Eurovision 2021: Everything you need to know about the return of the song contest

After a Covid-enforced year off, Eurovision is back! Here's all the information you need to enjoy this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, live on BBC One.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 20 May 2021 - 2.52pm
Graham Norton and the UK Eurovision 2021 presenters team

Eurovision 2021 is nearly here, so it’s time to dig out your Union Jack flag and sparkly clothes for the biggest party of the year.

The world’s biggest music competition returns with 25 countries competing in the 65th Eurovision Song Contest grand final, which will air live on BBC One and BBC Radio 2.

Don’t know your ABBA from your Lordi or your Gina G from your Katrina and the Waves? Here’s our quick bluffer’s guide so you understand what’s happening on Saturday night...

Listen to the UK's five Eurovision-winning songs

From ABBA to Zagreb: Facts and figures from all 64 editions so far

Is there a Eurovision in 2021 and when is it?

The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 grand final take place on Saturday, May 22.

What time does Eurovision 2021 start?

Watch the 65th Eurovision Song Contest on BBC One from 8pm to 11.45pm.

The final and results will also air live on BBC radio 2 with Ken Bruce hosting the coverage from Wogan House.

Where is Eurovision 2021 taking place?

Eurovision 2021 is being broadcast live from Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The Dutch won the last Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2019 with the song Arcade, sung by Duncan Laurence, which took place in Israel.

Last year's contest - also planned for Rotterdam - was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the first time since its debut in 1956 that the contest has not taken place.

Who are the UK's Eurovision presenters and commentators?

Graham Norton BBC
Graham Norton is hosting the UK's coverage of the contest for the 12th time

Graham Norton will be presenting and commentating on Eurovision 2021 for the BBC.

“As the vaccines roll out and we see light at the end of the tunnel, the contest is a great opportunity for people to come together and celebrate,” said Norton.

“It is interesting that even after this difficult year, the songs aren't endless maudlin ballads. It seems the spirit of this Eurovision is one big party!

Talking about this year’s UK act James Newman, Norton said: "James has done a great job with the UK entry this year. Embers is such a striking image for where we are. All the friends and family we haven't seen but the embers are still glowing ready to catch alight once again. Hopefully the Eurovision audience will embrace that idea and the song and we'll do well.”

Norton took over from Terry Wogan as the host of the UK's Eurovision coverage in 2009.

Who will be revealing the scores of the UK jury vote?

Actress, singer and Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden will be taking the reins as the UK’s Eurovision Spokesperson.

She will be delivering the results of the UK professional jury vote live from London.

Who are the Eurovision presenters in Rotterdam?

The Dutch team presenting the Rotterdam Eurovision Song Contest 2021 are Chantal Janzen, Jan Smit, Edsilia Rombley and Nikkie de Jager.

Chantal Janzen is an actress, singer and TV presenter, who appeared in the movie Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

Jan Smit is a multi-talented singer, television host, actor and football director.

Edsilia Rombley is a singer and TV presenter who was in the Dutch girl group Dignity.

Nikkie de Jager is a popular YouTuber and vlogger, who is known for her make-up and beauty videos.

Who is the UK's Eurovision 2021 act?

James Newman - The UK Eurovision act in 2021 BBC
James Newman - The UK Eurovision act in 2021

This year’s UK Eurovision act is singer James Newman, who will be performing the song Embers. Newman had been chosen to represent the UK ahead of last year's planned contest with My Last Breath, so is getting a second shot at Eurovision glory after the 2020 event was cancelled.

The London-based singer is 35, has been nominated for a Grammy and won a Brit Award in 2014 for his single Waiting All Night, and is generally considered to be our best chance of a strong showing in the contest for many years.

Embers was written by Conor Blake, Danny Shah, Tom Hollings and Samuel Brennan.

Talking about the track, James Newman said: “We wrote Embers in North London last year, I really wanted an upbeat song, as I felt like that was what I needed to do for this year.

“One of the sessions was with Conor Blake, Danny Shah, Tom Hollings and Samuel Brennan, who are all doing amazing things in the industry right now. Conor showed me this concept, and it essentially is about the spark being reignited, that glow in the fire that hasn’t gone out yet.

“It represents coming back together after the year we have had and people being reunited with loved ones, and just having fun. It felt so right to me, and I loved the big brass drop.”

When did the UK last win Eurovision?

Katrina and the Waves - The UK's last Eurovision winners in 1997 Getty
Katrina and the Waves - The UK's last Eurovision winners in 1997

The last UK winner of Eurovision was Katrina and the Waves in 1997 with the song Love Shine a Light.

The UK has won the Eurovision Song Contest five times.

Alongside Katrina and the Waves, our other winners were Sandie Shaw (Puppet on a String), Lulu (Boom Bang-a-Bang), Brotherhood of Man (Save Your Kisses for Me) and Bucks Fizz (Making Your Mind Up).

Not only has the UK not won Eurovision for over 20 years, it’s also been over a decade since we last finished in the Top 10. Jade Ewen was the last singer to achieve that feat, finishing fifth in 2009.

Adding to our recent woes, the UK has finished in last place four times in the last 20 years (Jemini, Andy Abraham, Josh Dubovie, Michael Rice). Let’s hope that unfortunate ‘nil points’ fate isn’t waiting for James Newman.

Who won Eurovision 2020?

There was no Eurovision 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2019 Eurovision winner was Duncan Laurence for the Netherlands who wrote and performed Arcade.

Laurence tested positive for coronavirus this week, which means he won't be performing at Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam. The singer has "mild symptoms" and has to isolate for seven days.

Strict safety measures are in place for this year's event, which means it will be safe for this year's performers to play live on the night.

Who are this year’s Eurovision acts, countries and songs?

The 16 acts confirmed after the first semi-final are:

UK Eurovision act: James Newman
Song: Embers

Spain Eurovision act: Blas Cantó
Song: Voy A Quedarme

Israel Eurovision act: Eden Alene
Song: Set Me Free

Russia Eurovision act: Manizha
Song: Russian Woman

Malta Eurovision act: Destin
Song: Je Me Casse

Cyprus Eurovision act: Elena Tsagrinou
Song: El Diablo

Belgium Eurovision act: Hooverphonic
Song: The Wrong Place

Italy Eurovision act: Måneskin
Song: Zitti E Buoni

Germany Eurovision act: Jendrik
Song: I Don’t Feel Hate

France Eurovision act: Barbara Pravi
Song: Voilá

Netherlands Eurovision act: Jeangu Macrooy
Song: Birth of a New Age

Norway Eurovision act: TIX
Song: Fallen Angel

Azerbaijan Eurovision act: Efendi
Song: Mata Hari

Lithuania Eurovision act: The Roop
Song: Discoteque

Sweden Eurovision act: Tusse
Song: Tusse

Ukraine Eurovision act: Go A
Song: Shum

Albania Eurovision Act: Anxhela Peristeri 

Song: Karma

Serbia Eurovision Act:  Hurricane

Song: Loco Loco

Bulgaria Eurovision Act:  VICTORIA

Song: Growing Up Is Getting Old

Moldova Eurovision Act: Natalia Gordienko

Song: Sugar

Portugal Eurovision Act: The Black Mamba

Song: Love Is On My Side

Iceland Eurovision Act: Daði og Gagnamagnið

Song:10 Years

San Marino Eurovision Act: Senhit feat. Flo Rida

Song: Adrenalina

Switzerland Eurovision Act: Gjon’s Tears

Song: Tout l’univers

Greece Eurovision Act: Stefania

Song: Last Dance

Finland Eurovision Act: Blind Channel

Song: Dark Side

How does Eurovision voting work? 

After all the songs have been performed, each country awards two sets of scores to their 10 favourite acts, with 12 points going to the favourite, 10 to the second best and 8-1 to the rest of the top 10. One score comes from the votes of the viewers at home, while the other comes from a jury of professionals.

You can’t vote for your own country.

After all the votes have been cast, a spokesperson from each country will reveal the jury points awarded.

Once all the jury points have been revealed, the viewer votes will then be added to the scores to reveal the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.

The result of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest will be determined by a 50/50 vote. 50% of the votes come from the televoting in each participating country, and the other 50% from each country's jury's decision. 

What are the Eurovision rules?

Each country chooses an act and song, which can be a maximum of 3 minutes long and must not have been released before.

20 countries qualify for the grand final from semi-finals which take place earlier in the week. They join the host country and the ‘Big 5’ - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom - who all qualify automatically for the grand final.

In the grand final, 26 acts must sing live, but must not have live instruments.

What is the Eurovision prize?

The Eurovision winners get the iconic glass microphone trophy and the chance to perform again at the end of the show.

The winner will also earn their country the chance to host the contest the following year.

Why are Ireland not in Eurovision 2021?

Ireland’s Eurovision 2021 act Lesley Roy failed to qualify for the grand final and was eliminated in the first semi-final on Tuesday May 18.

Although Ireland still hold the record for the most Eurovision wins (with seven), they have a dreadful recent record, failing to qualify for six of the last seven finals.

Australia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia were also eliminated in the first semi-final.

Who are the most successful Eurovision act of all time?

Eurovision's most successful act are Sweden's 1974 winners ABBA Getty
ABBA - The 1974 Eurovision winners with 'Waterloo'

ABBA are the most famous Eurovision winners. The Swedish pop act won in 1974 with Waterloo and went on to enjoy phenomenal chart success all over the world over the course of the next decade.

Other noteworthy Eurovision winners have included Lulu, Brotherhood of Man, Celine Dion, Conchita Wurst, Mans Zelmerlow and Dana International.

Who is the most successful Eurovision country of all time?

Ireland is the most successful country at Eurovision with seven wins.

Sweden has won the contest six times, while Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have won five times.

What is the Eurovision theme music?

Every edition of the Eurovision Song Contest begins with the familiar strains of the Prelude of Te Deum by French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. 

Charpentier wrote the piece in the late 17th century, but the manuscript was lost for 250 years until 1953, when it was rediscovered by French musicologist Carl de Nys in the National Library of Paris.

It was soon recorded and when the newly founded European Broadcasting Union was looking for a theme to introduce its continent-wide broadcasts, it chose Charpentier's triumphant fanfare.

Almost 70 years on Te Deum is still used by the EBU, and while the organisation does broadcast other events, the 300-year-old hymn has become known as the Eurovision theme tune. 

Why do the big 5 automatically qualify for Eurovision?

The Big Five (formerly Big Four) are the  countries who make the biggest financial contribution to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

The Big 5 are:

1. UK

2. France

3. Italy (Since 2011)

4. Spain

5. Germany 

A rule was created in 2000, which meant the Big Five all automatically got a spot in the Eurovision final, regardless of previous performances.

They also don't have to qualify through the live semi-finals.

Why is Australia in Eurovision?

Australia first took part in the Eurovision in 2015, the 60th Eurovision Song Contest. 

It was planned as a one-off event, but they have continued to take part and are signed up until 2023.

Other countries outside of Europe who have taken part in Eurovision include Israel - who have won it four times - and Morocco, who took part in 1980.

Israel take part as they are part of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Watch the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, May 22 at 8pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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