned from getting behind the wheel for two years in between appearing on Celebrity Big Brother.
He saw a reversal in fortunes when he began an acting career, later featuring as Walford bad boy “Woody” Woodward in TV soap Eastenders where he was nominated for "Best Newcomer".
Eurovision 2015: Electro Velvet – Still In Love With You
Pop jazz outfit Electro Velvet represented the UK at the 2015 edition of the contest with their electric swing track Still In Love With You.
Bianca Nicholas, from Beckenham, formed one half of the duo which travelled to Austria in a bid to return the UK to their former glory.
The song drew heavily from 1920s swing music and was accompanied by performers in flashing neon dress as it sought to bring a Great Gatsby vibe into the roaring 21st century.
Sadly the rest of Europe didn't buy into the futuristic offering and the pop duo were resigned to 24th on the leaderboard out of 26 entries, scoring just five points.
Her performance has been viewed more than 400,000 times on Youtube but was unable to convince celebrity judges to pick her for their team.
She previously sang a duet with Will Young and recorded a CD for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, as well as fundraising for the Starlight foundation which helps grant wishes for sick children with serious and terminal illnesses.
Bianca, who was born with cystic fibrosis, told ITV's Lorraine she was determined "to do something as big as [Eurovision]" to show her condition does not hold her back.
And the one that got away...
One of Kent's newest celebrity residents, Katie Price, once pinned her hopes on representing the UK at the 2005 version of the contest with her track Not Just Anybody.
It seemed a rather fitting song choice for the former glamour model, 41, who is rarely far from controversy.
However, she failed to win a slot in the line-up that year as she was passed up in favour of Javine Hylton who went on to finish in 22nd place.
The TV personality and disability rights campaigner would later tell ITV's Loose Women this was due to her being seven months pregnant with son Harvey at the time.
Nevertheless her self-described appearance as a "pink condom" has gone down in UK Eurovision folklore despite her never having actually appeared at the show.
She is believed to be considering re-igniting her singing career following a performance at a garage festival in France earlier this year – who knows she could be our Eurovision saviour yet?
On second thoughts maybe its best the festivities are on ice this year.
Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light show will be broadcast on BBC tonight at 8pm.
More by this authorSean Delaney
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