How Liverpool prepare to host on behalf of Ukraine

This evening, the mayor of Turin, last year Eurovision Song Contest host, will hand over the keys to the ceremony to Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool.

The event, at St George’s Hall, marks the start of Liverpool’s turn as hosts of Eurovision 2023 and will also include a live draw for the semi-finals, during which the 37 competing countries will discover their groups for the next stage of the competition. It will be shown live for the first time on UK TV at 7pm on BBC Two.

Behind the scenes, the work to organize the biggest music festival in Europe has been going on for months.

Liverpool won the bid to host the song contest in October, beating Glasgow. And although the party takes place in the UK, the event is held in honor of – and in conjunction with – Ukraine, whose Kalush Orchestra won the 2022 contest. A month after winning the trophy, Ukrainian officials announced that the country would not host Eurovision due to security concerns from the ongoing war.

“We are only in the final stages of our orders,” says Clare McColgan, Liverpool City Council’s culture director. “We’ve been working with artists from around the world over the past two months to create big, beautiful works of art that will be seen all over the city. It’s going to be a cultural festival.

Mykola Chernotytskyi, head of Ukrainian public service broadcaster, UA:PBC, said: “Eurovision fans and British citizens know Ukrainian culture deeply. Our culture is very different from Russia. Eurovision is a way for us to celebrate Ukraine.

The competition is extremely important in Ukraine and the country has won the competition three times.

“Sometimes Eurovision scandals are more important than political scandals,” laughs Chernotytskyi. “Just yesterday I walked past a Ukrainian flag hanging in St George’s Hall. I think it’s fantastic.

“It’s not a normal Eurovision,” McColgan says. “Our program is about hope.”

The whole city will be affected by Eurovision from April. As well as this ‘cultural festival’, Liverpool will also host a Eurovision Village, where fans without tickets to the shows can watch the semi-finals. “It will be for families during the day and then a big party in the evening,” she adds. A ‘Euroclub’ will also be launched at the Baltic Market food court, where the festive atmosphere of the competition will continue after the official broadcasts.

AJ Odudu and Rylan will host the handover ceremony and shoot on BBC Two (Picture: BBC/Ray Burmiston)

But it’s not just about partying and McColgan is keen to create a lasting legacy at Liverpool. There will be a school program throughout the region, teaching children not only about Eurovision, but also about the different cultures and music of the 37 participating countries.

The BBC has its own plans. As well as showing tonight’s semi-final draw live, hosted by Rylan and AJ Odudu, both semi-finals will be shown live on BBC One (May 9 and 11). “160 million people watched Eurovision last year, the numbers are only growing,” says Martin Green ECB, managing director of the BBC’s Eurovision coverage. “Our slogan is ‘united by music’. We hope this doesn’t need an explanation. Eurovision has always brought people together.

Ahead of the Grand Final on May 13, which will take place at the Liverpool Arena, there will be nine dress rehearsals, six of which are with an audience. At least 12,000 employees will be hired for the event and 1,200 members of the media will be in attendance. “We’re basically turning the arena into a huge television studio,” says Green. “It is first and foremost a television program, allowing us to celebrate what television can do with millions and millions of people around the world.”

Safer Eurovision

Tickets have yet to be released for the live events, although Green expects more information to be available on sales towards the end of February. McColgan says there’s still hope for those who haven’t yet booked accommodation – the 10,000 hotel rooms and 2,000 Airbnbs across the city are already booked. “We will be making announcements shortly regarding other accommodations,” she says.

“It’s part of the economic benefits of hosting,” says Green. “It’s all free to watch on the BBC, and we want to work with small businesses in Liverpool who can show it. We want to bring people to these restaurants and bars.

As the city strives to incorporate Ukrainian culture into Eurovision 2023, there is also a need to bring Liverpool into the proceedings. Are there any famous Liverpudlian musicians – Sir Paul McCartney, maybe – will he support the event? “We want the shows to celebrate music in the UK, Ukraine and around the world. Everyone we talk to is absolutely everyone you might want to name by that name. Let’s see what happens when we get to the show.

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