Liverpool to host Eurovision song contest on behalf of Ukraine

City beat 19 others to host 67th contest after Volodymyr Zelenskiy agreed staging event in Mariupol was not possible

The Eurovision song contest will be hosted by Liverpool next year after it beat 19 other cites to stage the event on behalf of war-torn Ukraine.

The annual extravaganza will be held in the UK for the first time in 25 years on 13 May as Ukraine is unable to host the event due to the Russian invasion.

Liverpool was one of 20 cities to offer to stage the 67th Eurovision, beating Glasgow in the final two.

The announcement by Graham Norton on the BBC’s One Show on Friday fires the starting gun on a frenetic six months of preparation to stage one of the most-watched music events in the world.

However, some eagle-eyed viewers pointed out that they could see the name of the winning host city on the card before Norton read it out.

One wrote on Twitter: “Incredible scenes during the Eurovision announcement as Graham Norton builds some tension before the big reveal … holding a card saying ‘Liverpool 2023’.”

All eyes will be on Liverpool’s 11,000-capacity M&S Bank Arena for the three live events with two semi-finals and a four-hour grand final.

More than 160 million people from around the world tuned in to watch the three events in Turin, Italy, in May this year.

The mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, said: “I’m over the moon that Eurovision is coming to Liverpool. This is a massive event and the eyes of the world will be on us in May, especially those of our friends in Ukraine.

“Now begins months of work to put on the best party ever. Ukraine – you have my promise we will do you proud.”

Claire McColgan, director of Culture Liverpool, said it was the “right city to host this event – it’s a bittersweet win, but will be a showcase of solidarity across the UK and Europe”.

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool city region, said: “Home to more UK No 1 hits than anywhere else, the birthplace of the Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Real Thing, Elvis Costello, the Zutons – and now the host of Eurovision 2023 – the Liverpool city region is undoubtedly the UK’s cultural capital.

“We want to put on a show that Ukraine would be proud of, and we have been working closely with Liverpool’s sister city of Odesa to ensure that this is their event as much as our own.”

The mayor of Odesa, Gennadiy Trukhanov, said: “It is a matter of great pleasure to know that the bid of Liverpool is successful.

“Next year all musical roads of Europe will lead to your city, and we are happy that not only Eurovision contest will decorate Liverpool, but the city itself will adorn the event too. All of Odesa is looking forward to literally hearing from you.”

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won this year’s contest with their song Stefania, a folk-rap ensemble they dedicated to all the country’s mothers. In a statement, they said: “We are very pleased that next year’s Eurovision song contest will take place in Liverpool.

“Though we haven’t had the privilege of visiting yet, the musical heritage of the city is known all over the world. Playing in the same place that the Beatles started out will be a moment we’ll never forget!

“Although we are sad that next year’s competition cannot take place in our homeland, we know that the people of Liverpool will be warm hosts and the organisers will be able to add a real Ukrainian flavour to Eurovision 2023 in this city.”

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had initially hoped to host next year’s contest in the port city of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s most devastating bombing, but agreed in July that staging Eurovision would not be possible while fighting continues.

The UK agreed to host next year’s Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine after it finished second with Sam Ryder’s Spaceman, the country’s highest position since 1996.

Nearly 10,000 people are involved in producing the Eurovision song content and they are expected to start converging on Liverpool within weeks. The event will effectively take over the city for almost two months, starting on Easter weekend in April, and draw in thousands of tourists.

Liverpool will run a cultural programme that “represents modern Ukraine – a progressive, creative and ambitious country” and open a Eurovision “village” around the M&S Bank Arena on its historic waterfront.

The core of the city’s programme will be an artist exchange and co-production between Ukrainian and Liverpool-based artists, working closely with Odesa.

Statues and monuments across Liverpool will be dressed in vinoks, traditional Ukrainian headdresses that have become a symbol of resistance during the fight against Russia.

It will also feature a “takeover” by Ukrainian street artists and host a showcase of pysanka, painted eggs that are a central part of Ukrainian culture around Easter.

For those who enjoy the faintly ridiculous side to Eurovision, there will be a city-wide game of hide-and-seek involving cutouts of Sonia, the Skelmersdale-born singer who came second in Eurovision 1993 with the song Better the Devil You Know.

McColgan said the extravaganza would be a “lifeline” for the city’s hospitality sector, which is still recovering from the pandemic, and that it would “provide hope” for businesses that were “probably going to be on their knees over winter”.


Josh Halliday and Jane Clinton

The GuardianTramp

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