My View, Mel Hewitt: Vive la difference in the Eurovision show

Are we all recovered from the televisual feast that is Eurovision? Whether you love it, hate it or feel indifferent this festival of kitsch, glitter and the occasional great song, attracts an audience of around 200 million people every year.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 8:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2016, 9:56 pm
The Eurovision Song Contest. Picture: Interfase

There are plenty of fans out there who no doubt will have all the fact and figures about who won what, where and when at their fingertips. It’s one of those events that can bring a little bit of the geek out in all of us if we let it.

If you’re over 50 who doesn’t remember the fortuitous night in 1974 when we were introduced for the first time to Abba when the contest was held in Brighton?

What matters though is the shared experience, the memories, the time with family and friends this celebration of song – and sometimes the incomprehensible – happily creates for many.

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I recall 46 years ago on Eurovision night I was eight years old and trying to stay awake through the interminable voting, to find out if Mary Hopkin had won with Knock-Knock Who’s There.

This was an era when the UK was more likely to win than collect ‘nul point’.

Still, that night was to belong to the 18-year-old Dana from Ireland, who just pipped Mary at the post with All Kinds of Everything. Hands up if you had to sing that for your grandma at family events – OK, it’s just me then.

I had to go to bed before the end on the night of Dana’s triumph, but when I woke in the morning the first thing I saw was a note my dad had pinned to my wardrobe door with ‘Dana won’ written on it. It was that important.

Some of the songs and acts – even then – were a little baffling. We enjoyed perhaps more sophisticated and ground-breaking pop music than our European cousins in those days. We had David Bowie and Genesis in the charts here when at the same time in France they had Petula Clark and Charles Aznavour. I love Petula and Charles, but it just underlines the fascination, charm and curiosity value of a competition where we were all coming from a different place musically and culturally.

‘Vive la différence’ as the French would say. By the way, if you need cheering up, or want to laugh while you’re reading, just seek out Clive James’ TV reviews from the 1970s. Everything you ever need to know about the Eurovision phenomena of that era is there. Sheer brilliance.

There has been controversy in the past with the whiff of political block voting for songs, which gave the event a cynical twist on occasion. But even that was curiously part of the package – something we expected and could moan and groan about.

To end on a geeky note –I saw Dana play Snow White in panto at the now sadly demolished Gaumont in Doncaster, many years ago. She was great.