St Georges Hall drapped in Eurovision branding

BLOG: And here are the scores from the Liverpool Jury

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Having immersed herself in the world of Eurovision, Rhiannon Corcoran, Professor of Psychology and Public Mental Health University of Liverpool, reflects on the power of understanding data when it comes to showcasing just how an event of this scale can impact on community and wellbeing.

“Who wants to evaluate the health and wellbeing impacts of Eurovision?” asked Professor Iain Buchan, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Innovation at University of Liverpool at the end of 2022.

I mulled it over for a little while, fully recognising the time pressure, the need to pull things together very fast indeed while remembering what we had achieved through teamwork during COVID. Throwing caution to the wind, I put my hand up, for Ukraine and for Liverpool.

By March, I was well in the thick of it. As part of a prestigious group of partners who met regularly in a show of willingness to meet the challenges of this unique opportunity, I began to sense the art of the possible.

Already aware of the swell of pride in the city for winning the competition to host on behalf of Ukraine, and knowing Liverpool’s empathic, authentically welcoming and enthusiastic personality, plans for a two-pronged examination of the impact on community and wellbeing of Eurovision 2023 were formed.

It was my very good fortune that University of Liverpool Research Fellows, Drs Helen Page and Rachel Warsaw joined me, with the same confusing mix of excitement and trepidation. Then, to complete our team, came Kateryna Zhuk, a Ukrainian doctoral student, already an intern at the University. Kateryna was able to shelve what she was doing to support, and advise on, the culture of her home nation. To enable the rapid collection of household survey data, we commissioned M.E.L. Research, a company with an already established record of delivery beyond expectation in Liverpool. Finally, we were ably supported in the arranging of focus groups by members of the Culture Liverpool team. Without this ‘can do’ group of optimistic folk, the work would never have been completed. Battling side-by-side, against time and facing a mountainous set of evidence, we rapidly analysed the quantitative and qualitative data, from where an inspirational set of findings began to emerge.

Just as I’d reckoned, the datasets bore witness to the pride felt for the city. Strong from the outset, it was bolstered by the sensitive shows of solidarity with Ukraine and the embracement of its culture. New bonds were formed as life-long memories were made. People from all over the region came together within their communities to experience and to feel the, often complex, emotions that came – the sheer joy of Eurovision, the enthusiasm of the city and the solace of Ukraine. We saw it all in the qualitative data.

We heard stories of affinity and of growing empathy in the city region’s younger residents; an understanding that ‘kids just like us’ are having their hearts and their nerves broken, innocent victims of deadly international politics they knew nothing of. A sense of needing to do what we could to contribute to a better future for Ukraine, albeit from our safe distance. We heard how older people in care homes came alive to the music and stories of Ukraine. This, following the lonely tragedy of COVID 19.

The quantitative data told an equally compelling, unfolding lesson of wellbeing. It came in the form of positive anticipation beforehand followed by that all too familiar ‘dip’ back to normal when looked forward to, good things come to an end. It showed how Eurovision struck a chord that resonated longer within some compared to others – those who were involved and who felt ‘at home’ with its ethos, culture and flamboyance. In all, there are lessons in the quantitative data that meaningfully nuance the existing evidence beyond the easy narrative that events contribute positively to people’s wellbeing.

The data was powerfully felt, telling a consistent whole story of the experience over a matter of Eurovision months. Perhaps the most revealing, coming from the brainwaves of Helen and Rachel, was to use a simple but neat form of analysis. They asked the people to whom we spoke to give us words that depicted Liverpool for them and then to do the same for Eurovision. Amid the shared words – ‘music’, ‘colourful’,‘vibrant, ‘fun’ and ‘friendly’ came the reminder of why Liverpool was the perfect host city for Ukraine’s Eurovision 2023.

Liverpool Waterfront