As a die-hard Eurovision fan, Northern local, and journalist, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the end of exams in glitter, world flags, and live music in Liverpool.
The UK last hosted Eurovision before most Lancs students were even born, in 1998 in Birmingham, following Katrina and the Waves’ ballad win ‘Love Shine a Light.’ Fast-forward to Turin, Italy, 2022, ‘Stefania‘ by The Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian winners of the competition are unable to host due to the ongoing war, so the hosting duties are offered to second place, which just so happened to be the UK’s Sam Ryder with ‘Spaceman.’
What a lot of people don’t know about Eurovision, is that every year, there is more than just one show- the Saturday Grand Final. There are two semi-finals on Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as multiple matinee and evening rehearsals, totalling nine shows.
Costing just shy of £65 each for the high stall seats, we thought we had really got a bargain, considering prices for televised shows and the final increase up to £350, although we were concerned as to whether we would be able to see anything that high up at the M&S Bank Arena.
Walking through the city my cheeks hurt from smiling, with banners, displays, and posters for the contest everywhere, Liverpool has completely transformed, donning the logo colours of pink, blue, and yellow in almost every window, with some shops even offering special Eurovision deals, like at Chopstix!
Shortly after I draped a flag around my shoulders and took pictures of every big sign I could find, we were asked by BBC Radio 5 if we would like to appear as guests on Nihil Athanayake’s Eurovision program, which of course we did. Halfway through glitter and facepaint, we were taken up to the media hub on Albert Dock overlooking the village, given a short briefing, and had our picture taken. You can listen to the full show here but there was no way in five minutes I could tell the entire country how excited I am and how much thought and planning has led to this moment.
Next up, the moment I have been waiting for, the semi-final show, after a relatively short queue and security check, we made our way to our seats with Maneskin playing across the hall, and were pleasantly surprised at how good they were. Right beside the green room, with a fantastic view of the pier stage, we were almost in tears as soon as we heard the EBU jingle.
We then spent the next two and a half hours dancing, screaming, and singing in at least five different languages, watching exclusive videos for love audiences, and the interval acts courtesy of Rebecca Ferguson and Rita Ora. With stand-ins for interviews, and false results to stimulate the evening show, I had the time of my life, a real dream come true.
After a quick pitstop for some Gyros from the docks food market, I practically ran to the Eurovision Village, to see some more live music. First up Victor Vernicos, Greece’s entry, followed by Gustaph, Belgium’s entry, who was surprised on stage with the news his single had gone Gold in Belgium, presented with the CD award.
Then finally, Melovin (Ukraine’s 2018 act) performed his set. I fell in love with Eurovision after watching Melovin perform in the final, and have been following his career ever since, so to see my favourite song performed live, right at the barrier, felt surreal. (Also, for anyone who ever saw me on Tinder, this was my song).
Concluding Tuesday by watching the live semi-final, and predicting all the qualifiers correctly, it was time to get to bed before another full day of Eurovision madness. With some face paint and glitter left over from the day before, I painted coloured hearts on my face and caught another delayed train.
After a busy day, we didn’t get a chance to make it to any of the pop-up shops due to massive queues, and with requests from friends back in Lancaster, I spent an hour buying some official merchandise, which any British Euro-fan will tell you, is near impossible to order online due to stock levels and extortionate shipping fees.
As I signed up to Sam Ryder’s mailing list before his Manchester show in March, I was emailed exclusive access to a free, intimate gig at the famous Cavern Club, home to The Beatles. With three shows fully booked within minutes, I managed to grab a ticket to the first concert at 2 pm, so only getting out of the shop at 1:55 pm, I was a little stressed.
However, that quickly melted away as I bumped into Luke Black, Serbia’s Eurovision entry on the way to the club. After I told him I saw his performance yesterday, and congratulated him on qualifying, I wished him luck for Saturday and he said:
‘ I am so grateful for your support… I am having such a good time in Liverpool thank you so much.’
Myself, and a handful of other confused fans, sneaked our way in the staff back door to the Cavern Club after the doors closed shortly before 2 pm, and enjoyed an energetic and overall very wholesome set for Sam Ryder, who previewed his new single ‘Mountain’ which he will be performing on Saturday’s final.
One last visit to the village for some authentic Ukrainian cuisine, a pint, and a liver performance from 2011 Azerbaijani winner Ell, as well as newly disqualified 2023 Azerbaijani representatives Tural and Turan, who were extremely humble and appreciative of the opportunity, rather than upset and bitter.
For the two long shifts I put in at Eurovision, I totalled 6 hours on transport to and from, two tubes of facepaint, six pots of glitter emptied, and £20 made with my semi-final prediction bets. I imagine it will be a very long time until Eurovision is so close to home, even if we win this year, other cities bid to host this year such as Glasgow and London, who may take the cake.
With train strikes being held on the Friday and Saturday of Eurovision, I considered myself lucky that with a student rail card, I was only paying £15 for a return to Liverpool Lime Street direct from Lancaster. This brought our total spent to £80 for the event itself, however, with 86% of Lancs students saying they were not heading down to Liverpool this week in our Instagram survey, the cost of the event was the main reason why. One student answered ‘I wish I was going but it’s too expensive’ and another also recognised how busy it is expected to be.
I am not going to pretend it was quiet and I didn’t spend a lot of time queueing for various events, but compared to my expectations, it was certainly not as hectic and rammed during the day. As for cost, I very much appreciate that £65 is not a small sum, especially during the cost of living crisis, however, almost every single show in the Eurovision Village (excluding the live stream of Saturday’s final) is free entry, opening at 12 pm, and staying open until around 10 pm, ready for Euroclub.
I cannot wait to host yet another Eurovision viewing party this Saturday, with even more flags, paint, and glitter (as well as themed cocktails of course) and I wish everyone a happy Eurovision week!
To find out more about what is on in Liverpool click here