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Liverpool ready to host Eurovision Song Contest

A week-long series of free events have been held in the city in the run-up to tomorrow night's final at the M&S Bank Arena

By James Hanley on 12 May 2023

M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool

M&S Bank Arena

Eurovision 2023 host city Liverpool has geared up for tomorrow night’s song contest by holding a week-long series of events in the city.

Featuring free one-off shows, live performances, DJ sets and special guest appearances, dedicated fan zone The Eurovision Village opened at Pier Head last Friday 5 May and is running every day until the 13 May Grand Final.

Tomorrow night’s Grand Final Party at the Pier Head, for which tickets cost £15, is already sold out. Acts will include Steps’  Claire Richards, Vengaboys, Katrina of the UK’s last Eurovision winners Katrina and the Waves and Jedward’s Epic Eurovision Singalong, along with a screening of the contest itself. The final will also be screened live in UK cinemas for the first time in the event’s history.

The competition is taking place on UK soil for the first time since 1998 following Kalush Orchestra’s victory for Ukraine in Turin, Italy last May, after it was concluded that it could not be held in the winning country for safety and security reasons. The UK’s Sam Ryder finished second in last year’s contest at PalaOlimpico in Turin, Italy.

Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena (cap. 11,000) was given the nod ahead of Glasgow’s OVO Hydro to stage the final and semi-finals after the seven-strong UK shortlist was cut to two. Liverpool was chosen following a bid process that examined facilities at the venue, the ability to accommodate thousands of visiting delegations, crew, fans and journalists, infrastructure, and the cultural offer of the host city in reflecting Ukraine’s win in 2022, amongst other criteria.

“We need to look at a lot of requirements for hosting an event of this size”

“We need to look at a lot of requirements for hosting an event of this size,” Eurovision directing supervisor Martin Österdahl tells the Liverpool Echo. “It’s quite massive [when it comes to logistics] but the soft factors include a city that’s really engaged, enthusiastic, engaged, has the experience and expertise but also the passion to make the most of it and I think Liverpool has that.”

The initial batch of 6,000 tickets for the 2023 event sold out in 36 minutes in March, with around 64,000 tickets for rehearsals and semi-finals also snapped up within an hour. A final batch of tickets released sold out last month.

The UK is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for a record ninth time having previously stepped in to host the event for other broadcasters in London in 1960 and 1963, in Edinburgh in 1972 and Brighton in 1974. The BBC also staged the Contest following four of their five wins: in London in 1968 and 1977, Harrogate in 1982 and Birmingham in 1998.

“I think Liverpool and the BBC have done a phenomenal job with it,” adds Österdahl. “This is a special edition, it’s completely unique and we’ve never seen a contest like this before and I don’t think anyone is going to miss the message. Walking around Liverpool you see tributes to Ukraine everywhere.

“You have to remember the Eurovision Song Contest has not been in the UK for 25 years and it has changed a lot in that time. When we first moved around and spoke to a lot of different cities, they still didn’t understand but after Liverpool, they will know.

“I think there’s a special shift in the UK. What I’ve seen in the past couple of years, the contest is growing phenomenally, the fan base is growing, the viewers are increasing, and we’re getting more partnerships. Across the board, Eurovision is expanding in the big markets.”

“Through this partnership we’ll be bringing Liverpool’s rich musical heritage and personality, to our global community”

The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s largest live music event, with over 180 million people tuning in across linear and digital channels in 2022. The contest has launched the global careers of artists including Måneskin, Celine Dion, ABBA and Julio Iglesias.

TikTok has been named by the European Broadcasting Union as the Official Entertainment Partner for Eurovision 2023, and will be supporting key busking sites around Liverpool at Holy Corner, Liverpool One, Sugar House Steps and Liverpool Lime Street. The app will be working alongside tourism body VisitLiverpool to provide workshops and support to small businesses, local attractions and emerging artists.

“Through this partnership we’ll be bringing Liverpool’s rich musical heritage and personality, to our global community,” says James Stafford, TikTok’s general manager, marketing & operations UKI & Nordics. “TikTok is where stars get started and that’s true whether you’re an artist, a small business or a TikTok creator.

“We’ll be providing workshops to businesses, museums and local landmarks, working with local creatives and supporting busking spots across the city; so whether you are a visiting for the first time or discovering the Scouse sense of humour in app, let TikTok be your guide to Liverpool!”

“We are delighted to be partnering with The National Lottery again to extend the celebrations to the rest of the UK”

Elsewhere, the Music Venue Trust (MVT) teamed up with The National Lottery to stage the United By Music Tour of Liverpool, which has seen more than 20 gigs at 20 venues during Eurovision week to showcase the city and support grassroots music venues. On Wednesday (10 May), the partnership hosted a stage at The Eurovision Village, featuring artists including Miles Kane and Lightning Seeds, as well as Eurovision 2023 entrants from Italy, Finland, Norway and Azerbaijan.

The National Lottery and the MVT will also be staging live music events in all 17 UK towns and cities that bid to host Eurovision. In total, more than 20 acts will embark on national tours as part of the initiative. Tickets go on sale on Monday 15 May.

“Following the success of the Liverpool Tour, which saw us host a week-long series of music gigs across the city, we are delighted to be partnering with The National Lottery again to extend the celebrations to the rest of the UK,” says MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “Supporting grassroots music venues has never been more important and we’re delighted to be using venues across the country to highlight new and established artists the world will come to know and love.”

Upcoming concerts at M&S Bank Arena, meanwhile, include Pet Shop Boys, Olly Murs, S Club 7, Madness and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.


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