Eurovision: The Yorkshire Dales village that produced two pop stars

James Newman Photo: BMG/Victor FrankowskiJames Newman Photo: BMG/Victor Frankowski
James Newman Photo: BMG/Victor Frankowski | Freelance
It had a population of only 231 at the last census, but the Dales village of Stainforth, just north of Settle and to the west of Malham, has become a big noise in the music industry.

The announcement yesterday that the songwriter James Newman will represent Britain at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, doubled at a stroke its tally of international hitmakers.

Newman is the older brother of John Newman, a singer who had a number one single and album in 2013. His sibling – who grew up with him and studied theatre and music at Settle High School – was already a successful musician, having worked with the singers Ed Sheeran and Calvin Harris.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But his next performance will be his biggest and most contentious.

Lindsay Dracass sings  "No Dream Impossible"  in 2001Lindsay Dracass sings  "No Dream Impossible"  in 2001
Lindsay Dracass sings "No Dream Impossible" in 2001

The Eurovision event in May will be the first since Brexit and follows a string of British entries that have proved unpopular with countries opposed to the break-up. Last year’s entrant, Michael Rice, finished in bottom place and suffered the further indignity of having his score lowered by another five points because of a mistake by the organisers.

This year, the BBC abandoned its usual public vote to pick the national entry and handed the choice of singer and song to a record label.

Newman, who will perform My Last Breath, said it was “an honour” to be representing the country.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I wrote it with some of my best friends, who are also amazingly talented songwriters in their own right,” he said. “I knew it was ‘the one’ after first recording it, I just loved the simplicity and universal message of the song.”

He is the first entrant from Yorkshire since Sheffield’s Lindsay Dracass (inset), who as a 16-year-old in 2001, finished 15th with a song called No Dream Impossible.

The Leeds singer Sandra Stevens was part of the quartet Brotherhood of Man, who won the contest in 1976 with Save Your Kisses For Me.

Referring to the two-column scoreboard necessary to accommodate all 26 countries in the Eurovision final, the BBC’s controller of entertainment commissioning, Kate Phillips, said: “Eurovision is all about the song, and as an award-winning singer-songwriter with a proven track record, I know James will do all he can to get us on the left-hand side of the board.

“It’s a very exciting year for the UK.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Despite its poor showings in recent years, Britain qualifies automatically for the final as one of the “big five” nations which contribute the most financially to the European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event.

Newman, who is 32 and entered the music business after taking a Higher National Diploma in the subject at Newcastle, won the Brit award for best British single in 2014 for co-writing Waiting All Night with the band, Rudimental.

His brother, who has spoken in the past about having to survive with his family in the Dales on only a pound a day as a child, said James’ Eurovision performance in Rotterdam would now trigger “an Oasis head-to-head race to the top”.