Whether you love or hate it, there's no denying the fascination of Eurovision. Be it the performances and stunning costumes to the 'interesting' voting and Graham Norton's joyous commentary.
Eurovision returns to the UK this year for the first time since Katrina and the Waves won the prize in 1997. So be sure not to get 'nul points' for your knowledge as the competition returns, with our top contest facts.
The competition is being held in Liverpool
Liverpool City, image from iStock
- Usually the previous years winning country hosts the competition the following year.
- The 2022 competition was won by Ukraine, but due to the war, the UK were chosen to host in 2023.
- The runner-up song was Spaceman by Sam Ryder. It was our best Eurovision performance since Imanni was runner up in 1998 with the song Where Are You. (No, we don't remember this either).
- Seven cities were in the initial running to host: Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, and Sheffield. Liverpool edged out Glasgow in the final vote.
- The slogan for the 2023 contest is 'United By Music'. This highlights the partnership between the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Liverpool.
We have many courses in-venue up and down the country, including in some of the cities above.
Numbers play a big part in Eurovision
- With 7 victories, Ireland is the most successful country at the contest.
- It will be the 9th time that the United Kingdom has hosted the contest.
- Did you know all Eurovision songs must be no longer than 3 minutes?
Looking on growing your number skills?
As does music (of course)
2022 Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra, image from LTV Ziņu dienests
The contest always begins with the the familiar notes of “Prelude To Te Deum” by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The song has become synonymous with Eurovision.
If you've been around since 1956, that means there have been a lot of songs. In fact, over 1,500 songs have taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest.
If you would listen to all the songs without a break, you would be sitting up for nearly 72 hours.
We've some music courses to tempt your ears:
Bien sûr, les langues sont importantes aussi !
There are no rules stating which language (or languages) a country can perform in at Eurovision. But, from 1966-1972 and 1977-1999, entrants were required to sing in one of the country’s official languages.
Since 1999, all countries have been free to sing in whichever language they choose (including invented languages: though no Klingon songs yet),
Generally, most countries sing in English, but why?
- English-language songs win more often. Since the language rule was dropped in 1999, only three winning songs have not included English.
- English is understood by a large number of viewers. The number of people across Europe who can understand or are used to hearing English songs on the radio is huge.
- English is seen as a ‘neutral’ language. In many countries, the second language taught in schools during the time of communism was Russian or German. English had no political connotations and so was seen as being a sign of neutrality.
France and Italy have always sung at least partly in one of their national languages. Spain and Portugal have almost also always entered in Spanish and Portuguese too.
Looking to learn another language?
We are the champions - the joys of voting
2023 Eurovision running order, image from Eurovision.tv
Our friends at Wikipedia explain the voting more eloquently than I could. However, the most interesting part of Eurovision is often the more, erm, politically or geographically minded voting.
- Ukraine banned Russia's performers from entering the country when they hosted Eurovision in 2017. This was in protest against Vladimir Putin annexing Crimea. In 2016, Ukraine won the competition with a song about Stalin's wartime deportation of the Tatar people to Central Asia. The song narrowly pipped Russia's entry that year, inspiring Kremlin officials to claim there was an "information war" against their country.
- In 2003, the UK's act, Jemini achieved "nul points" (no points) after their performance of Cry Baby. The bad score was partly blamed for the UK's involvement in the invasion of Iraq.
Some things to look out for as identified by Derek Gatherer, a lecturer at Lancaster University:
- The so-called 'Viking Empire' of Scandinavian countries giving each other points.
- The 'Balkan Bloc' made up of former Yugoslavian countries - as well as Romania, Serbia and Albania. However these votes are usually for cultural reasons rather than political.
- The 'Pyrenean Axis' which includes Andorra and Spain. (Not this year, Andorra have not qualified).
- An 'informal alliance' between the UK, Ireland and Malta, which have consistently voted for each other over the years. (No Malta this year either sadly!)
The voting can often induce eye-rolling, but hopefully we'll be talking about the music rather than the alliances come the end of the evening.
The weird and the wonderful
- There have been five barefoot winners. These were Sandie Shaw in 1967, Sertab Erener in 2003, Dima Bilan in 2008, Loreen in 2012 and Emmelie De Forest in 2013.
- Australia is in Europe (for Eurovision at least). Check out their song Voyager by Promise.
- Riverdance was first performed during the interval act of Eurovision Song Contest 1994.
- In 2015, Eurovision was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Annual TV Music Competition.
- ABBA are the most successful act ever to come out of Eurovision. However the UK actually gave them zero points back in 1974. (Oops!)
Abba in 1974. You might have heard of these guys. Image from Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands.
Did you know the WEA are 120 years old in 2023? Click here to learn more.