Adults and children singing and playing instruments

Special educational needs schools from Liverpool to perform at Eurovision village

A choir of Liverpool school children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they perform at the Eurovision Village next month.

Pupils from Sandfield Park School in West Derby and Alt Bridge Secondary School in Huyton will take to the stage at the Pier Head on Thursday 11 May thanks to EuroLearn, part of the Host City programme for The Eurovision Song Contest 2023, which has been curated by Liverpool City Council’s Culture Liverpool team.

Facilitated by Liverpool Hope University, Sanctuary and Unity Through Song is led by Professor Stephen Davismoon, Dean of Hope’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.

As part of the project, the pupils have collaborated with Stephen and several music industry professionals to create a song called You Are Not Alone, which celebrates the musical heritage of Liverpool and Ukraine.

They will perform for the first time on Wednesday 10 May at Eurovisions – an annual international conference which this year is being hosted at Hope’s Creative Campus – before enjoying the experience of a lifetime with a public performance at the Eurovision Village.

EuroLearn is a school engagement programme unique to Liverpool’s Eurovision offering and is supported with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional funds from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Spirit of 2012 and the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

It has three main strands: music, visual arts and storytelling and its overarching theme is ‘United by Music’.

Liverpool is the first host city to deliver an engagement programme of this scale to its residents, which was central to its bid to host on behalf of Ukraine and made possible by Liverpool City Council’s Culture Liverpool team.

The children taking part in the Sanctuary and Unity Through Song project will spend more than a month preparing for their big performance, initially discussing Eurovision and the conflict in Ukraine before devising lyrics to put to a musical melody written by Stephen.

They have been rehearsing at Hope’s Creative Campus, working with a conductor, film crew, performance coaches, audio engineer and musical ensemble.

This professional element is a key part of the project, which aims to provide children who may not have previously engaged with the Arts with the opportunity to experience music in a professional setting.

In addition to their Pier Head performance, all participants will receive a professional-level audio recording from local studio, the Vocal Lab, as well as a series of videos documenting their experience of being part of Liverpool’s Eurovision extravaganza.

Sanctuary and Unity Through Song Project Lead and Dean of Liverpool Hope University’s School of Creative and Performing Arts, Professor Stephen Davismoon, said: “I am delighted that Culture Liverpool allocated funding to this project which has enabled these young people to perform at one of the most prestigious events Liverpool has held.

“It is amazing to be part of the Eurovision spectacle and to perform at the Pier Head as part of the Eurovision Village is really exciting for us all.

“The young people will be thrilled. I can’t wait to see their faces on the day and I hope it leaves them with some really powerful memories.”

Alicia Smith, Manager of Arts, Heritage, Libraries and Participation at Culture Liverpool, said: “This has been an incredible opportunity for children with special educational needs and disabilities to learn from music industry professionals from a conductor and performance coaches to an audio engineer and a film crew.

“It is also a great way of teaching the children about the musical heritage of Liverpool and the conflict in Ukraine.

“As well as picking up new skills and potentially an interest in a career in the Arts, these children will go away with some incredible memories to cherish, performing an original song that they helped craft in front of an audience. This is exactly what EuroLearn is all about.”

Georgia Hawkins, teacher at Alt Bridge Secondary School, said: “We jumped at the opportunity to be involved in Sanctuary and Unity Through Song because we thought it would be an amazing experience for our pupils.

“They have really enjoyed being part of the project. Every time the team from Liverpool Hope University have come in they have been so excited and it’s been really special for them to write a song and see their words come to life through music.

“Being part of Eurovision and performing at the Pier Head is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the whole school community is so proud of them.”

Liverpool Waterfront