Belfast Telegraph

27 years after her Eurovision victory, Linda Martin makes a return to the Belfast stage

Singer and TV personality Linda Martin
Singer and TV personality Linda Martin
Singing in the Eurovision Song Contest

By Mairead Holland

Linda Martin has described how winning the Eurovision Song Contest "opened every door possible in Europe" as she returns to her home city of Belfast tonight.

Linda will be one of the headline acts in the fourth annual Eurovision NI Awards, which honours the good and not-so-good aspects of the iconic competition.

She will perform the hit Why Me? which saw Ireland triumph in the 1992 contest.

Although the east Belfast woman regularly stars at corporate events in Northern Ireland, the gig at Crumlin Road Gaol will be the first time she has sung publicly here in more than 20 years.

"I'm really looking forward to it and hoping there are going to be some familiar faces in the audience," she said.

Linda's triumph in Malmo was the first of four Irish Eurovision wins in five years.

She admits that winning the song contest was the turning point in a career that continues to be "good" to her.

Linda was just 16 and still at school when she started gigging with her band Chips.

She recalled: "I used to get changed in the van at the school gates or at the gigs.

"It's like everybody when you're 16, you think you're going to rule the world."

She sometimes thinks she should have stayed at school and studied to be a vet, but quickly adds that she doesn't regret her choice of career.

"Like all showbiz people, there's ups and downs but I've been lucky and I'm still working and still enjoying it, which is the main thing," she said.

Linda's career began properly in the 1970s when she and the band met up with a young, then unknown, man called Louis Walsh - now a household name after his appearance as a judge on The X Factor and a manager of bands such as Boyzone and Westlife.

"Louis had come down to Dublin from the west of Ireland and the word was he wanted to manage a band, and we made the journey and met up with him and after a couple of years we moved down to Dublin permanently," she added.

"Louis was our manager and then my manager up until Westlife. He's one of my closest friends, like my brother. I love him to bits." Linda's memories of winning Eurovision remain vivid, describing it as "like all your birthdays coming at once".

"I just remember thinking there's light at the end of the tunnel, I can get off the one-night-stand circuit around Ireland," she said.

"And at that point I started work in Europe and that's pretty much what I've been doing ever since.

"Every country associated with the Eurovision, I've probably worked in it."

The year of Linda's win was also the start of a prolific run for Ireland - Niamh Kavanagh won in 1993, then Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan in 1994, before Eimear Quinn's 1996 triumph.

She is in no doubt that, although the competition has changed dramatically since its inception, it "absolutely has a future".

Having left Belfast for Dublin the late 1970s, Linda has noticed massive changes in her home city, but all for the better.

"It's just glorious going up to Belfast," she added.

"I was there in the summer and the sun was shining and it was beautiful - people talking and just enjoying life. I love that."

Outside of travelling and performing, Linda owns 12 rescue dogs and is passionate about animal welfare.

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