Eurovision final day is here as Europe’s chosen artists prepare to battle it out for the top spot in the world’s largest music competition. The contest is being held in Turin, Italy, this year, after Maneskin stormed to victory in 2021 with their song ‘Zitti e buoni’. Eurovision has been broadcast across Europe every year since 1956, when the first show was held in Lugano, Switzerland. While the contest is a celebration of music and unity across Europe, the show has also seen tensions come to the fore on occasion.
Singers and fans never stray too far from political or social commentary.
This includes the UK’s first winner, Sandie Shaw, who scooped the main prize in 1967.
Sandie’s love for Europe was evident in 2016 as she urged Britain to remain in the EU prior to the referendum that year.
The singer said the European project helped unite a continent scarred from World War 2.
Speaking on behalf of the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), as it came out officially in support of the Remain campaign, she said that staying in the EU was crucial if Britain’s music industry is to continue to thrive.
Sandie said: “The common market was also born from this desire to make peace instead of war. It was Churchill’s great vision after the war to unite Europe along with other enlightened European leaders.”
She revealed that when she was first asked to represent Britain at Eurovision 1967, she initially turned down the offer because she thought it was “a really uncool thing to do”, but changed her mind after finding out what it stood for.
Sandie continued: “I discovered that the event was born after the Second World War from that intense desire shared by all Europeans to use culture and communication to bring the nations together in a creative rather than destructive way. I thought that was cool.
“The 60s consciousness was very much underpinned by this ideal. I believe that is why our generation in Britain had such a huge creative surge and worldwide young people were so enthralled by the peace movement.”
Sandie defended the values of internationalism as she called for the UK to remain closely tied with the rest of Europe.
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She said: “The EU is currently working on the digital single market. This is essential to our future. It is the future. An artist’s job is to break down barriers, tear down the walls that separate our shared humanity.
“We are intrinsically international. In order for our music industry to survive we recognise the necessity of European and global markets.”
On the eve of the referendum, Sandie also had a tense exchange with Jeremy Paxman on the subject of Brexit while appearing on Channel 4.
Repeatedly exclaiming “excuse me”, Sandie took on the journalist, explaining why she felt Brexit would be bad for British music.
On Twitter Piers Morgan blasted the 60s pop icon, saying: “This Channel 4 debate is a complete farce. Paxman’s lost control and Sandie Shaw’s bonkers.”
In recent years, the UK’s poor performances at Eurovision have been blamed on Brexit.
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In 2019, British representative Michael Rice said he was unable to succeed because of the political chaos, saying even Elton John would have come last.
After the show in Tel Aviv, Israel, he told The Sun: “I always knew I was going to come in this position because of Brexit.
“Do you know what? If it was Gary Barlow or Elton John, they still probably would have come last too.
“I’ve still had so much fun and I’ve not once doubted my talent or my singing.”
William Lee Adams, founder of the largest Eurovision fansite Wiwibloggs, dismisses the idea Brexit plays a part in an interview with i last week.
He said: “It’s not about Europe hating us or Europe loving us.
“It’s about what we serve to Europe. There have been instances where what we served was delicious and appetising to lots of people.
“Honestly, I don’t think 14-year-old girls in Romania at a slumber party are thinking about EU fishing rights or Brexit when they vote.”