How Eurovision is breathing new life into Liverpool’s queer scene: ‘It’s not felt like this in years’

A Eurovision super-fan arrives at Lime Street Station in Liverpool, northern England on May 9, 2023, ahead of the first semi-final of the Eurovision.

When it was announced that the Eurovision Song Contest was being held in Liverpool, locals couldn’t quite believe their luck.

For those not in the know, it’s hard to quantify just how big a deal the Eurovision is. Each year, fans flock from all across Europe – and the world – to watch largely up-and-coming artists battle it out to claim victory and glory for their country. Its continued success is the very definition of a pop-cultural conundrum – it shouldn’t work, but it does – and nobody really knows why.

Many in the UK had started to think the Eurovision would never be held on home territory ever again, but then along came Sam Ryder and his second-place finish behind Ukraine at the 2023 contest. Due to the ongoing war, the BBC was asked to step in.

PinkNews is in Liverpool for the Eurovision Song Contest thanks to Baileys, the event’s official drinks partner.

In Liverpool, there’s a sense of excitement about what hosting the Eurovision Song Contest might do for their city – and it’s not hard to see why. Thousands of fans have descended on Liverpool with their colourful outfits and their glittery make-up. There’s a sense that Eurovision has the power to breathe new life into the city – and to make it an even more inclusive, warm space for LGBTQ+ people.

“The city’s not felt like this in years,” says Harry Doyle, a gay Labour councillor for Knotty Ash & Dovecot Park.

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“The whole city, they’ve really taken on Eurovision and taken it to the next level. Even if people weren’t fans before they’ve taken on that role. It’s the energy of it – and it means a lot because we’re doing it on behalf of Ukraine. It’s a special year for Eurovision.”

To say hosting the contest has given the city a boost would be an understatement. Doyle says it’s impossible to put value on “the amount of PR and the amount of attention” the city is getting.

“All across Europe and beyond everyone is talking about Liverpool and that’s really important to us. We rely very heavily on tourism here, which was hampered during the pandemic, so this has provided a massive boost. It’s kept businesses open – the bars, the hotels are rally reaping the benefits.” 

Seeing Eurovision staged in his own city also has a personal meaning for Doyle. As a gay man, he has a special love for the contest.

“Growing up and before I even came out, just seeing figures like Dana International and Conchita win this contest was incredible, and now to think that Eurovision is in our city, in Liverpool, it’s just something I could have only dreamed of.”

Eurovision has given Liverpool’s queer scene a ‘massive boost’

Over in the city’s Pride Quarter, where Liverpool’s gay bars and queer venues reside, there’s rarely been more activity. Bars are bustling with queer Eurovision fans eager to hear their favourite camp anthems from Eurovision of yesteryear. 

Liverpool is staging the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine. Here a picture shows Liverpool's City Hall with a Eurovision poster on it.
Liverpool is staging the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine. (Getty)

Gethin Mullock is manager of Masquerade Bar, one of Liverpool’s most popular gay bars. He says having Eurovision in the city has brought “a massive boost” to the LGBTQ+ scene.

“A lot of people do compare it to the gay World Cup. It’s really great that it’s come to the city – it’s meant a lot to a lot of people to have that craziness come here,” Mullock tells PinkNews outside the Masquerade Bar ahead of the Grand Final.

The atmosphere has been building in the weeks leading up to Eurovision, Mullock says. Crowds have been growing gradually over the last few weeks and there’s a general feeling of excitement in the air.

“Everyone’s a lot happier. There’s no trouble at the moment either which is lovely – not that we get much trouble here anyway, but everyone’s very friendly. We opened earlier this week and last week because Eurovision’s here and people are just coming in and having a good time.” 

They’ve been doing their best to cater to their Eurovision-loving clientele by playing some of the contest’s biggest anthems on a loop.

A general view towards the end of the National Lottery's Big Eurovision Welcome event outside St George's Hall on May 07, 2023.
A general view towards the end of the National Lottery’s Big Eurovision Welcome event outside St George’s Hall on May 07, 2023. (Dominic Lipinski/Getty)

“We are playing a lot of Eurovision music – I’m not sick to death of it yet, I think some of the other staff are!” he laughs.

“Everyone’s really enjoying the vibes of it all and no one’s asked us to turn it off, so that’s a good thing.”

Around the corner, the Sir Thomas Hotel’s bar is covered in Pride bunting as the city braces for one of the biggest events in the queer calendar. Michelle, the hotel’s manager, tells PinkNews that it’s been getting “more and more busy every day” as the contest draws nearer.

“We’re right on gay town so we cater to a lot of different people,” she says. “We’re trying to put it all together and make sure everyone can enjoy themselves and have fun.”

Hosting the contest has given Liverpool the chance to show it’s a warm, welcoming place for people of all stripes and identities. For Michelle, it’s all about inclusivity – and she’s glad they can be a part of it.

“We were already like this anyway – we’re that type of city – but I think it’s making our city better,” she says.