Eurovision: Ireland's Brooke Scullion prepares for semi-final

By Paul Lawlor
BBC News NI

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Brooke ScullionImage source, Ruth Medjber
Image caption,
Brooke Scullion is preparing for her semi-final performance on Thursday night

Brooke Scullion took to the stage on Thursday night to perform for Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest semi-final in Italy.

For the Bellaghy native, it was a chance to sing in front of millions - with the added hope that her song, That's Rich, can get through to Sunday's final.

Unfortunately it wasn't to be, as she failed to land a spot in Saturday's grand final.

Earlier, as she made her final preparations for the most important performance of her career, she reflected on her experience.

"It's such a big opportunity for me," she said.

"It's insane, it's absolutely crazy. I am prepared and I know exactly what I'm doing, but it's also the unknown."

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Brooke, 23, has had a packed schedule of rehearsals in Turin, the competition's host city and, most importantly, promoted the song to audiences across Europe.

Image source, EBU
Image caption,
Brooke at the turquoise carpet Eurovision launch in Turin

The song has been well received by Eurovision fans.

On one music streaming platform, it has reached two million listens, which places it in the top 20 most listened Eurovision tracks of 2022.

"People are so shocked that Ireland has sent this song in; they're so pleased," she said.

"There really wasn't a negative thing said at all and I'm so surprised by that because, usually, I'm mentally preparing myself for a mixed response."

Image caption,
People in Bellaghy have thrown their weight behind the singer

Her performance reached millions, and tuning in with their fingers crossed were those living in the small village of Bellaghy, where Brooke said the reaction has been incredible.

Her picture can be seen on numerous banners throughout the town as residents get behind her.

"Mummy said people are so excited, people are getting emotional coming up to her because they've known me my whole life," she said.

"To see me get so far, everyone is so proud of me and I feel all of that."

Two people who are arguably the proudest are her parents, Tracey and Mark.

'Very scary surroundings'

They were at Turin's Pala Alpitour arena to see her perform, but admited ahead of her performance that there would be some nerves.

"I am so proud and regardless of what happens she has just blown it out of the park, she has really done so well," Tracey told BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster before setting off for Italy.

"It's lovely to see your child be able to be that happy and content in what could be very scary surroundings for some - but she's taken it in her stride.

"I hope I can enjoy it and not feel so nervous because I think it will be spectacular to just sit and enjoy it and let it sink in."

Image caption,
Proud parents Tracey and Mark are in Turin for the event

Growing up in Bellaghy was where Brooke first watched Eurovision as a child - she said she remembered thinking: "How on earth can someone get into that TV and perform for their country?"

She added: "I was itching, I wanted to do it so bad."

As Brooke pursued her music dream, she worked as an estate agent, taking Wednesdays off to write music.

In 2020, she got to the final of ITV's The Voice UK.

At her old school, St Patrick's College in Maghera, the staff and pupils are really proud of her achievements.

"She was always going to be a star," principal Brenda Mussen said.

"She just had that larger-than-life presence. She was so talented, so unbelievably talented."

The original Derry girl

There are obvious parallels with another famous singer from Northern Ireland who went on to win Eurovision.

Dana Rosemary Scallon helped Ireland win its first title in 1970 and the country has since won the competition a record seven times.

With such a strong track record to live up to, Dana has become a source of advice and support for Brooke.

"She rang me before I came here and said: 'You're going up against people representing whole countries, you're going up against the best of the best here. Don't be putting too much pressure on yourself.'

"She says to focus on your own performance because once you start looking at other people you lose sight of what's really important.

"She's been really key in my approach to this," she added.

Image source, EBU
Image caption,
Brooke Scullion rehearsing for her semi-final performance

So what can fans expect from Brooke's performance on Thursday?

"Lots of movement, dancing, fun, energy, sass and fireworks," she said.

For the singer, just getting to the final on Saturday would be a victory for her.

"I really hope people can get behind me, get behind Ireland and get behind the song," said Brooke.

The first semi-final on Tuesday saw 10 acts make it through to the final, including Ukraine's folk-rap entry Kalush Orchestra.

The country is favourite to win, with support for the group swelling since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

This also led to Russia being banned from competing.

Watch the second Eurovision Semi-Final on BBC iPlayer from Thursday 12 May at 20:00 BST.

Watch the Eurovision Song Contest Final on BBC iPlayer and BBC One, at 20:00 BST on Saturday 14 May.