Skip to main content

Recalling the 50th anniversary of the 1963 contest

23 March 2013 at 02:00 CET

Although France had won the 1962 edition of Europe's Favourite Tv Show, for the third time in just five years, it was announced in October 1962 that the BBC would stage the 1963 contest at its recently opened  BBC TV Centre.

Despite being officially opened in June 1960, the building wasn't entirely complete by the time of 1963 contest. The largest studio in Europe, known as TC1 wouldn't actually be finished until April, 1964, so it was studios TC3 and TC4 that would be mainly used for the event. A third studio, TC5, would be used to accommodate the United Kingdom jury.

TC3 and TC4 were virtually identical in size, but due to the acoustics, TC4 was more suited to light entertainment programmes, and was used for all the performances, whilst TC3 housed the scoreboard and the audience.

The draw was undertaken much earlier than in previous contests, so that artists drawn later in the running order wouldn't have to be present for all three days of rehearsals. Therefore on the 26th November, 1962, presenter Katie Boyle made the draw for the running order. Once again the United Kingdom were drawn first on home territory, just as they had been in 1960.


Rehearsals began on Thursday the 21st March, with each artist in the first half of the draw having a 55 minute rehearsal with the orchestra, which comprised some 45 musicians.

For the only time in the history of the contest, the sound was taken by boom microphones. Len Shorey, who was the sound supervisor on the contest, explained in the book Songs For Europe - The United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest, "we had a few problems. I think it was the Monacan girl who had a voice you could hardly hear, so it was all done in close proximity to the microphone. The other problem was separation from the orchestra, which was in the same room. Looking back at it, the technology we had was very limited."

The programme was expected to be seen by some 50 million viewers, and was broadcast in all the participating countries, as well as Portugal.

For the first time, it was planned to feature what have since become known as 'postcards' between the songs. It was going to be 30" sketches featuring the popular puppet pig characters of  Pinky and Perky. Although these postcards were filmed  and recorded in a studio in Manchester for use in the contest, and had been featured in pre-publicity, the idea was dropped shortly before transmission.

Watch Nana Mouskouri in the 1963 contest

The 1963 contest featured several artists who were, or would become internationally known, such as Françoise Hardy for Monaco, Alain Barrière for France, Esther Ofarim for Switzerland and Nana Mouskouri who represented Luxembourg with the song A Force De Prier, she later made a guest appearance at the contest in 2006, when it was staged in her native Greece.

Memorable voting

The most controversial part of the evening was to come during the voting sequence. There was a slight variation on the system that was used in the 1962 contest, when juries had ranked their top three songs, this was expanded in the 1963 contest, where juries had to rank their top five songs, with 5 points to the top song, down to 1 point for their fifth placed song.

For the first time, the juries voted in the same order as the songs were presented, in previous years they had voted in reverse order. All had being going fine until the Norwegian jury were called in, who raced through their announcements, awarding the United Kingdom 5 points, Italy 4, Switzerland 3, Denmark 2 and Germany 1. When they were asked to repeat their votes, they requested to come back later.

With the technology set up in the Eurovision link, it meant that Norway would now have to wait until all the other juries had voted.

The contest was an extremely tight affair, with Denmark and Switzerland battling it out, and Italy keeping in close contention throughout. By the time Luxembourg had voted, the scoreboard showed Switzerland with 42 votes, and Denmark with 40 votes. Then Norway were called back, and this time they awarded United Kingdom 5 points, Denmark 4, Italy 3, Germany 2 and Switzerland 1. This now meant that it was Denmark who topped the voting with 42 votes and Switzerland second with 40 votes.

Although it gave the impression that the Norwegian jury had cheated, subsequent investigations appear to have vindicated them and confirmed that their final votes as announced were correct.

The Grand Prix was therefore won by Denmark, for the first time, with the song Dansevise, performed by the husband and wife team of Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann.

BBC TV Centre itself will close at the end of this month. It will be redeveloped into offices, flats and a cinema, though the studios TC1, TC2 and TC3 will be retained and leased out to the BBC and other production companies from 2015.