The below editorial features the opinions and views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.
Now then, look ‘ere see thee! Saturday, August 1, 2020 is Yorkshire Day. A day to celebrate God’s Own County, eat Yorkshire Puddings, drink Theakston Old Peculier, put ferrets down your trousers, and take whippets out for a walk.
Even though most Yorkshiremen and women claim every day is Yorkshire Day, the idea of a Yorkshire Day first came up in 1975 by the Yorkshire Ridings Society as a protest to the United Kingdom’s 1974 local government reorganization. And it has sort of stuck ever since that August 1 is Yorkshire Day, mostly for a variety of marketing reasons.
Happy Yorkshire Day! pic.twitter.com/JxEeGffZ8w
— Yorkshire Tea (@YorkshireTea) August 1, 2014
And many Yorkshire folk have graced the stage at Eurovision. This article is a list of them. First, a few disclaimers:
- This list may not be comprehensive due to incompleteness of online profiles of artists, many of whom often don’t list their place of birth. Though efforts have been made to research the singers, writers, producers and conductors’ backgrounds, there may be a Yorkshire born person missed.
- This list is only for Yorkshire born folk who represented the United Kingdom at Eurovision. In a contest where cross-border representation happens frequently (e.g. that not-quite-obscure Canadian woman who won for Switzerland in 1989), it is possible someone from God’s Own County represented another country in some capacity at Eurovision.
But first, we can’t do this list without mentioning that one time the contest was actually held in Yorkshire…
Harrogate (Eurovision 1982)
Harrogate, North Yorkshire was an unusual pick for a Eurovision venue. Hell, in the introduction to the televised contest, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) all but admitted it with “Where is Harrogate?” being spoken in every participating nation’s language.
And for those who are reading this article just for Yorkshire trivia, I am aware that Harrogate is a spa town that used to be in the West Riding before local government reorganization so it’s fake to say it’s in North Yorkshire. We can fight in the parking lot afterwards, Brighouse style, should you take offense at my using 2020 Geography to denote Yorkshire locations.
Anyway, a twee historical spa town was an odd choice for the United Kingdom, but after four times hosting Eurovision in London and once in Brighton, the BBC chose a more idiosyncratically English location that they could use to showcase a more strident and optimistic United Kingdom trying to climb out of the doldrums of the 1970s. And Harrogate had just built a brand spanking new convention center, so the BBC could achieve a state of the art show in a rural setting that the tourists would go crazy for.
Optimism was the theme of the night and no surprise what won – an entreaty for peace called “Ein bißchen Frieden” (“A Little Peace”) sung by West Germany’s Nicole. The song was a phenomenal hit, hitting Number 1 on the Singles Charts of every Eurovision nation.
And now that we got a Yorkshire place out of the way, let’s begin listing some famous Tykes at the contest, starting with the United Kingdom’s very first entrant…
Patricia Bredin (Eurovision 1957)
Patricia Bredin, who entered the Festival of British Popular Songs 1957 after BBC executives suggested she enter after seeing her perform at the Savoy Hotel in London, was born in Hull in 1935.
She won with “All,” an entry that Bredin referred to as “that terrible little song.” The “terrible” part is more subjective, as she came in 7th out of 10 entries (The Netherlands’s Corrie Brokken crushing it that year), though the “little” part was a record that lasted until 2015. At 1 minute 48 seconds, it was the shortest entry until Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät’s “Aina mun pitää”. “All” also never charted, as it was never recorded and released as a single.
Bredin had a career in musicals and landed a few plum film roles as well, until retiring to Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1970s to be a cattle farmer. Tragically, her second husband passed away on their honeymoon, but she persevered and even wrote a book about her experience.
Eric Robinson (Musical Director, Eurovision 1960 and 1963, and Conductor, Eurovision 1957, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1965)
The United Kingdom’s conductor for their first entry also happened to be from Yorkshire. Eric Robinson, born in 1908 to a musical family from Leeds, West Yorkshire, became something of a mainstay over the next decade, being musical director for two and conductor for five contests.
His older brother Stanford Robinson was arguably the more famous Robinson at the time, having being a conductor for the Royal Opera House and the BBC Opera Orchestra. However, Eric was an early investor and chief marketer of a new musical instrument called the Mellotron, which is basically that idiosyncratically 1960s instrument featured in The Beatles’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” and The Moody Blues’s “Nights in White Satin.”
The Mellotron was a huge hit, and progressive rock bands such as XTC and Genesis continued using it beyond Robinson’s death in 1974 until its production end in 1986, when polyphonic synthesizers had by that time replaced the unique analog tape – keyboard device in popular music. It is quite something that a middle-aged conductor who typified the sound of 1950s big band had a huge hand in the development of an instrument that revolutionized music in the 1960s.
Wally Stott / Angela Morley (Conductor, Eurovision 1962, Arranger, Eurovision 1963)
Born Walter Stott in Leeds, West Yorkshire, on March 10, 1924, Angela Morley was a massive trailblazer and arguably the most successful ever British conductor in their post-Eurovision career.
I will one day do a full court treatment of the conductor of Ronnie Carroll’s 1962 entry “Ring-A-Ding girl” and arranger of Carroll’s 1963 entry “Say Wonderful Things,” as Morley has led a fascinating life. Though Stott had relative success with Carroll’s two successive fourth place finishes at Eurovision 1962 and 1963, respectively, it was in 1972 after Stott transitioned to living publicly as a woman that her career took off. And by take off, Angela Morley was the first openly trans woman to be nominated for an Academy Award and was nominated eight times for an Emmy award, resulting in three wins (two for Julie Andrews Christmas specials in 1988 and 1990).
Morley spent three years doing film scores and incidental work for television, including Emmy nominated work for the American TV classics Dallas and Dynasty.
This sign put up outside of BBC Radio Leeds after Morley’s death in Phoenix, Arizona in 2009 sums up her massive achievements. We promise to return at a future date to expand upon the life and the tremendous achievements of this LGBTQ pioneer.
Sandra Stevens (Brotherhood of Man, Eurovision 1976)
As part of Brotherhood of Man, Sandra Stevens achieved that rare combination – success at Eurovision and on the United States’s Billboard Hot 100.
Born on November 23, 1949, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, Stevens became a professional singer in Manchester, Lancashire (BOO! HISS!) in the late 1960s, and actually performed gigs alongside The New Seekers’s Eve Graham and Lyn Paul.
“United We Stand” was Brotherhood of Man’s breakthrough hit, hitting Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970, but Stevens only joined the group in 1973. She did, however, partake in their 1976 renaissance when they participated at Eurovision 1976 and won the whole contest with “Save Your Kisses for Me.” (This song also hit Number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100.)
Stevens remains a part of the band to this day, and in August 1979 she married bandmate Martin Lee. As with her band membership, her marriage has lasted.
Mike Moran (Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran, Eurovision 1977)
Born March 4, 1948 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, Mike Moran was a session musician and composer before embarking on a successful partnership with Lynsey de Paul. One of their first efforts: “Rock Bottom,” which they sent to Eurovision 1978, coming in second. “Rock Bottom” was an unusual entry for Eurovision for many reasons (staging, costuming, and it’s being an upbeat song with easy to sing-along with lyrics), but it went down a treat and is constantly high on lists of “Best British Eurovision entries.”
The duo continued with hit singles afterwards, and both had success separately. Moran went on to work with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Queen, and George Harrison. Moran’s biggest triumph was his work on the 1988 pop-opera phenomenon “Barcelona,” performed by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe. Moran was co-producer and arranger, and played piano and co-wrote all the tracks.
Black Lace (Eurovision 1979)
We’re just going to lump the whole band in this entry, as we can confirm that three of the four member line-up of Black Lace at Eurovision 1979 (Alan Barton, Colin Routh, Terry Dobson) were born in Yorkshire. The band itself was formed in Ossett, West Yorkshire, in 1974.
ESC United has also covered this band’s entry in detail, including the horror show of their hit single “Agadoo” in 1984 and their copyright infringement tango with fellow Yorkshire band Smokie here, should you choose to go down this West Yorkshire rabbit warren. They finished in 7th at Eurovision 1979.
In a curious coincidence for this article, Art Garfunkel’s “Bright Eyes,” from the motion picture soundtrack for Watership Down, was Number 1 on the UK Singles chart when Black Lace’s “Mary Ann” hit Number 42 after Eurovision 1979. Angela Morley composed the score for Watership Down.
Lindsay Dracass (Eurovision 2001)
Born on September 3, 1984 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Lindsay Dracass was a then unknown 16-year-old who pipped more established names to the post. Written by hit maker Russ Ballard and Chris Winter, “No Dream Impossible” was a modest hit in the United Kingdom, but only ended up in 15th at Eurovision 2001 in a field of 23.
Since Eurovision 2001, Dracass’s career has been on and off, touring with the Paul Garrick Band in 2009 and being a judge on All Together Now, but also working as a receptionist and taking time off to be a mother. She has recently returned, though, with a new album called “Waiting for You” out last year and a lead single called “Not Mine.”
Caroline Barnes (Scooch, Eurovision 2007)
Come on, when you heard the “salted nuts” and “something to suck on” jokes, you just knew one of the goofballs from Scooch had to be from Yorkshire, right? And that’s true, as Caroline Barnes (the blonde woman in “Flying the Flag (For You)”) is from Leeds, West Yorkshire, and educated at Ashville College in Harrogate.
Scooch was formed in 1997 by Mike Scott and Matt Aitken, and had four charting British singles in 1999 and 2000 from their debut album, “Four Sure / Welcome to Planet Pop.” Despite their initial success, Scooch were dropped by their record label, and they only reformed in 2006 in order to try out for Eurovision 2007. Sadly, their entry “Flying the Flag (For You)” won a controversial national selection and finished 22nd out of 24 at Eurovision 2007, only getting that high because Malta gave 12 points as a protest vote against political and geographical voting blocs.
Scooch’s entry remains divisive, with a small minority loving the musical theater song and dance style, but a larger contingent cringed at the puns and the out-dated aesthetics reminding them of tedious bawdy jokes from films like the Carry On series. However, Scooch did not deserve the level of vitriol and false accusations they’d received in the press. Sure, some people really don’t like this song, but the accusations of plagiarism, lip synching, hidden background singers at the contest, and somehow Scooch being responsible for the national selection fiasco that year, are just too much.
Anyway, Barnes remains busy, regularly performing on the London West End and even performing pantomimes at Christmas with her Scooch bandmate and partner Russ Spencer.
James Newman (Eurovision 2020)
For once, the BBC listened to the public and gave us an entry in “My Last Breath” that was something you’d hear on the British radio, something that would chart in the United States’s Billboard Hot 100, and by someone who has had recent pop chart success. Whether “My Last Breath” would have done well at Eurovision 2020 is a question that will never be answered.
Newman was born in Settle, North Yorkshire, on October 19, 1985. He began writing and performing songs with his younger brother John Newman, and both ended up becoming respected writers and producers and artists in their own right in the United Kingdom and United States (James himself working on records by Kesha, Toni Braxton and Zayn.
It is unknown whether or not Newman will be back for the United Kingdom at Eurovision 2021, but he’d be worth pursuing again, if only to answer two questions burning in most fans’ minds: Can the United Kingdom break its two decade slump, and can they do it with a modern pop sound that is unmistakably British?
Do #YOU see any Yorkshire artists missing? Who do #YOU think is the best Eurovision entrant from Yorkshire? Let us know in the comments, on social media, or in our forum.