Eurovision Song Contest 1981

Eurovision Song Contest 1981
Final 4 April 1981
Venue RDS Simmonscourt
Dublin, Ireland
Presenter(s) Doireann Ní Bhriain
Conductor Noel Kelehan
Directed by Ian McGarry
Executive supervisor Frank Naef
Host broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)
Interval act "Timedance" performed by Planxty featuring dance performance by the 'Dublin City Ballet'
Number of entries 20
Debuting countries  Cyprus
Returning countries  Israel
Withdrawing countries  Italy
Voting system Each country awarded 12, 10, 8-1 point(s) to their 10 favourite songs
Nul points  Norway
Winning song  United Kingdom
"Making Your Mind Up"

The Eurovision Song Contest 1981 was the 26th event of its kind, and was held on 4 April 1981 at the Simmonscourt Pavilion of the Royal Dublin Society in Dublin.

The presenter was Doireann Ní Bhriain. The United Kingdom's Bucks Fizz were the winners of this contest with the song "Making Your Mind Up", beating second place Germany by four points. This year is remembered for the performance of this British band, which launched the group's hugely successful international career, and 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]


Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. Dublin is in the province of Leinster on Ireland's east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey. Founded as a Viking settlement, the Kingdom of Dublin became Ireland's principal city following the Norman invasion. The city expanded rapidly from the 17th century and was briefly the second largest city in the British Empire before the Acts of Union in 1800. Following independence in 1922, Dublin became the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

The contest took place under heavy guard at the 15,000 seat Simmonscourt Pavilion of the RDS, which was normally used for agricultural and horse shows.[2] Over 250 armed soldiers and police were on hand to protect against any likely political demonstrations.


Having won the year before, Ireland hosted the 1981 contest – the second time they had done so. As in 1971, the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest was produced by the country's broadcaster RTÉ. 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, which she spoke with some ease.[3] The director was Ian McGarry, while Noel Kelehan was the chief conductor for the show.

It cost RTÉ over £300,000 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.[4] The RDS would go on to host the next Irish Eurovision production in 1988.


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.[5]

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.[6][7]

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.


The voting proved to be memorable for its closeness. The UK won by four points, but leading up to this, 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. 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 scorekeeping, giving host country Ireland 310 extra points instead of the 10 designated by the Luxembourg jury. Also of note, 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. Also during the final vote, Turkey's nine points suddenly disappeared from the scoreboard.


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."[8] 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.[9]

Following this year's contest, France withdrew from competing the following year, with the broadcaster announcing that the songs were "a monument to drivel".[10] 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.[11] 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.[12][13][14]

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.[15]

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 up to (and including) 2018 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.[16] This claim however ignores the fact that the BBC did not host the 1981 Contest.


Each performance had a conductor who maestro the orchestra. Host conductor in bold.

Returning artists

Artist Country Previous year(s)
Marty Brem  Austria 1980 (part of Blue Danube)
Tommy Seebach  Denmark 1979
Maxi (part of Sheeba)  Ireland 1973
Jean-Claude Pascal  Luxembourg 1961 (winner)
Björn Skifs  Sweden 1978
Peter, Sue and Marc   Switzerland 1971, 1976, 1979
Cheryl Baker (part of Bucks Fizz)  United Kingdom 1978 (part of Co-Co)


Draw Country Artist Song Language[17] 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" Bosnian 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 structure

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

Austria 2061562
Turkey 9135
Germany 13251238827812364712105812
Luxembourg 411053431465
Israel 568467784543
Denmark 4111743252124
Yugoslavia 35482152310
Finland 2721255156
France 125121212724106451103871210
Spain 38106431032
Netherlands 51353472767232
Ireland 105736101012565101101217
Norway 0
United Kingdom 136484512101037812103686488
Portugal 981
Belgium 40171682375
Greece 55626110128667
Cyprus 69536887107123
Switzerland 121227841212104112121284101
Sweden 50102571126241
The table is ordered by appearance

12 points

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

N.ContestantVoting nation
5SwitzerlandFinland, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia
4 FranceAustria, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland
GermanyPortugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey
2 IrelandCyprus, Denmark
United KingdomNetherlands, Israel
1 CyprusGreece





National jury members

  •  Turkey – Süheyla Aldoğan, Hidayet Yarken, Hatice Akbaş, Lüftiye Duman, Nebiye Yazıcı, Nesrin Demirel, Sami Ersoy, Mehmet Kuteş, Mustafa Ekinci, Cengiz Doğan, Ali Arslan[43]
  •  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)[44]
  •  United KingdomNorman Harper


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  2. "Eurovision Song Contest 1981 at RDS Simmonscourt (Dublin) on 4 Apr 1981".
  3. "Sunday Times – Doireann Ni Bhriain, Keeping the faith
  4. “No Sax please, We're Irish!”, David Wigg, Daily Express, 4 April 1981
  5. "ESCToday – 1981".
  6. "Ceolas: Planxty".
  7. Irish chart database – search "Planxty" Archived 2009-06-03 at WebCite
  8. “Reprise”, Ultan Macken, RTÉ Guide 24 April 1981
  9. “Fizz Kids” Brian Wesley, Daily Star, 6 April 1981
  10. Eurovision 1982 (in French)
  11. "A Brief History of the Eurovision Song Contest". 11 May 2007 via
  12. New Zealand charts
  13. Australian Chart Book, 1970–1992
  14. Currin, Brian. "South African Rock Lists Website – SA Charts 1965–1989 Acts (B)".
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  18. Austrian commentator Archived October 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. Masson, Christian. "1981 – Dublin".
  20. Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. Serbia President (OGAE Serbia)
  22. Klub OGAE Slovenija
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  24. Masson, Christian. "1981 – Dublin".
  25. "Spanish commentator". Archived from the original on 2012-03-17.
  26. "Welkom op de website van Eurovision Artists".
  27. Archived November 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  28. "Grand Final: 1981, 1981, Eurovision Song Contest". BBC.
  29. Adriaens, Manu & Loeckx-Van Cauwenberge, Joken. Blijven kiken!. Lannoo, Belgium. 2003 ISBN 90-209-5274-9
  30. Masson, Christian. "1981 – Dublin".
  31. "Η Μακώ Γεωργιάδου και η EUROVISION (1970–1986) - Retromaniax".
  32. Savvidis, Christos (OGAE Cyprus)
  33. Swedish commentator Archived July 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  34. Archived October 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  35. Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  36. Yugoslavian spokesperson Archived April 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  37. "Selostajat ja taustalaulajat läpi vuosien? • Viisukuppila".
  38. "Spanish spokesperson".
  39. "Artiesten op Songfestival, Leidse Courant, 4 April 1981
  40. Dyrseth, Seppo (OGAE Norway)
  41. Baumann, Peter Ramón (OGAE Switzerland)
  42. Swedish spokesmen Archived July 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  43. Yarışmacı ülkeler ve halk jürisi, Milliyet, 4 April 1981
  44. "Free Web Hosting – Your Website need to be migrated". Free Web Hosting.
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