King Charles III and Queen Camilla unveiling the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) stage in Liverpool, 26 April 2023. Photo:

King Charles III and Queen Camilla unveiling the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) stage in Liverpool, 26 April 2023. Photo: [email protected]

It’s been 25 years since the UK last hosted the Eurovision Song Contest. So, when Liverpool welcomes the event this week--on behalf of last year’s winner Ukraine--there is no doubt it will be absolutely ‘boss’!

The 67th Eurovision Song Contest starts on Tuesday with the first semi-final, but in Liverpool the festivities have been going on for some time. The city has been buzzing with preparations for months and an impressive Eurovision programme of events and activities, most of them free, is already in full swing. Ahead of their coronation, King Charles III and Queen Camilla even made the trip to the M&S Bank Arena to unveil the 450 square metre Eurovision staging, complete with 220 square metres of turning video screens, 700 video floor tiles and 1,500 metres of LED lights.

Rehearsals for the 37 competing countries (11 of which will not make it through to the final) started last week, and yesterday the Turquoise Carpet opening ceremony and a long sold-out Big Eurovision Welcome concert took place, including performances from Atomic Kitten and iconic Liverpudlian 80s group Frankie Goes to Hollywood, reunited for the occasion and performing together for the first time since 1987.

It is the ninth time the UK will be hosting Eurovision, and the fifth time it will be doing so for another country. Last time was in 1974, when the UK stepped in for Luxembourg, which wasn’t up for hosting two years running after their back-to-back 1972 and 1973 victories. This time round is a very different situation. After winning the 2022 contest with the song “Stefania” by Kalush Orchestra, Ukraine held on to the hope of being able to host Eurovision on national ground this year. Alas, the ongoing war caused by the Russian invasion made this impossible. The Ukrainian national song selection for Eurovision even had to be held in a Kyiv underground metro station last December.

Much focus has therefore been put on making the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool a joint venture with Ukraine. British and Ukrainian producers and creatives have worked together all along, and Ukraine will be very much present throughout the three live shows (the two semi-finals and the final); the aim being to “showcase a vibrant Ukraine, full of hope and love, standing strong” and a “welcoming UK, a friend that can always be counted on”. Liverpool, with its strong musical heritage, will naturally also get a part of the spotlight.

Another unique feature in this year’s edition will be the voting system. For the first time ever in the contest’s history, viewers anywhere in the world will be able to cast their votes--even if their own country is not participating (which has always been a condition up until now). And this is true for both the semi-finals and the final. Furthermore, there will be no more jury votes in the semi-finals, meaning that the qualifiers for the final will be decided only by the viewers. This should bring some surprises… 

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And of course, this year’s Eurovision might also hold another surprise… Fans in the grand duchy and the rest of the Eurovision community are still hoping for Luxembourg to announce its much-awaited comeback.