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.
It has been a pleasure to explore the city centre during this past week. There was a carnival atmosphere everywhere, with flags being waved, songs being sung and dancing in the streets. People seeing my Eurovision top shouted “happy Eurovision!” at me. Most excellently of all, I felt safe holding my boyfriend’s hand in public. It felt wonderful.
Then the show itself. I was fortunate enough to attend the preview show for Semi Final 1, and the live broadcast of Semi Final 2, thanks to my lovely friend Phil who is better at getting Ticketmaster to cooperate than I am. The show was brilliantly put together by the BBC, showcasing the best of Liverpool while never forgetting that Ukraine is the rightful host country. As was stated many times in the run up to the show: this is Ukraine’s party – we were just providing the venue.
Ukraine and Scouse elements blended together perfectly: Rebecca Ferguson and Aloysha duetting in Semi Final 1, to the lovely opening sequence in the final, depicting Kalush Orchestra performing alongside British musicians. And Sefton Park in a Eurovision postcard!
Then came the final interval act, The Liverpool Songbook – six songs interpreted by Eurovision icons of the past. An incredible performance, which left a stunned Mel Giedroyc just saying “Sonia” for several minutes afterwards. But not particularly inclusive of Ukraine – or so I thought.
The final song was Duncan Laurence covering You’ll Never Walk Alone. A song which means so much to Liverpool (the red half, at least) and brought comfort in one of the city’s darkest hours. Just hearing the opening bars is enough to get me welling up.
And then the presenters and the rest of the Songbook performers appeared on stage to sing along.
And then they cut to Ruslana and a choir performing in the centre of Kyiv. Not a dry eye in the house. Liverpool’s song is now everyone’s. Слава Україні!
Incredible, emotional, stirring. The power of music. The power of Eurovision. United by Music.
I haven’t even talked about the result, but let’s just say the finale – where crowd favourite Käärijä scored massively in the public vote, but failed to overtake Loreen’s huge jury score – was nail-biting excitement. Not that the crowd in the arena, chanting “cha cha cha!” seemed to care that much.
For a week, the eyes of the world were on Liverpool, and we showed ourselves at our very best. Martin Österdahl said that there are things from this year that will be taken forward to future shows.
Everyone who has commented on the contest has remarked that Liverpool has done a remarkable job as host city. The bunting has been taken down and the Eurovision train is off to Sweden for 2024, but the city can take pride in the knowledge that they hosted the greatest show on earth, and did it right.
Fuck it, let’s bid for the Olympics.