Sian O’Gorman talks about Eurovision, a legendary Irish singer, and her latest novel, Together Forever.
With all the talk of Brexit, whatever side you are on – indeed whatever side of the border you are on – I have to ask the one question that no one seems to have considered. What does all this mean for Eurovision?
In other words, have any of the policy wonks (I love that word), the negotiators, the Michel Barniers, the David Davises of the world given a thought about the finest song contest in the world? Eurovision is a chance for countries to show off their culture, showcase their musical talent and score as many douze points as possible. It’s simple. There’s no negation to be done. You don’t have to meet in a Lowland country to discuss the size of sheep, the shape of bananas or if there should give protected status to Tizer.
Instead, with the Eurovision, it’s down to one night, everyone performs and you either win or you don’t. No long drawn out angst, no bitter divorce. Just a simple we’ve won, you’ve lost. Triumph or failure and yet no one minds, not really. We’re all still friends.
Except… except it’s all for fun. Well, fun-ish. If you’re Johnny Logan, who has won Eurovision more than any other living human (twice as a performer and once as a song writer), it’s not fun. It’s more important than that.
Ireland takes Eurovision very seriously. It always has done, ever since it first sniffed success with Dana’s All Kinds Of Everything and we have won it a grand total of seven times. It’s the one thing we are consistently good at. Sometimes we have entered a singer who we knew wouldn’t win (Donna and Joe, for example) simply because, being a modest country, we were embarrassed at our tremendous Eurovision success. We didn’t want to win every year. It was ours to lose.
And the most successful of all our Eurovision successes is the great Johnny Logan. For the uninitiated, I urge you to go on YouTube and take a look at Johnny, in 1987, singing his winning song Hold Me Now.
Dressed in a white suit, Johnny emotes with a passion that, like another pale-coloured beast, the white rhino, is practically extinct. Johnny owns the song and that stage. At one point, he is practically on his knees with the emotion and watching him now, one can only marvel at this colossus riding the Eurovision wave, like a white-clad Neptune. It’s a master class in how to nail the power ballad.
We’re all too cool to wear white suits these days although it is exactly the right thing for such an occasion. But Johnny doesn’t care about cool. He reminds us that we have all loved and lost. However much we are separated by language, national dress and how much wine is needed to have a good night out.
As Johnny stands sweating and emotional after his performance, the crowd take to their feet, and across Europe billions join together in a resounding DOUZE POINTS POUR IRELANDE! In the clip, you can hear Terry Wogan commentating at the risk of partiality, that sounds like a winner to me.͛ And he was right. Johnny nailed it that night and has continued to nail it, having a successful career in Northern Europe where they aren’t too cool for a white suit and a smorgasbord of cheese.
In my new book, Together Forever, Johnny Logan is a point of reference for one of my characters. Red, a teacher, returns from years in the States, back into a brand new Ireland and reconnects with Tabitha who has married a boring politician. Red doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s happy to sing along to Johnny Logan and happy to sing Let It Go with his pupils. Red represents her past, a time when the world was simpler, when men in white suits could reduce an entire continent into unity, into believing the same thing. Into a belief of harmony, of singing the same song, Albeit in different accents. Red is the exact opposite of Tabitha’s husband who spends most of his time in the European parliament taking himself far too seriously.
Johnny flew the flag for the power ballad. And maybe that’s what’s gone wrong? We stopped taken Eurovision seriously and Europe is crumbling as a result. Maybe we need Johnny Logan and he would make everything all right again.
And as I am Irish, Welsh and British, Brexit matters to me. I don’t want to be fragmented and separate. But maybe we need Johnny Logan to bring us all together again in one big sing-song of togetherness.
When life demands that you make a choice, how do you know you are making the right one? A beautiful family drama, full of love, life and destiny.
Tabitha Thomas gave up on a happy family life with Michael her absent, high-flying husband long ago. Instead she concentrated her energies on their daughter, Rosie, and her career as head teacher at a local primary school. However trouble looms on the horizon …
While Rosie struggles with the most important exams of her life, Tabitha’s eco–warrior mother is protesting outside the school gates to save some trees from the bulldozer. And best friend, Clodagh, a top TV news broadcaster, is self-soothing with Baileys, as she’s edged out of a job by an ambitious flame-haired weathergirl.
Finally, with the return of an old flame and a political expose to deal with, Tabitha is forced to confront a decision she made a long time ago and face the life-changing consequences she has lived with ever since.
Sian O’Gorman was born in Ireland, is an RTE radio producer and lives in the seaside suburb of Dalkey, Dublin with her seven nearly-eight-year-old daughter, Ruby.