Shropshire Star

Flashback to 1997: Eurovision winners walk on sunshine

Katrina and the Waves were celebrating after taking the UK to success in the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in 16 years.

Katrina and the Waves celebrate their victory after winning the Eurovision Song Contest at the Point Theatre in Dublin

The song, Love Shine A Light, sung by Katrina and the Waves, went into an early lead in voting after the contest in Dublin and never looked back.

By the halfway stage in voting procedures involving 25 countries it was clear the UK entry was on course for victory.

Ireland, staging the contest for the fourth time in five years after a long run of successes in the event, again scored well but was no match for Katrina and the Waves.

The four-strong group’s win prompted a rare outburst of red, white and blue Union flag waving among the audience at the contest venue, Dublin’s Point Theatre.

There to watch the show, which was also beamed live to an international TV audience of 300 million, were Irish President Mary Robinson and Prime Minister John Bruton.

Terry Wogan with Eurovision Song Contest winners Katrina and the Waves

Unprecedented security measures were activated for the Euro-spectacular by organisers determined to head off any attempt by Northern Ireland loyalist paramilitaries to stage an attack in revenge for recent IRA activity in Britain.

The theatre, a sprawling one-time railway warehouse, was closed for a two-hour period before the start of the contest to allow a detailed search of the building to be carried out.

Katrina Leskanich, the American-born lead singer with group, said minutes after her Eurovision success: “I’m walking on sunshine,” the name of her other big hit.

The Waves, featuring Kimberley Rew and Alex Cooper, had been around since 1975, and Katrina joined in the early 1980s, leading to the group being renamed.

Katrina and the Waves tasted chart-topping success, in 1985, when Walking on Sunshine became the theme tune for a fundraising TV telethon.

The band is named after a novel by Virginia Woolf, a relative of one of the members of the group.

Drummer Cooper’s brother was a volunteer for the Swindon branch of Samaritans, and Rew wrote the song Love Shine a Light to mark the charity’s 30th anniversary.

Katrina later revealed it was members of the Samaritans who suggested it would make a good entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.

“At the last minute, we submitted the song with our £250 fee,” she said.

One of eight songs aired in the Great British Song Contest semi-final broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on February 7, 1997, Love Shine a Light was one of four songs advanced by televote to the Great British Song Contest final.

A live performance final was broadcast by the BBC around a month later where the band was announced as the 1997 UK entrant.

The song had received 69,834 televotes - 11,138 more than the second-place finisher.

Katrina Leskanavich singing the winning entry for the UK at the Point Theatre in Dublin

Katrina said the original plan had been to find another band to perform the song, with Rew reportedly saying there was no way he would have anything to do with the Eurovision performance. In the event, he appeared on stage as guitarist.

In a 2009 interview, Katrina said: “It was such a feel-good, lighters-in-the-air, cheesy number, it would have been embarrassing for it not to win. It had ‘I am a winner’ written all over it.”

The song peaked within the top five of the charts in Austria, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK.

But as with Walking on Sunshine, Love Shine a Light was forgotten almost as quickly as it emerged, and in 1999 Katrina and the Waves broke up. “Our song was quickly forgotten because we didn’t have any sensational gimmick like Bucks Fizz,” said Katrina.

In 2016, the singer visited the West Midlands to headline Wolverhampton's 80s Fun Fest.

She appeared alongside Shropshire’s Carol Decker, of T’Pau; former chart-topper Sonia, who shot to fame with her No 1 hit You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You; and Wolverhampton soul legend Jaki Graham.

In 2017, Katrina was invited to read out the UK’s votes at that year’s Eurovision Song Contest, following in the footsteps of Pointless host Richard Osman and Nigella Lawson with the role.

She said: “I am honoured and delighted to be invited to be the spokesperson for the UK at Eurovision this year.

“It makes it extra special as this year is the 20th anniversary of my win in 1997 with Love Shine A Light," Katrina said at the time.

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