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BBC – Dana: The Original Derry Girl (2020)

BBC Dana The Original Derry Girl

In 1970, an 18-year-old schoolgirl left the Bogside in Derry to represent Ireland in the 15th Eurovision Song Contest. What happened that night was to change her life forever.

Dana – The Original Derry Girl is an emotional and honest look back at a girl’s incredible life story, retracing her steps to Amsterdam’s RAI theatre, where, against the odds, she became Ireland’s first Eurovision winner.

At a time when the violent conflict of the Troubles was dominating the news, Rosemary Scallon, better known as Dana, became a national hero overnight.

Studying for her A levels when she won, Dana was totally unprepared for the instant celebrity that followed and she recalls how the whirlwind of sudden success left her feeling lonely and isolated.

The programme looks at the fascinating story of what happened she won the competition, including her successful pop and TV career in the 70s, her marriage to Newry hotelier Damien Scallon, her move to Alabama, her switch to religious music, including performances for the pope, before entering the spotlight of Irish politics.

The highs and lows of her career are laid bare in a revealing, emotional interview. ‘Like in everybody’s life, there are the really hard things that happen. They either crush you completely or they make you stronger and I’m working on that.’ After some difficult years, Dana returned to music, recording a new album in Rome in 2018.

This retrospective is an archive-rich trip down memory lane, with incredible access and an honest, and sometimes raw, look at her incredible career. With contributions from Derry Lindsay, Senator David Norris, Dave Fanning and many others, the programme ends with Dana joining local choirs on stage in the Guildhall Derry, where she performed as a young girl, to take part in a moving version of Derry Lindsay and Jackie Smith’s All Kinds of Everything, the song that won Eurovision.

Asked what advice she would give to her 18-year-old self if she could travel back in time, she pauses and says, ‘Just be kinder to yourself and enjoy it more.’

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