Eurovision – the arty party

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.

Banner outside the Albert Dock in the yellow and blue Eurovision colours, with large text reading "Shine Bright, Liverpool"

Izyum to Liverpool

Part of the festival is Izyum to Liverpool, an installation at Liverpool Cathedral by Ukrainian artist Katya Buchatska.

The installation consists of a series of giant screens depicting a train journey from Izyum, a city in eastern Ukraine near the front lines. The screens show the view from the window in near real-time, with accompanying sound recordings.

Photo of Izyum to Liverpool installation at Liverpool Cathedral, with large video screens depicting the Ukrainian countryside as seen from a train window.

The total journey lasts nearly 14 hours so you are not going to be able to see the whole thing in one go. A good chunk of the journey is in darkness, with only the occasional points of light as the train passes a town or village, so focus on the sounds of the train instead. However, stick around and you are rewarded with a sunrise over the Ukrainian countryside as the train continues its journey west.

The screens unfortunately don’t photograph very well, so I heartily recommend going to see it in person. As a rail enthusiast it hit an extra note of poignancy for me.

Part of Izyum to Liverpool installation, showing an emergency window-smashing hammer as used on trains, with text over the glass box reading "How can I use it if the danger is outside too?"

Soloveiko Songbirds

The next installation we set out to see were the Soloveiko Songbirds. Twelve giant nightingales have arrived in Liverpool, each representing a different region of Ukraine. They are illuminated at night, and each sings a unique song.

If you want to see the birds, they are on display until 14 May and a map of their locations is available on the VisitLiverpool website – although be warned, a few of them are in parks and building courtyards that are locked in the evenings.

Floating Earth

Over in the Albert Dock, the This Morning weather map has been upgraded with the latest technology.

Floating Earth artwork - a detailed model of the planet Earth, floating in the waters of the Albert Dock at dusk. The globe is reflected in the water. In the background are the 19th century brick buildings of the Albert Dock

I jest, of course. This is Floating Earth, by artist Luke Jerrams. The giant globe floats serenely in the dock waters, illuminated from the inside, with high-resolution NASA imagery of our planet printed on its surface.

It’s a real talking point, with people flocking to the dock to see it. At least one Eurovision delegation has used it as a backdrop for their reporting.

Protect the Beats

Protect the Beats is an installation commemorating Ukrainian music. The Nelson Monument in Exchange Flags has been covered with 2,500 sandbags, reflecting the position in many Ukrainian cities where enemy action threatens priceless cultural and historic treasures. Video screens have been installed playing a showcase of Ukrainian music, showing how the country’s culture continues in spite of the hardships caused by war.

"Protect the Beats", the Nelson Monument in Liverpool is surrounded by sandbags and a video screen which plays a loop of music performances

Sound of Freedom

“Sound of Freedom” is a giant mural which has been painted on the side of a building just of Tithebarn Street in the city centre. A collaboration between the UK’s Neil Keating and Ukraine artist Somari. The artwork, painted predominantly in the colours of the Ukraine flag (with a bit of the Eurovision “heartbeat” colour scheme in there too) combines elements from both Liverpool and Ukrainian culture. A QR code next to the artwork can be scanned to access a musical soundtrack to accompany the visuals.

Sound of Freedom, a colourful mural which covers the entire side of a multi-storey building. Colours used are predominantly the blue, yellow and red of the Eurovision theme. Art depicts various Ukrainian and Liverpool cultural icons

The Need for Freedom

On show in the Unity Chapel of the Metropolitan cathedral is this sculpture by Dmitry Iv. Created from over 4,000 steel chain points welded together, it depicts a woman trying to rise from her chains. The lighting in the small chapel made for some interesting shadow effects.

"Need for Freedom" sculpture, made entirely out of chain links. Depicting a woman struggling against chains that tie her to the ground

Originally created in 2012, it has sadly remained very relevant, first through the Maidan protests that saw the pro-Russian government ousted, then the 2014 invasion of Crimea and finally the ongoing war. It will be on display at the cathedral until 14 May. After Eurovision, the sculpture will be auctioned to raise funds for organisations supporting Ukrainian migrants.

It would have been wrong for Liverpool to throw the massive Eurovision party without remembering why it is being held here, and these exhibits go some way towards reminding ourselves of that. This week is a true celebration of Ukraine, with a bit of Liverpool culture thrown in too. It’s going to be AMAZING.

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