THE BLOG
23/03/2015 18:21 GMT | Updated 30/12/2015 03:59 GMT

My Real Thoughts on Eurovision

THAT song.

Time goes by. Things change. People change.

I have always been outspoken. Less so nowadays.

In an effort for young artists to gain from my experience, I always tell them to be careful what they say in public because it will come back and bite you. And we change.

My relationship with Eurovision has always been ambivalent. There were so many bad memories as well as good ones associated with it. I suppose you could call it bittersweet. Particularly as the BBC of the time presented their cold face of moral rectitude in censuring me for being named in the divorce case of someone I believed I was engaged to and who turned out to already have a wife. Rolf Harris, his manager, his director and the BBC conspired to have me removed from his TV show in which I was presenting the six Eurovision songs to the viewers. They did not want me to harm his reputation as a family entertainer. I had to film it secretly with no audience. It was incredibly humiliating. Knowing what we all know now but I knew then, I found this hypocrisy, as a 19-year-old minor, very hard to understand.

It has taken me some time to make sense of the experience and during that time my feelings have somersaulted all over the place. The gist of the song chosen underlined my feelings of helplessness, manipulation and exploitation and was really hard to bear. To sing it to a jaunty oompah arrangement only added to my shame.

When I first started my career 50 years ago I had no conception of lifelong fame and fortune. I just loved singing and the opportunity to do what the boy bands were doing. I think I was a budding feminist. I chose my songs carefully, often rewriting the lyrics to empower other young girls my age. I was aware I was seen as a role model. Puppet on A String was the first song chosen for me by others. It was the antithesis of everything I was endeavoring to do in my work... It just wasn't 'me' either in style or content. Certainly not the liberated young Sixties girl I was trying to become.

On the other hand the song was perfect material to bring countries together. That combined with the support of all my fans from all over Europe meant there would be a fair non partisan vote. I decided to put on a brave face and give it my best.

On the way to Vienna no-one from the BBC or Rolf Harris's team spoke to me. Leading up to the competition neither my manager nor any part of her team was talking to me either. Only my mum and dad were there to help me through it - and the audience and the press. It was a huge responsibility to carry. I was barely out of my teens.

In those days it was a very special prestigious honour to be asked to represent Great Britain in this way. The original purpose of the Eurovision was to create cultural exchange between European countries to help heal the wounds of two world wars we had fought with and amongst each other. It has saddened me to see it degenerate from such a noble intention into a joke where the BBC often present it as a chance to take the mickey out of other nations and for a lot of countries to vote in a partisan way. This is not the intention or spirit of the event. It is to celebrate and support our differences and discover what we have in common - in a fun and entertaining way. That is why over the years I have tried to distance myself professionally from it. And I have at times been unkind about the song whilst trying to come to terms with all the associations round it.

However I was 'cured' in 2000 by my good friend Howard Jones who re-arranged it into an entirely new version recorded for the Millennium. Which I love. Since then I have happily included it in my live set right up to my recent retirement from live singing. I even included it in my Long Live Love CD compilation in 2012. We call it New Puppet.

On reflection I believe I was suffering from clinical depression during this early period in my life. I can thank my work ethic and a deep personal desire to survive, for not just getting me through it but for having victory over my fears and self doubt. I discovered I could transcend my personal feelings of worthlessness by concentrating on representing all the hopes of people in Great Britain. Less of 'me' and more of 'we'. I gave it my all. Doesn't it show in the joy of my face despite the heartache and confusion inside?

Although this particular experience was unique to me, I am also aware that I am not alone in the experience of struggling to feel of value when all around us seems to conspire to make us feel worthless. It is a common challenge for a lot of women. But it is surmountable. We can overcome it. We can bring out our soft power. It has been a life long process for me. You win some you lose some. As long as you maintain 51% victory you are winning.

I feel an enormous sense of gratitude to everyone who was part of that experience in Vienna - the writers, the BBC, the public whose overwhelming support has buoyed me up over so many years. It has given me the opportunity to learn so much about human nature, myself, true triumph. It has proved a priceless lesson in life.

That is why I offered to be part of the contest this year in Vienna. Where it all started.

I just wanted to share it.