AJ Odudu and Joel Dommett hosted the ultimate Eurovision opening ceremony, The National Lottery’s Big Eurovision Welcome, outside St. George’s Hall in Liverpool.
The audience of over 25,000 were treated to a spectacular opening show to celebrate Eurovision arriving in the city – with the free event a unique ‘thank you’ to the public for the money raised for music and culture in Liverpool through The National Lottery.
Liverpool’s musical heritage was celebrated with a show-stopping performance from re-united Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who came back to Liverpool for their first public appearance in 36 years, alongside performances from local legends Lightning Seeds, Atomic Kitten, the Real Thing and Jamie Webster.
The National Lottery show also celebrated other elements of the city’s rich culture including cameos from Liverpool royalty Ricky Tomlinson and TV favourite Shirley Ballas delivering their own special ‘love letters’ to Liverpool, written by children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce and Liverpool poet Pauline McAdam. RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne also performed an ABBA classic while Alexandra Burke performed ‘I’m Every Woman’ to celebrate the powerful women in Liverpool.
In the spirit of Eurovision’s tagline ‘United By Music’ there were also video messages from Everton FC Manager Sean Dyche alongside Liverpool FC Manager Jurgen Klopp as well as appearances from Liverpool and Everton players Missy Bo Kearns and Toni Duggan. From the roof of St George’s Hall Liverpool’s Sunetra Sarker also called out the transformative impact National Lottery funding has had for culture in the city, with projection mapping depicting the restoration the building enjoyed thanks to £15m of lottery funding.
The Beatles also featured with Brit nominee Birdy and Ukraine’s Eurovision 2016 winner Jamala being joined by The Coral’s Paul Molloy for an emotive re-imagining of ‘All You Need Is Love’, which included a 40-foot high illustration by Oscar winning artist, illustrator and author Charlie Mackesy taking shape on St George’s Hall depicting a couple hand-in-hand to reflect the bond between the people of the UK and Ukraine.
The deference to and the celebration of Ukraine, who were due to stage the 2023 Eurovision song contest and on whose behalf Liverpool are hosting, was a theme throughout the event. Jamala delivered a stirring rendition of ‘1944’, which relates to the deportation of Crimean Tatars by the Soviets in WW2 and was accompanied by a poignant performance by the United Ukrainian Ballet – a dance troupe currently in exile in the Hague.
The performance by Eurovision icon Conchita Wurst of the 2014 winning anthem ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ was also an evocative acknowledgement of Ukraine and the unique bond with Liverpool as drones, flown by Celestial, took to the sky to spell out Liverpool Loves Ukraine before creating a 100 ft wide Stork (the national bird of Ukraine) that then morphed spectacularly into the Liver Bird, synonymous with Liverpool. This was complemented by aerial acrobats on zip wires flying over the audiences dressed as birds and in the distinct yellow and blue plumage of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Ambassador, Vadym Prystaiko, also played his part, joining Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson, on top of St George’s Hall to press the button that switched on the stunning illumination of the National Lottery-funded building.
The incredible celebration closed with a show-stopping performance from Euro-pop royalty Zara Larsson who collaborated with Liverpool’s Cream to perform her hit song ‘Can’t Tame Her’, before bringing the crowd, UK and Ukraine together with her own rendition of ‘You’ve Got The Love’. The performance was accompanied by aerialists, drone show and pyrotechnics, as well as featuring the National Lottery-funded House of Suarez, who vogued down the stage and catwalks out into the audience.
Tickets for the event were available for free for National Lottery players as a thank you for the £330M they have contributed to over 3,600 music and cultural projects in Liverpool alone.
Highlights of The National Lottery’s Big Eurovision Welcome and The Turquoise Carpet Opening Ceremony will air on BBC One at 18:30 on Monday 8th May as part of a special programme, ‘Eurovision Welcomes The World’.
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