Music

Bellaghy's Brooke Scullion hopes to put Ireland back on the Eurovision map

Jenny Lee chats to Co Derry Eurovision hopeful Brooke Scullion ahead of her appearance in the competition on Thursday. She talks about her Bellaghy supporters, designing her own outfits, what happened when she left her passport on the plane, Dana's words of advice and her thoughts about being in the room when Ukraine perform...

Brooke Scullion, on stage in Turin during rehearsals for the semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest Picture: EBU/Nathan Reinds

THE Assembly election may be over, but Bellaghy singer Brooke Scullion is counting on viewers across the north to vote this Thursday and help restore Eurovision glory to Ireland.

The 23-year-old is flying the flag for Ireland as she performs her upbeat dance song That's Rich at PalaOlimpico in Turin.

She has already set the stage alight during rehearsals, with exploding pyrotechnics complementing her performance of That's Rich.

"We have lots of rehearsals. It's about getting familiar with camera angles. You forget there's an audience in the stadium as well as a massive audience in front of the cameras," says Brooke, who first found fame after taking part in the ninth series of The Voice UK in 2020.

After getting all four judges to turn around during her Blind Audition, she joined Meghan Trainor's team, finishing third in the grand final.

Earlier this year Brooke was chosen to represent Ireland at Eurovision 2022 after winning The Late Late Show's Eurosong 2022, receiving maximum points from the international jury and the public vote.

"The Late Late was like primary school, I'm graduating at this stage," laughs the bubbly 23-year-old.

Brooke Scullion and her back-up dancers rehearse on stage in Turin ahead of the semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest Picture by EBU /Nathan Reinds

Joined by her team of four dancers, Brooke will be sporting an electric blue ensemble that included hot pants and a chiffon overskirt.

"I designed the whole costume," she enthuses. "I did think about getting an Irish designer but it turned out that I knew exactly what I wanted and put my own fingerprint on it.

"The outfit is very inspired by my childhood heroes The Powerpuff Girls. I chose a bold colour because I wanted it to jump out of the screen as on those big stages you can get lost.

"The Voice was all orchestrated for me - it wasn't my decisions. This is the first time I've been creative director of the whole thing and I'm proud to say it was my baby."

So, will we be seeing Brooke put out a fashion label next? "I'll maybe drop a line with H&M..." she ponders.

Ireland is currently the most successful country to have participated in The Eurovision Song Contest, winning a total of seven times.

But since 2000 they have only qualified for the final six out of a possible 13 times, with Ireland's last top 10 result coming in 2011 when Jedward finished eighth.

Brooke will be performing 10th in the second semi-final on May 12 in Turin in-between Cyprus and North Macedonia and is hopeful of qualifying for the main Eurovision on Saturday May 14.

"Eurovision was massive when I was growing up. I feel like that has faded in the past few years, so hopefully with me being local I will get the north on board to vote for me and get Ireland into the final."

Last Sunday Brooke got a huge send-off, with a party at her local, The Tap House in Bellaghy, and is aware of the support for her both in Turin and back home.

"It's not every day you get the opportunity to represent your country in a world-renowned competition. Everyone is so proud and I really, really feel that. My whole family are going over - the whole shebang, my aunts, uncles, cousins, grannys and even my little nieces, who will be turning one in Italy.

"Singing in bars was how I got my way through uni. I will never forget where I came from," adds the former drama student.

Brooke Scullion performing That's Rich on The Late Late Show

Also rooting for Brooke is her former camogie team, Wolfe Tones GAC in Bellaghy. "They are buzzing. I hung up my boots two years ago. I almost broke every bone in my body - my knee, my collarbone, my skull, fingers and nose. It was a thrilling ride for as long as it lasted, but it's not for me now."

Brooke is grateful for the support of Derry native Dana, who won the competition in 1970.

"Dana first contacted me before the Late Late Eurosong. This random number came up on my phone and I couldn't believe it was Dana.

"Ahead of the semi-final she told me you need to focus on yourself and not compare yourself to others, as everyone representing their country at this level is going to be amazing.

"So I've been thinking of it more as meeting friends and getting free concerts, instead of getting nervous about taking part in the biggest singing competition in the world."

Brooke has already had a taste of what is to come this week in Turin, by being part of Eurovision European Party Tour, performing in a number of European capitals, including London, Munich, Madrid, Israel and a very eventful visit to Barcelona.

"I was so excited to land in Barcelona that I left my passport on the plane. The airline would not let me back on to get it, so I was stuck in the police station for hours.

"There were rumours that Ireland had snubbed the red carpet, but in reality I was in jail. It was a tough one and it made me grow up," adds Brooke, who has already formed firm friendships with a number of the other Eurovision contestants.

"I'm going to be sleeping on a lot of sofas in different countries," says Brooke, acknowledging that with the Ukraine war, this Eurovision will be a poignant event.

"Ukraine has a great song and I hope they do well. It will be emotional to be in the same room when they perform."

Penned in Christmas 2020, but re-worked for Eurovision, That's Rich is a break-up song inspired sonically by the likes of Blondie and Avril Lavigne.

Brooke Scullion will be hoping to emulate her success of winning The Late Late Show Eurosong Special when she takes to the Eurovision stage in Turin

With a message of female empowerment, Brooke laughs off the fact it's about a former boyfriend.

"It's more generic, it's about five different people. When I wrote the song I wasn't even in that headspace - I wanted to be that person. Now I'm in the happiest position I've ever been, and that message is exactly who I am right now," beams a confident Brooke.

That's Rich arrives a year after Italian rockers Måneskin upset the odds and made Eurovision cool again.

"Mine is not a typical Eurovision song, but the competition is evolving. The lines are becoming more and more blurred between chart songs and Eurovision songs - it just opens the door to a lot more artists."

And what's next for Brooke?

"I've been thinking what's next for the past two years and I've got an EP mastered ready to go. It's the same kind of era, but a different vibe. The next single will be another dance song, but there are a lot more emotive songs on there that I wrote during the pandemic."

The second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on RTÉ 2 this Thursday, May 12, at 8pm. The final will then be shown on Saturday May 14 at 8pm on RTÉ One.

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