Belfast Telegraph

Kerry McLean: I don't need to make my mind up, I fell in love with Eurovision the moment I saw the Bucks Fizz girls whip off their skirts

By Kerry McLean

The Eurovision Song Contest must surely be the most Marmite of talent competitions ever to find its way on to our televisions. You either love it or loathe it and I'm definitely in the former camp. From the overblown performances to the underdressed performers, it's all wandered so far across the boundaries of bad taste that it's boomeranged back into fantastic viewing for me.

Every year I think I've seen the best/worst (delete as you see fit) that the countries can come up with, only to have it topped the following May.

We've had everything from overly suggestive Polish milkmaids, to a tinfoil wearing, techno singing Ukrainian Drag queen. We've even had the dubious joy of Finland's favourite heavy rock band competing, complete with their latex monster masks.

And the winner of this year's weirdest performance must surely go to Israel's entry, Netta. There's no doubt that the girl can sing but her performance is less noticeable for her songbird abilities than her chicken impressions. Yes, you read that right... chicken impressions…as part of the song. Seriously, how could you not love Eurovision?

My own personal obsession with the show began right back in 1981, when, as an impressionable six-year-old, I was allowed to stay up late and watch the spectacle. All the songs and routines were fine and dandy but then, up on to my screen walked four performers who would blow my young mind. They were dressed in bright, primary colours, looking for all the world like they'd borrowed their outfits from Rainbow's Rod, Jane and Freddy.

I realise if you're reading this and under the age of 40 you'll have no idea who Rod Jane and Freddy were but imagine Ant, Dec and Cat Deeley in their SMTV days, only 20 years older, with bad perms and no sense of irony and you'll be on the right track.

On came Bucks Fizz and they performed Making Your Mind Up with that unforgettable addition of those long skirts being pulled off to reveal miniskirts underneath.

To younger generations, it may not seem like much but that one, simple wardrobe change on stage stunned all of Europe.

For the rest of that year, every lunchtime in school was spent acting out their performance. We'd bring in our winter scarves and wrap them round our waists in the build-up to that big reveal. No one would want to pretend to be Bobby G or Mike Nolan, the boring boy parts, so we'd gather round the back of the huts, dozens of little Cheryl Baker wannabes, reduced to having to rip off our own 'skirts'.

My interest waned during my early teenage years until I flew off to France to work as an au pair.

The French are not prone to overt shows of enthusiasm - it's a country where the shoulder shrug of indifference can be seen in newborn babies and yet it was in this country that I realised how seriously the event is loved in mainland Europe.

I was working there for two weeks during the Easter holidays and everywhere I went, I heard this song called 'J'ai volé la vie'. It blared out of every car window, every cafe doorway and got at least one run out each night at the local discotheque.

I quizzed my French friends about it and was told it was that year's Eurovision entry.

I was all of 15 years old by this stage and guffawed at the mere mention of the competition, only to be met with a stony silence and stonier stares coming at me through clouds of Gauloises cigarette smoke.

I never criticised the contest within earshot of my French friends again and through their eyes, grew to see it in a much more rosy-hued light. My love for Eurovision shone brightly again after that.

So tonight, we'll be going Eurovision-tastic at our house. I'll be providing a smorgasbord of food for friends and family to eat, representing the various countries involved to get us in the right frame of mind.

We'll have a sweepstake, allocating each person with a country to cheer for, just for fun, and I've everything crossed that I'll get Netta, complete with her poultry impressions.

That sounds like a 'douze points' kind of Eurovision night to me!

Belfast Telegraph

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