It’s the pre-party to end all pre-parties as details are unveiled of a unique, never-before-seen cultural festival which will take over Liverpool in May.
Taking place from 1-14 May, EuroFestival, is a first for a Eurovision host city, as it presents 24 commissions – 19 of which are collaborative projects between UK and Ukrainian artists – to showcase the uniting power of music and art.
One of the most ambitious projects, Soloveiko Songbirds, will see 12, large scale, light-up nightingales located around the city. Each songbird will be designed with unique plumage and accompanied by bespoke audio soundscapes to represent different regions of Ukraine. When viewed collectively, the Songbirds will make up a beautiful trail which can be followed by the public over the two-week festival.
Surrounded by thousands of sandbags to replicate the way statues in Ukraine are being protected from bombardment, the Nelson Monument, located in Exchange Flags, will host Protect the Beats. Within the structure will be screens premiering a new short documentary which highlights how live music and performance continued throughout last year, showing in one piece the protection of both physical and musical culture.
Working with 450 children from Ukraine and 450 children from across Merseyside, Land & Sky, Home & Dreams, will connect both groups of children in a simultaneous mass participation event. The kites – which the children have designed and painted themselves – will be flown in New Brighton and in four locations across Ukraine.
Tapping into the Eurovision’s United by Music ethos will beWelcome to Eurotopia – a ‘Supergroup’ made up of Liverpool musicians collaborating with Ukrainian artists. The group will perform a mix of original and existing music, in off-the-charts Euro-typical costume and glamour. Highlights from the line-up include Natalie McCool, Stealing Sheep, She Drew The Gun’s Lou Roach and Ukrainian artists Krapka Koma, Iryna Muha and Helleroid among many more.
Ukrainian Eurovision Song Contest winner and singer songwriter Jamala will also premiere an extraordinary and poignant new album of music, based around Crimean Tatar folk songs and accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra as part of QIRIM on 11 May .
With Fire and Rage is an immersive audio experience (accessed via QR codes located around the city) following the stories of artists on the frontline in Ukraine. Combining testimony with video, visual art, poetry and music, this smartphone adventure explores the powerful role creativity plays in the face of invasion. The journey leads viewers from music concerts in metro stations during air raids, to smuggling artworks out of cities as rockets fall, to puppet shows live-streamed out of bomb shelters. Set against the backdrop of Liverpool, public locations will take on new meaning as audiences engage with acts of cultural resilience and the stories of the people behind them.
The Unity Theatre will also act as a hub for various theatre performances engaging Ukrainian artists across theatre pieces, poetry and food offerings. Some of the commissions within this strand of the festival programme will be performed at partner venues including the Invisible Wind Factory. At Unity, Ukrainian theatre director, writer and actor Yurii Radionov will present UKRLAND: Stories from Ukraine, and the world premiere of the newly commissioned Maria, featuring five refugee Ukrainian actors from across the UK. The Invisible Wind Factory will be the location for the critically acclaimed contemporary media-opera Chornobyldorf.
Elsewhere, fans will be able to experience EuroCamp presents…, an LGBTQI+ focussed three-day festival in Chavasse Park at Liverpool ONE featuring drag, performance, choreography, vogue, music, carnival, circus and more. Xpresia Festival, an underground counterculture festival, will be brought to life in several locations across Liverpool. Storyville Live, will see the award-winning documentary series stage its first ever film festival at the Everyman Cinema, celebrating both Ukrainian and music documentaries, whilst HOME will showcase Ukrainian photographers examining the concept of ‘Home’ at the Open Eye Gallery, accompanied by a new collection of poetry from leading names. Over the course of the two week period there will also be Queerovision, an online commission showing digital video reportage of Liverpool’s Queer Fringe throughout the festival period, and The People’s Flag, a mass participation dance event. The Big Eurovision Read, is a national project with The Reading Agency choosing a shortlist of books inspired by the theme of ‘United by Music’.
In collaboration with Ukrainian curator Olena Kasperovych, the Dialogues project will be an evolving exhibition taking place at The Bluecoat. Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze will work alongside Liverpool-based artist Ellie Hoskins. Over the course of the Eurovision festival, prints and other artworks will gradually fill the galleries, charting the relationship between the collaborators. Sound of Freedom will also see large scale mural commissions from Ukrainian and UK artists placed around the city in high visibility spots. Late at Tate: The Spirit of Eurovision, National Museums Liverpool x Eurovision, and You’re a Vision! at the Everyman will also house activity across the two-week celebration.
The commissions announced today join a string of exciting projects already announced for EuroFestival including The Blue and Yellow Submarine Parade by The Kazimier, English National Opera does Eurovision, Izyum to Liverpool by Ukrainian artist Katya Buchatska and Rave UKraine.
EuroFestival has been made possible thanks to support from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as well as The British Council, Spirit of 2012 and Arts Council England. The content partners are The Ukrainian Institute, the BBC, Liverpool ONE, The Liverpool BID and Royal Liverpool Albert Dock.
For full details about EuroFestival visit the official Visit Liverpool website.
Director of Culture Liverpool, Claire McColgan CBE, said:
“EuroFestival is unique in every sense. No other Eurovision host city has ever curated a creative programme of such scale and scope, paying homage to the culture and heritage of both Liverpool and Ukraine in the most unforgettable way.
“Evocative, thought-provoking, joyous, celebratory, reflective, hopeful – these 24 commissions cover the whole gambit of emotions which will draw in the audience and make them really feel truly part of this Eurovision experience.
“It’s a programme of glorious brilliance, made by artists with open hearts and the will and commitment to present a show in less than five months, to reach across countries and genres and to produce this Scouse/Ukrainian mashup of brilliance.
“This is the spirit of Eurovision spilling onto our streets. Free for all. Accessible to all. Uniting us all.”
Eurovision Minister Stuart Andrew said:
“EuroFestival will be a spectacular showcase of artistic and creative talent from the UK and Ukraine in a wonderful collaboration. From installations and performances to 900 kites flown by British and Ukrainian children, this two week cultural festival will bring people together and create long-lasting memories for visitors to Liverpool as they get involved in the Eurovision Song Contest.
“This programme has Ukraine at its heart. It shows we are not only united by music but we are united in our support for our friends in Ukraine.”
Tetyana Filevska, Creative Director of the Ukrainian Institute, said:
“Over the past year the Ukrainian institute and British Council have run the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture which has been a great basis for EuroFestival.
“These commissions give a wonderful platform to celebrate intercultural cooperation and put Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian language in the spotlight at a time when it is at threat. The more people know about Ukraine, the more we will be able to defend the free world and our common future.”
Svitlana Reinish, on behalf of the Soloveiko creative team said:
“Soloveiko Songbird is an artistic interpretation of Ukraine I remember before the war: diverse, colourful, with its own history and traditions, with a song in people’s hearts.
“I have worked with Amigo & Amigo to create twelve giant Soloveiko Songbirds that have flown to EuroFestival to bring songs from different regions of Ukraine and share them with the public of Liverpool. Each of the bird’s forms are inspired by the traditional clay whistle and feature unique patterns taken from Ukrainian embroidery. Anton Dehtiarov has created an original music composition connecting the past and present of Ukraine, transforming the traditional aesthetic of the Soloveiko into a modern context.
“During this year the whole world learned a lot about Ukraine. We hope the people at EuroFestival feel inspired by the Soloveiko project. It’s a privilege to share the vision of my Homeland, which I’m sure will soon be free and independent again.”
Esther Simpson, Director of Whispered Tales behind Protect the Beats said:
“Hosting Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine is a huge honour for Liverpool. As an artist who has lived in Liverpool for the past ten years I know how the city’s streets continuously vibrate to a variety of beats due to its rich musical heritage. Protect The Beats will be a poignant new artwork that will transform a Liverpool Landmark using over 2,500 sandbags. Embedded within the artwork is a short film created with Ukrainian musicians that features soldiers singing on the front-line, late-night raves in Kyiv’s metro station and an underground gig in an air raid shelter. We can’t wait to be a part of EuroFestival, a two-week festival that will allow everyone to get involved with the sheer joy of Eurovision.”
Jamala, Ukrainian Crimean-Tatar singer and songwriter, the winner of the award from the US Atlantic Council for Distinguished Leadership in 2022 and Eurovision song Contest 2016 said: “During these dark times for Ukraine, the presentation of the new album in Liverpool is an essential mission for me. Just like the most precious memories of our lives, we cherish our culture as the most valuable treasure.
“Accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, I will perform the full version of QIRIM for the first time. It is a record that my team and I literally saved from the rubble last year. An album that preserves the beauty and greatness of my home culture.
Singer/Songwriter making up part of Welcome to Eurotopia, Natalie McCool said:
“This is an event that most artists can only dream of being a part of – and we’re so excited to present ‘Welcome To EuroTopia’. Our creative home Liverpool has always been a place where art and music collide to make true magic, and by inviting the most interesting and inspiring Ukrainian artists into our midst we can’t wait to share this unity with our city, EuroFestival, and the world!”
Yurii Radionov – Theatre Director and theatre and film actor for Unity Theatre projects said:
“For me, as a young Ukrainian artistic director, it is very important to immerse the Liverpool audience in Ukrainian culture. And I am very glad and happy that the Eurovision festival gives me such a unique opportunity. I am sure that with a team of actors we will create an atmospheric performance that will be able to convey our mentality, habits, and culture at least a little. I am sincerely glad that actors have the opportunity to practise their profession. It is very important to be here and this project gives each of us the opportunity to have a place here. I am especially grateful to the entire Unity Theatre team. Without their help, this project, without exaggeration, would not have been possible. I am sure that this international work will be only the beginning for future projects between Ukraine and England.”