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Friday, March 12, 1999 Published at 19:28 GMT


Precious song for Europe

Precious: Britain's big Eurovision hopes

Girl group Precious will represent the UK at this year's Eurovision song contest - after winning a closely-fought telephone poll.

The fivesome performed their song Say It Again on the BBC's chart show Top of The Pops on Friday after it was announced just over 1,000 votes separated the top three acts in the Great British Song Contest.

TV viewers have been voting throughout the week for their choice from a shortlist of four specially-written tracks.

The group are now preparing to go to Jerusalem to compete with acts from across Europe on 29 May.

They received 52,457 votes, just ahead of rivals Alberta on 51,706, and Sister Sway on 51,398. Jay came fourth with 43,765.

Surprised by news

[ image: Imaani (centre): Last year's UK entry]
Imaani (centre): Last year's UK entry
The group said they were stunned when news of their victory was broken to them at the recording of Top Of The Pops.

Lead singer Louise Rose, 18, said: "Usually in competitions people will tell you that you're going to win - but this time nobody told us. We had no idea."

But her mother - former ITV talk show host Chrystal Rose - had confidence in her daughter, putting on a £50 bet with a bookmaker on the group having a number one single by the year 2000.

Rose and Anya Lahiri, 17, Sophie McDonnell, 22, Kalli Clark-Ternberg, 17, and Jenny Frost, 20, have already signed a record deal with EMI, and now have their sights set high.

Frost said: "We want to make Eurovision trendy again - we know there's a stigma about it and we want to get rid of it."

The group list their heroines as Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Lauryn Hill - and rock band Skunk Anansie's fiery frontwoman Skin. "When we were celebrating our win at Top Of The Pops I had to sneak off from our party to watch Skin perform. She's amazing," Kalli Clark-Ternberg said.

British entry second in 1998

[ image: Israel's Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998]
Israel's Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998
Songwriter Paul Varney, 28, found Precious' success a shock too. "I really can't believe it. My publisher entered it, and said, 'By the way, I've put a song in and you're in the last eight."

Varney is well positioned to advise the group on fame - he had a chart hit as part of boy band Yell! in 1990 with Instant Replay.

Last year's Eurovision winner was Israel's Dana International with the dance tune, Diva.

Britain's entry Imaani came second with her song Where Are You?

The first Eurovision song contest was held 1956 in Switzerland and only seven countries took part.

Last year it was held in Birmingham - thanks to Katrina Leskanavich winning for the UK - and watched by an estimated 100 million viewers worldwide.

The UK has won on four other occasions. Bucks Fizz won in 1981, Brotherhood of Man took the prize in 1976, Lulu was a joint winner in 1969 and Sandie Shaw's Puppet On A String came top in 1967.

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