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Liverpool would be the perfect place to host Eurovision

Following the news that the UK could possibly host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, Liverpool’s Head of UNESCO City of Music, Kevin McManus, explains why there is only one city that should host this prestigious event…

The news that the BBC is in talks with the European Broadcasting Union to potentially host the Eurovision Song Contest in 2023 immediately made me think that Liverpool would be the perfect host city!

Of course in an ideal world it would be held in Ukraine, the nation that won this year’s contest, but sadly for reasons we all understand, that is unlikely to be possible.  This year the UK broke with long established tradition and for once actually came up with a decent song and a great performance. and finished second.  So, it seems fair that if Ukraine isn’t in a position to host then the honour of doing so should fall to the UK.  I’m absolutely certain that if Liverpool were to host the event then it would be done in the right spirit with a generous and warm acknowledgement of Ukraine.

Eurovision is special for all sorts of people, of every age.  Personally thinking of Eurovision always takes me back to my childhood when Eurovision was a huge deal in our house.  It was probably on a par with other massive live TV occasions of the time, like the Grand National, or the FA Cup Final – but more exciting than both of those – because it took place during the evening and featured singers from exotic sounding places.   It was one of only a handful of events in those days when you knew that pretty much everyone else in the UK (and elsewhere in the world) was watching the same thing.  

I’ve got five sisters who were fascinated by the whole event and took it incredibly seriously.  Preparations were made early on, snacks were prepared and pen and paper provided, so we could all score the songs ourselves.  I honestly think that at least one of my sisters believed that the BBC would turn up with a camera, so that the McManus family could contribute scores on behalf of everyone in Captains Lane, Bootle.

Look I know this might sound like an exaggeration, but sadly it really isn’t. It would be easy to attribute this family madness to it being simpler times – there were only a few channels on the tele and certainly no Netflix etc – but honestly I think my sisters just loved the spectacle of it and the fact that the contest brought all this colour and excitement from countries we were barely aware of, into our living room.

I do remember that it seemed to go on for hours and hours and any early enthusiasm had normally waned by the end of the actual performances.  But even the scoring seemed exciting because satellite link ups to juries across Europe still seemed pretty futuristic at the time.

Moving on to today and I’d have loved to have been in Turin for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to watch the whole thing unfold, while the city was gradually taken over by musicians and fans from across the world.  (I know Eurovision implies Europe but I think the organisers take a very liberal approach to international boundaries).  It just seems to be one of those rare events that makes everyone smile – people take it seriously – but also want it to be as much fun as possible.

It did make me think that Liverpool would be the perfect city to host this musical extravaganza. Can you imagine the fun that contestants, audiences and the media would have here? Can you imagine how much the people of Liverpool would embrace the beautiful chaos of this unique event?  That’s before you even begin to consider the economic value to the city of all those hotel beds and the reputational benefits of images of our city being beamed across the world. We are a music city, so why wouldn’t we want to have the world’s biggest song contest here?

I know Eurovision is sometimes seen as a bit cheesy but what is wrong with that. In these politically troubled times music it is one of the few things that can bring people together. It is a shared language and there is a primal instinct in humans to sing, or make music, in one form or another.  

Thinking back to one of the images that has stuck with me since the pandemic was the footage from Italy of an opera singer opening his windows to give an impromptu performance from his balcony, providing some much-needed light at a very dark time. Kharkiv in Ukraine became a UNESCO City of Music late last year and obviously since then has been unable to join in with other music cities like Liverpool.  They weren’t able to hold their planned classical musical festival but a small group of musicians still managed to hold a remarkable ‘concert between explosions’  in a  subway in the city, while the bombing continued outside. One of the organisers – at such a difficult time – said ‘Music can unite’

I’ve no idea what John Lennon thought of Eurovision but I am sure that one of our greatest musical sons would love the idea of Eurovision being held in Liverpool. After all, John’s key messages were all around peace, love and understanding  and he is responsible for two of the greatest peace anthems ever (Give Peace a Chance and  Happy Xmas (War Is Over) so I am sure he would have approved of an event that unites countries through music.

I started this piece with memories of how Eurovision was a major event in my childhood home. Only years later did I realise that this was something that went far beyond my large, slightly bonkers family. For a few years I worked in a music department in a University and was more than slightly surprised to be invited, in a totally non-ironic way, to attend a Eurovision party at a senior lecturer’s house. I was shocked to find that these respected academics took the whole thing even more seriously than my sisters.

 I then started to ask other people about this phenomenon and it became clear that loads of adults, who otherwise appeared to be incredibly sensible, became slightly mad on one night of the year and insisted on inviting all their family and friends around to celebrate the televisual feast that is Eurovision. That’s why I think Liverpool would be the perfect place to host Eurovision – we are after all the world’s foremost music city and, as anybody who has ever spent a weekend here knows –  we love a party.  If you put these two things together you get something that looks suspiciously like the Eurovision Song Contest!

Liverpool Waterfront