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Soloveiko Songbirds
Image: Courtesy EuroFestival / Soloveiko Songbirds

Liverpool has announced its Eurovision programme – and it’s just as extra as you’d expect

It’s been billed as ‘the preparty to end all preparties’

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Boy does Liverpool have big plans for Eurovision. Not only can we expect a splashy and extravagant and no doubt very rowdy series of live shows in the run-up to the grand finale on Saturday May 13, but it turns out there’s a whole host of other colourful events and art installations planned too. 

The city has just launched its programme for EuroFestival, which will take place over two weeks from Monday May 1 to Sunday May 14. And the details are, frankly, ridiculous. Basically every single cultural institution in the city is getting involved. And there will be a whopping 24 brand-new commissions, 19 of which are collaborations between British and Ukrainian artists. As the Liverpool mayor, Joanne Anderson, put it this afternoon: ‘We’ve gone really over the top.’

So what exactly can we expect? One of the most ambitious projects is Soloveiko Songbirds: 12 outsize light-up nightingales, each with its own original ‘soundscape’ from a different part of Ukraine, which will pop up around the city. Another pretty massive one is Protect the Beats, which will involve Liverpool’s Nelson Monument being surrounded by thousands of sandbags to replicate the way statues in Ukraine are being shielded from bombardment.

Then there’s the sure-to-be-spectacular ENO Does Eurovision, during which the ENO Chorus and Orchestra will be joined by a host of Eurovision contestants and international opera stars to perform some of the Song Contest’s greatest hits (trust us, they just previewed a cover of ‘Zero Gravity’ at the press conference)Land & Sky, Home & Dreams, meanwhile, will involve 450 children from Ukraine and 450 from across Merseyside designing kites and flying them over the city and in four locations across Ukraine. Oh, and there’s The People’s Flag, a film project that will involve a thousand volunteers coming together to form a heart in the colours of the Ukrainian flag (you can register your interest here).

Elsewhere, you’ve got Welcome to Eurotopia, a ‘supergroup’ of Liverpool musicians and Ukrainian artists. No McCartney, sadly, but it will include Natalie McCool, Stealing Sheep, She Drew The Gun’s Lou Roach, plus Krapka Koma, Iryna Muha and Helleroid, among many more. Former Eurovision winner Jamala will also be debuting a new album based around Crimean Tatar folk songs, performed with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. And if you’re after something a little more highbrow, Chornobyldorf is an ‘archaeological opera in seven novels’ which The Times has described as ‘a modern Ukrainian masterpiece everyone needs to see’.

That’s only scratching the surface of the programme, so no wonder it’s being billed as the ‘preparty to end all preparties’ – and the biggest event to take place in the city since the Capital of Culture celebrations back in 2008. And as Stuart Andrew, one of the government’s junior culture ministers, pointed out today, this is actually the first time any Eurovision host city has put on a full-on festival in the run-up to the big party, adding: ‘This is a moment for Liverpool.’

You can check out the full EuroFestival programme here.

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