Probus Learns About Behind The Scenes Of The Eurovision Song Contest

Speaker Gordon Lewis with President David Wickens

Over the years watching the Eurovision Song Competition you probably wondered about the voting pattern of various countries. Gordon Lewis, the speaker at the latest meeting of the Probus Club of Basingstoke, knows that your suspicions are correct. The winning song being voted on by all the countries, is influenced by politics of the day and PR pressure through parties held at the highest social level.

And Gordon Lewis knows what he is talking about because as a journalist he had attended eight Eurovision Song Competitions over the years and had seen these influences at first hand.

Song festivals had long existed in Europe – for example the film The Sound of Music showed the situation in Austria in the late 1930s. After the conclusion of WW2, the European Broadcasting Union was set up in Switzerland to facilitate cooperation between European countries. At their 1950 AGM, held in Torquay, it was considered that a song festival to find the best song in Europe would help relationships. Current technology prevented this idea progressing until 1953 when the BBC succeeded in broadcasting the Coronation to our neighbouring countries of the Republic of Ireland, northern France and the low countries.

Advances in technology meant that in 1956 the first Eurovision Song Competition was held in Lugano, Switzerland. Seven countries took part but was it a coincidence that the winner was the host country where the headquarters of the European Broadcast Union had been established to bring harmony to viewers? The UK joined the song competition in 1957 but did not win until 1967 when the barefoot Sandie Shaw sang Puppet on a String.

Other UK winners came in 1969 when Lulu’s Boom Bang-a-Bang shared first place with three other countries,1976 had The Brotherhood of Man with Save your Kisses For Me, and in1981 by Bucks Fizz and Making Your Mind Up.

The speaker gave many examples of how countries vote for the top award of douze points. Greece always supported Cyprus claiming to be because of a common language but in 1999 the free choice of language meant that many songs are sung in English. Geographical and historical connections are logical as seen between Norway and Sweden and commercial interests as seen between Russia and Azerbaijan due gas and oil. UK and Ireland used to support each other but this has not been evidenced in recent years.

The dreaded nul points will always be the case between Serbia and Slovenia because the latter country was the first to break away from the old Yugoslavia which led to the Balkan disaster. Armenia will not support Azerbaijan because of a border dispute and France does not support UK for a variety of reasons perhaps going back to the Hundred Years’ War. 2003 saw UK receiving nul points because of anger in EU that Britain had entered the Iraq war. Georgia will not vote for Russia because of their invasion and eventual withdrawal but was forced out of the 2009 competition because their song was about shooting President Putin of Russia.

Direct political influence happened when General Franco needed to boost the tourist trade to Spanish beaches and enlisted the assistance of President Tito of Yugoslavia. Cliff Richard singing Congratulations was the clear favourite but was beaten by one point by Spain’s entry La La La that contained 120 repeats of the title. There is little merit in the winning song, which was instantly forgettable, but the political end of increasing tourism to the Spanish costas was met.

Circumstances can also influence the result. In 1974 France backed out because it was the funeral of President Pompidou. The Italian entry had been favourite to win but those countries expected to support the French entry then had to vote for another song. The unlikely winners from Sweden was a group named ABBA with the song Waterloo. The rest, as they say, is history.

Swedish group ABBA winning the 1974 contest
Pear Carr & Teddy Johnson in 1959

Such political influence goes back a long way to 1959 when married couple Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson sang the UK entry Sing Little Birdie Sing. Teddy was at a bar when he overheard Italy and the Netherlands agreeing not to vote for the UK entry. This, you will recall, was a song contest with the aim of bringing countries together.

Katrina & The Waves in 1997

UK last won in 1997 with the song Love Shine A Light by Katrina and the Waves. While the backing group, the Waves were British, Katrina is American. She came to live in England as a child when her father was stationed here in the US Airforce.

In recent years some non-European countries have been allowed to participate: Israel and Australia being examples. This is because they are full members of the European Broadcasting Union which allows their entry. New Zealand are upset because their associate membership fails to permit their entry which means they lose the ability to promote their country to the watching millions.

In 2022 the competition will be hosted in the Italian city of Turin. No doubt the same influencing and politicking will continue unabated – after all the Eurovision Song Competition would not be the same without it.

Publicity in January 2022

Publicity in the local magazines for January has always been sparse – mainly because most of the magazines have a combined December/January edition. The only magazines these days that have a specific January edition, since the closure of Popley Matters and the Chineham Chat, are the Kempshott Kourier, the Link (Oakley and surrounds) and the Basinga (Old Basing).

All three carried our report about the visit to the Brooklands Transport Museum.

Probus Christmas Lunch 15 December 2021

For a change, it was a Christmas lunch this year, held at the Test Valley Golf Club.

President, David Wickens, welcomed members and wives/partners/friends to the occasion that was, again, superbly organised by Alan and Liliane May. They also produced all the printed items so necessary to ensure everyone received their correct choices for lunch and had been creative in developing a Christmas themed quiz that occupied minds during the meal.

Their concept of the raffle was different this time that ensured all couples received a prize.

David Wickens made a presentation to Alan and Liliane in appreciation of their hard work that was supported by applause by all present.

The entertainment was different to reflect the time of day with singer Serena Lin in the background with a medley of tunes that resonated with most attendees.

Thanks are due to Chris Perkins for being the happy snapper.

Publicity in December 2021

With no major events to report before the copy dates of the local magazines it was a case of creating something to say if our publicity efforts were to be maintained within their December/January editions.

The Remembrance Sunday parade to the war memorial outside of Basingstoke’s civic offices had our President, David Wickens, laying a wreath on behalf of our club, and Paul Miller was there in a civic capacity as the deputy mayor.

After that it was a matter of talking about the upcoming visit to Brooklands Motor Museum and the Christmas lunch due on Wednesday 15 December.

Four magazines and the Basinga Extra web site carried this news and the Loddon Valley Link and the CommunityAd magazine for Overton, Oakley and Kempshott ran the story about Douglas Bader’s leg.

January will be a quiet month as only the Link (Oakley) and the Basinga publish in January.

David Carwardine – a Service of Thanksgiving

Past Presidents Paul Flint and Chris Perkins MVO attended the service of thanksgiving for David Carwardine on Friday 10th December, following a family cremation held earlier that morning. It was held in Sutton Benger near Chippenham in Wiltshire close to where David and his wife, Betty, had moved to live in a retirement village to be close to his sons.

David had been a loyal and active member of the Probus Club of Basingstoke, serving as President in 1996/97. One of the changes he introduced was the Summer Pub lunch which has continued without break, except last year due to Covid restrictions.

While most of us knew of his background as the director and head of engineering at Lansing Bagnall and then his time as a Director of the British Institute of Management he was rightly proud of his father’s invention of the angle poise lamp. A sample was displayed at the service along with David’s photograph and flowers.

There are always things learned at funerals and for us it was that David had been a keen glider pilot and that he had a love of travelling that he has passed on to his two sons and granddaughters.

David’s ashes will be interred in a family plot in Bath.

Probus Visit to Brooklands Transport Museum

When the sat nav announced that we had reached our destination something told me it was not true. We were down a broad private road that went around a bend to somewhere. From out of a shed in the middle of the road emerged a lady to explain, in a well-rehearsed manner, not only to myself but I think to the other six cars behind me, that this was not the entrance to the Brooklands Museum. Her redirection instructions worked because in a few minutes we drove around the rear of Mercedes World to the car park outside of Brooklands.

Chris Perkins, our Probus Club of Basingstoke outings organiser had carried out a recce and had prepaid our entrance tickets, so we gained admittance speedily. There were supposed to be fourteen of us consisting of members and spouses in our party, but winter colds had taken out a couple but the rest of us headed off eager to explore this famous site.

Each building told a different story about the evolution of Brooklands as the base for a range of competitive speed trials of both cars and motorcycles all supported by uniformed volunteers happy to provide information about the charges under their watchful gaze. Some readers will have seen the regular broadcasts on the Yesterday television channel about the work of the volunteers who bring some of the vehicles back to life. What was surprising to learn going into one of the first buildings was that the racetrack was also used for cycle racing for many years with many early bicycles on display.

The range of British made motorcycles exhibited brought back memories of my youth, but many were from decades well before my involvement with motorised two wheels. A couple of Brough Superiors, one with a sidecar, with the rig in immaculate condition, that made me wonder what its value today would be. They were known as the Rolls Royce of motorcycles with each one personally built to the owner’s specification and was the first super bike in the world guaranteed to exceed 100 mph.

In the 1970s I lived in a house built in the grounds of the home that had been owned by George Brough, in Nottingham. I remember seeing photographs of Lawrence of Arabia on a Brough Superior outside the front door. The house was known as Pendine after a Brough Superior won the world speed record in 1936 at over 163 mph on Pendine Sands in south Wales.

1904 Humber motorcycle

Other motorcycles were from long past manufacturers that had developed into car production and then failed in the latter part of the 20th century. Humber being a classic example, with the company starting as bicycle manufacturers, moving into motorcycles – a beautifully restored Humber 1904 motorcycle was displayed – and then into car production.

British Formula 1 Race cars

Brooklands being the home of the first British Grand Prix motor race in 1926 there was an extensive display of GP Formula 1 cars from British teams over recent years including an electric McLaren race car. A GP car was set up for visitors to experience a simulator drive around the original Brooklands circuit.

McLaren electric race car

In a separate building McLaren showed two of their Senna GTR road cars as well as a life-sized model made from 280,000 Lego bricks.

The Lego McLaren
Siddeley 1904 Veteren Car Club Member

The early cars were a sight to behold from London to Brighton veteran run models, Austin Sevens and MGs up to a 24 litre Napier-Railton. Many had been holders of world speed records driven by famous names that resonated from down the years. But it was the condition that these cars exhibited that drew the admiration of visitors. Volunteers were seen going about in a dusting party to keep them looking bright and shiny.

Napier-Railton 24 Litres

Most of us had an image in our minds that Brooklands was known for early motor racing with its famous banked racing track but what was set out before our gaze was a myriad of buildings of various shapes and sizes from those early years as well as aircraft hangers. While it was common knowledge that there was a Concorde on site, considered in my mind, mistakenly as it turned out, that it was just an attraction, what became clear was that Brooklands had been the centre for the serious manufacturer of aeroplanes for many decades.

WW2 Vickers Wellington Bomber

At its height over 14,000 people were employed on site. During wartime aircraft production this was the main manufacturing site for Hawker Hurricanes, whose claim to fame was that they shot down more enemy aircraft than Spitfires. Vickers Wellington bombers were manufactured here using a skeleton construction for the airframe covered in fabric that aided speedy production. There was even a small exhibit that demonstrated how a range of bombs could be selected for specific raids and a practical demonstration how the bomb aimer released his load.

Naturally such a site became a target during war time hostilities and the Luftwaffe tragically killed 90 people in one bombing raid. A memorial listing their names can be seen at the edge of the racetrack.

The range of aircraft on display extended from pioneers of the earliest flights including a replica of the first to traverse the Atlantic taking 16 hours through First World War Sopwith Camels and early twin engined bombers to Tornado modern fighter jets. A Wellington bomber that crashed into Loch Ness during the 1940s had been rebuilt following its recovery.

BAC Tornado

Outside a Vickers Viscount and BAC One-Eleven were on site testament to the range of civil aircraft that continued to be designed and produced here until 1986.

Being a winter weekday, the London Transport Museum was not open, very disappointing to bus enthusiasts, but the Concorde was available to visit for an additional cost of £6. Programmed visits ensured that everyone had sufficient time on board to gain some sense of what it was like to travel in such exclusivity. One member recalled his trip from New York to Heathrow, when at Mach 2 he was allowed to visit the cockpit whilst drinking Grand Marnier. Something never permitted in any aircraft these days.

 A dry, clear, cold day, interspersed with visits to the Sunbeam café situated in the original Clubhouse, for coffee and a late lunch was considered by all in our party, including the ladies, to be a visit that we shall all remember fondly. One member stating very positively that he will take his grandchildren when they visit from abroad.

Around the banked bend at Brooklands on an electric scooter

As many will remember from the Nick Park Aardman Animations television films about characters made from Plasticine, the main man, Wallace, voiced by the late Peter Sallis, always said to his dog at the end of each adventure “A grand day out Gromit” And so it was.

Probus Publicity in November 2021

No doubt having the Mayor, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, as our guest of honour at the October meeting as well as the speaker Jeff Evans on his subject of TV quiz shows proved to be a winning combination in gaining the interest of the local magazines.

The exception continues to be the Loddon Valley Link where the new rotating editor has yet to have any interest in what our Probus Club is up to in maintaining the interest of our members. Their December/January edition is being edited by the experienced Jane Abrams, who has been known to feature some of our reports.

The Chineham Chat ‘blog’ seems to have stopped adding new reports; their last one was in August. So far my contact has not responded to my enquiries.

The national Probus magazine is poised for a come back in the New Year and our upcoming visit to the Brooklands Transport museum later in November might prove of sufficient interest to be included, always provided there are some interesting photographs.

Mayor is Guest of Honour

The Worshipful the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC Cllr Onnalee Cubitt with Probus President David Wickens
Speaker Jeff Evans with Probus President David Wickens

The Probus Club of Basingstoke was honoured to receive a visit from the Worshipful the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, joining the members for lunch at their regular meeting at the Test Valley Golf Club.

Cllr Cubitt told of her background in charity fund raising starting as a seventeen-year-old, encouraging Basingstoke businesses to make small financial contributions to support her work as a volunteer in Sri Lanka. With a business degree she entered the world of high finance working several years for Standard Chartered Bank, then tried her hand at estate agency, which she did not like, although her company car proved very beneficial for getting about in London being a black cab. These days she and her husband have a building business specialising in renovation work across north Hampshire and Berkshire.

With ambitions to be a Member of Parliament she applied to join David Cameron’s list of potential candidates but was told that she could not progress as she had no political experience. Consequently, local politics beckoned standing initially in the Basingstoke Norden ward where she was beaten soundly by the incumbent councillor. Then an opportunity arose in the Basing ward where she has been their representative for many years.

Probus President, David Wickens, presented Cllr Cubitt with a cheque for her selected charity appeal, the Community Furniture Trust and Friends of St Michael’s Hospice.

Before lunch members had been entertained by speaker Jeoff Evans who traced the changing role of TV quiz shows over the years. Starting in 1938 with mental challenges, when TV returned in 1946 there was an updated version which was a trans-Atlantic quiz where London based panellists had a radio connection with participants in New York.

American TV, being commercial, attracted large audiences with quiz programmes that had large value prizes, but the BBC’s charter would not allow it to follow suit and although they continued with quiz shows the prizes were either very modest or even non-existent. Shows like What’s My Line and Brain of Britain then had to compete with the introduction, in 1955, of Independent Television who had Double Your Money, hosted by Hughie Green and Take Your Pick with Michael Miles. Trying to emulate the famous American quiz, The 64,000 Dollar Question, Hughie Green ran a show called The Sky’s The Limit with the top prize being 64,000 sixpences.

American audiences like big winners but shows ran into trouble when it became known that some contestants were fed the answers to ensure that they kept winning. The American Congress became involved setting regulations to overcome such dishonesty which had an influence on UK television which then set a limit of £1,000 on each quiz show. The BBC then progressed with quizzes that had intellectual challenges but no monetary prize and had University Challenge, hosted for many years by Bamber Gascoigne, Six Form Challenge, Top of The Form, Ask the Family with Robert Robinson and then in 1972, Mastermind hosted by Magnus Magnusson. The show’s format was based on the interrogation of prisoners of war in a darkened room with a spot light – still used to this day.

1971 saw Sale of The Century, from Norwich, with Nicholas Parsons, The Golden Shot on Sunday afternoons with Bob Monkhouse, Jim Bowen with Bull’s Eye and in 1980 the BBC introduced The Question of Sport.

The prize limit was raised to £6,000 in the 1990s and by 1996 all prize limits were removed. This eventually led to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire which had struggled to get acceptance by various TV companies as they thought that showing four possible answers would make it too easy to win. 2009 saw The Chase, hosted from the start by Bradley Walsh, and now Beat The Chaser.

The speaker had been a contestant on Mastermind, Egg Heads and several others, and these days is a quiz question writer. Perhaps a role reversal of being today the game keeper and not the poacher.

Probus Back To Normal

This is the first “not lockdowned” report on our publicity in the local magazines for October. They all ran with the story of our AGM and back to normal activities and within the Kempshott Kourier we had a full page advertisement seeking new members. Because of being quarterly the CommunityAd magazine for Old Basing & Lychpit  ran a double page spread about the Douglas Bader story of replacing one of his prosthetic legs when a PoW.

Probus Back to Normal Activities with 41st Annual General Meeting

It was with a sense of demonstrable relief that after twenty months since their last face to face business meeting that life is getting back to normal for the Probus Club of Basingstoke. The Club has continued unabated since its foundation in 1979 and it was time for a much-delayed 41st Annual General Meeting. Covid restrictions delayed the AGM from the traditional June until 14th September and it was held at the Test Valley Golf club, the normal venue for Probus monthly meetings.

David Wickens receiving the President’s chain of office from retiring President Richard Wood

Because Covid also made it impossible to hold the AGM in June 2020 the Executive Committee had continued in office for a second year. This time there was a change at the top with David Wickens (a retired engineering sales manager) taking over as President from Richard Wood (a retired Chartered engineer).

New President David Wickens will Continue as the Speaker Secretary

The other committee members, who range from a nuclear scientist, a solicitor, a small business owner, a civil engineer and two RAF officers have specific responsibilities and were happy to continue in post for another nine months until June 2022. This ensures that their experiences are paramount in successfully returning to normal operations as a social club for retired Professional and Business managers as per the acronym of the name the Probus Club.

Although Probus Clubs now extend throughout the English-speaking world, with most UK towns having one or two Probus Clubs, the organisation was founded in Caterham, Surrey, in 1965 for retired managers who wanted to remain socially active. With no central office each club sets its own rules while following the basic tenet that likeminded men from all branches of society enjoy meeting for lunch with an attendant interesting speaker. Other opportunities exist to include wives for visits to interesting places throughout the year.

Their October meeting will have as its guest of Honour the Worshipful the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt.