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BLOG: Eurovision volunteers will do Liverpool and Ukraine proud  

When Liverpool City Council put a call out for volunteers to be at the heart of the Eurovision Song Contest, demand exceeded supply by more than five times. Mathilde Bellec had the unenviable job of whittling down the eager hopefuls to the lucky few who would have the chance to represent our city’s long-held culture of welcoming the world with open arms. 

Volunteering has always been a big part of my life. I started volunteering aged 14, in my local sports club, as a gymnastics coach and judge; at university I voluntarily organised festivals for students; and now at the age of 27, I am a volunteer board member in the sports club I grew up in.  

I strongly believe in the values and benefits of volunteering. Had I not volunteered, I wouldn’t be doing this job nor work on Eurovision. I studied marketing and communications, but my experience in events came through volunteering opportunities. 

I never considered volunteer management as a career but one thing led to another, it seemed destined to happen. Careers are a collection of choices. Actively choosing to spend my spare time volunteering growing up built a path to new skills, new fields, and incredible opportunities. 

I came to Liverpool from Nantes in France in 2018 to work on the Giant Spectacular Liverpool’s Dream as artist liaison with the French company Royal de Luxe. This six-month contract turned into a three-year love story with Liverpool, my adoptive city, which I fell in love with for so many reasons: the warmth of its people, the views, the music. 

The pandemic shook the world of events to its core. I feel lucky to be able to rely on another set of skills (marketing and communications), which enabled me to keep working. However, when events slowly started to come back to life, I excitingly jumped on opportunities to join the teams that make them happen. 

I joined the World Gymnastics Championships’ team in April 2022, across several strands of work, from accommodation to marketing. A combination of affinities, being at the right place at the right time, and curiosity landed me a new position as Deputy Workforce Manager, supporting with the volunteering programme. 

Liverpool won the title of Host City for the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 a few weeks before the World Gymnastics Championships. Following my experience of managing a 500-strong volunteer programme, I was offered the opportunity to run a similar programme for Eurovision. 

For Eurovision, the main challenge lies in the very tight timeline. Where we had 12 months from designing the programme to delivering the event for World Gymnastics Championships, we only have five months for Eurovision. 

Aside from the tight schedule, Eurovision is under a much brighter spotlight than any event the city has hosted before and with that comes greater scrutiny. We have been in conversation with local, regional and national stakeholders and we are confident in the programme we have built. The figures speak for themselves with over 2,600 people applying for just 500 roles, and a high retention rate within our volunteer team. 

This volunteer programme was built to add sparkle and dazzle to the visitor experience. Volunteers will flood the streets with bright colourful uniforms, warm smiles and chanting accents. They will play an essential part in the event, as without them the streets would certainly look dry. I can only testify that this warm Liverpool welcome definitely is what makes this city one of the greatest cities on Earth. It is what made me feel at home, what made me stay. As an adopted Scouser, I am humbled by the welcome that Liverpool gave me and continues to give me. 

I have travelled and lived in different cities and countries around the world and what I love about the people of Liverpool is how generous they are about their pride. They could be proud of their city – and they have many reasons to be – but be willing to keep it for themselves. This is not what a Scouser does. A Scouser not only tells you their city is “boss”. They show you why, and they want you to feel it too. They share the love and the passion, and this is why it is the perfect city for Eurovision. 

Sharing that local knowledge and passion with visitors coming to enjoy Eurovision will ensure visitors leave not only with fond memories of Liverpool as a great Host City but actually a great city in its own right. 

Volunteering is a great opportunity for local people and the Ukrainian community in the city to be part of Eurovision, together united in music. The city will not only be transformed during the fortnight of events. The event will leave a mark and that transformation will live on forever. 

Events are always a great way of making improvements in a city. The investment all stakeholders make to ensure the best visitor experience has a lasting impact. We hope that by getting people involved in that transformation, they might get their own personal transformation out of it. 

When the City Stars volunteer programme in partnership with Liverpool ONE came to a halt, we lost that connection with people. Our ambition now is to use global events such as the World Gymnastics Championships and Eurovision to build a strong team of engaged volunteers. 

I find working on volunteer programmes fascinating. It requires an operational brain, like in any event management role, but it adds an extra layer of empathy. The level of energy it takes to manage 500 individuals is tremendous, but for me it brings the perfect balance between strategic thinking and a personable approach. 

I am lucky to be able to say that in my job, I get to meet inspiring people and hear all these individual stories. Everybody has their own reason for volunteering and their experiences resonate differently. From one event to another, the same volunteer may take a different approach and gain a different experience. 

It has been a really difficult task shortlisting the applicants because the standard was so high. We have had people from all walks of life: from teenagers fresh out of college who want some experience on their CVs to a retired widow who is hoping to fill a void and make new friends. But one thing all the successful applicants have in common is their passion for Liverpool and Eurovision, and their commitment to putting on the best show on behalf of Ukraine. We know when they step out in their uniforms, they will all do us proud. 

Liverpool Waterfront