It’s a Eurovision history for Cottered’s Chris

Last year's winner Conchita Wurst.

Last year's winner Conchita Wurst. - Credit: Archant

A Eurovision Song Contest fan is hoping his book detailing the history of the kitsch continental championship will win high scores from readers.

Chris West, author of Hello Europe!

Chris West, author of Hello Europe! - Credit: Archant

Chris West’s book Hello Europe! How a Song Contest Shaped the Face of a Continent explains how the competition has mirrored the political landscape of Europe since it was first held back in 1956.

Chris, from Cottered, said: “The two are linked in all sorts of interesting and unusual ways.”

The contest was political from its very first notes, he believes.

Founder Marcel Bezençon was a supporter of European integration, and the seven original participants were Switzerland and the six nations which became the EEC, the forerunner of the modern European Union.

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- Credit: Archant


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Britain joined the following year, and the contest has been growing ever since.

Now there are about 40 countries wanting to participate, and organisers have to stage two semi-finals to shortlist the nations so the Saturday evening contest doesn’t go on too long.

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The 61-year-old said: “Eurovision also tells the story of cultural change. The first contest was performed to a seated theatre audience in dinner jackets and ball gowns, who clapped politely after each song.

“The modern audience wears jeans and T-shirts and stands in a vast auditorium, cheering and waving flags.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, the contest was a beacon of freedom across the Iron Curtain.

Chris said: “When the Berlin Wall fell, Eastern European nations joined Eurovision much quicker than they joined political bodies like the EU or NATO.”

Growing up, Chris was a huge fan of the show, and still vividly remembers stand-out moments from his childhood.

He said: “My first memory was of the 1968 contest, where Cliff Richard was favourite but lost to Spain.

“I remember Bucks Fizz winning in 1981 and Katrina and the Waves from East Anglia winning in 1997.

“And I remember wincing with pain as Jemini sang out of tune and came last with nul points back in 2003 – to be fair to them, they had problems with the onstage sound system.

“I also remember Terry Wogan getting ever more irate about some of the block voting.”

The final to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest will be held on Saturday, broadcast live from Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria, the home country of last year’s winner Conchita Wurst.

The author added: “There’s a wonderful party feel about the whole event, and behind the scenes there’s a lot going on.

“The entries say so much about the nations submitting them. On Saturday we’ll all be sitting down in front of the TV hoping for a few laughs, a few good songs, some ridiculous – but wonderful – props and outfits, and finally, an exciting race to the finish.”

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