Saturday, May 13, 2023

Photos of my Eurovision pilgrimage to Liverpool (before it went a bit wrong)

I'm still feeling and looking distinctly grim after my freak accident in Liverpool late on Thursday night.  However, I took about fifteen thousand photos and videos before that happened, so I'd probably better make sure they don't all go to waste.  

I'm sure I wasn't alone in being totally livid with the BBC in the autumn.  It wasn't so much the fact that Glasgow wasn't selected as the Eurovision venue - my assumption was always that it would go to Manchester, because the BBC's default attitude seems to be that if they do stuff in Manchester, that's the 'outside of London' box ticked.  I wasn't that far wrong, because Liverpool and Manchester are effectively part of the same northwest of England urban area, and the BBC thus probably said to themselves "oh yeah, Liverpool is like Manchester but with the Beatles".  No, it was the way it was done that I found so objectionable, with what looked in retrospect like a sham 'run-off' between Liverpool and Glasgow.  I suspect Liverpool had already been pencilled in by that point, and the intention was to give Glasgow an utterly meaningless 'runners-up' title, while generating an extra TV programme to reveal the result.  If the run-off hadn't been a sham, it's very hard to see how Glasgow wouldn't have won in a fair head-to-head with Liverpool.  Having now been to the M&S Bank Arena a couple of times, I can say for sure that it's not quite in the same class as the Hydro - not only does it have a smaller capacity, it also feels less modern and has a less striking appearance and shape.  It maybe does have more impressive exterior surroundings, but that's not especially relevant for an inside event intended mainly for a TV audience.

The BBC have made sure that Scotland is totally erased as far as Eurovision is concerned.  The past participation of Wales in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, and of both Scotland and Wales in the Eurovision Choir contest, is a pretty strong signal that the EBU wouldn't stand in the way of Scottish representation in the main event and that the roadblock is political in nature and resides at the BBC.  If the BBC are so hellbent on ensuring that Scotland can only ever be represented by a United Kingdom entry, I'd suggest there's a special responsibility on them to ensure that Scottish artists and songwriters get a fair crack of the whip in the UK selection process, and that simply hasn't been the case for many, many decades.  As far as I can see, there has been no Scottish involvement in the UK entry since 1988.  When national finals have been used to select the entry, Scotland has been very severely under-represented among the finalists.  That pattern is not happening by chance - I'm not saying it's necessarily intentional, but there's clearly some systemic issue at play which the BBC just have no interest in putting right.  There finally was a golden opportunity to make some amends by simply allowing the objective choice to be made that the Hydro was a more suitable venue than the M&S Bank Arena, but instead the BBC cynically used Glasgow as a stunt prop.  I think we're entitled to draw the obvious conclusion and to be angry about it.

As Colin Beattie might put it, Scotland is still "woven into" Eurovision history, because there have been Scottish winners as both singer (Lulu in 1969) and songwriter (Bill Martin in 1967), and Edinburgh hosted the contest in 1972.  But that was all a very, very long time ago, and to ever get out of this Eurovision Antarctica, it's pretty clear that we're going to need political independence.  Fair representation is never going to be granted by the BBC.

But anyway, a Eurovision just 200 miles from where I live is still a once in a blue moon event, so as a lifelong fan I thought I'd better at least try to buy tickets, even though I've been avoiding indoor events because of Covid (I live with a vulnerable person).  The ticket sales famously turned into an absolute shambles, and although I was somehow successful in getting a ticket for each semi-final, I found it a very stressful process, because you know that if you make just one wrong move (like closing the browser tab by accident) you'll have blown your chance.  If I was Prime Minister for a day, I think one of the things I'd do is pass a law stating that ticketed events that are likely to be heavily over-subscribed should have a lottery system, just to take the stress out of it and to ensure everyone has a fair chance.

Here are some photos from my three days in Liverpool.  It was an interesting trip, because Liverpool is just about the only large UK city I'd never previously been to.  I did a bit of sightseeing and ferried 'cross the Mersey.  The two semi-finals were very different experiences from each other - on Tuesday I had a seated ticket right at the back on the river side of the hall, and on Thursday I had a standing ticket (you can see my battered 'floor' wristband in one of the photos).  I tried to strategise a way of getting as close to the front as possible on Thursday, but I think the dice may have been loaded slightly, with some ticket-holders being more equal than others.  There were a couple of Australian guys behind me in the queue who seemed to be taking the strategising even more seriously than I was, and when we got into the hall, they said "Where the f*** did those people come from?! We're f***ed!!!"  But actually there were only about three people between me and the stage, so I think I did pretty well on the whole.  I was close enough that I could feel the heat from the pyrotechnics.

I must just note a head-scratching moment from the warm-up act on Tuesday night.

"Do you remember 1978?"

(A Ba Ni Bi?)

"I said: do you remember 1978?"

(Well, not personally, but the winner in 1978 was definitely A Ba Ni Bi.)

"I can't hear you: DO YOU REMEMBER 1978?"

(Surely not The Bad Old Days by Coco?  It only finished eleventh.)

And then he started playing Waterloo by Abba, which of course won in 1974.


  1. Maybe they feared the Hydro staff would object to a line in a song and they'd have to cancel the show? ;-)

  2. From what I understand. If a country has it's own state broadcaster , it can enter as a nation. Even if it's not politically independent. I am citing San Marino and Andorra here. Do they have their own independent broadcasters?

    We being tied yo BBC England are being held back. Is it time to back an independent Scottish TV company?

    1. When Scotland participated in Eurovision Choir it was via BBC Alba. Wales have participated in Eurovision Choir and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest via S4C.

      Andorra and San Marino are both independent countries, by the way (notwithstanding the fact that the President of France is Co-Prince of Andorra).

  3. Congratulations to Sweden on winning twice with the same singer and same song. Recycling really is all the rage in the home of Greta Thunberg.

  4. Never forget what happened to the Glasgow Marathon. It was going from strength to strength, until, following a tremendous day, the guy that was running foolishly (in hindsight) said, "Next year, we'll be bigger than London". Within 24Hrs, the BBC announced it was withdrawing coverage and no other major UK channel would cover it. That was the end of it.