UK Eurovision entries over the decades

"Our #Eurovision UK act for 2019 is @MichaelRiceOff! #EurovisionYouDecide"

With the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest only months away, countries are now choosing their acts to perform in Tel Aviv, Israel and you can already back your favourite country with Betfair Eurovision 2019 winner odds. The UK’s entrant this year will be Michael Rice with his song Bigger Than Us, after he advanced through the judges and public vote of the BBC’s Eurovision: You Decide and automatically qualifies to the finals as the UK are a member of the ‘Big Five’.

Over the years, the UK has varying success in the contest – with 60 entrants since 1957 and five winners, the most recent being in 1997. However, since the rules changed in 1999 with songs not having to be performed in one of the official languages of that country, the UK’s had less success. With only two top finishes (2002 and 2009) and a famous nul points (2013), last year’s performance knocked up a measly 48 points and saw the UK finish 24th out of 26 competing countries.


After two non-entries in 1956 and 1958, the first performance was Patricia Bredin in 1957 – who finished seventh. Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson sang Sing, Little Birdie in 1959 and got a respectable second place. The UK would go on to secure a runner-up place a record 15 times.


The 1960s saw further success with four more runner-up places (Bryan Johnson: 1960; The Allisons: 1961; Matt Monro: 1964; Kathy Kirby: 1965) and finally a winning entry in 1967 with Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a String. Already a reputable artist with two number 1 singles under her belt, Shaw’s music career spanned four decades. Cliff Richard came second in 1968 with Congratulations – only one of two non-winning UK Eurovision entries to top the charts (the second being Gina G’s Ooh Ah Just a Little Bit in 1996), before established performer Lulu provided the UK’s second victory the following year with Boom Bang-a-Bang, in a four-way tie.


A third victory took place in 1976, with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses for Me winning with 164 points, which went on to be the highest points total for 10 years. The UK narrowly missed out a further four times this decade, with second place finishes in 1970, 1972, 1975 and 1977.


The 1980s saw a further win in ‘81 with Bucks Fizz’ Making Your Mind Up. The group were in fact created especially for the UK’s selection process programme A Song for Europe but following their success in Dublin, stayed together and went on to have 13 UK top 40 hits in five years. This victory was the only in the ‘80s but with four second place finishes, the UK remained competitive – the most famous runner-up place being in 1988 when Scott Fitzgerald lost out to Celine Dion (representing Switzerland), by a solitary point.


The UK’s most recent victory came in 1997, courtesy of Katrina & the Waves and Love, Shine a Light. Previously most famous for their 1985 top 10 single Walking on Sunshine, the band’s Eurovision song peaked at number 3, becoming their most successful hit – and earned 227 points in the contest in Dublin. As of 1998, the UK have failed to make the top two and the most recent entry Imaani lost out to Israel’s Dana International at the Birmingham contest. Other runners-up of the ‘90s included Michael Ball (1992) and Sonia (1993).

2000s – present

The 21st century has seen a decline in the successes of the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. In fact, between the years of 1999 and 2018, there have only been two top 10 finishes (Jessica Garlick in 2002 coming third and a fifth-place finish for Jade Ewen [formerly of the Sugababes] in 2009). Since 2003, when Jemini managed a laughable and historic nul points, the UK have finished bottom of the leader board twice (2008 with X Factor runner-up Andy Abraham and 2010’s entrant Josh Dubovie) and more recently failed to reach double figures points-wise (a measly five and 24th place finish for Electro Velvet in 2015). Last year, SuRie finished 24th out of 26 countries, with 48 points. How will Michael Rice fare in Tel Aviv and more importantly, will the UK ever win the Eurovision Song Contest again?


Pete White Pete White

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