With just days to go until Liverpool officially hands over the Eurovision key to 2024 hosts Sweden – an official report has concluded that the City has revolutionised the hosting of the contest.
Ground-breaking research has been carried out to understand the power and impact on global cultural relations that the UK and Liverpool had when hosting the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.
Commissioned by the British Council, in partnership with Liverpool City Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the report uses 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.
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.
The limited timescales to deliver one of the biggest music events in the world is also spotlighted in the report, with praise given for going far beyond the basic pre-requisite of staging Eurovision, and instead delivering an ambitious, welcoming programme in half the time that would usually be allocated. In a quote from a Spirit of 2012 representative:
“I’m not sure it would be possible within the timeframe to have given it to a city that didn’t have that kind of overall sense of events.”
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 the 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.
And it wasn’t just Liverpool that felt the benefit. The BBC also noticed increased reputational uplift for itself on the wider Liverpool City Region 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 is somewhere that responds ambitiously and creatively to events.
Liverpool will officially handover the Eurovision key to Sweden at the Insignia event in Malmö on Tuesday 30 January.
This research project was led by the University of Hull in collaboration with a team of consultants from the University of Brighton, the University of Glasgow, and Royal Holloway (University of London).
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It supports peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide.
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 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.
“I’d like to thank the British Council for leading on this vital research which will inform our international strategy, put Liverpool in the spotlight with central government in positioning the city internationally and reinforces the importance of exploring international relationships at every level
“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.”
Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, said:
“Eurovision 2023 embodied something much greater than just a music contest – it was an incredible display of unity and creativity that showcased the very best of our area’s values. From the hundreds of thousands of visitors who flocked to our region for a fortnight of fun and frivolity, to the tens of millions around the world who tuned in, we showed them all the real Liverpool.
“While I think the key to our success was in the warmth and creativity of our people – I’m looking forward to leading the delegation to Sweden next week to officially handover the contest to Malmö. Our time in the spotlight might be coming to a close, however, I am more confident than ever that the legacy we have built will live long in people’s hearts and minds. Eurovision didn’t just change Liverpool, Liverpool changed Eurovision – and that’s exactly what this report shows.”
Rebecca Simor, Director Festivals and Seasons, British Council said:
“Eurovision 2023 was a unique event in the song competition’s long history because of the tragic back-drop of war in Ukraine. The city of Liverpool used the opportunity of being in the global spotlight to project a powerful global message of welcome and inclusion, bringing the whole city to life with a unique arts festival of Ukrainian stories and celebration of Ukrainian culture.”
Christine Wilson, Director Research and Insight, British Council, said:
“Eurovision is cultural relations played out on a grand stage – literally. It builds connections between people using their music, their language and their culture, and shows you can have fierce competition while retaining a spirit of co-operation and inclusion.”
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.”
Phil Harrold, Chair, BBC Eurovision Steering Group, said:
“Showcasing the spirit of Ukraine and Liverpool to huge Eurovision Song Contest audiences across the world was an incredibly proud moment for the BBC. This report highlights the massive economic impact that Eurovision 2023 has brought to both Liverpool and the UK’s wider creative economy, as well as creating amazing potential for attracting future investment.”
Some quotes from the report:
“British people can and will be very welcoming of Europeans. We’re very much part of Europe and always will be. We’ve perhaps not had the best image in recent years. But I think Eurovision has gone a long way to improve that. And I think people would have looked at Eurovision and the UK and the city of Liverpool and seen that we are a welcoming country.’
BBC Studios interviewee
“Liverpool showed what you can do to benefit from hosting the event. So rather than see it as an expense, and that money had to be spent on the activities, it actually showed that if you invest, and if you do it smartly, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a lot of return on investment. And it’s actually become a fantastic blueprint for future host cities to not see the event as something that will possibly cost them money, but actually it will make them money.”
European Broadcasting Union interviewee
“Liverpool is an amazing best practice case study, because we can take what Liverpool has done in terms of impact assessment and show the next city. […] And then once we’ve gone through a number of years of having real best practice examples of impact assessment, that is a whole file of information we will absolutely give to the cities who are bidding for the following year’s contest.” European Broadcasting Union interviewee
“From the very early stages of preparation, Liverpool showed how serious it was about its plan, by announcing this competition involving partnerships of Ukrainian creatives and cultural figures to present different cultural projects on site in Liverpool.”
Suspilne Ukraine interviewee (Ukrainian public broadcaster)
“All anyone talked about afterwards, and at the time, was the Liverpool welcome […] you can’t buy what that does for your reputation nationally and internationally.”
Culture Liverpool interviewee