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Eurovision Song Contest 1981

Eurovision Song Contest 1981
Final date 4 April 1981
Venue RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion
Dublin, Ireland
Presenter(s) Doireann Ní Bhriain
Conductor Noel Kelehan
Director Ian McGarry
Executive supervisor Frank Naef
Host broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)
Interval act Planxty with "Timedance" danced by Dublin City Ballet
Number of entries 20
Debuting countries  Cyprus
Returning countries  Israel
Withdrawing countries  Italy
Voting system Each country awarded 12, 10, 8-1 points to their 10 favourite songs
Nul points  Norway
Winning song  United Kingdom
"Making Your Mind Up"
Eurovision Song Contest
◄1980 1981 1982►

The Eurovision Song Contest 1981 was the 26th event of its kind, and was held on 4 April 1981 at the Simmonscourt Pavilion of the Royal Dublin Society in Dublin. The presenter was Doireann Ní Bhriain. The United Kingdom's Bucks Fizz were the winners of this contest with the song "Making Your Mind Up", beating Germany into second place by four points. This year is remembered for the performance of this British band, which included a dance-routine where the two male members ripped the skirts off the two female members only to reveal mini-skirts, and today stands as one of the defining moments in the contest's history.[1]


  • Overview 1
    • Production 1.1
    • Entrants 1.2
    • Interval 1.3
    • Voting 1.4
    • Aftermath 1.5
    • Conductors 1.6
  • Returning artists 2
  • Results 3
  • Voting structure 4
    • 12 points 4.1
  • Commentators 5
    • Television 5.1
    • Radio 5.2
  • Spokespersons 6
  • National jury members 7
  • References 8



Having won the year before, Ireland hosted the 1981 contest - the second time they had done so. As in 1971, the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest was produced by the country's broadcaster RTE. The presenter on this occasion was Doireann Ni Bhriain, who was well known in Ireland at the time as a TV presenter and for the current affairs radio show Women Today. She was chosen for her fluency in Irish and English as well as having studied French, which she spoke with some ease.[2] The director was Ian McGarry, while Noel Kelehan was the chief conductor for the show.

The contest took place under heavy guard at the 15,000 seat Simmonscourt Pavilion of the RDS, which was normally used for agricultural and horse shows.[3] Over 250 armed soldiers and police were on hand to protect against any likely political demonstrations. It cost RTÉ over £300,000 to stage, although this included £110,000 from the EBU. From this, the Irish Government expected to make around £2,000,000 from tourism as a result of staging the show.[4] The RDS would go on to host the next Irish Eurovision production in 1988.


This year marked the début of Cyprus in the contest, who finished sixth. Returning to the contest was Israel, who did not compete the previous year, despite winning the two years previous to that. They finished seventh. Yugoslavia also returned to the competition after a five-year absence. Italy withdrew for the first time from the contest, due to lack of interest, while Morocco declined to take part after their sole entry the year before.[5]

Of the performers, many previous contestants returned to the contest this year. Notably, Jean-Claude Pascal for Luxembourg, who had won the contest 20 years earlier, although could only manage 11th place this time. Repeated entrants Peter, Sue and Marc returned for the fourth time, after 1971, 1976 and 1979. Performing again for Switzerland, they remain the only act to sing in four different languages (French, English, German and this time, Italian). Other returnees were Marty Brem who had taken part the year before for Austria, Tommy Seebach for Denmark, and Björn Skifs for Sweden. Bucks Fizz member, Cheryl Baker had performed in 1978 with the band Co-Co for the UK, while Sheeba member Maxi had performed as a solo artist in 1973 for Ireland.

The 46-piece Irish TV orchestra didn't have a saxophone as they didn't consider it an orchestral instrument, which caused great concern with the United Kingdom entry as a saxophone appeared heavily on their song. Andy Hill – the producer of the single - said that had they known, they would have dropped one of the two backing singers to be replaced by a saxophonist, there being two on the actual recording.


The interval act was traditional Irish band Planxty, who performed the lengthy piece "Timedance", which depicted Irish music through the ages. The dancers were from Dublin City Ballet with choreography by Iain Montague. This is seen as a precursor to Riverdance, which became famous after its performance in 1994. The song, which was written by Bill Whelan, went on to be released as a Planxty single and became a No.3 hit in the Irish charts.[6][7]

This mix of past and present was also the theme to the contest's opening montage, which featured shots of Celtic ruins, cliffs and castles, edited together with close-ups of art, aeroplanes, architecture and horse races.


The voting proved to be memorable for its closeness. The UK won by four points, but leading up to this, five countries took pole position at various stages: UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and Ireland. Just before the penultimate vote, three countries (UK, Germany and Switzerland) were all on equal top marks. After this, Switzerland (who had performed second last) were unable to collect points as it was their jury's results that were being announced, while Germany failed to receive votes either. The UK gained eight, which meant that when the final jury (Sweden) were about to cast their votes, the UK needed five points or more to win over either country. Switzerland were quickly eliminated by receiving just one vote. The UK passed the five-point mark and received eight votes, while Germany did indeed receive the maximum 12 points, but it was too late. France finished third, with Switzerland fourth and the hosts Ireland coming in fifth. Of these, Switzerland received the most top votes despite only finishing fourth, while the UK only received two. The UK did however receive points from every competing country. Meanwhile, at the other end of the board was Norway, who finished last with no points for the third time in Eurovision history, gaining no points in 1963 and 1978 as well.

Other memorable moments included a glitch in the scorekeeping, giving host country Ireland 310 extra points instead of the 10 designated by the Luxembourg jury. Also of note, when host Doireann Ní Bhriain attempted to collect Yugoslavia's votes, after repeated attempts to contact them, Yugoslavia's spokeswoman, Helga Vlahović, who went on to present the 1990 contest, finally answered the phone and abruptly answered "I don't have it", causing laughter to erupt from the audience. Also during the final vote, Turkey's nine points suddenly disappeared from the scoreboard.


Runner-up Lena Valaitis was in good spirits while talking to the press following the contest and largely unconcerned about losing. Swedish singer Björn Skifs however was more outspoken saying; "This was not a song contest, it was a show – all these dancing girls, they take away from the songs. I also think there should be a change in the rules to allow us to sing in English. Then we would really be able to compete."[8] Harald Tusberg, head of light entertainment for Norwegian television was upbeat about Norway's 'nul points' result as he claimed that their entry would be remembered above many others; "Who remembers who came second or third – people will remember us!". Finn Kalvik himself conceded graciously saying that he had enjoyed the week's holiday.[9]

Following this year's contest, France withdrew from competing the following year, with the broadcaster announcing that the songs were "a monument to drivel".[10] Indeed, many comments had been made regarding the quality of the winning group's performance indicating that the song had most likely won by style over substance.[11] Either way, Bucks Fizz went on to have a lasting chart career over the next few years, and became one of the top-selling groups of the 1980s in the UK. The winning song itself reached No.1 in nine countries and became a top ten hit in nations such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, selling four million copies worldwide.[12][13][14]

Germany, who had never won the contest up to this point, were becoming increasingly frustrated with their second placings in this and the previous year's contest and made a concerted effort for the following year. This was to pay off, as in 1982 they finally clinched their first victory which was achieved in an overwhelming manner.[15]

The UK's victory this year meant that the contest would take place in the UK the following year - the seventh time the country had hosted the event (still a record). The BBC opted to take it to the North Yorkshire town of Harrogate at a later than usual date, 24 April. The 1981 contest was held on 4 April and up to (and including) 2016 has never been as early again.

Decades later, Debbie Cameron, who represented Denmark with Tommy Seebach, revealed in a book about Seebach that she was contacted by a BBC employee, who told her that Bucks Fizz's victory was planned. According to the BBC employee, he had witnessed how BBC technicians had sabotaged the sound checks during the rehearsal of the Danish, the Israeli and the Western German performances.[16] This claim however ignores the fact that the BBC did not host the 1981 Contest.


Each performance had a conductor who maestro the orchestra. Host conductor in bold.

Returning artists

Artist Country Previous year(s)
Marty Brem  Austria 1980 (part of Blue Danube)
Tommy Seebach  Denmark 1979
Maxi (part of Sheeba)  Ireland 1973
Jean-Claude Pascal  Luxembourg 1961 (winner)
Björn Skifs  Sweden 1978
Peter, Sue and Marc   Switzerland 1971, 1976, 1979
Cheryl Baker (part of Bucks Fizz)  United Kingdom 1978 (part of Co-Co)


Draw Country Language[17] Artist Song English translation Place Points
01  Austria German Marty Brem "Wenn du da bist" When you're there 17 20
02  Turkey Turkish Modern Folk Üçlüsü and Ayşegül "Dönme Dolap" The carousel 18 9
03  Germany German Lena Valaitis "Johnny Blue" 2 132
04  Luxembourg French Jean-Claude Pascal "C'est peut-être pas l'Amérique" It may not be America 11 41
05  Israel Hebrew Hakol Over Habibi "Halayla" (הלילה) Tonight 7 56
06  Denmark Danish Tommy Seebach and Debbie Cameron "Krøller eller ej" Curls or not 11 41
07  Yugoslavia Bosnian Seid Memić "Vajta" "Lejla" Leila 15 35
08  Finland Finnish Riki Sorsa "Reggae OK" 16 27
09  France French Jean Gabilou "Humanahum" 3 125
10  Spain Spanish Bacchelli "Y sólo tú" And only you 14 38
11  Netherlands Dutch Linda Williams "Het is een wonder" It's a wonder 9 51
12  Ireland English Sheeba "Horoscopes" 5 105
13  Norway Norwegian Finn Kalvik "Aldri i livet" Never in my life 20 0
14  United Kingdom English Bucks Fizz "Making Your Mind Up" 1 136
15  Portugal Portuguese Carlos Paião "Playback" 18 9
16  Belgium Dutch Emly Starr "Samson" 13 40
17  Greece Greek Yiannis Dimitras "Feggari Kalokerino"
(Φεγγάρι καλοκαιρινό)
Summer moon 8 55
18  Cyprus Greek Island "Monika" (Μόνικα) Monica 6 69
19   Switzerland Italian Peter, Sue and Marc "Io senza te" Me without you 4 121
20  Sweden Swedish Björn Skifs "Fångad i en dröm" Captured in a dream 10 50

Voting structure

Each country had a jury who awarded 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points for their top ten songs.

Total Score Austria Turkey Germany Luxembourg Israel Denmark Yugoslavia Finland France Spain Netherlands Ireland Norway United Kingdom Portugal Belgium Greece Cyprus Switzerland Sweden
Contestants Austria 20 6 1 5 6 2
Turkey 9 1 3 5
Germany 132 5 12 3 8 8 2 7 8 12 3 6 4 7 12 10 5 8 12
Luxembourg 41 10 5 3 4 3 1 4 6 5
Israel 56 8 4 6 7 7 8 4 5 4 3
Denmark 41 1 1 7 4 3 2 5 2 12 4
Yugoslavia 35 4 8 2 1 5 2 3 10
Finland 27 2 1 2 5 5 1 5 6
France 125 12 12 12 7 2 4 10 6 4 5 1 10 3 8 7 12 10
Spain 38 10 6 4 3 10 3 2
Netherlands 51 3 5 3 4 7 2 7 6 7 2 3 2
Ireland 105 7 3 6 10 10 12 5 6 5 10 1 10 12 1 7
Norway 0
United Kingdom 136 4 8 4 5 12 10 10 3 7 8 12 10 3 6 8 6 4 8 8
Portugal 9 8 1
Belgium 40 1 7 1 6 8 2 3 7 5
Greece 55 6 2 6 1 10 1 2 8 6 6 7
Cyprus 69 5 3 6 8 8 7 10 7 12 3
Switzerland 121 2 2 7 8 4 12 12 10 4 1 12 12 12 8 4 10 1
Sweden 50 10 2 5 7 1 12 6 2 4 1
The table is ordered by appearance

12 points

Below is a summary of all 12 points in the final:

N. Contestant Voting nation
5 Switzerland Finland, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia
4 France Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland
Germany Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey
2 Ireland Cyprus, Denmark
United Kingdom Netherlands, Israel
1 Cyprus Greece
Denmark Belgium
Sweden France



National jury members


  1. ^ Eurovision 81 overview
  2. ^ "Sunday Times - Doireann Ni Bhriain, Keeping the faith
  3. ^ Last fm - RDS, Eurovision 1981
  4. ^ “No Sax please, We're Irish!”, David Wigg, Daily Express, 4 April 1981
  5. ^ ESCToday - 1981
  6. ^ Ceolas - Planxty
  7. ^ Irish chart database - search "Planxty"
  8. ^ “Reprise”, Ultan Macken, RTE Guide 24 April 1981
  9. ^ “Fizz Kids” Brian Wesley, Daily Star, 6 April 1981
  10. ^ Eurovision 1982 (in French)
  11. ^ Time - Bucks Fizz, 1981
  12. ^ New Zealand charts
  13. ^ Australian Chart Book, 1970-1992
  14. ^ South African Charts
  15. ^ Eurovision 1982 results
  16. ^ Eriksen, Jan Have (2010-10-17). "Britisk Grand Prix-sejr i 1981 var aftalt spil" (in Danish).  
  17. ^ "Eurovision Song Contest 1981". The Diggiloo Thrush. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Austrian commentator
  19. ^ Luxembourgish commentator
  20. ^
  21. ^ Serbia President (OGAE Serbia)
  22. ^ Klub OGAE Slovenija
  23. ^
  24. ^ French commentator
  25. ^ Spanish commentator
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Eurovision Song Contest 1981 BBC Archives
  29. ^ Adriaens, Manu & Loeckx-Van Cauwenberge, Joken. Blijven kiken!. Lannoo, Belgium. 2003 ISBN 90-209-5274-9
  30. ^
  31. ^ Greek commentator
  32. ^ a b Savvidis, Christos (OGAE Cyprus)
  33. ^ Swedish commentator
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Yugoslavian spokesperson
  37. ^ Finnish spokesperson
  38. ^ Spanish spokesperson
  39. ^ "Artiesten op Songfestival, Leidse Courant, 4 April 1981
  40. ^ Dyrseth, Seppo (OGAE Norway)
  41. ^ Baumann, Peter Ramón (OGAE Switzerland)
  42. ^ Swedish spokesmen
  43. ^ Yarışmacı ülkeler ve halk jürisi, Milliyet, 4 April 1981
  44. ^ Eurofestival
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