Image of Big Eurovision Welcome event features stage in front of St George's Hall witht he words Liverpool and Ukraine in the sky. Photo courtesy of Getty Images
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Conchita Wurst performs onstage during the National Lottery's Big Eurovision Welcome event outside St George's Hall on May 07, 2023 in Liverpool, England. Joel Dommett and AJ Ododu host "The National Lottery's Big Eurovision Welcome" event in front of an audience of 25,000, combining world-class music, aerial performances, projection mapping, drones display, fireworks and much more. Highlights from the event will be featured as part of the TV special "Eurovision Welcomes The World" on BBC One / BBC iPlayer – Monday 8 May, 6.30pm. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for The National Lottery)

BLOG: How Liverpool came together to deliver Eurovision

Arts Council England Chief Executive Darren Henley looks back at how investment in arts and culture in Liverpool laid the groundwork for a successful Eurovision Song Contest and its’ legacy.

In May of this year, the eyes of Europe (and a lot of the world) were on the city of Liverpool, as it stepped up to host the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 on behalf of 2022 winners Ukraine. Eurovision was set up with the aim of uniting Europe in the aftermath of war, it is a festival with togetherness, diversity and hope at its heart. The contest’s history was made more poignant this year given the context within which Liverpool played host.


Lviverpool, as it was affectionally known during the festival, had a historic challenge on its hands. It would be the first city to host the contest on behalf of another country due to ongoing conflict, and it only had a matter of months to make it all come together.

The challenge was there for all to see but Liverpool had a vision and the confidence to see this idea successfully realised.

The belief of being able to pull together the Eurovision Song Contest, with significant support from HM Government, and a cultural programme of the scale and ambition of EuroFest so quickly was both visionary and ambitious. It was also rooted in a confidence in the collective willpower and ability of Liverpool City and its cultural sector to rise to the challenge.

For the months that led up to the contest, the people of Liverpool and the diaspora of Ukrainians living in the city and beyond, along with creatives and artists from both the UK and the Ukraine, were actively engaged to plan, build, and produce the spectacular contest.

During this time, Liverpool was both British and Ukrainian. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport worked alongside Liverpool to create a ticketing initiative which saw the government providing displaced people from Ukraine with subsidised tickets for Eurovision. It was never once forgotten that this year’s contest was Ukraine’s party, and we were hosting it. This was cultural diplomacy at its best.

Investment and infrastructure

Liverpool had a vision, but it would not have happened without the years of work the city’s local and combined authorities have done to support and grow their cultural and creative sector. Eurovision was only made possible through longstanding partnerships and collaboration with the sector, and through steadfast and sustained investment in the infrastructure that enables mobilisation and successful delivery at this pace and scale.

2008’s European Capital of Culture status was the catalyst for the vibrant cultural sector you see in the city today. The investment that stemmed from the Capital of Culture helped to nurture artists and creatives living in and moving to the city. The investment built the cultural infrastructure, this infrastructure then continued to attract further investment and so the positive cycle of investment and sector growth continued and continues to this day.

And it is thanks to the city’s innovative cultural sector that the City Council was in a position to go from applying to host Eurovision to delivering their vision in a matter of months. The council’s investment in and knowledge of their cultural sector gave them the confidence to successfully bid for and successfully host such a remarkable event. 

Meaningful engagement

The Eurovision Song Contest was fantastic, as was the cultural and community programme that ran alongside the event. But what was so incredible to see was the activity and creativity that was taking place across the city.

Eurovision fostered an energy that made everyone want to get involved. The plans to host Eurovision kickstarted a series of partnerships across the education, cultural and business communities that captured the spirit of the contest and the imagination of Liverpool’s artists and wider communities. We saw the creation of theatre productions and exhibitions, we saw communities come together to host their own Eurovision parities and commercial organisations who didn’t usually engage directly in cultural activity creating their own events. The statistics on the impact of the event speak for themselves, Eurovision boosted the Liverpool City Region economy by £54.8million, 473,000 people attended Eurovision events in the city and an additional 306,000 visitors headed to Liverpool to be part of the celebrations. The energy and excitement in the city in the run up to and during the contest were palpable.

Liverpool’s approach to Eurovision went beyond just positively impacting on the tourism, profile and visibility of the city, like other major events would, it also achieved further-reaching impacts from having involved its residents and so creating a longer lasting legacy.

The organisers of Eurovision 2023 managed to capture the mood of the city, bringing along all its communities to create truly meaningful engagement with the event. And it’s that meaningful engagement that has been central to Liverpool’s approach which sees inclusion and wellbeing at the centre of its work when bringing together multiple partners and stakeholders. This has been seen most notably in the collaboration between Liverpool City Council and the National Lottery distributors. Liverpool’s Eurovision moment had support from the Arts Council, National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund, each distributor provided funding that supported work happening in communities across the city region from arts and cultural programming to education and community activities. We also saw a strong partnership between Liverpool City Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as a lead funder, this collaboration continues with Department for Culture, Media and Sport being a key member of the Eurovision legacy steering group. There was also a major collaboration with Spirit of 2012 which included EuroLearn, alongside an impact study of how major events can make a difference to the wellbeing of people and places, Eurovision 2023 – Spirit of 2012.

Liverpool has again proven itself as an internationally culturally significant city, a reputation which will surely only grow with the legacy of Eurovision. With vision and ambition, Eurovision itself can be a catalyst for greater activity and benefit across the city, its region and beyond. It must also be noted the work Liverpool did as Eurovision host to ensure the event positively impacted the wider country, through projects like United by Music, a collaboration between the National Lottery and Music Venues Trust which saw a tour beyond Liverpool staging live music events in the UK towns and cities that had bid to host Eurovision.

Now the contest is over we’re pleased to be funding legacy work, which enables relationships developed to continue and which looks to build on Liverpool’s status as a UNESCO music city. In the last week we have seen the opening of artwork by Tais Poda at the River of Light event supported through Arts Council England’s Eurovision legacy grant. This grant will also support ongoing musical collaborations between artists in UK and Ukraine, development of collaborative projects with other UNESCO Music Cities, and music sector development initiatives in Liverpool. The spirit of Eurovision continues to live on across the city.

Click here to read the impact story.

Liverpool Waterfront