When it was announced that Liverpool would host Eurovision, I was overjoyed, but also a little bit nervous. The city had never held an event of this size before. Would we be able to pull off the feat of hosting one of the biggest and most technically complex live television events in the world? Could the city’s infrastructure cope with a massive influx of visitors from all over the world? I hoped so, but a part of me was a litte bit worried.
My concerns were unfounded. Liverpool didn’t just host Eurovision, it embraced it and turned it into a week-long festival of joy. With a massive festival of public art running alongside the event, concerts and plays to entertain us, as if the massive festival of music itself wasn’t enough.
Eurovision is being held in Liverpool, and it has been an amazing experience. The atmosphere in the city has been electric, with numerous events being held surrounding the contest ensuring that no-one is left out, even those who couldn’t get a ticket to the show itself.
Sadly, it all comes to an end today, but it will be a massive climax with the Grand Final at 8pm, live across Europe and beyond. 26 artists will compete on behalf of their country to secure the Eurovision crown and the honour of hosting next year.
Here are the ones I think you should watch out for.
A Thong For Europe is the latest in the Liverpool Royal Court’s long-running series of plays with a truly groan-worthy pun for a title. It is a new musical by Jonathan Harvey, the genius behind Beautiful Thing, Canary, Our Lady of Blundellsands and a million episodes of Coronation Street.
The show was commissioned and written after the announcement last October that Liverpool would host Eurovision. From initial idea to a fully-formed musical in six months? Could it be done? If anyone can do it, Jonathan Harvey can.
Liverpool has embraced Eurovision beyond my wildest imagination. It has taken over the city in a way I’ve never seen before. More than the various Giants events. Not even a Liverpool FC trophy parade touches this for sheer scale. Naturally, I’ve immersed myself in it as much as possible.
Things got under way in earnest at the beginning of May with EuroFestival, a fortnight-long cultural festival of artworks tying in with the contest, with a particular emphasis on Ukraine, the rightful hosts of this year’s contest.
I’ve been exploring some of the artworks with Ben, and here is a round-up of what we’ve seen so far.
Easter Monday was spent in the company of my lovely boyfriend Ben at Speke Hall, the Tudor House and surrounding gardens on the edge of Liverpool.
It’s been a long time since I visited. Previous visits as a child were associated in my head with boredom, as my mum cooed over the delicate Tudor furniture and I longed to get home to my Commodore 64. In adulthood, the site was never really on my radar as a place to visit, despite being just a few miles from my house. It doesn’t help that it is curiously difficult to get to by public transport – the only option being to take one of the buses to Liverpool Airport, alight a couple of stops early, and walk nearly a mile.
I don’t want to brag, but Ben has a car. We were able to drive to Speke Hall on Easter Monday, arriving just after the 10.30am opening time. The hall is in the care of the National Trust, and admission is £15 if you want to access all areas. If you don’t want to see the house, a tenner will get you into the grounds only.
Why was I wandering around an industrial estate in Birkenhead last weekend with my friend Scott? The answer may surprise you!
I was here to visit the Bloom Building, an events space on the edge of Birkenhead town centre, conveniently located between Cammell Laird shipyard and the Queensway Tunnel toll plaza. The event this space was hosting on 25th March was The Big Chat about the Transport Shed from National Museums Liverpool (NML).
The subject of the event was NML’s extensive Land Transport collection, which includes more than 200 items. As part of the event, there were activities for kids, a guitarist playing transport-related pop songs – a thankless task when no-one in the room was paying the slightest bit of attention – and trinkets from the museum’s collection on show.
The main attraction, though, was a talk given by senior persons at NML, about some exciting plans that they have for the future of the collection.
Desperately sad news about the untimely death of Paul O’Grady at the age of just 67. Social media has predictably been full of tributes, with nobody having a bad word to say about him.
O’Grady, originally from Birkenhead, made his name performing as Lily Savage in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London in the 1980s. This was a time when gay men were routinely persecuted by authority, and on one occasion the pub was raided by police while Savage was on stage. This time marked the height of people’s ignorance about AIDS, and the police turned up wearing rubber gloves. Savage’s glorious riposte, “It looks like we’ve got help with the washing up,” got her arrested.
Savage was later recruited to conduct celebrity interviews on The Big Breakfast, gleefully sailing close to the line every morning, as this interview with Julian Clary shows. Later she moved to prime-time BBC One, and Blankety Blank was required viewing for me on Saturday teatimes. Unfortunately a lot of Savage’s humour had to be cut from the early evening broadcast, but luckily for us somebody saved the the outtakes, which are incredible.
Travel documentaries such as Paul O’Grady’s Orient allowed O’Grady to appear on TV as himself rather than Savage. More followed – a chat show on ITV, which moved to Channel 4, then back to ITV.
He became well-known for his love of animals, forming close ties with Battersea Dogs Home and running a farm in Kent. However, as his fame and wealth grew, he never forgot his working class roots. There was no better illustration of that than his fine rant about the Tories on live TV in 2010, which hopefully gave some ITV executives palpitations.
Whether it was as himself, or as Lily Savage, O’Grady’s presence was a massive step forward for LGBT representation on screen. Don’t underestimate the power of seeing a drag queen on mainstream television.
This isn’t quite the blog post I intended to write today.
You see, today is the 20th anniversary of me starting my original blog over at roberthampton.me.uk. My first post hit the internet at 10.37am on 22nd March 2003. It seems like a long time ago – not least because that day was a Saturday, and the idea that I would actually be out of bed at that time on a weekend seems fanciful now.
The following decade or so was fruitful, but then there was a gap between 30th December 2015 and 31st August 2017 when I deliberately stopped the blog. Even when I started up again at the new hampo.uk address, there were the two rather barren years of 2020 and 2021, when I hadn’t officially stopped the blog but still didn’t write much at all.
I came back in January 2022 promising to write more, and I hope I mostly lived up to that. It helps that, with lockdown restrictions lifted, and now an actual boyfriend to enjoy social events with, I have been getting out a lot more.
Rob Madge has created a one-person show largely based on their family’s home videos, most of which depict Rob’s childhood where they regularly staged shows in the family living room, roping in their tolerant parents to stage parades, re-enact films in the front room and turn the house into Disneyland (complete with theme park rides).
Rob’s school was less supportive. Cuttings from their school reports show exasperated teachers criticise Rob’s flair for the dramatic and difficulty making friends. Thankfully for Rob, their family continued to support them, enrolling them in a stage school. They were soon performing in plays on the West End, including Oliver!, Les Miserables and Matilda. Although it is just Rob on stage throughout, their family is present so much in the videos, that by the end of the show you feel like you know them.
A beautiful, uplifting show that demonstrates how a loving family can make all the difference to a child. The message for parents is one that is more crucial now than ever: allow your kids to be who they are, and to hell with what anyone else thinks. There’s plenty of laughs to be had at Rob’s precocious theatrical adventures, but it’s sure to leave you with a lump in your throat at the end.