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BLOG | Eurovision evaluation shows that the real winner was Liverpool

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Professor Matt Ashton, Chair of the Eurovision evaluation group, explains why Liverpool’s hosting of Eurovision 2023 has set a blueprint for others to follow…

Eurovision was an amazing event for Liverpool: 10 days of glitz, glamour, and music – not just in the city centre, but across the whole of the city and beyond.

People connected with an event that was much more than just the songs. Whether you were a visitor to the city, a pupil in a school or the resident of a care home, we were absolutely determined that you would be touched by this once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of something unique.

Long before the stage was assembled and the programme put together, we wanted to understand the impact it had on the city, in the same way as when Liverpool was European Capital of Culture in 2008, to make sure that we could quantify it and show clearly the tangible difference it had made. We also wanted to put together a body of evidence that would help inform the organisers of future major events.

The role of the Council is as a collaborator and enabler for the city, bringing partners together around the table to act as one team for Liverpool.  So, as soon as we were announced as the successful host city, in partnership with Ukraine, we very quickly established a multi-stakeholder steering group, which I chaired in my role as the Director of Public Health for Liverpool and Honorary Professor in the Department of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool.

Our approach was to build evaluation into the delivery of Eurovision from its very inception, with the aim of learning from every stage of its planning and operation, in partnership with stakeholders.

We only had seven months to plan for Eurovision 2023, but the civic partners had worked successfully at pace before, building trusted and established relationship – most recently when were part of the UK Events Research Programme for Covid-19 recovery.

Stakeholders involved in delivering, experiencing and evaluating Eurovision 2023 were convened to develop an evaluation plan, to identify and establish work streams and secure associated funding. This included academic partners, and representatives from the BBC, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the British Council.

The steering group worked collaboratively to design and produce the evaluations, sharing data and methodologies wherever possible. This approach avoided the inefficiency and pitfalls of siloed working, delivering a strong, cohesive piece of work.

As evaluations progressed, it became clear from their complex nature and breadth of scope that a synthesis of the different evaluation strands would enable the collective findings to reach a wider audience. We therefore also commissioned the University of Liverpool to pull the findings of the strands together.

The findings report, published by the Heseltine Institute, which pursues policy research inspired by the regeneration of Liverpool, Merseyside and now wider Liverpool City Region, is truly stunning.

From the economy to tourism, civic pride to global headlines, there is no doubt that – with apologies to Sweden – the big winner has been Liverpool.

This was so much more than a TV show, albeit one watched by 162 million people.

From the 473,000 people who attended Eurovision events, to the £54.8 million spent with local businesses in the economy.

From the two million people reached by the education and community programme and the incredible 96% of visitors who said they would recommend the city as a place to visit.

Its impact will live for years to come, not just for the city, but in the way in which other cities host the Eurovision Song Contest and other major events around the world.

We now have a blueprint for others to follow, and that is an incredible legacy.

Thank you to all the funders of the various evaluation streams, and to the evaluation leads, without whom this work would not have been possible.

Liverpool Waterfront