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Why we love Eurovision by Liz & Michelle hosts of the podcast Two Women Chatting

Claire Sweeney, actress and host of Eurovision 2023
Claire Sweeney, host of BBC Radio Merseyside Alternative Scouse Commentary for Eurovision 2023

Let’s be honest most of us watch the Eurovision Song Contest for the commentary and outrageous costumes. Eurovision is one of television’s great event nights creating a real sense of watch-along community with some terrific pop songs but more often offering jaw-dropping moments when you just cannot believe what you have witnessed on prime-time television.

It is a bit like Marmite - you either love it or hate it. If you are a music lover the best part of Eurovision has always been the sharp and acerbic commentary from Graham Norton and the late Terry Wogan

and this year there will be additional commentary from singer, actor and television personality Claire Sweeney who will deliver the ‘alternative Scouse’ commentary from her home city Liverpool host of Eurovision 2023 alongside BBC Merseyside talent search winner Paul Quinn.

Being massive fans of Eurovision we tracked Claire down at her hairdresser and chatted to her about Eurovision and why since its inception 67 years ago the contest has become one of the most watched television events in the world, with an estimated audience of over 161 million viewers. It even inspired Will Ferrell to write the musical comedy 'The Story of Fire Saga' starring Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan and Dan Stevens and of course the unforgettable song ‘Jaja Ding Dong'. If you’ve not seen it and you’re a Eurovision fan you're in for a real treat

Will Ferrell & Rachel McAdams as Lars & Sigrit in Eurovision The Story of Fire Saga
Will Ferrell & Rachel McAdams as Lars & Sigrit

We have collated some useful and not-so-useful facts, trivia and some of the most entertaining, scathing and sarcastic remarks from the commentators over the years.

When and where is Eurovision 2023?

This year’s Eurovision takes place at the 10,000-capacity Liverpool Arena, in the centre of the city, overlooking the River Mersey. The UK is hosting the event on behalf of war-torn Ukraine, who won last year with Stefania, by Kalush Orchestra.

There will be two semi-finals, at 8pm on Tuesday 9th May and Thursday 11th May and then the grand final takes place at 8pm on Saturday 13th May. The three live shows will be hosted by the singer Alesha Dixon, the actor Hannah Waddingham (who plays Rebecca in Ted Lasso) and the Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina of the rock band The Hardkiss.

Graham Norton joins the live broadcast for the final along with comedian Mel Giedroyc.

All three shows will be shown on BBC One.

How will the finalists be chosen?

26 acts will be competing in the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final alongside guest artists including Sam Ryder. The event organizers the European Broadcasting Union have changed the voting format for 2023 and abandoned national juries for the semi-finals and allowing viewers from outside participating countries to vote which illustrates the increasing global appeal of the contest and giving more power to the audience.

Who is representing the UK?

Mae Muller is representing the UK and we think she is in with a good chance with the song ’ I wrote a song’ – but remember this is the Eurovision Song Contest. The last time the UK won was in 1997 with Katrina & The Waves but the UK is taking the contest much more seriously again after Sam Ryder nearly won last year and restored the nation’s interest in the contest. No more nul points please.

Useful (ish) & interesting facts about Eurovision

  • The first contest featured just seven countries, each of whom performed two songs.

  • Eurovision was cancelled for the first time ever in 2020 due to Covid 19 pandemic.

  • ABBA is the most successful Eurovision Song Contest winner. The band won the contest in 1974 for Sweden and has enjoyed phenomenal success ever since, despite splitting up in 1983.

  • In 2015, the Eurovision Song Contest was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Annual TV Music Competition.

  • The most covered Eurovision Song Contest song is Domenico Mudugno‘s Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu, also known as ‘Volare’. The song has been covered by famous stars such as Cliff Richard, David Bowie and Dean Martin.

  • The rules surrounding nationality have always been rather lax, and it’s generally down to each country to make it’s own rules. The singers can usually come from anywhere, normally the songwriter(s) have to be native, but not always.

  • Johnny Logan has won the Eurovision Song Contest three times. In 1980 and 1987 he represented Ireland as a performer and won both times, with ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘What’s Another Year’, in 1992 he wrote Linda Martin’s winning entry ‘Why Me’?

  • Ireland is the most successful country at the contest with seven victories and Sweden have won the contest six times, while Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom won five times.

  • All Eurovision songs must be no longer than three minutes.

Australia map when its Eurovision time
Location of Australia when it's Eurovision time!

There has long been a large Eurovision fan base in Australia and in 2015 were invited to compete for the first time to commemorate Eurovision’s 60th anniversary. Initially conceived as a one-off contribution Australia is still participating in 2023 year with Voyager

Best quotes from Sir Terry Wogan's commentary at Eurovision

  • “It’s supposed to be bad. And the worse it is, the more fun it is.”

  • “They’ve got four languages in Belgium… and they’re singing in an imaginary one. The very essence of Eurovision.”

  • “Spain is next, with a song called ‘Bloody Mary’. That reminds me, I haven’t touched a drop yet.”

  • It's been a wonderful, wonderful evening. I mean, not musically of course, but in terms of spectacle..."

  • “Hold on. Be strong. Just cling to the wreckage. It will be over soon.” (said with 24 out of 25 songs performed.

Best quotes (so far) from Graham Norton's commentary at Eurovision

  • “I liked the bit when she stopped the music.” On Slovenia’s 2018 entry, which faked a technical glitch.

  • '"We've got a real range of music tonight... some wonderful vocalists and well, some as flat as Holland."

  • "This has already been streamed 30 million times. I'm reading that because I don't understand it. Maybe it will grow on me, like mould on a bathroom ceiling.' Talking about Italy’s entrance I 2021 which went on and won.

  • “Don’t patronise me Nikolaj. I’m 51, not dead!” (When the 2014 host suggested older viewers may not understand hashtags)

  • ‘Senhit last represented San Marino 10 years ago because, as you know, the country is so small representing the country is a bit like jury duty.'

  • “This year’s theme is celebrating diversity. Let’s see who they’ve chosen to host. Oh. It’s three white men.”

  • “Now it’s time for the flag ceremony. It’s a new tradition. It’s a way of making the show just that little bit longer.” Talking about the opening of the contest in 2018

  • “OK… That’s three minutes we’ll never get back, but look at it this way: We’ll never have to hear that song again.” commenting on Albania’s 2015 entry.

  • “She says that as if it’s a good thing!” When it was announced there were 14 songs still to go in 2016

  • ‘Alcohol is Free’. Ironic to sing that in Sweden, where it’s anything else. You have to sell your car to get a pint.”

  • “Goodness. I guess hairdressers haven’t reopened in Serbia.” On Serbia's act in 2021 after Covid Lockdown.

  • “Well this song is Marmite. If everyone hated Marmite.” Commenting on the German entry.

Love it or hate it will be watched by millions many with friends and families and to illustrate its attraction to a whole new audience Tik Tok is the official entertainment musical partner. Does that mean it is no longer going to be a parody of trashy, cringe-inducing performances but a serious music show- we certainly hope not.

The final of Eurovision 2023 will be on BBC 1 on Saturday 13th May at 8.00pm and the alternative Scouse version with Claire Sweeney and Paul Quinn can be heard live from 20:00 BST on BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Sounds, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Red Button.

Listen to our podcast where we chat with Clare Sweeney about Eurovision, Brookside and her new role in Coronation Street.

Visit our resources page which has a collection of useful links from 3rd party websites and content.

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1 Comment

Jun 18, 2023

Eurovision is just such an insane but fantastic event. Graham Norton is so funny.

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