1993: An iconic Eurovision year
If you plan to discover - or revisit - Eurovision contests of the past, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
I faced this issue a few years back and asked long-time fans to suggest a year to watch.
One year came up time and time again: 1993.
After watching and learning more about that year's edition of the contest, it quickly became a favourite of mine.
These are my five reasons why 1993 is an iconic Eurovision year.
1. The first pre-qualification
With 29 countries wanting to participate in Eurovision 1993, a pre-qualification round was introduced for the very first time. 'Kvalifikacija za Millstreet' was held in Ljubljana at the start of April, around six weeks before the contest.
The competing countries had either never participated in the contest before or had not previously competed as nations in their own right (in the case of the countries of the former Yugoslavia).
Each performance featured an orchestra and conductor, and the results were determined by each nation's jury voting in the usual Eurovision format.
Slovenia finished on top ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Croatia taking the third and final spot.
Slovakia's Elán with 'Amnestia na neveru' was desperately unlucky, missing out by just one point. Estonia, Hungary and Romania also failed to qualify.
2. The unique venue
Ireland hosted the contest in Millstreet, a town of just 1,500 in County Cork.
Why this unusual choice? On the night Linda Martin won in 1992, local businessman Noel C. Duggan wrote to Irish broadcaster RTE offering the free use of his Equestrian Centre, the Green Glens Arena, which had a capacity of 8,000.
It took RTE some time to respond but the decision was eventually made to take up the offer (which perhaps proved a wise financial choice since Ireland would go on to win three more times in four years!).
Significant renovations had to be undertaken to ensure the arena met the necessary standards, including excavation works to compensate for the low ceiling height.
Additionally, everyone involved in the show had to stay in Killarney, a 30-minute drive away, as Millstreet itself had no hotels.
Despite the challenges faced, its hosting was deemed a success: the town embraced the contest and received a much-needed economic boost.
3. The powerful debut of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The early 1990s were a period of significant change in Europe. The break-up of Yugoslavia was underway, there was ongoing conflict in the region and the repercussions were felt within Eurovision too.
Following 'Kvalifikacija za Millstreet', three former Yugoslav nations which had recently declared their independence made their debuts.
Although seen as a vehicle to showcase all the new nations to Europe and the world, it was the story of Bosnia and Herzegovina that captured many hearts.
The country had declared independence in 1992, leading to the Bosnian War and the bloody siege of Sarajevo. In order to travel to the contest, the artists had to leave in the middle of the night and sprint across a UN airfield under sniper fire. Although they escaped unharmed, that same night six other people attempting to flee were killed.
The song 'Sva bol svijeta' was performed by the group Fazla and written by the 1999 and 2011 Eurovision contestant Dino Merlin. Its title translates as 'All the Pain in the World' and captured the sombre mood pervading the Balkan conflict.
The performance met with a warm reception and received a standing ovation from many in the hall. It finished 16th on the night, but has gone down in Eurovision history as a perfect expression of the contest's aim of uniting the people of Europe and beyond through music.
4. Barbara Dex
A 19-year-old from Belgium performed in 1993 and she would go on to have a long-standing impact on the contest: Barbara Dex sang 'Iemand als jij', unfortunately finishing in last place.
However, it was her self-made dress that caught the eye of many fans, and In 1997 fan site 'House of Eurovision' established the now much-anticipated annual 'Barbara Dex' award for the worst dressed singer.
Barbara made two further attempts to compete at Eurovision, entering the Belgian national finals in 2004 and 2006 and finishing in 3rd and 5th respectively.
5. The quality music
The quality of entries was high in 1993.
The winning song 'In Your Eyes' is regarded as a classic Eurovision winner and was the first home win since Israel in 1979. In addition, it was this the third highest Irish entry in this year's ESC250 poll, behind 'Hold Me Now' and 'The Voice'.
The runner-up and early favourite 'Better the Devil You Know' by British pop star Sonia charted at no.15 in the UK and became a cult classic.
Add in Canadian Annie Cotton singing 'Moi, tout simplement' for Switzerland , the French-Corsican language entry 'Mama Corsica', Arvingarna (who competed at Melodifestivalen 2019) with 'Eloise' for Sweden, not forgetting 'Vrede' by the Dutch artist Ruth Jacott, and you have just a small taste of the delights that 1993 had to offer.
So if you haven't yet dived into some old contests, we suggest that you watch this year as a great introduction to Eurovision's rich history of song quality and cultural impact.
You can watch the full contest below: