University of Hull research shines a light on global cultural relations and shows Liverpool legacy redefines Eurovision

University of Hull research – commissioned by the British Council – shows that Liverpool’s legacy redefines Eurovision for future host cities and reveals the contest’s impact on global cultural relations.

Image: Marketing Liverpool

Today, Liverpool officially hands over the Eurovision key to 2024 hosts Sweden – the report has concluded the city has revolutionised the hosting of the event.

Liverpool will officially pass the Eurovision key to Sweden at the Handover Ceremony and Semi-Final Allocation Draw 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).

Dr Catherine Baker, who is a Reader in 20th Century History in the Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education at the University of Hull and the lead researcher, said:

‘Viewers and organisations around the UK have seen the Eurovision Song Contest in a new light since the BBC and Liverpool were invited to host the 2023 event on Ukraine’s behalf. Although Ukraine won Eurovision 2022, Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country meant that, for the first time in Eurovision history, a winning country could not host because it was under attack.

“Working with Ukrainian partners, the BBC as host broadcaster and Liverpool as host city delivered an acclaimed Eurovision including a more extensive cultural festival than any other host city has attempted, which may have redefined the event’s politics of place.

“I watched my first Eurovision Song Contest in 1993, and thirty years later it was an honour to learn the inside story of this year’s event from so many of the people who helped to deliver it on Ukraine’s behalf.”

The 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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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 £54 million 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.

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.

To read the full report, please visit the British Council website.