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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
UK seeks to regain Eurovision touch

By Caroline Westbrook
BBC News Online

When it comes to Eurovision, the United Kingdom has a pretty impressive track record but why has success been so elusive recently?

Since the contest began in 1956, we've brought the title home five times - Sandie Shaw scoring the first triumph in 1967 with Puppet On A String.

That win was followed two years later by Lulu's Boom Bang-A-Bang, one of the winners of an unprecedented four-way tie.

Katrina and the Waves
Katrina was the last British winner
Brotherhood Of Man provided the only 70s victory with Save All Your Kisses For Me in 1976, while Bucks Fizz conquered all-comers with 1981's Making Your Mind Up.

Most recently, Katrina And The Waves brought the contest back home for Le Royaume-Uni with Love Shine A Light in 1997.

But since then, the UK's fortunes have been mixed. True, Imaani did score a runner-up place at Birmingham in 1998 with the unmemorable Where Are You.

And in 2002 Pop Idol finalist Jessica Garlick travelled to Tallinn and made a very respectable joint third with Come Back.

This year Jemini have taken the UK's hopes to Riga, and while their song Cry Baby is perfectly pleasant it is not thought to be strong enough to see off the likes of Spain, Iceland, Turkey or the much-hyped Russian entry from Tatu.

So why have we not been doing so well of late?

The UK has come second more often than any other country (15 times to be precise) and is second only to the unstoppable Ireland when it comes to Eurovision success.

But just because we have always traditionally done so well does not mean we are not prone to the odd slip-up.

Brotherhood of Man
Brotherhood of Man flew the flag in the 70s
Recent entries - such as Nikki French's Don't Play That Song Again and Lindsay Dracass' No Dream Impossible - were, in the words of a certain Pop Idol judge, just not good enough.

A few lacklustre performances on the night have not helped either.

Given that many of those watching will not have heard the songs beforehand, the performance is often the most important bit.

But we should not be despondent. After all, the UK has won Eurovision at least once a decade since the 60s, and the decade is still young, giving us plenty of years ahead to keep the reputation going.

And winning the contest is not nearly as easy as it looks - especially now that so many more countries take part.

This year, there are 26 songs, making it the biggest Eurovision ever.

Bucks Fizz
Bucks Fizz found chart success after the contest
As the Eastern European newcomers have proven over the last two years, they are pretty good at this sort of thing too.

It is fair to say that if we do want to win again, we should come up with a better song, and there is no doubt that it will happen.

But we should not get too worried just because we have not won since 1997.

After all, before Katrina's victory, the UK had gone 16 years without a win - so six years pales in comparison.

And how about sparing a thought for countries like Austria, who have not won since 1966, or Portugal, who have never won at all.

So as great as it would be to see Jemini take the title in Riga on Saturday, we shouldn't be too downhearted if they don't win.

It will be much more fun instead to see how another country, one which has never hosted before, rises to the challenge of staging Eurovision, to giggle and gasp at bad outfits and worse songs, and of course to cheer on the UK.

And don't forget, as one of the "big four" countries that is exempt from elimination from the contest, if we don't win we can always have another go next year.




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