Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eurovision? We've laughed, we've cried... - Great memories from Terry Wogan


In all the long, and some would say weary, years that I’ve infested the television, the programme for which I received the greatest public accolades was the Eurovision Song Contest. Some might say unkindly it was because I was never in vision. But in my declining years, I like to fondly think that over the many hard yards of the Eurovision, the discerning viewer and I have aged in the wood together. As the song puts it, ”we’ve seen fire and we’ve seen rain”, or if it’s hymns you prefer, we’ve soldiered on “through dungeon, fire and sword”.
In the beginning, we happy few smiled our secret smiles when others took Eurovision seriously enough to confuse it with a real song contest. Later, our little smiles became muted chuckles as television critics lambasted it for the musical rubbish that we always knew it was. We knew well that the noble objective of bringing the nations of Europe together on the dove’s wings of song was destined to show only how far apart we were, and how age-old national prejudices never die. Ah, had we but read the omens, we mightn’t be in the fix we are today.
Those of us who knew the Eurovision score from the beginning had our moment of quiet satisfaction when, in the 1980s, the penny dropped for those who should have known better, and they realised that the contest was not for listening to or watching critically, but for laughing at.
A couple of years ago I was invited to defend my and the UK’s less than respectful position, at the European Broadcasting Union’s annual convention, in Lausanne. The producer welcomed me on stage with a chilly: “We don’t understand why you sneer at a programme that brings you 11 million viewers every year.” I tried to explain that we don’t fawn over our friends, we rib and josh and gently jeer. It doesn’t mean that we don’t like the contest – rather, it shows, however wryly, how much affection we have for it. I’m not sure they got that, east of the Danube.
I had barely shaken the dust of my native heath from my hobnail boots when, in 1971, BBC radio sent me back to Ireland to commentate on my first Eurovision. Amid great rejoicing, Ireland had won the contest for the first time the previous year, with a gentle ditty sung by a pretty young lady who went by the name of Dana, a name purloined years later by the Israeli winner, Dana International, of whom more later.

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