Liverpool legacy refines Eurovision’s politics of place

Published: 25 January 2024

The University of Glasgow has contributed to new research on the soft-power impacts of Liverpool’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.

The University of Glasgow has contributed to new research on the soft-power impacts of Liverpool’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.

With just days to go until Liverpool hands over the Eurovision key to 2024 hosts Sweden, the official report has concluded that Liverpool has revolutionised the hosting of the contest.

Eurovision flags at 2023 opening ceremony

Commissioned by the British Council, in partnership with Liverpool City Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the report used extensive research, case studies and an international survey to explore whether the event resulted in encouraging future visits, new business opportunities and reputational uplifts for both Liverpool and the UK.

This research project was led by the University of Hull in collaboration with a team of consultants including Dr Michael Howcroft of the University of Glasgow’s Urban Studies team. He was joined by academics at the University of Brighton and Royal Holloway (University of London).

Dr Michael Howcroft said: “Contributing to this research was a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the Eurovision Song Contest at a time when the organisers increasingly must walk political tightropes in terms of global cultural relations and projecting narratives of unity. That’s going to be doubly hard for Malmö and the European Broadcasting Union in 2024. One of our key findings was of the important role played by Liverpool’s local communities and their surprising, thoughtful and creative ways to celebrate Liverpudlian and Ukrainian cultures.”

In considering Liverpool’s approach to hosting the competition on behalf of Ukraine, the report says: “Liverpool’s vision for achieving positive impact from the opportunity, has redefined the event’s politics of place in ways that can inspire future hosts.”

It recognises that what Liverpool staged was much more than an arena show and has laid the foundation for future hosts in how to communicate key narratives to a huge international audience.

As a result of the extensive host city programme curated and delivered by Liverpool City Council and its partners, combined with the high-end output of the BBC and the support of UK Government, it is acknowledged that Eurovision 2023 boosted Liverpool’s reputation as a city of music, a place with expertise of delivering immersive cultural events with strong community participation, and a leader in event evaluation.

The report praises the EuroFestival programme - a first for a host city - which saw 24 brand new artistic commissions, 19 of which were by Ukrainian artists, take over the city as part of the celebrations. It is noted that this approach forged new, creative partnerships with Ukraine and was a powerful way to showcase Ukrainian culture to diverse audiences. The City Council’s partnership with the Ukrainian Institute and the British Council in the planning and delivery of this programme resulted in meaningful and tangible cultural relations.

The city-wide embrace of all things Eurovision was a key factor in how Liverpool was positively received. Local businesses and residents flying Eurovision, Ukraine and Pride flags reiterated the inclusivity and symbolised the nature of the event. This was seen as Liverpool successfully expressing its values of being a warm, welcoming and friendly city.
When analysing where Eurovision 2023 inspired visitors, a survey was carried out with more than 5,000 people from countries including Estonia, France, Poland, Spain and Romania. A third of those who responded said they were now more likely to visit the UK and Liverpool.

Future host cities are encouraged to adopt a similar approach to Liverpool’s evaluation methodology - again, the process was a first and highlighted that Eurovision 2023 generated £54million for Liverpool City Region and welcomed 473,000 visitors. Liverpool has now set an example of what to assess and how to do it and it should be used as a blueprint for Malmö and other future host cities.

The BBC also noticed increased reputational uplift for itself on Merseyside and the north of England after producing Eurovision, and a senior interviewee felt that the event had been “a unifying point across the political divide’, with cross-party support for solidarity with Ukraine and for the BBC.

In summing up how Liverpool could now be perceived internationally, the report says that hosting Eurovision has meant that the city isn’t just recognised for its association with The Beatles – it is now a leader when it comes to hosting large-scale events and responds ambitiously and creatively to events.

Liverpool will officially hand over the Eurovision key to Sweden at the Insignia event in Malmö on 30 January.

Eurovision Minister Stuart Andrew said: "Liverpool and the BBC put on a spectacular celebration of UK and Ukrainian culture at last year's Eurovision and this research proves the huge impact it had. I am proud that the government was able to support this and provide tickets for more than 3,000 Ukrainians.

"The UK is a global leader in hosting major events. Alongside our music and creative industries they deliver huge economic value as well as improving our standing on the world stage and helping us to build relationships across the globe. The legacy of the 2023 Eurovision will be felt for generations to come and I applaud the hard work of everybody involved."

Leader of Liverpool City Council, Councillor Liam Robinson, said: “This for me is the most important piece of research to come out of Eurovision – we always knew there would be a massive economic boost and there would be positive health benefits which comes with staging an event of this scale, but the cultural diplomacy was an unknown.

“In a post-Brexit and post-Covid climate, we recognised the need to supersize the Liverpool brand on a global stage and we achieved just that. There will be real legacy from this event with new visitors, new investment and strengthened diplomatic ties.

“The key handover in Malmö continues this narrative, and it’s only right that Liverpool’s approach to Eurovision is now considered the blueprint for future host cities - for them to adopt and adapt so that they can tell their own story.”

Images courtesy of Liverpool City Council

First published: 25 January 2024

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