BLOG: Liverpool to champion inclusivity and accessibility during Eurovision and beyond
With inclusion and diversity at the heart of the Eurovision Song Contest, Liverpool City Council has teamed up with Inclusive Employers to create a lasting legacy of inclusion across the city. Tom Lechthaler, who manages Liverpool City Council’s Inclusivity and Accessibility programme for Eurovision, explains what this means for EuroVols.
Eurovision prides itself on being an inclusive event and always has done. It is a safe space where people are not only allowed to be different, but it’s actively encouraged.
The contest has become a platform for inclusivity and acceptance among the LGBTQ+ community but there is still work to be done around accessibility so even the most manic and noisy environments are able to accommodate everyone.
While there are predetermined roles, I wanted to specifically create an accessibility volunteer because it’s important we have volunteers who can deal with mores specific questions. All volunteers will complete inclusivity training but the accessibility volunteers will get more in-depth training to give them a better insight.
We have currently onboarded 40 accessibility volunteers who will be located at key entry points into the city such as Lime Street Station and John Lennon Airport, as well as at the tourist information centres.
On top of that, I’m working with Prep for Life students from Wirral Met and Learning for Life students from Hugh Baird in Sefton to give young adults with learning difficulties or neurodiversity characteristics the opportunity to recognise the abilities they have and develop their skills so they can build independence and achieve their life and employment goals.
We’re buddying them up with existing accessibility volunteers so there is a mutual learning, which is really important from a social impact perspective, not just for this event but for the city going forwards. Legacy is really important to me too. I want to see Liverpool become the most successful destination in the UK in terms of accessibility and really leading the way.
I’m a teacher by trade and I have never met a more enthusiastic and motivated bunch of people. When I went to talk to the students about Eurovision, one of them literally ran home to tell his parents because he was so excited and couldn’t wait.
Volunteering will give these students an insight into how a big event works and how the volunteering role fits into the overall delivery of an event and the important role that volunteers play. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a global event unfold in front of their eyes and come to fruition. It will provide them with a huge amount of experience and learning from the logistics of attending a workplace at set times to applying their motivation and enthusiasm into a work environment.
Every major event from the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics to Glastonbury Festival relies heavily on volunteers – it’s so rewarding on a personal and professional level.
Volunteers come from all walks of life. They may be refugees who want to improve their language skills and get some experience under their belt to better their position within the UK working market. Equally they bring a huge amount of cultural knowledge to the table, especially if they’re welcoming a lot of international visitors. That broad outlook on life that is massively important. Other volunteers can learn from that and vice versa.
There are others who are retired but they need something to do and want to pay something back into their community and the destination that has given them some of the things that they’ve been lucky enough to experience themselves. Then there are others in full time employment who get a huge amount of satisfaction out of volunteering because they’re making connections and bringing their expertise to the table.
You get out what you put in. Volunteering can be so enriching if you’re open to it. You can learn invaluable life skills and make connections and long-term friendships. I was lucky enough to interview some of the volunteers from Liverpool and the city region and so many said they want to give something back to the city and do something positive in their life because the city has treated them well. Their motivation really touched me.
When I first moved to the UK from Italy, I lived in Birmingham when the city hosted the Eurovision Song Contest. The city really came to life with people from all backgrounds bringing joy to the city. There was a palpable buzz – almost electric – but Liverpool will far outweigh that with its welcoming nature.
Of course, we cannot forget that we are hosting the contest on behalf of Ukraine. This is the first ever time that a city will be hosting on behalf of another country so it will be special. The city has embraced the challenges and will really step up to the plate. Ukraine is at the heart of everything the city is doing and I cannot wait for all the hard word that all the teams have put in to come to fruition.