Claire McColgan at Liverpool sign

BLOG: Celebrating the power of events to connect, move and shape people – and places

On the eve of a report into the impact of Liverpool’s hosting of Eurovision 2023 Claire McColgan, CBE, Director of Culture Liverpool, ponders on those elements that are beyond measure.

As you may have noticed Liverpool did Eurovision (we do events well here), and tomorrow we’ll talk about the impact.

You may ask be thinking “Why? It was a great event. What more is there to say?”

The answer is: a lot more.

First of all, we need to reset the dial and discuss and debate why events, especially cultural events, are important. Why are they important to cities, towns, and communities? How they can help places find their thing, their piece of difference, build on it, test it, and learn and take it higher?

We need to tell stories on a local, national, and international stage and create a sense of excitement in a place and about it.

I remember as a child two events: one was the random Highland Games in Corby, which is in the midlands (long story), and the other was when the Corby Candle, the symbol of the then redundant steel works, came down, and we watched with our dads and grandads, who had moved from Scotland into this new town full of hope, see the end of an era.

And in both of those events, you were part of something bigger, a part of the history of the past and the present, and a collective memory.

When I met the Cabinet Member for Culture, Councillor Harry Doyle, his memories were of making a Superlambanana in school and then every two years remembering walking with giants as he grew up in a city which believes in and values collective memory.

The sad truth is that it’s easy for places to view culture, especially the arts, as a nice thing to have.

When galleries and theatres, often in old buildings, are seen as a drain on ever-decreasing budgets, the same arguments for culture are retold, and it’s always the economic argument, but after being part of Liverpool’s incredible renaissance over the last 20 years, we know it’s more than that. And we have the proof.

I’m proud to have worked for a city that values the immeasurable as much as the measured.

As Martin Green, who was Managing Director of Eurovision 2023, says: “Just those glorious pictures going around the world of a strong confident fun city should pay dividends. I don’t think Liverpool has to overdo legacy on this one. I think it did everything it needed to do by throwing itself into two glorious weeks in May.”

The research will validate and interrogate the investment, both financial and human, but what it won’t do is bring back that feeling of holding a child’s hand as they dance to something random on the Pier Head along with thousands of others united in celebrating the magic of music and experiencing that most precious commodity – joy.

Events are where we come together as a collective and the most important thing they do is make us feel connected – to our emotions, our family, our friends and our world. At its essence this is what makes us human and how our lives are enriched by that sense of togetherness.

For two brilliant weeks in May that’s what this city did and I’m proud to call it home. 

Liverpool Waterfront