How it all began
In the 1950’s was Europe torn apart by war. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) set up a meeting to search for ways to bring the people of Europe back together. They decided the countries needed a “light entertainment programme” that would reunite them. In January 1955 the EBU proposed to hold an international song contest where all members of the union could participate. This song contest was based on the Italian “Festival di Sanremo” or the “Sanremo Music Festival”. The concept, named “Eurovision Grand Prix”, was approved on 19 October 1955. The first edition would take place in spring 1956.
That first contest was held in Lugano, Switzerland on 24 May 1956. The Teatro Kursaal was chosen as the venue. Only seven countries participated, each competing with two songs. The contest was presented by Lohengrin Filipello in Italian and lasted approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The song contest was meant to be a radio programme, although there were several cameras that filmed the competition for the few people in Europe who already owned a tv by that time. But in a still unknown way, no copies of that evening have survived. The only exception is the reprise of the winning song. On the other hand, the audio tape is still undamaged.
“Refrain” was the winning song of the first Eurovision Song Contest. It was performed by Lys Assia, representing the hosting country Switzerland. The 32-year old also sang the other Swiss entry that night. The scores were not announced, so we’ll never know who came in second or third.