Eurovision Song Contest 1981

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Eurovision Song Contest 1981
ESC 1981 logo.png
Final4 April 1981
VenueRDS Simmonscourt
Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland
Presenter(s)Doireann Ní Bhriain
Musical directorNoel Kelehan
Directed byIan McGarry
Executive supervisorFrank Naef
Executive producerNoel D Greene
Host broadcasterRaidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)
Interval act"Timedance" performed by Planxty featuring dance performance by the 'Dublin City Ballet' Edit this at Wikidata
Number of entries20
Debuting countries Cyprus
Returning countries
Non-returning countries
  • Belgium in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Italy in the Eurovision Song ContestNetherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Switzerland in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Monaco in the Eurovision Song ContestLuxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Denmark in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Portugal in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Greece in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Malta in the Eurovision Song ContestAustria in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981France in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Turkey in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Yugoslavia in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981Morocco in the Eurovision Song ContestCyprus in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981A coloured map of the countries of Europe
    About this image
         Participating countries     Countries that participated in the past but not in 1981
Voting systemEach country awarded 12, 10, 8-1 point(s) to their 10 favourite songs
Nul points in final Norway
Winning song United Kingdom
"Making Your Mind Up"
1980 ← Eurovision Song Contest → 1982

The Eurovision Song Contest 1981 was the 26th edition of the annual Eurovision Song Contest. It took place in Dublin, Ireland, following Johnny Logan's win at the 1980 contest in The Hague, Netherlands with the song "What's Another Year". The contest was held at the RDS Simmonscourt on Saturday 4 April 1981, and was hosted by Irish television journalist Doireann Ní Bhriain.

Twenty countries participated in the contest, equalling the record of the 1978 edition. Cyprus made their début this year, while Israel and Yugoslavia both returned to the competition, after their one-year and five-year absences, respectively. Morocco and Italy decided not to participate. Morocco has never since returned to participate in the Eurovision Song contest again, marking 1980 their only ever year of participation.

The winner was the United Kingdom with the song "Making Your Mind Up", performed by Bucks Fizz, written by Andy Hill and John Danter. Germany finished second for the second consecutive year, while France finished third. Norway again finished last, with its third nul points in the contest.

Bucks Fizz's win launched the group's hugely successful international career. Their performance on the Eurovision stage included a dance-routine where the two male members ripped the skirts off the two female members only to reveal mini-skirts, and today stands as one of the most defining moments in the contest's history.[1]


RDS Simmonscourt – host venue of the 1981 contest.

Having won in 1980, head of Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Brian MacLochlainn announced that they would host the contest in 1981 within hours of Johnny Logan winning.[2] The 1981 contest took place in Dublin, the capital of Ireland. It was the second time the country (and city) had hosted the contest, the last time being ten years earlier in 1971.


The contest took place under heavy guard at the 1,600 seat Simmonscourt Pavilion of the RDS, which was normally used for agricultural and horse shows.[3] The set was the largest ever seen in the contest so far, being 150 feet across, 80 feet deep and 30 feet high.[2] Over 250 armed soldiers and police were on hand to protect against any likely political demonstrations, with the UK entrants being under constant guard during their time in Dublin due to threats from the IRA. This included an evacuation of the participants hotel at one point due to a bomb scare. The security measures were reported on British news reports on the day of the contest.[2]

Rehearsals at the Pavilion began on 31 March with each act allowed 30 minutes with the orchestra, continuing up until the day of the contest, which ended with a dress rehearsal at 16:30. On 1 April, the Irish Tourist Board held a reception for the contest at Jurys Hotel, Dublin.[2]

The presenter on this occasion was Doireann Ni Bhriain, who was well known in Ireland at the time as a TV presenter and for the current affairs radio show Women Today. She was chosen for her fluency in Irish and English as well as having studied French and Spanish, which she spoke with some ease.[4] She had also worked on the 1971 contest as an interpreter in the RTE press office. The director was Ian McGarry, while Noel Kelehan was the chief conductor of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, which comprised 46 musicians.[2]

It cost RTÉ £530,000 to stage the show, although this included £110,000 from the EBU. From this, the Irish Government expected to make around £2,000,000 from tourism as a result of staging the show.[2][5] It was expected that the worldwide audience would be some 500 million with 30 countries broadcasting the event, including countries such as Hong Kong, the Soviet Union, United Arab Emirates and for the first time, Egypt.[2]

Each song was introduced by a filmed 'postcard', framed by an animated identification of the nation's location; the first in the contest history to depict the various delegations in and around the host city, recorded during the week long rehearsal period. Unlike previous films used in 1970 and 1976 that had also featured the performing artist, the 1981 films prominently included the authors and composers alongside the performing artist.[6]


Of the performers, many previous contestants returned to the contest this year. Notably, Jean-Claude Pascal for Luxembourg, who had won the contest 20 years earlier, although could only manage 11th place this time. Repeated entrants Peter, Sue and Marc returned for the fourth time, after 1971, 1976 and 1979. Performing again for Switzerland, they remain the only act to sing in four different languages (French, English, German and this time, Italian). Other returnees were Marty Brem who had taken part the year before for Austria, Tommy Seebach for Denmark, and Björn Skifs for Sweden. Bucks Fizz member, Cheryl Baker had performed in 1978 with the band Co-Co for the UK, while Sheeba member Maxi had performed as a solo artist in 1973 for Ireland.

The 46-piece Irish TV orchestra didn't have a saxophone as they didn't consider it an orchestral instrument, which caused great concern with the United Kingdom entry as a saxophone appeared heavily on their song. Andy Hill – the producer of the single – said that had they known, they would have dropped one of the two backing singers to be replaced by a saxophonist, there being two on the actual recording.


The interval act was traditional Irish band Planxty, who performed the lengthy piece "Timedance", which depicted Irish music through the ages. The dancers were from Dublin City Ballet with choreography by Iain Montague. This is seen as a precursor to Riverdance, which became famous after its performance in 1994. The song, which was written by Bill Whelan, went on to be released as a Planxty single and became a No.3 hit in the Irish charts.[7][8] The interval (as well as the presentation sequences) had been rehearsed on set on the 3 April, the day before the event.[2]

This mix of past and present was also the theme to the contest's opening montage, which featured shots of Celtic ruins, cliffs and castles, edited together with close-ups of art, aeroplanes, architecture and horse races. This was also apparent in the style of music played by the orchestra.


The voting proved to be memorable for its closeness. France gained an early lead gaining maximum points from three of the first four juries. Ireland then started to take the lead during the first half, but fell away afterwards. The UK took the lead then until they gave top points to Switzerland, putting them in pole position. From then on it was a race between the UK, Switzerland and Germany, who had started to gain a lot of high marks. In all, five countries took pole position at various stages: UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and Ireland. Just before the penultimate vote, three countries (UK, Germany and Switzerland) were all on equal top marks. After this, Switzerland (who had performed second last) were unable to collect points as it was their jury's results that were being announced, while Germany failed to receive votes either. The UK gained eight, which meant that when the final jury (Sweden) were about to cast their votes, the UK needed five points or more to win over either country. Switzerland were quickly eliminated by receiving just one vote. The UK passed the five-point mark and received eight votes, while Germany did indeed receive the maximum 12 points, but it was too late. France finished third, with Switzerland fourth and the hosts Ireland coming in fifth. Of these, Switzerland received the most top votes despite only finishing fourth, while the UK only received two. The UK did however receive points from every competing country. At a four-point victory, this was the closest win to date under the current voting structure. Meanwhile, at the other end of the board was Norway, who finished last with no points for the third time in Eurovision history, gaining no points in 1963 and 1978 as well.

Other memorable moments included a glitch in the scoreboard, giving host country Ireland 310 extra points instead of the 10 designated by the Luxembourg jury, Greece's score registering on the scoreboard as incorrect, while on the final vote, Turkey's nine points suddenly disappeared. EBU scrutineer for the contest, Frank Naef had to twice halt the voting process as mistakes were being made by the jurors spokespersons, one example is when he had to talk with the Austrian jury in Vienna, telling them they had to start giving their points starting from one, as they had started by giving 5 points to Germany. Host Doireann then repeated in French what Frank had said to the spokesperson, Jenny Pippal, who started from one point after that. Also of note was when the host attempted to collect Yugoslavia's votes, after repeated attempts to contact them, Yugoslavia's spokeswoman, Helga Vlahović (who went on to present the 1990 contest) finally answered the phone and abruptly answered "I don't have it", causing laughter to erupt from the audience.[n 1]


Runner-up Lena Valaitis was in good spirits while talking to the press following the contest and largely unconcerned about losing. Swedish singer Björn Skifs however was more outspoken saying; "This was not a song contest, it was a show – all these dancing girls, they take away from the songs. I also think there should be a change in the rules to allow us to sing in English. Then we would really be able to compete."[9] Harald Tusberg, head of light entertainment for Norwegian television was upbeat about Norway's 'nul points' result as he claimed that their entry would be remembered above many others; "Who remembers who came second or third – people will remember us!". Finn Kalvik himself conceded graciously saying that he had enjoyed the week's holiday.[10]

Following this year's contest, France did not compete the following year, with the broadcaster announcing that the songs were "a monument to drivel".[11] Indeed, many comments had been made regarding the quality of the winning group's performance indicating that the song had most likely won by style over substance.[12] Either way, Bucks Fizz went on to have a very successful career over the next few years, and became one of the top-selling groups of the 1980s. The winning song itself reached No.1 in nine countries and became a top ten hit in nations such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, selling four million copies worldwide.[13][14][15]

Germany, who had never won the contest at this point, were becoming increasingly frustrated with their second placings in this and the previous year's contest and made a concerted effort for the following year. This was to pay off, as in 1982 they finally clinched their first victory which was achieved in an overwhelming manner.[16]

The UK's victory this year meant that the contest would take place in the UK the following year – the seventh time the country had hosted the event (a record unbeaten and later extended by an eighth UK hosting in 1998). The BBC opted to take it to the North Yorkshire town of Harrogate at a later than usual date, 24 April. The 1981 contest was held on 4 April and to date the contest has never been as early again.

Decades later, Debbie Cameron, who represented Denmark with Tommy Seebach, revealed in a book about Seebach that she was contacted by a BBC employee, who told her that Bucks Fizz's victory was planned. According to the employee, he had witnessed how BBC technicians had sabotaged the sound checks during the rehearsal of the Danish, the Israeli and the German performances.[17] This claim however ignores the fact that the BBC did not host the 1981 contest.

On August 22, 1981, the town of Mysen in Norway held a televised, live concert to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the contest, despite the recent 26th edition. The show Songs of Europe featured all but eight of the former winners of the contest, although one of the missing winning artists, Teddy Scholten, attended the event but did not perform.

Participating countries[edit]

By October 1980, it looked as though 21 countries were planning to take part, the largest number so far, but Monaco declared that they were no longer interested.[2] This year marked the début of Cyprus in the contest, who finished sixth. Returning to the contest was Israel, who did not compete the previous year, despite winning the two years prior to that. They finished seventh. Yugoslavia also returned to the competition after a five-year absence. Italy decided not to enter due to lack of interest, while Morocco declined to take part after their debut entry the year before.[18] The draw for the running order took place on 14 November 1980, with it being confirmed that there were a total of 20 entrants.[2]


Each performance had a conductor who directed the orchestra.[2][19]

Returning artists[edit]

Bold indicates a previous winner.

Artist Country Previous year(s)
Jean-Claude Pascal  Luxembourg 1961
Peter, Sue and Marc   Switzerland 1971, 1976, 1979 (along with Pfuri, Gorps and Kniri)
Maxi (as part of Sheeba)  Ireland 1973
Ismeta Dervoz (as backing singer)  Yugoslavia 1976 (as part of Ambasadori)
Björn Skifs  Sweden 1978
Cheryl Baker (as part of Bucks Fizz)  United Kingdom 1978 (as part of Co-Co)
Tommy Seebach  Denmark 1979
Debbie Cameron  Denmark 1979 (as backing singer for Tommy Seebach)
Marty Brem  Austria 1980 (part of Blue Danube)


Draw Country Artist Song Language[20][21] Place[22] Points
01  Austria Marty Brem "Wenn du da bist" German 17 20
02  Turkey Modern Folk Trio and Ayşegül "Dönme Dolap" Turkish 18 9
03  Germany Lena Valaitis "Johnny Blue" German 2 132
04  Luxembourg Jean-Claude Pascal "C'est peut-être pas l'Amérique" French 11 41
05  Israel Habibi "Halayla" (הלילה) Hebrew 7 56
06  Denmark Debbie Cameron and Tommy Seebach "Krøller eller ej" Danish 11 41
07  Yugoslavia Seid Memić Vajta "Lejla" (Лејла) Serbo-Croatian 15 35
08  Finland Riki Sorsa "Reggae OK" Finnish 16 27
09  France Jean Gabilou "Humanahum" French 3 125
10  Spain Bacchelli "Y sólo tú" Spanish 14 38
11  Netherlands Linda Williams "Het is een wonder" Dutch 9 51
12  Ireland Sheeba "Horoscopes" English 5 105
13  Norway Finn Kalvik "Aldri i livet" Norwegian 20 0
14  United Kingdom Bucks Fizz "Making Your Mind Up" English 1 136
15  Portugal Carlos Paião "Playback" Portuguese 18 9
16  Belgium Emly Starr "Samson" Dutch 13 40
17  Greece Yiannis Dimitras "Feggari kalokerino" (Φεγγάρι καλοκαιρινό) Greek 8 55
18  Cyprus Island "Monika" (Μόνικα) Greek 6 69
19   Switzerland Peter, Sue and Marc "Io senza te" Italian 4 121
20  Sweden Björn Skifs "Fångad i en dröm" Swedish 10 50


Each country had a jury who awarded 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 point(s) for their top ten songs.

Voting results[23][24]
Total score
United Kingdom
Austria 20 6 1 5 6 2
Turkey 9 1 3 5
Germany 132 5 12 3 8 8 2 7 8 12 3 6 4 7 12 10 5 8 12
Luxembourg 41 10 5 3 4 3 1 4 6 5
Israel 56 8 4 6 7 7 8 4 5 4 3
Denmark 41 1 1 7 4 3 2 5 2 12 4
Yugoslavia 35 4 8 2 1 5 2 3 10
Finland 27 2 1 2 5 5 1 5 6
France 125 12 12 12 7 2 4 10 6 4 5 1 10 3 8 7 12 10
Spain 38 10 6 4 3 10 3 2
Netherlands 51 3 5 3 4 7 2 7 6 7 2 3 2
Ireland 105 7 3 6 10 10 12 5 6 5 10 1 10 12 1 7
Norway 0
United Kingdom 136 4 8 4 5 12 10 10 3 7 8 12 10 3 6 8 6 4 8 8
Portugal 9 8 1
Belgium 40 1 7 1 6 8 2 3 7 5
Greece 55 6 2 6 1 10 1 2 8 6 6 7
Cyprus 69 5 3 6 8 8 7 10 7 12 3
Switzerland 121 2 2 7 8 4 12 12 10 4 1 12 12 12 8 4 10 1
Sweden 50 10 2 5 7 1 12 6 2 4 1

12 points[edit]

Below is a summary of all 12 points in the final:

N. Contestant Nation(s) giving 12 points
5   Switzerland  Finland,  Ireland,  Norway,  United Kingdom,  Yugoslavia
4  France  Austria,  Germany,  Luxembourg,   Switzerland
 Germany  Portugal,  Spain,  Sweden,  Turkey
2  Ireland  Cyprus,  Denmark
 United Kingdom  Netherlands,  Israel
1  Cyprus  Greece
 Denmark  Belgium
 Sweden  France


Listed below is the order in which votes were cast during the 1981 contest along with the spokesperson who was responsible for announcing the votes for their respective country.

  1.  Austria – Jenny Pippal [de]
  2.  Turkey – Başak Doğru
  3.  Germany – TBC
  4.  Luxembourg – Jacques Harvey
  5.  Israel – Dan Kaner [he][25]
  6.  Denmark – Bent Henius [dk][26]
  7.  Yugoslavia – Helga Vlahović[27]
  8.  Finland – Annemi Genetz[28]
  9.  France – Denise Fabre[29]
  10.  Spain – Isabel Tenaille [es][30]
  11.  Netherlands – Flip van der Schalie[31]
  12.  Ireland – John Skehan
  13.  Norway – Sverre Christophersen [no][32]
  14.  United Kingdom – Colin Berry[2]
  15.  Portugal – Margarida Andrade [pt]
  16.  Belgium – Walter De Meyere
  17.  Greece – Tatiana Darra
  18.  Cyprus – Anna Partelidou
  19.   Switzerland – Michel Stocker[33]
  20.  Sweden – Bengteric Nordell[34]


Each national broadcaster also sent a commentator to the contest, in order to provide coverage of the contest in their own native language.

Broadcasters and commentators in participating countries
Country Broadcaster(s) Commentator(s) Ref(s)
 Austria FS2 Ernst Grissemann [de] [35]
Hitradio Ö3 Walter Richard Langer [de]
 Belgium BRT TV1 Dutch: Luc Appermont [36]
RTBF1 French: Jacques Mercier [37]
BRT Radio 1 Dutch: Herwig Haes
RTBF La Première French: Marc Danval
 Cyprus RIK Fryni Papadopoulou [38]
RIK Deftero Neophytos Taliotis
 Denmark DR TV Jørgen de Mylius [39]
DR P3 Erik Wiedemann [dk]
 Finland YLE TV1 Ossi Runne [40]
YLE Rinnakkaisohjelma Matti Paalosmaa [fi] and Jaakko Salonoja [fi]
 France TF1 Patrick Sabatier [41][37]
 Germany Deutsches Fernsehen Ado Schlier [de]
Deutschlandfunk/hr3 Roger Horné [de]
 Greece ERT Mako Georgiadou [el] [42]
Proto Programma Dimitris Konstantaras [el]
 Ireland RTÉ 1 Larry Gogan
RTÉ Radio 1 Pat Kenny
 Israel Israeli Television No commentator
Reshet Gimel Daniel Pe'er
 Luxembourg RTL Télé Luxembourg Marylène Bergmann [fr] and Jacques Navadic [37]
RTL André Torrent [fr]
 Netherlands Nederland 1 Pim Jacobs [43]
 Norway NRK Knut Aunbu [44]
NRK P1 Erik Heyerdahl [no]
 Portugal RTP1 Eládio Clímaco
 Spain TVE1 Miguel de los Santos [es] [45]
 Sweden SVT TV1 Ulf Elfving [46]
  Switzerland TV DRS German: Theodor Haller [de] [47]
TSR French: Georges Hardy [fr] [41]
TSI Italian: Giovanni Bertini
 Turkey Ankara Television Bülend Özveren
Radyo 3 Şebnem Savaşçı
 United Kingdom BBC1 Terry Wogan [2]
BBC Radio 2 Ray Moore [2]
 Yugoslavia TVB 2 Serbo-Croatian: Mladen Popović [48]
TVZ 1 Serbo-Croatian: Oliver Mlakar
TVL 1 Slovene: Tomaž Terček [sl] [49]
Broadcasters and commentators in non-participating countries
Country Broadcaster(s) Commentator(s) Ref(s)
 Australia SBS Radio Unknown [50]
 Bulgaria BNT Unknown [2]
 Czechoslovakia ČST Unknown [2]
 Egypt ERTU Unknown [2]
 Hong Kong TVB Pearl (delayed broadcast on 7 April 1981) Unknown [51]
 Hungary MTV Unknown [2]
 Iceland Sjónvarpið Unknown [2]
 Poland TVP Unknown [2]
 Romania TVR Unknown [2]
 Soviet Union Soviet Central Television Unknown [2]
 South Korea KBS Unknown [2]
 United Arab Emirates Dubai Radio and Colour Television Unknown [2]


  1. ^ The clip was subsequently used on the ITV outtake series It'll Be Alright on the Night.


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  42. ^ "Η Μακώ Γεωργιάδου και η EUROVISION (1970–1986) - Retromaniax".[permanent dead link]
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External links[edit]