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The British act who finally bought Eurovision glory to UK

The UK was left in shock last night after the nation came in second place at the Eurovision final, with viewers across Europe collectively blown away by Sam Ryder’s incredible rendition of his song Space Man.

The TikTok star, 32, from Maldon in Essex, brought glory to the nation as he stormed to the top of the leaderboard after the jury vote with 283 points, and earned an extra 183 points from the public, putting them in second place with 466 – the nation’s highest place for more than two decades.

But before he shot to recent fame, Sam, who was born Sam Robinson, ran a vegan juice bar with his long-term girlfriend Lois Gaskin-Barber, 30, he was described as an ‘entrepreneurial hippy’ so laid back ‘he’s horizontal’.

He was chosen to represent the country after shooting to fame online on TikTok, particularly during Covid lockdowns, where his covers of hits by artists including Queen, Blondie, and Adele have being viewed by hundreds of millions.

He now has more than 12 million followers and 101 million likes, including from pop stars Justin Bieber and Sia. 

The UK was left in shock last night after the nation came in second place at the Eurovision final, with viewers across Europe collectively blown away by Sam Ryder’s incredible rendition of his song Space Man

Before he shot to recent fame, Sam, who was born Sam Robinson, ran a vegan juice bar with his long-term girlfriend Lois Gaskin-Barber, 30, he was described as an ‘entrepreneurial hippy’ so laid back ‘he’s horizontal’ (left and right)

Before he shot to recent fame, Sam, who was born Sam Robinson, ran a vegan juice bar with his long-term girlfriend Lois Gaskin-Barber, 30, he was described as an ‘entrepreneurial hippy’ so laid back ‘he’s horizontal’ (left and right)

Before he shot to recent fame, Sam, who was born Sam Robinson, ran a vegan juice bar with his long-term girlfriend Lois Gaskin-Barber, 30, he was described as an ‘entrepreneurial hippy’ so laid back ‘he’s horizontal’ (left and right) 

Sam, pictured hitting the slopes on a ski holiday, has more than 12 million followers and 101 million likes, including from pop stars Justin Bieber and Sia on TikTok

Sam, pictured hitting the slopes on a ski holiday, has more than 12 million followers and 101 million likes, including from pop stars Justin Bieber and Sia on TikTok

Sam attended the St John Payne Catholic School in Chelmsford, Essex between 2000 and 2007, where his passion for singing began.

His musical awakening occurred in his early teens when after a trip to a nunnery he discovered an album of English heavy metal band Iron Maiden. 

After seeing rock band Sum 41 perform in concert when he was just 11, he was inspired to pursue a career in music. 

He told MTV: ‘Me and my friends went to see Sum 41 when we were in year 7 and that really fired us up. We wrote a ‘10 step plan to getting signed’ in the back of our science books and everything!’ 

Sam, pictured singing on social media, was selected to compete for the UK in a collaboration between the BBC and global music management company TaP Music, which has counted Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding among its clients

Sam, pictured singing on social media, was selected to compete for the UK in a collaboration between the BBC and global music management company TaP Music, which has counted Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding among its clients

Sam was chosen to represent the country after shooting to fame online on TikTok, particularly during Covid lockdowns, where his covers of hits have being viewed by hundreds of millions

Sam was chosen to represent the country after shooting to fame online on TikTok, particularly during Covid lockdowns, where his covers of hits have being viewed by hundreds of millions 

Until a couple of years ago, he and Lois were the proprietors of the Lone Wolves Organic juice bar in the Essex market town of Coggeshall

The long-term couple live together in Essex

Until a couple of years ago, he and Lois were the proprietors of the Lone Wolves Organic juice bar in the Essex market town of Coggeshall, noted for its 300 listed buildings and antique trade. They lived nearby in Essex.

Meanwhile he was inspired to learn how to play the guitar after the Finnish rock band Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006.

Jemma Coleman Head of Year 7 and Design Technology at St John Payne Catholic School and Sam’s former teacher, previously told EssexLive he was a ‘likeable and cheeky young man’.

She said: ‘My colleague and I used to help organise the school talent shows and musical events and we remember him also from his band – The Morning After – although not all the members were from our school. 

‘This is not a sketch!’: Graham Norton pokes fun at the UK’s second place Eurovision success and ‘what is happening’ starts trending… as the nation shares collective shock after YEARS of ‘nul points’ 

Graham Norton has hilariously poked fun at the UK’s after the nation came in second place at the Eurovision final, while viewers frantically took to social media to share their collective shock.

Ukraine clinched victory at the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday after winning a stomping 439 points from the public tele-vote, giving them a grand total of 631, with the UK coming in closely behind.

Britain had stormed to the top of the leaderboard after the jury vote with 283 points, and earned an extra 183 points from the public, putting them in second place with 466 – the nation’s highest place for more than two decades.

Despite the UK’s poor Eurovision history in recent years, Sam Ryder, 32, amazingly broke the trend with his popular performance of Space Man, bucking the ‘nil point’ trend.

And Graham Norton couldn’t help but express his surprise as he humorously insisted that it was ‘not a glitch’ or a ‘sketch’ as the UK kept creeping up the leaderboard.

Responding to his success during the final at Turin’s PalaOlimpico arena, Sam gushed: ‘Thank you so much… there’s so much gratitude sitting around in this green room… what an experience.’ 

And viewers were equally as shocked by the UK’s popularity, as ‘what is happening’ quickly began trending on Twitter as the tension increased during scoring.

One person tweeted: ‘I love the fact that WHAT IS HAPPENING is trending because the whole of the UK is collectively losing their minds about us not being complete pariahs in #Eurovision.’

Another wrote: ‘FRANCE GAVE THE UK 12 POINTS? WHAT IS HAPPENING?! IS EVERYONE OK? #Eurovision’

Despite the UK’s success, it was Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra who took home the crown after moving viewers with their poignant performance of Stefania amid the war in the country.

The group – made up of rapper Oleh Psiuk, Ihor Didenchuk, Vlad Kurochka, Tymofii Muzychuk and Oleksandr Slobodianyk – wowed with their performance, which merged rap with folk and featured breakdancing, flutes and bold ensembles.

After taking to the stage, they thanked everyone for supporting their country amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

After they were revealed as the champions and performed the song for a second time, they said: ‘Thank you, thank you so much.’

They had been given special permission to travel to Italy, as men their age are currently fighting for their country back home.

The band said of the song, which is a tribute to mothers: ‘We’re showing off our roots, and we’re showing how to take something from the past and make it work for the present.

‘That’s why we’ve found success at home, and we hope that we can find that sort of reception internationally, as well. We take something old, and we make it sound modern.’ 

‘We recall going to watch the band perform in Chelmsford High Street as part of a charity event for The J’s Hospice. Even then he was developing into a great showman.’

 Before he shot to recent fame, Ryder repeatedly posted the phrase ‘anticontestcreativity’ on social media, suggesting a certain disapproval of artistic competitions.

Until a couple of years ago, he and Lois were the proprietors of the Lone Wolves Organic juice bar in the Essex market town of Coggeshall, noted for its 300 listed buildings and antique trade. They lived nearby in Essex.

After having a ‘lifestyle change’ in 2015, the pair opened the vegan juice bar in 2017, which the couple ran for two years before closing in 2019.

Although their juice bar has now become the Café Bijou, the new occupants have kept the bar, tiling and woodwork that Ryder’s builder father Keith installed for his son.

Café Bijou owner Lucy Long, 37, said: ‘Sam owned Lone Wolves Organic, which was the most incredible vegan juice bar.

‘He and Lois were here a while – two years probably – but spent a lot of time surfing. Often we would turn up and they would have a surf board in the window to say they were away.

‘They’d never tell you when they were going, they’d just stick a sign up saying “gone surfing”.

‘They were a pair of hippies. With Sam you always felt as if you were among friends. He is horizontal that man, he is so chilled.’

She added that Sam would sing all day while serving juice to his customers ‘One day Elton John, the next Little Mix’.

Former customer Richard Muller, 57, a bio-pharmaceuticals consultant with fond memories of the juice bar said: ‘He was a very multi-faceted person who could not only sing but could cook, do photography, videography and surfing.

‘He was so laid back and chilled, if a plane crashed outside his shop, he would just have made a few extra juices in case people came in.

‘They were hippies, but they were always planning how to make money, and bloody hard working. They loved to travel.

‘If they went surfing in a particular country they would also try to find rocks and shells to make jewellery, or perform at a local bar.’

In fact, girlfriend Miss Gaskin-Barber sells the jewellery she makes online under the brand name Lone Wolves Creative.

If she made any earrings or pendants using rocks and shells in Hawaii, a favourite destination for the surfing couple, she will have had to be careful – as it is illegal to take items from the beach for commercial use.’ 

He first captured the public’s attention when he sang Britney Spears’ (Hit Me) Baby One More Time ‘as high as I could’ in his mum’s kitchen, as a bit of fun. 

Sam was selected to compete for the UK in a collaboration between the BBC and global music management company TaP Music, which has counted Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding among its clients.

Ahead of the contest, the talent boss who helped lead the search for the UK entry said Sam Ryder ‘totally fits the Eurovision message’ and will showcase ‘authenticity’ when he took to the stage.

TaP Music co-founder Ed Millett said he felt ‘confident’ Ryder could succeed in Turin, Italy, where the grand final is due to take place on Saturday night.

Mr Millett said: ‘The thing that was always impressive about Sam was that not only was he an incredible singer and had a great song, but he had this magic balance of being very warm and approachable – someone who was a joy to work with, and somebody who likes spreading joy.

‘As a personality, he fits totally the Eurovision message. I don’t know if you saw the other day, he did the press conference after the rehearsal. And he just, like, nailed it.

‘Because he’s doing this for genuine reasons. It’s not a strategic career move that is full of cynicism. He genuinely loves it. He had been covering Eurovision songs before.

‘So there’s an authenticity to where he’s coming from, how he feels about the competition, what his worldview is, and how he sees the competition within that.’

Mr Millett said that historically part of the problem in the UK had been a ‘lack of investment’.

‘This show is a big extravaganza and the production in the studio is phenomenal if you’ve got the resources to take advantage of that,’ he added.

‘That again was part of the conversation. If Sam is going to be the entrant, are you, as the label, going to invest properly in a showstopping TV performance? Because the staging is as much a part of it as the song.

‘The BBC upped their budget and the label have really stepped up. And I think the budget this time is 10 times what it was last year. So fingers crossed.

‘We brought in some really amazing people on the production side to help craft a great performance and that is all going to stand in good stead.

‘So yes, I feel confident, I feel proud of all the work that Sam has done, and that everybody’s fully embraced it and is going for it.’

Mr Millett said that during the selection process his team looked at new and established artists, and even considered creating a supergroup of well-known British acts.

Sam's girlfriend Miss Gaskin-Barber, pictured posing with longterm boyfriend Sam, sells the jewellery she makes online under the brand name Lone Wolves Creative

Sam’s girlfriend Miss Gaskin-Barber, pictured posing with longterm boyfriend Sam, sells the jewellery she makes online under the brand name Lone Wolves Creative

Before Eurovision fame, Sam ran a vegan juice bar with his long-term girlfriend which has now closed

The Lone Wolf cafe sold a variety of organic plant based foods including pastries and salads

Before Eurovision fame, Sam ran a vegan juice bar with his long-term girlfriend which has now closed, but sold a variety of organic plant based foods including pastries and salads 

Explaining why TaP Music took on the project, he said: ‘Part of the thing was we wanted to represent the modern, pro-European, friendly, diverse country that the UK is. We felt strongly that that isn’t perhaps what had been happening.

‘The UK globally punches well above its weight in terms of pop music and (if you) follow that path, why wouldn’t we be doing well in this competition?

‘It’s a song competition and we have some of the best pop music in the world.’

Ahead of the competition, Sam confessed: ‘My personal goal for this is to sing with the same intention that I always sing with, and then come away with the joy that it has given me.’ 

And Sam ended up bringing the UK into second place – the highest place for the nation in more than two decades – with  ‘Space Man’ scoring a whopping 466 points.

Viewers across Europe were blown away by Sam Ryder's incredible rendition of his song Space Man at the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy last night

Viewers across Europe were blown away by Sam Ryder’s incredible rendition of his song Space Man at the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy last night 

The TikTok star has changed the UK’s run of bad luck after scoring nil points for the past two years.

Sam said in the green room: ‘Honestly, this is amazing. It’s wicked.

‘We signed up here to come and sing we enjoy music, and I know that every single artist involved this year absolutely smashed it. 

‘Everyone was a credit to themselves and a credit to what Eurovision is all about; unity peace, love, togetherness, inclusivity and expression. Thank you for having us, appreciate [it].’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated Sam for his performance, tweeting: ‘Incredibly proud of Sam Ryder and how he brilliantly represented the UK tonight.’ 

Wow! The UK incredibly came in second place - the nation's highest place for more than two decades - during the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday following years of 'nul points'

Wow! The UK incredibly came in second place – the nation’s highest place for more than two decades – during the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday following years of ‘nul points’ 

Joy: Ukraine clinched victory after winning a stomping 439 points from the public tele-vote, giving them a grand total of 631, while Britain came in second place with 466 points

Joy: Ukraine clinched victory after winning a stomping 439 points from the public tele-vote, giving them a grand total of 631, while Britain came in second place with 466 points

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