Eurovision Will Leave A Deep Legacy Within Liverpool

It's become a means of stitching communities together...

Whilst Liverpool and those who reside there are proud of their heritage, many only know the city for The Beatles. But the city is much more than those four men. It’s a welcoming city of hope and ambition, that greets everyone and never accepts the status quo. The city is a survivor of managed decline and journalistic bad mouthing, determined nonetheless to succeed. It felt only fitting that Eurovision – a competition that most Brits laughed at only a few years ago – was granted to this small patch of the U.K. And even more fitting, is the way the Ukrainian community in Liverpool got behind this whirlwind of a week. 

As the city begins to recover from the parties and the late nights, people across the region are pinching themselves at the beauty that they experienced, of a celebration like no other. It is only right that we look to these people to evaluate the lasting impact that this competition has had on the fabulous city of Liverpool. 

It goes without saying that this was never Liverpool’s event, but Ukraine’s. So, what better way to observe at the legacy of this once in a lifetime happening through the eyes of Ukrainians who have settled in this country. 

One of whom, Anna, has gone above and beyond. Having settled in Liverpool near seven years ago, she was in the perfect position to support those who were being displaced when the war in Ukraine begins. Her work saw her gain the role of Ukrainian Engagement Officer at Liverpool-based charity Big Help Project, where she “supports the community with food, housing and welfare support, making sure help is given to all who need it.”

Anna vocalised pride in her two homes uniting in this celebration, explaining that “the Ukrainian community feel more at home,” having being made “central to all celebrations.”. Vinok (flower crown) workshops, parties, choir recitals and more have allowed the community she supports the opportunity to celebrate “even though they miss home”. Finding brightness in a situation that none of us envy.

Her experience of Eurovision has been enviable, attending the semi-final with her mum, celebrating the opening with her son, sister and nephew, and even meeting Eurovision 2022 winners, Kalush Orchestra. “I was singing all of the songs, I was crying, and they saw how much it meant to me.” Connecting over Ukrainian heritage, the band praised Anna’s work, creating a video in support of the Ukrainian community she has uplifted. Inevitably, Anna’s experience was tinged with pain, “it should have been in Ukraine, but I’m glad of all places, it was Liverpool who were selected to throw our party”. 

A shared sentiment across the region, with Anna’s co-worker Fran agreeing, “Liverpool made us proud”. But as a scouser herself, she knew they would. Having attended the opening of the Ukrainian Peace Garden, a performance of Ulas Samchuk’s Maria and supporting a whole week of celebrations in the city centre, Fran’s celebrations took her across the city. Collections in the city centre saw her and her team “raise near £4000”, with “support from businesses who donated £1 per drink or cake have seen us raise even more.” She beams with pride for the support the Ukrainian people have been shown, with the “money enables a continuation of Big Help Project and the recently opened Ukrainian Community Centre” to continue. 

“We knew it would be brilliant, but the celebrations exceeded our expectations” she exclaims, and she’s right. In fact, Liverpool welcomed over five times the estimated number of visitors over the two weeks of music and events. With these extra visitors came not just experiences for Ukrainian and Liverpool peoples, but opportunities too. Be it musicians booked out for the week, ceramic mural artists creating trials around the city or in Rosa Kusabbi’s case, artists adding pops of colour to Liverpool buildings. 

Adorning the walls of Peter’s Lane, Rosa’s artwork celebrates queer joy, music and Liverpool. A circle of mirrors allows for self-reflection and love, with music filling the air from a piano covered in even more of Rosa’s art. The space has become a wonderland of colour, tucked away in the bustle of the city centre. She is “honoured to have been chosen”, to have a “piece that celebrates LGBTQ+ lives… and the culture of the city” displayed on her doorstep. It’s a sentiment that echoes through everyone I meet. The idea of proximity and pride, interlinked through the celebration of the song contest. 

“I feel visible”, explains Rosa, who recently had her art Instagram account hacked, at 34,000 followers. “The contest has allowed me to gain more support, followers, and work. It’s hard being a freelance artist, especially when your main portfolio is hacked like that… but I’m overcome by the support that the city has shown me.” Her work will remain up, with visitors and locals able to see it long after the Eurovision celebrations end.

The song contest was never just about music, it was, and still is, a reminder of the challenges we can overcome when we come together and the beauty we can create as humans. It’s camp, ground-breaking and never “normal”, a little bit like Liverpool in a way. And as we slowly seep back into our normal routines, it’s clear all around us that the legacy of this song contest isn’t necessarily in the tunes that are being hummed across the region, but in the people. People from all walks of life have benefitted from a stark reminder of the importance of arts and community, gaining memories, support for independent ventures and furthering opportunities of those who are displaced. 

Going forward, the focus needs to be on maintaining this momentum and not slipping back into old ways. And by old ways, I mean media conglomerates wrongly report on Liverpool and its people. This is a city who supports those who come with a determination to succeed, be they displaced peoples, charitable organisations or independent creatives. They give the underdog a shot and never turn their back on those who need a helping hand. And if you take only one thing away from Eurovision, be it a reminder that Liverpool and all the people who live there, certainly know how to throw a party. 

Words: Megan Walder
Photography: Gary Lambert / mural picture by Christine Murtagh

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