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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". It was the second time the contest took place in Ireland, after 1971. The contest was held at the RDS Simmonscourt on Saturday 4 April 1981, and was hosted by Doireann Ní Bhriain.

Eurovision Song Contest 1981
ESC 1981 logo.png
Final4 April 1981
VenueRDS Simmonscourt
Dublin, Ireland
Presenter(s)Doireann Ní Bhriain
ConductorNoel Kelehan
Directed byIan McGarry
Executive supervisorFrank Naef
Host broadcasterRaidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)
Interval act"Timedance" performed by Planxty featuring dance performance by the 'Dublin City Ballet'
Number of entries20
Debuting countries Cyprus
Returning countries Israel
Withdrawing countries Italy
Voting systemEach country awarded 12, 10, 8-1 point(s) to their 10 favourite songs
Nul points Norway
Winning song United Kingdom
"Making Your Mind Up"

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, after their one-year and five-year absence, respectively. Morocco withdrew after their début in the previous edition, while Italy withdrew due to a lack of interest.

The winner was the United Kingdom with the song "Making Your Mind Up", performed by Bucks Fizz, written by Andy Hill and John Danter. This was the United Kingdom's fourth victory in the contest, following their wins in 1967, 1969 (in the infamous four-way tie), and 1976. Germany finished second for the second consecutive year, while France finished third. Norway finished last, with its third nul points.

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 defining moments in the contest's history.[1]

The contestEdit


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 Pavillion 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, 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.[5][2] 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] The RDS would go on to host the next Irish Eurovision production in 1988.


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 previous to that. They finished seventh. Yugoslavia also returned to the competition after a five-year absence. Italy withdrew for the first time from the contest, due to lack of interest, while Morocco declined to take part after their sole entry the year before.[6] 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]

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. Also of note was when host Doireann Ní Bhriain 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.


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 withdrew from competing 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 up to 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 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 Western German performances.[17] This claim however ignores the fact that the BBC did not host the 1981 Contest.


Each performance had a conductor who conducted the orchestra.

Returning artistsEdit


Draw Country Artist Song Language[18] Place Points
01   Austria Marty Brem "Wenn du da bist" German 17 20
02   Turkey Modern Folk Üçlüsü & 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 Hakol Over Habibi "Halayla" (הלילה) Hebrew 7 56
06   Denmark Tommy Seebach & Debbie Cameron "Krøller eller ej" Danish 11 41
07   Yugoslavia Seid Memić "Vajta" "Lejla" 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

Voting structureEdit

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

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
The table is ordered by appearance

12 pointsEdit

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

N. Contestant Voting nation
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




Some participating countries did not provide radio broadcasts for the event; the ones who did are listed below.


National jury membersEdit

  •   Turkey – Süheyla Aldoğan, Hidayet Yarken, Hatice Akbaş, Lüftiye Duman, Nebiye Yazıcı, Nesrin Demirel, Sami Ersoy, Mehmet Kuteş, Mustafa Ekinci, Cengiz Doğan, Ali Arslan[45]
  •   Spain – Belén Lage (shop assistant), José Manuel Lozano (chief sales officer), Carmen Ruiz (housewife), Pablo Hardy (hairdresser), María Acacia López-Bachiller (public relations), Andrés Pajares (actor), Lola Forner (Miss Spain and actress), Juan Carlos Andrade (tennis player), María del Mar Serrano (student), Juan Vinader (sound engineer), Amada Quintana (student)[46]
  •   United KingdomNorman Harper, S. Andrew, D. Bratt, P. Green, A. Harmann, J.P. Robinson, D. Ruteledge, S. Tapper, I. Tyler, G. Wallbank, E. Young[2]
  •   Greece – Alkis Steas, Rozita Sokou


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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Roxburgh, Gordon (2016). Songs for Europe - Volume 3: The 1980s. Kent: Telos. pp. 86–103. ISBN 978-1-84583-118-9.
  3. ^ "Eurovision Song Contest 1981 at RDS Simmonscourt (Dublin) on 4 Apr 1981".
  4. ^ "Sunday Times – Doireann Ni Bhriain, Keeping the faith
  5. ^ “No Sax please, We're Irish!”, David Wigg, Daily Express, 4 April 1981
  6. ^ "ESCToday – 1981".
  7. ^ "Ceolas: Planxty".
  8. ^ Irish chart database – search "Planxty" Archived 2009-06-02 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ “Reprise”, Ultan Macken, RTÉ Guide 24 April 1981
  10. ^ “Fizz Kids” Brian Wesley, Daily Star, 6 April 1981
  11. ^ Eurovision 1982 (in French)
  12. ^ "A Brief History of the Eurovision Song Contest". 11 May 2007 – via
  13. ^ New Zealand charts
  14. ^ Australian Chart Book, 1970–1992
  15. ^ Currin, Brian. "South African Rock Lists Website – SA Charts 1965–1989 Acts (B)".
  16. ^ "Eurovision Song Contest Harrogate 1982".
  17. ^ Eriksen, Jan Have (2010-10-17). "Britisk Grand Prix-sejr i 1981 var aftalt spil" (in Danish). B.T. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  18. ^ "Eurovision Song Contest 1981". The Diggiloo Thrush. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  19. ^ Austrian commentator Archived October 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Masson, Christian. "1981 – Dublin".
  21. ^ Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Serbia President (OGAE Serbia)
  23. ^ Klub OGAE Slovenija
  24. ^ "Selostajat ja taustalaulajat läpi vuosien? • Viisukuppila".
  25. ^ Masson, Christian. "1981 – Dublin".
  26. ^ "Spanish commentator". Archived from the original on 2012-03-17. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  27. ^ "Welkom op de website van Eurovision Artists".
  28. ^ Archived November 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Grand Final: 1981, 1981, Eurovision Song Contest". BBC.
  30. ^ Adriaens, Manu & Loeckx-Van Cauwenberge, Joken. Blijven kiken!. Lannoo, Belgium. 2003 ISBN 90-209-5274-9
  31. ^ Masson, Christian. "1981 – Dublin".
  32. ^ "Η Μακώ Γεωργιάδου και η EUROVISION (1970–1986) - Retromaniax".
  33. ^ Savvidis, Christos (OGAE Cyprus)
  34. ^ Swedish commentator Archived July 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Archived October 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Yugoslavian spokesperson Archived April 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ "Selostajat ja taustalaulajat läpi vuosien? • Viisukuppila".
  39. ^ Sabatier, Patrick et al. (April 4, 1981). 26ème Concours Eurovision de la Chanson 1981 [26th Eurovision Song Contest 1981] (Television production). Ireland: RTÉ, Télévision Française 1 (commentary).
  40. ^ "Spanish spokesperson". Archived from the original on 2011-09-03. Retrieved 2011-05-28. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  41. ^ "Artiesten op Songfestival, Leidse Courant, 4 April 1981
  42. ^ Dyrseth, Seppo (OGAE Norway)
  43. ^ Baumann, Peter Ramón (OGAE Switzerland)
  44. ^ Swedish spokesmen Archived July 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ Yarışmacı ülkeler ve halk jürisi, Milliyet, 4 April 1981
  46. ^ "Free Web Hosting – Your Website need to be migrated". Free Web Hosting.

External linksEdit