Eurovision Song Contest 2021: Everything you need to know

The world’s biggest music competition finally returns for the first time in two years next week.


Words: Alastair James 

The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the world’s longest-running and most-watched non-sporting events, and after the pandemic put kaput on plans for the 2020 competition in Rotterdam, we’ve been missing it!

This year, we’re looking forward to a more traditional show - though with a few key changes. Here’s what you need to know heading into the semi-finals…

Where and when is it taking place?

The Netherlands is hosting the 65th Eurovision Song Contest at the Ahoy arena in Rotterdam. They're hosting after Duncan Lawrence won the 2019 competition with the song ‘Arcade’. He will open the first semi-final show. 

The semi-finals will take place on Tuesday 18th and Thursday 20th at 8pm BST. The Grand Final will be on Saturday 22nd at 8pm BST.

Chantal Janzen, Jan Smit, Edsilia Rombley and former Attitude Award winner Nikkie de Jager (NikkieTutorials) will return as presenters in Rotterdam, while Graham Norton will return to front the BBC's coverage in the UK.

Who will be taking part?

39 countries will be taking part. 10 acts from each semi-final will make it through to the Grand Final.

The so-called 'Big Five' countries (the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France, Italy) gain automatic access to the Final. The Netherlands, as host, also has automatic qualification to the Grand Final.

UK viewers will be able to vote during Thursday’s second semi-final.

Who’s the UK entry?

The UK will be represented by the multi-platinum selling, BRIT Award-winning and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Newman with his single ‘Embers’.
James was selected to represent the UK at last year’s competition. He told the broadcaster he was proud of the previous entry ‘My Last Breath’ (not very pandemic appropriate – it was written before Ms. Rona was a thing) but that he wanted to write “something more positive”.

Speaking to the BBC in March, James said he wanted to write something "fun and upbeat" to mark his return to the competition.

Where can I watch it?

The semi-finals will be broadcast live on BBC Four at 8pm on Tuesday and Thursday, and it will be available on the BBC iPlayer.

The broadcast will be hosted by BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills and presenter Ryan Clark-Neal.

Scott Mills says it will be the “perfect tonic” to the last year. “It is essentially the Olympics meets The X Factor. The scale of Eurovision is ridiculous! It is World Cup level, and that’s no exaggeration!”

Ryan Clark-Neal added; “It feels so great to be back. We were all gutted last year when the contest had to be cancelled but completely understood that safety is paramount. This year we need double the fun!”

Joining the team for the semi-finals will be Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Chelcee Grimes. She’s written for the likes of Dua Lipa, Kesha and Kylie Minogue (so probably knows a thing or two about what makes a good bop!)

“I am super excited! I remember watching when I was younger, so to go from being a fan, to being a part of the show is surreal! It’s the world cup for music, it is the one day of the year when everyone gets together and celebrates, and it’s always a good time.”

Of course, TV legend Graham Norton will return to host the Grand Final live from Rotterdam on Saturday 22nd on BBC One. We’re sure there’ll be plenty of his sharp and witty observations.

Meanwhile, Amanda Holden will be awarding points from the professional jury vote from London.

For all the latest news and information in the lead up to the semi-finals, follow BBC Eurovision on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Plus visit bbc.co.uk/eurovision for further information.