‘If there’s a place to throw a party’: UK cities bid to host Eurovision | Eurovision
In 1956, Sheffield became, it is believed, Britain’s first officially twinned town with one behind the Iron Curtain, in partnership with a similar steel- and mining-rich place then called Stalino, but later Donetsk.
This is why there is a Shefield Square on the banks of the Kalmius River. In Sheffield there is a long busy road called Donetsk Way. And it’s those links that are one of the reasons the Yorkshire town is now a candidate to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which will take place in the UK but, everyone agrees, should really take place in Ukraine.
“We plan to throw the kitchen sink at him,” said Ben Miskel, councilor and Eurovision bid manager for Sheffield. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase our city, but also an opportunity to show solidarity and celebrate the Ukrainian people.”
War is the reason why The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced this week that with “great regret”, Ukraine, winner of 2022, was not invited to host “the largest and most complex music competition in the world”.
Instead, the UK and the BBC will host on behalf of Ukraine, and the competition to be the venue has already begun. Contenders include bookmakers favorite Glasgow. Previous hosts in the form of London, Brighton, Birmingham and Edinburgh. And a series of cities rich in cultural and musical heritage, including Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, Belfast, Leeds, Newcastle upon Tyne, Aberdeen and Sheffield.
“It’s something we jumped on,” Miskell said of competing to be the host city. “Our view is that if it was in the UK, we had a responsibility to throw our hat in the ring. We have a large developing Ukrainian community in Sheffield and hundreds of families have taken in refugees.
Additionally, Sheffield has been twinned with Donetsk since 1956, he said. “We want to take the opportunity to demonstrate this common heritage, because this Eurovision really should be Ukraine’s. We are also the The UK’s first shrine cityso welcoming people from all over the world is something that is close to our hearts.”
Hosting Eurovision, this year’s event in Turin which was watched by a staggering 161 million people, is a huge undertaking. On Thursday, the BBC and EBU sent details of potential venues of what would be expected, including having a venue that can hold 10,000 people. In addition, there is security, the welcome party, the European “village” and two semi-finals.
It is a challenge but a Glasgow, which has just hosted the Cop26, could take up, said Susan Aitkenthe head of the city council.
“Ultimately it comes down to the practical concerns of hosting an event of this scale and complexity in the short term. Glasgow is the safest of safe hands in terms of being able to do that. We are ready to go,” she said.
All bidders know that they are hosting by proxy. “It’s Ukrainian Eurovision and we have to be absolutely clear about that,” she said. “We will provide a place on behalf of the Ukrainian people who won the Eurovision 2022 fair and place.”
Plus: what other city can say it’s in an Abba song? It may look like Tesco, but the verse in Super Trouper is: “I was sick and tired of it all / When I called you last night from Glasgow.”
Next year’s event won’t be the usual Eurovision, but it should still be fun. “If there’s one place to throw a party, it’s Glasgow,” Aitken said.
Bookmakers William Hill make Glasgow favorite odds to secure the song contest. Much longer odds of 22/1 can be had for Leeds. But the passion and determination to get it is just as evident.
Jonathan Priorthe deputy leader of Leeds City Council, said he started talking about the possibility of bidding on the night of the competition when it looked like Briton Sam Ryder might actually win it.
In West Yorkshire there is “the largest and oldest Ukrainian community in the whole of the UK”, Pryor said. “In fact, next year will be the 75th anniversary of the West Yorkshire community that puts its roots here. Connect that to it being Leeds 2023, a year of culture … it seems logical that he comes here.
Whichever city is chosen, it will follow in the footsteps of memorable competitions in the UK. No more than Brighton in 1974, when the British jury, perhaps crushed by the endless strikes, power cuts and three-day weeks of the time, gave zero point to the eventual winners: Abba and Waterloo.
London, which hosted in 1960, 1963 and 1968, is also going there, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, saying that the British capital would welcome the event with “open arms”.
Eyebrows would be raised if another international event took place in London. Likewise, giving it to a less obvious city carries more risk.
Eurovision is a much bigger and wilder affair than it was in 1982 when Jan Leeming presented from the new Harrogate convention center and the BBC had an opening sequence with the question ‘Where is Harrogate?” in all the languages of the participants.
Harrogate won’t be bidding this time around, but one place that will, and with enthusiasm, is Liverpool, who twinned with Odessa in 1957. Claire McColgan, Director of Culture Liverpool, highlighted its status as a Unesco City of Music and said, “We do things on a scale here all the time that few other cities do.”
It won’t be a normal Eurovision, she said, which is what makes her city such a strong contender. “Liverpool have immense compassion, a huge heart and a truly international personality.
“We are going to put a lot of work into it. It is something that is a real dream for us to be able to do.