The BBC’s Eurovision Series Producer, Lee Smithurst, has confirmed in an interview with The Euro Trip podcast that he expects an announcement regarding the plans for the UK at Eurovision 2021 to be made “early next year”. James Newman, who was due to represent the UK in Rotterdam this year, has yet to be confirmed for next year despite sparking speculation of a return in August.
He also talked about the BBC’s move away from the “You Decide” national final format, following the UK’s last-place finish at Eurovision 2019 with Michael Rice’s “Bigger Than Us”. This year, the BBC teamed up with record label BMG to select James Newman as the UK’s representative.
“Tight-lipped” for now
Speaking on the podcast, Lee Smithurst revealed that he had to remain “tight-lipped” about whether or not James Newman would return to represent the UK in 2021. However, he did say that an announcement should be made at the start of the new year.
The BBC are currently working on plans of how to scale down their on-site team for Rotterdam which usually consists of the delegation as well as presenters and crew from BBC One, BBC Four, BBC Radio 2 and the BBC News channel. They are also in talks about how to record the “live-on-tape” performance required for the contest, which will be very “interesting to try and do in the midst of everything else”.
Despite teaming up with BMG this year, it’s currently unknown whether the BBC will work with the record label again in 2021, however Smithurst did mention how working with a record label attracts more interest than a broadcaster alone, saying that an artist can get more support after the contest from a record label.
We need someone actually engaged in the competition… [BBC Studios] can’t nurture them afterwards.– Lee Smithurst, speaking to The Euro Trip
A catalyst for change
He also revealed that the BBC have been exploring new ways to “attract bigger artists”, similar to the Netherlands’ approach since Anouk’s success in 2013. This is partly due to the UK finishing last for the fourth time in Tel Aviv last year.
An internal selection, Smithurst revealed, allows the UK to “attract the best British songwriters, and the best British talent”, who want to make a name for themselves, unlike Blue and Bonnie Tyler who wanted to promote their album via Eurovision.
It’s more about the songs you can attract. It’s a bit like what happened with [Nobody But You] in 2018 – it was in the British selection but when Austria said that they would have it in an internal selection… of course you would put it in the Austrian selection.– Lee Smithurst, speaking to The Euro Trip
With no long-term plan for the UK in Eurovision, he revealed there is an effort to get back on the left-hand side to “re-establish” that we can do well. In the event that the UK won the contest, no venue has yet been decided and no plan is in place.
When asked who his dream artist for the UK would be, Smithurst said that he would like to see “someone who is representing the current British music scene”, like Dua Lipa or MNEK.
James Newman at the Eurovision Song Contest
The BBC chose James Newman to represent the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 with the song “My Last Breath”. James has expressed hopes to represent the country in 2021, but the BBC has been quiet about the choice for 2021.
Do you hope that James Newman will return in 2021? Do you think the UK can return to the left-hand side of the leaderboard?
Let us know in the comments below and on social media @ESCXTRA.