Tuesday 23 January 2018

Millstreet relives the magic of Eurovision '93

town to host a nostalgic celebration of an extraordinary coup 20 years ago

Eurovison 93
Eurovison 93

John Tarrant

THIS day 21 years ago (May 9), Linda Martin won the Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland with her offering 'Why Me'. Before she'd completed her encore on the Malmo stage, Noel C Duggan's far seeing vision had already set out his stall for one extraordinary coup as he sketched his initial draft plan on the back of an envelope to bring the 1993 Eurovision to Millstreet.

The rest is history and on Eurovision night 2013, Saturday, May 18, Millstreet will remember a remarkable week 20 years ago when the town hosts a 'Eurovision Tea Party' in the Green Glens Complex.

Amongst the attendance will be 1993 victor Niamh Kavanagh, whose dramatic late rally required a maximum 12 points from the Malta jury to sensationally deny the United Kingdom.

That set the night for rapturous celebrations in Millstreet, with Taoiseach Albert Reynolds leaping to his feet to congratulate Noel D Duggan as the 3,000 strong attendance burst into a chorus of Óle, Óle following Niamh Kavanagh's win with the song 'In Your Eyes'.

The champagne corks rightly popped, not just celebrating Ireland's triumph but also toasting Millstreet's accomplishment - an achievement of excellence that capped a fairytale success story.

Having secured the position to host Eurovision, Milllstreet underwent a massive transformation to ultimately become the centre of the TV universe. It took all of six months to improve the infrastructure of the town and prepare for one of the world's largest entertainment events.

Current community council chairman Noel Buckley spoke of the importance of acknowledging the success of the 1993 Eurovision.

"Noel C Duggan sought the event and got it. Some people were sceptical about the staging but Millstreet proved it was up to the mark," said Cllr Buckley. "However, it has been spoken about during the intervening 20 years and will be long remembered into the future. We look forward to saluting the 20th anniversary."

In the lead-up to the 1993 Eurovision, the magnificent Green Glens Arena met with all the specifications required. With no supporting pillars that would interrupt viewing, the venue, when fully equipped, made it ideal for a television presentation.

The sense of pride and joy in the area to be granted Eurovision came from a knowledge that the anonymity of the North Cork town would be gone as greetings from all over Europe would make it famous.

Behind the scenes, local groups and individuals harnessed their energies and experience to focus on the mammoth staging.

"All organisations got involved, the community council, headed by Dr Michael Feeley, co-ordinated a steering group and sub-committees. It took huge work but it all proved worthwhile and ultimately some occasion emerged," said Cllr. Buckley.

Co-ordinating the workings of eight sub-committees in the steering group was Chairman Dr. Feeley and Secretary Ken Brennan with Ray Cawley filling the position of co-ordinator.

The jigsaw in terms of preparation got into place with a 'Euro Bureau' sited in the town square to process public and media enquiries. Elsewhere, groups focused on finance, publicity, accommodation, entertainment, tidy towns, car parking and security, linguists and county council liason.

Business and dwellers got into the spirit of Eurovision with the colours of participating countries ensuring a mardi gras atmosphere for Eurovision week that brought thousands into the town to sample the atmosphere and attend concerts, fashion shows, dress rehearsals, fringe events and outdoor entertainment.

On Eurovision night, the Green Glens became the world's largest TV studio. It involved 60 miles of cabling while 11 cameras beamed the pictures to Dublin and transferred to a satellite over the African equator to rebeam the action to Europe.

A throng of 3,000 created a memorable atmosphere in the Green Glens in the company of a 600-strong press corps. Taking up their seats included a small army of VIPS of 1993 Ireland from Taoiseach Albert Reynolds to ministers Michael D Higgins, Charlie McCreevey, Maire Geoghan Quinn, Joe Walsh, FG leader John Bruton and former Taoiseach Jack Lynch.

Other luminaries sampling the wonderful occasion were Terry Wogan, Pat Kenny, Joe Duffy, Gerry Ryan, Dave Fanning, Larry Gogan, Marty Whelan, Marian Finucane to Johnny Logan and Linda Martin.

On stage, the Millstreet event added a new dimension through the participation of new countries such as Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia to show political upheaval could be put aside.

Twenty years on, Millstreet Community Council are going down memory lane, re-creating the magic of the Eurovision Song Contest in a special get together on Saturday, May 18.

"We've got the opportunity to bring Niamh Kavanagh along to meet the Millstreet people, relive the memories and have one night of a party," said Cllr. Buckley.

The special Eurovision Tea Party promises to be quite an occasion. Tickets must be prebooked and patrons can enjoy a wine reception, a recital from Millstreet Pipe Band, memorabilia and recordings from the great staging along with entertainment by Niamh Kavanagh and Edmond O'Gorman and Pacific Blue.

Further details are available from Margaret Bourke 086-3658406, Mairéad Daly 087-9031475 or tickets can be purchased from Millstreet Credit Union.


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