35 years ago: Looking back at Harrogate 1982 with host Jan Leeming
Posted 17 March, 2017, 16:00
Next month it will be 35 years since the Eurovision Song Contest was hosted in Harrogate in the United Kingdom. Jan Leeming presented the contest that year following Buck Fizz's victory in Dublin in 1981 with Making Your Mind Up. We caught up with Jan, who recently returned to British TV screens in The Real Marigold Hotel.
The BBC surprised everyone when they decided that the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest would be held in Harrogate, Yorkshire. The city was largely unknown to international viewers, something that was not lost on the BBC. The opening sequence of the show included the question "Where is Harrogate" in the languages of the participating countries.
The host for the evening was Jan Leeming, one of the best-known newsreaders at the time. When asked how Eurovision came about Jan thinks it was a case of right time, right place. "I am not actually sure how it happened. Perhaps it was because I was presenting the news and was one of the few female presenters on TV. My agent at the time was a personal friend of Bill Cotton, a former executive at the BBC, maybe that helped!"
Jan recalls that learning the script in French was one of the more difficult aspects of presenting the contest. "My French is better now but far from fluent and the cameras were too far away to be able to use autocue". Jan's favourite memory from Harrogate was when Terry Wogan reprimanded the Swedish spokesman after he thought he was flirting with Jan!
When asked if she has any advice for Oleksandr Skichko, Volodymyr Ostapchuk, and Timur Miroshnychenko, hosts of the 2017 contest, Jan replies with typical honesty. "The show has changed so much that I would hesitate to offer any advice to someone from a completely different generation."
Does Jan have a favourite Eurovision entry? "Not really although I do have a soft spot for the winner in 1982, Ein Biβchen Frieden performed by Nicole." During the winning reprise, Nicole sang the song in four languages: German, English, French and Dutch. In Germany over 13 million people watched Nicole's victory on television and her winning song became a hit all over Europe.
Reflecting on the contest, Jan said: "I was an honour to present a show seen by hundreds of millions of viewers, Eurovision is fun." These days Jan is an ambassador for a travel company that caters for single people and those who prefer to travel alone. "I love putting presentations together for talks and hope I transfer my enthusiasm to those of us who find ourselves single at a later stage in life."