Opera, trains and submarines to star in Eurovision-inspired Cultural Festival

The first details of a two-week cultural festival – EuroFest – which will take over Liverpool in the lead up to The Eurovision Song Contest have been unveiled.

Running from Monday 1 to Sunday 14 May, the festival will present 24 brand new commissions – 19 of which are collaborations between UK and Ukrainian artists – that will transform the city as fans from across the world descend on Liverpool.

Although full details of all of the commissions will not be announced until late March, organisers have revealed headline plans for four of the projects, along with the names of all of the organisations taking part.

The majority of the work being produced has been inspired by the Eurovision 2023 slogan ‘United by Music’, none more so than The Blue and Yellow Submarine Parade by The Kazimier – a huge outdoor underwater sea disco which will make its way through the city to kickstart the Eurovision Party. Working with UK and Ukrainian designers, musicians and community groups, expect hundreds of performers, incredible music and a huge glitterball jellyfish. This is a mass participation event and more details on how to get involved will be announced in the coming weeks.

The English National Opera does Eurovision is being created by the English National Opera and will be a unique show bringing together two very different musical worlds into one epic outdoor performance with live chorus and orchestra. Joyful, moving and loud, this project promises to perfectly capture the spirit of Eurovision.

On a more poignant note, Izyum to Liverpool by Ukrainian artist Katya Buchatska, will transform the iconic Liverpool Cathedral into a train carriage replicating the journey from Izyum to the border with Poland. Filmed in real time, this piece offers an extraordinary window into the landscape of Ukraine as it is today, and also serves as a reminder of the spirit and resilience of the Ukrainian people.

Finally, Rave UKraine is a collaboration between producer Jez Collins, UAME I Music Saves UA and Open Culture to deliver a simultaneous rave in Liverpool and Kyiv which will be streamed across the world. This commission is a celebration of the uniting power of music and the resilience of Ukrainians throughout the last year to keep making music, dancing and celebrating culture.

The list of collaborators taking part in EuroFest which can be revealed today are:

  • Amigo & Amigo, Svitlana Reinish, Anton Dehtiarov, M3 Industries, Black_Box
  • Artists on the Frontline and ParadeFest
  • BBC Storyville Live
  • Black Gold Arts, First Take, Homotopia, Hackney Showroom and RubyLemon
  • Bluecoat and The Jam Factory, Lviv
  • English National Opera
  • Go Fly Your Kite and the Junior Academy of Science Kyiv
  • Invisible Wind Factory
  • Jamala
  • Jez Collins, UAME I Music Saves UA and Open Culture
  • Liverpool Cathedral and Katya Buchatska
  • Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and Sheep Soup
  • Port and Katya Taylor
  • Natalie McCool, Stealing Sheep, Krapka;KOMA and Helleroid
  • National Museums Liverpool
  • Northern Town and Jeanefer Jean-Charles & Associates
  • Open Eye Gallery
  • The Reading Agency and BBC Arts
  • Slukh.Media, Sonia Chapman and Perfectionist.London
  • Tate Liverpool
  • Unity Theatre and Yurii Radionov
  • Whispered Tales and Denys Kashchei

The chosen commissions were selected through a process which included the BBC, British Council, Ukrainian Institute and Culture Liverpool. An initial call out in December attracted almost 700 responses of which 50 were shortlisted and supported in the development of their idea. The names announced today are the artists who have been selected for EuroFest from that shortlist.

EuroFest has been made possible thanks to support from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

More details around plans for the EuroVillage, the schools and community programme and other Eurovision specific events will be made public in the coming weeks.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, said:

”For Liverpool, Eurovision is much more than the Grand Final on 13 May. This amazing collection of artists will ensure that everyone who wants to be part of the Eurovision journey can do so for a whole fortnight leading up to the big day.

“The planned projects are joyful, hopeful, ambitious and moving – as you would expect from the unique circumstances in which we are hosting this event. Once again, Liverpool is using its incredible creative credentials to tell a story, and in doing so, engage a wide audience in a narrative that impacts us all.   

“I am particularly proud that we are able to provide a platform for so many brilliant Ukrainian artists and musicians and that our local cultural sector has welcomed them with such warmth and spirit.

“I can’t wait until we can reveal all of the details so that everyone can start planning their EuroFest trip!”

Eurovision Minister Stuart Andrew, said:

“The Eurovision Song Contest will be a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our shared love of music and the cultural programme in Liverpool is filled with brilliant entertainment.

“The commissions range from the wacky to the poignant and I am pleased that the programme has strong involvement from our Ukrainian friends. I look forward to seeing each commission come to life in May.” 

Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko said; 

This collection of commissions is a powerful and exciting expression of modern Ukrainian artists and musicians. I cannot wait for audiences from across Europe to have the chance to experience them in Liverpool in May and to find out more about the depth of our culture. 

Not being able to host the competition in our homeland is a great sadness to us, however projects such as these show the power and energy of the people of Ukraine, and give a window into the character that will define us as a nation in the future. 

Talking about her commission, Ukrainian artist, Katya Buchatska, said:

“This multi-channel video installation will show the train journey from Eastern Ukraine to the West revealing views of the liberated Ukrainian cities to apparently stiller landscapes of cities in Western Ukraine.

“For many the train is the only means to escape war. Railway workers are considered heroes, risking their lives to help people travel out of the country.

“Izyum to Liverpool is about the fragility of our environment, our lives and of the landscape surrounding us. It is about the loss of certainties, of home, without knowing if you will ever be able to return. It is a one-way journey. It provokes a shift in the state of mind. Even if you are farther away from the front line, and in a safer environment, this feeling of loss and uncertainty stays with you.”

Director of Culture Liverpool, Claire McColgan CBE, said:

“A programme like this with its complexities and depth would take at least a year in development. A huge amount of credit needs to be given to the artists from the UK and Ukraine who understand the speed at which we are working, and have opened their hearts and minds to create something truly brilliant.

“Even in these early planning stages the positive response has been overwhelming and incredibly exciting – and of course with a project of this size and scale there will be some unexpected twists along the way, but we have to remember this is Eurovision – so anything can happen!”

Managing Director, BBC Eurovision 2023, Martin Green, said:

“These commissions perfectly sum up this year’s contest with music, storytelling and of course the best of British and Ukrainian culture at their heart. I cannot wait to see them all come to life this May, especially the glitterball jellyfish!”

Liverpool Waterfront