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United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest

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United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest

United Kingdom
Member station BBC
National selection events
Appearances 58
First appearance 1957
Best result 1st: 1967, 1969, 1976, 1981, 1997
Worst result Last: 2003, 2008, 2010
Nul points: 2003
External links
BBC page
United Kingdom's page at

The United Kingdom has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 58 times and is one of the most successful countries to compete in the contest. They first participated in the second contest in 1957. The BBC had wanted to take part in the first contest in 1956, but had submitted their entry to the event after the deadline had passed. The UK has entered every year since 1959, and has won the contest a total of five times. Along with Sweden, the UK is one of only two countries with Eurovision victories in four different decades. The United Kingdom is one of the "Big 5", along with France, Germany, Italy and Spain who are automatically allowed to participate in the final as they are the five biggest financial contributors to the EBU.

Up to and including 1998, the UK had only twice finished outside the top 10, in 1978 and 1987, with their five winners being Sandie Shaw with the song "Puppet on a String" in 1967, Lulu with "Boom Bang-a-Bang" in 1969 (tied), Brotherhood of Man with "Save Your Kisses for Me" in 1976, Bucks Fizz with "Making Your Mind Up" in 1981 and Katrina and the Waves with "Love, Shine a Light" in 1997. In addition, the UK has finished as runner-up on a record 15 occasions; including Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson (1959), Matt Monro (1964), Kathy Kirby (1965), Cliff Richard (1968), Mary Hopkin (1970), The New Seekers (1972), Scott Fitzgerald (1988), Michael Ball (1992), Sonia (1993) and Imaani (1998). Since 1999, the year in which the rule was abandoned that songs must be performed in one of the official languages of the country participating, the UK has had less success, only finishing within the top ten twice. Jessica Garlick in 2002 finished joint third and Jade Ewen in 2009 finished fifth, Ewen in particular was praised after her performance of "It's My Time" for ending the run of poor results the country had suffered for much of the decade. From 2011 to 2015, the UK entry was selected internally by the BBC, resulting in the national selection process being suspended however this will return in 2016.

The United Kingdom has finished last in three contests. Jemini's infamous 2003 "nul points" result was the first time that the country had come last in the contest, something that was then repeated in 2008 with Andy Abraham, who received 14 points and in 2010 with Josh Dubovie, who received 10 points. In 2015, the UK failed to reach the top 20 for the seventh time, with the duo Electro Velvet finishing 24th with only five points, the country's worst points tally since 2003.


1950s to 1970s

Patricia Bredin was the first performer to represent the UK at Eurovision, finishing seventh in 1957. At their second attempt in the contest in 1959, the UK achieved the first of their record fifteen runner-up positions, when Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson sang "Sing, Little Birdie". The UK would achieve four more second-place finishes with Bryan Johnson in 1960, The Allisons in 1961, Matt Monro in 1964 and Kathy Kirby in 1965, before eventually winning for the first time in 1967. Sandie Shaw was already a successful performer, having twice topped the UK singles chart and she comfortably won in Vienna with "Puppet on a String", which became her third UK number one and topped the charts all around Europe. In 1968, another successful performer was selected to represent the UK with the song "Congratulations". In London, Cliff Richard gave the UK their sixth second-place finish, losing to Spain's Massiel. "Congratulations" remains one of only two non-winning UK Eurovision songs to top the UK charts. The UK's pulling of second was provided by the Scottish singer Lulu in 1969. Another established performer, she had reached the US #1 spot with "To Sir with Love" in 1967. with the song "Boom Bang-a-Bang".

Having finished second on three further occasions in the 1970s, with Mary Hopkin in 1970, The New Seekers in 1972 and The Shadows in 1975. The UK achieved their third victory in 1976 with Brotherhood of Man and "Save Your Kisses for Me", who won with 164 points, which would remain the highest points total for ten years. In 1977, the UK finished second for the tenth time represented by Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran.

1980s and 1990s

The UK's fourth victory came in 1981, with Bucks Fizz and "Making Your Mind Up". The group was created especially for the UK selection contest "A Song for Europe". At Eurovision in Dublin, they defeated Germany's Lena Valaitis by four points. The group went on to continued success, with 13 UK top 40 hits over the next five years. This would be the last UK win for 16 years, although the country continued to be competitive at the contest with four more second-place results during this time. In 1988, Scott Fitzgerald lost to Celine Dion, who was representing Switzerland, by just one point. In 1989, Live Report lost out to Yugoslavia by seven points. Michael Ball in 1992, also finished second, behind Linda Martin of Ireland. The 1993 entry, Sonia, had already had 10 UK top 30 hits, including a 1989 number one with "You'll Never Stop Me Loving You", when she was selected to represent the UK in Millstreet. With one country left to vote, (Malta) Ireland's Niamh Kavanagh led Sonia by 11 points. By the time it got to the announcement of the 12 points, neither the UK or Ireland had been mentioned. If the UK had received the 12, they would have won by one point. In the end Ireland received the top marks and won by 23 points. Despite only finishing eighth in the 1996 contest, Gina G went on to huge success with her entry "Ooh Ah Just a Little Bit", which became only the second non-winning UK entry to top the UK Singles chart. It also reached the US top 20 and received a Grammy nomination. The UK's fifth victory finally came in 1997, when Katrina and the Waves, famous for their 1980s hit "Walking on Sunshine", comfortably won the contest with the song "Love, Shine a Light". They scored 227 points, which would remain the highest points total of the pre semi-final era. At the 1998 contest in Birmingham, Imaani achieved the UK's 15th second-place finish and 20th top two result, with the song "Where Are You?", losing to Israel's Dana International. The UK, as of 2015, has not finished in the top two since.

21st century

The UK has fared less well in the contest in the 21st century. Since girl-group Precious finished 12th in 1999, the UK has failed to reach the top ten in all but two of the last 17 contests (1999–2015). The exceptions being Jessica Garlick who finished joint third in 2002, with the song "Come Back" (the UK's only top three result of the century) and Jade Ewen, who finished fifth in 2009 with the song "It's My Time", written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren. In 2003, the UK finished last for the first time with the duo Jemini, who received the infamous "nul points". This remains the only time the UK has failed to score a single point. The country has finished last on two further occasions, with Andy Abraham, who received 14 points in 2008 and Josh Dubovie, who received 10 points in 2010.

In 2011, the BBC chose the boy band Blue to represent the UK, they finished 11th with 100 points. In 2012, the UK were facing calls to quit the contest when the UK entry, Engelbert Humperdinck, finished 25th (out of 26) with only 12 points.[1] However, the UK confirmed their participation in the 2013 contest, with the Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, most famous for her 1983 US and UK number one hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart", who would perform the song "Believe in Me".[2] In Malmo, she finished 19th with 23 points.[3] She went on to win two internationally voted Eurovison Song Contest radio awards for Best Female Singer and Best Song.[4]

In 2014, the BBC internally selected unknown singer Molly Smitten-Downes, through BBC Introducing, which supports new and unsigned acts. She represented the UK in Copenhagen under her artist name Molly. In the final, she performed the song "Children of the Universe", which she co-wrote with Anders Hansson and finished in 17th place with 40 points, having been regarded as one of the favourites to win the contest.[5] In October 2014, Guy Freeman stated that the BBC are still engaging with record companies and the BBC Introducing platform in order to find an entry for the 2015 contest via the internal selection process, but announced that in addition, for the first time since 2008, they are giving the general public the option to submit an entry for consideration.[6][7] Ultimately, the entry for 2015 came through open submission, with the song "Still in Love with You" performed by the duo Electro Velvet.[8] The song finished in 24th place, with only five points, the UK's worst performance in terms of points tally since the infamous nul points of 2003. The performance was widely deplored by viewers and openly mocked on social media,[9] with the British media putting increasing pressure on the BBC to change its selection policy for future contests. On 30 September 2015, the BBC confirmed the national selection show will return in 2016, although the exact format has not been announced.[10]

United Kingdom and the "Big Four/Five"

In 1999 a rule change allowed the United Kingdom, along with France, Germany and Spain to automatically qualify for the Eurovision Song Contest final (irrespective of their recent scores and without entering a semi-final), due to being the biggest financial contributors to the EBU.[11] Due to their untouchable status in the Contest, these countries became known as the "Big Four" (which became the "Big Five" in 2011 following the return of Italy to the Contest).[12]

In 2008 it was rumoured that the "Big Four" would lose their automatic qualification, and would have to compete in the semi-finals for the first time.[13] However it was announced by the EBU that this would not be the case and the four countries would still automatically qualify for the final of the 2009 contest without having to enter a semi-final,[14] and this has remained as of 2015.

In 2008, the BBC defended using spending money from licence fee payers for the contest when Liberal Democrat MP Richard Younger-Ross had tabled a Commons motion which called on the corporation to withdraw its £173,000 funding for the annual contest. That same year former Eurovision commentator Sir Terry Wogan claimed that the show is "no longer a music contest" after the result was announced.[15]


Table key
  Second place
  Third place
  Last place
Year Performer(s) Song Final Points Semi Points
1957 Patricia Bredin "All" 7 6 No semi-finals
1959 Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson "Sing, Little Birdie" 2 16
1960 Bryan Johnson "Looking High, High, High" 2 25
1961 The Allisons "Are You Sure?" 2 24
1962 Ronnie Carroll "Ring-A-Ding Girl" 4 10
1963 Ronnie Carroll "Say Wonderful Things" 4 28
1964 Matt Monro "I Love the Little Things" 2 17
1965 Kathy Kirby "I Belong" 2 26
1966 Kenneth McKellar "A Man Without Love" 9 8
1967 Sandie Shaw "Puppet on a String" 1 47
1968 Cliff Richard "Congratulations" 2 28
1969 Lulu "Boom Bang-a-Bang" 1 19
1970 Mary Hopkin "Knock, Knock Who's There?" 2 18
1971 Clodagh Rodgers "Jack in the Box" 4 98
1972 The New Seekers "Beg, Steal or Borrow" 2 114
1973 Cliff Richard "Power to All Our Friends" 3 123
1974 Olivia Newton-John "Long Live Love" 4 14
1975 The Shadows "Let Me Be the One" 2 138
1976 Brotherhood of Man "Save Your Kisses for Me" 1 164
1977 Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran "Rock Bottom" 2 121
1978 Co-Co "The Bad Old Days" 11 61
1979 Black Lace "Mary Ann" 7 73
1980 Prima Donna "Love Enough for Two" 3 106
1981 Bucks Fizz "Making Your Mind Up" 1 136
1982 Bardo "One Step Further" 7 76
1983 Sweet Dreams "I'm Never Giving Up" 6 79
1984 Belle and the Devotions "Love Games" 7 63
1985 Vikki Watson "Love Is" 4 100
1986 Ryder "Runner in the Night" 7 72
1987 Rikki "Only the Light" 13 47
1988 Scott Fitzgerald "Go" 2 136
1989 Live Report "Why Do I Always Get it Wrong?" 2 130
1990 Emma "Give a Little Love Back to the World" 6 87
1991 Samantha Janus "A Message to Your Heart" 10 47
1992 Michael Ball "One Step Out of Time" 2 139
1993 Sonia "Better the Devil You Know" 2 164
1994 Frances Ruffelle "Lonely Symphony (We Will Be Free)" 10 63
1995 Love City Groove "Love City Groove" 10 76
1996 Gina G "Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit" 8 77 3 153
1997 Katrina and the Waves "Love Shine a Light" 1 227 No semi-finals
1998 Imaani "Where Are You?" 2 166[a]
1999 Precious "Say It Again" 12 38
2000 Nicki French "Don't Play That Song Again" 16 28
2001 Lindsay "No Dream Impossible" 15 28
2002 Jessica Garlick "Come Back" 3 111
2003 Jemini "Cry Baby" 26 0
2004 James Fox "Hold On to Our Love" 16 29 Member of the "Big 4"
2005 Javine Hylton "Touch My Fire" 22 18
2006 Daz Sampson "Teenage Life" 19 25
2007 Scooch "Flying the Flag (for You)" 22 19
2008 Andy Abraham "Even If" 25 14
2009 Jade Ewen "It's My Time" 5 173
2010 Josh Dubovie "That Sounds Good to Me" 25 10
2011 Blue "I Can" 11 100 Member of the "Big 5"
2012 Engelbert Humperdinck "Love Will Set You Free" 25 12
2013 Bonnie Tyler "Believe in Me" 19 23
2014 Molly "Children of the Universe" 17 40
2015 Electro Velvet "Still in Love with You" 24 5
  1. ^ Spain originally gave its 12 points to Israel and 10 to Norway. After the broadcast it was announced that Spanish broadcaster wrongly tallied the votes and Germany should have got the top mark - 12 points - instead of being snubbed, as it happened. The mistake was corrected and so Germany was placed 7th over Norway. Israel and Norway both received 2 points less than originally and Croatia, Malta, Portugal, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia and Turkey all received one point less than indicated during the broadcast.

Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest

Even though the United Kingdom was entered twice into Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest with Cliff Richard's 1968 runner up entry "Congratulations" and Brotherhood of Man's 1976 winning song "Save Your Kisses for Me", the BBC decided not to participate in airing the event or taking part in the voting for the greatest Eurovision Song of the past fifty years, but instead aired an hour-long special program entitled Boom Bang-a-Bang: 50 Years of Eurovision hosted by Terry Wogan looking back at the best and the worst; songs, fashions, contests, hosts and hostesses that have occurred at the Eurovision over the past fifty years.

Table key
  Second place
  Third place
  Last place
Year Artist Language Title Final Points Semi Points Place (1968 & 1976) Points (1968 & 1976)
1968 Cliff Richard English "Congratulations" Failed to qualify 8 105 2 28
1976 Brotherhood of Man English "Save Your Kisses for Me" 5 230 5 154 1 164

Voting history

As of 2015, United Kingdom's voting history is as follows:


The United Kingdom has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest a record eight times. The United Kingdom stepped in and hosted the contest for The Netherlands in 1960, France in 1963, Monaco in 1972 and Luxembourg in 1974 due to winning countries financial and capacity issues. The BBC offered to joint host the 1996 contest in Belfast, Northern Ireland with Irish broadcaster RTÉ if Ireland were to win for a fourth year in a row.. In 2015, London hosted Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits, an event to commemorate the 60th anniversary, which was recorded for television on 31 March 2015 and will be shown in 26 countries, starting with the UK and Ireland on 3 April 2015.[16]
Year Location Venue Presenters
1960 London Royal Festival Hall Katie Boyle
1963 BBC Television Centre
1968 Royal Albert Hall
1972 Edinburgh Usher Hall Moira Shearer
1974 Brighton Brighton Dome Katie Boyle
1977 London Wembley Conference Centre Angela Rippon
1982 Harrogate Harrogate International Centre Jan Leeming
1998 Birmingham National Indoor Arena Ulrika Jonsson and Terry Wogan

Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits

Year Location Venue Presenters
2015 London Eventim Apollo Petra Mede and Graham Norton

AP Awards

Year Category Song Performer(s) Final result Points Host City
2004 Composer Award "Hold Onto Our Love" James Fox 16th 29 Istanbul

Commentators and spokespersons

Over the years BBC commentary has been provided by several experienced radio and television presenters, including Tom Fleming, David Vine, David Jacobs, Dave Lee Travis, Pete Murray, John Dunn and Michael Aspel. However Terry Wogan provided BBC TV commentary every year from 1980 to 2008.[17] It was confirmed on 12 August 2008 that Terry Wogan would no longer present the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK. The BBC Radio 2 DJ, who had fronted the BBC's coverage for 37 years, said it was "time for someone else to take over".[18] He was replaced in 2009 by Graham Norton for the final. Norton has continued in the role ever since.

The final of the contest has been broadcast by BBC One (previously BBC Television Service and BBC TV) since the first contest in 1956, the first live colour transmission of the contest in the United Kingdom was the Eurovision Song Contest 1970, the first high definition broadcast of the contest began in 2007 when the contest was simulcast on BBC HD. The final is also broadcast on radio, initially on BBC Light Programme until the 1967 contest. From 1968 it was broadcast on BBC Radio 1, moving to BBC Radio 2 from the 1974 contest where it has remained ever since (except for 1983–1985). Both semi-finals are broadcast on BBC Three. Between 1963 and 1976 the contest was also broadcast on BFBS Radio.

In the 1998 Contest, hosted in Birmingham, Terry Wogan acted as both commentator and on-stage presenter (together with Ulrika Jonsson). In the 1980 Contest, each song was introduced by a presenter from the national country, the United Kingdom entry being introduced by Noel Edmonds.

For most contests, a spokesperson has delivered the results of the national jury, or in recent years the results of the televoting, awarding points to the entries on behalf of his or her country. The exceptions were the contests held in 1971–1973 when votes were cast by two jury members present at the contest venue, appearing at the end of the contest to confirm their scores.

No British-born broadcaster has either presented or commentated on the live television final for over thirty years, the last being Jan Leeming in 1982.

Year(s) Final television commentator Radio commentator Spokesperson Semi-final television commentator Semi-final second television commentator Online/BFBS commentator
1956 Wilfrid Thomas Unknown UK did not participate No semi-finals No semi-finals No online commentator
1957 Berkeley Smith Tom Sloan David Jacobs
1958 Peter Haigh UK did not participate
1959 Tom Sloan Pete Murray Pete Murray
1960 David Jacobs Nick Burrell-Davis
1961 Tom Sloan Michael Aspel
1962 David Jacobs Peter Haigh Alex Macintosh
1963 Michael Aspel Nicholas Parsons
1964 Tom Sloan Desmond Carrington Ian Fenner
1965 David Gell Alastair Burnet
1966 John Dunn Michael Aspel
1967 Rolf Harris Richard Baker Thurston Holland
1968 N/A Pete Murray
1969 Michael Aspel Colin-Ward Lewis John Russell
1970 David Gell Tony Brandon
1971 Dave Lee Travis Terry Wogan N/A
1972 Tom Fleming Pete Murray Terry James
1973 Terry Wogan Richard Astbury*
1974 David Vine Terry Wogan Colin-Ward Lewis
1975 Pete Murray Ray Moore
1976 Michael Aspel
1977 Pete Murray Colin Berry No online commentator
1978 Terry Wogan Ray Moore
1979 John Dunn
1980 Terry Wogan Steve Jones Ray Moore
1981 Ray Moore Colin Berry
1983 Not broadcast on BBC Radio
1986 Ray Moore
1988 Ken Bruce
1998 Ken Bruce
1999 Colin Berry
2003 Lorraine Kelly
2004 Paddy O'Connell No dual commentator
2005 Cheryl Baker
2006 Fearne Cotton
2007 Sarah Cawood
2008 Carrie Grant Caroline Flack
2009 Graham Norton Duncan James Sarah Cawood
2010 Scott Mills
2011 Alex Jones Scott Mills Sara Cox
2012 Scott Mills
2013 Ana Matronic
2014 Laura Whitmore Ana Matronic
2015 Nigella Lawson Mel Giedroyc
  • It has to be assumed that Terry Wogan's commentary was taken by BFBS in 1975 since Terry says in his BBC Radio 2 commentary "Richard Astbury sends his apologies to BFBS listeners - technical difficulties".

Additionally, from 2004–2010, Paddy O'Connell commentated on the semi-final shows. In 2007, 2009 and 2010 he was also joined by Sarah Cawood. In 2008 he was joined by Caroline Flack. In recent years, the dual-commentator format during the semi-finals has allowed for the broadcaster to incorporate additional segments, interviews and live viewer interaction, during the programmes live airing.[20]

In 2011, O'Connell was replaced by Scott Mills who provided the commentary from London, while Sara Cox provided interaction from the venue. Cox and Mills both provided commentary again in 2012 from the venue. In 2013, Cox was replaced by Ana Matronic[21] and Matronic was replaced in 2014 by Laura Whitmore.[22] Mel Giedroyc will replace Whitmore as co-commentator in 2015.[23] In 2014, Matronic provided commentary for the second semi-final of the 2014 Contest on BBC Radio 2 Eurovision, a temporary station which was broadcast on DAB radio over four days, as well as the BBC Radio 2 website. She continued this role in 2015.[24]

Separate entrants

For several years the Scottish National Party (SNP) has campaigned for a place in Eurovision for Scotland but had been rejected numerous times because Scotland is represented as a part of the British entry and is represented by the BBC.[25]

On 11 February 2008 the EBU stated that a Scottish broadcaster could apply for EBU membership, but under the current rules could not enter the Eurovision Song Contest as the BBC currently has exclusive rights to represent the entire United Kingdom.[25] It was announced in late May 2008 that the UK would be participating in the 2009 Contest and, therefore, Scotland was not represented in 2009 as a separate entrant.[26]

Scotland could be represented by STV, ITV Border or BBC Scotland. MEP Alyn Smith has said in the European Parliament: "Other small countries have done it [entered the competition] and I will be happy to help any of the broadcasting companies through the progress."[27][28][29][30]

In 2011 the European Broadcasting Union stated that there was nothing to prevent Scotland from submitting its own entry, although STV stated that there were no current plans for a separate entry.[31]

If Scotland were to participate it is unknown whether or not England, Wales and Northern Ireland would show any interest in entering the Eurovision Song Contest independently as well, although S4C (the Welsh language media channel) has expressed an interest and, in addition, already holds a yearly national song contest called "Cân i Gymru" (Song for Wales).[32] S4C also considered a bid for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2008 but decided not to go ahead.[33] In 2009 MEP for Wales Jillian Evans stated her interest in securing Wales a place in the Eurovision Song Contest 2010, Wales could be represented by either BBC Cymru Wales, ITV Wales & West or S4C. There is a small campaign in Northern Ireland for a separate entrant and it could be represented by UTV or BBC Northern Ireland.[34] There are no plans currently for England to enter separately.

However, to date, these proposed changes have not occurred, and the United Kingdom still participates in the Eurovision Song Contest as a single entrant. It was unknown what would happen if Scotland were to become an independent country. However, on 25 November 2013, the Scottish Government released a referendum blueprint which detailed plans for the transfer of BBC Scotland into the Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS) and joining the EBU, as well as partaking in competitions, including Scottish entries in the Eurovision Song Contest.[35][36] However, the referendum result on 18 September 2014 was to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the aforementioned BBC retains exclusive rights to represent the United Kingdom, including Scotland.


See also


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  25. ^ a b
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  31. ^ Scotland: first Eurovision Song Contest entry?
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Northern Ireland for Eurovsion
  35. ^
  36. ^

External links

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