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Eurovision: UK and Ukrainian artists join forces on EuroFestival line-up

A drag homage to Eurovision, a post-apocalyptic opera and a former winner will be part of a cultural festival staged by UK and Ukrainian artists in Liverpool for this year’s song contest.

The full line-up of performances, exhibitions and art trails for the EuroFestival in May has been unveiled.

It features 24 events, 19 of which involve collaborations between artists from the two countries.

The city is hosting the song contest on behalf of Ukraine, who won last year.

The winners normally stage the following year’s show, but it was deemed too dangerous to hold the annual televised extravaganza in Ukraine this year following the Russian invasion.

The main event will comprise of semi-finals at the M&S Bank Arena on 9 and 11 May, then the grand final on 13 May.

EuroFestival will run alongside it across Liverpool from 1-14 May. Highlights announced on Tuesday include:

  • Jamala presents QIRIM to the world – Eurovision 2016 winner Jamala and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a live premiere of her album, based on Crimean Tatar folk songs, on the official fan village stage (11 May)
  • EuroCamp – A “three-day queer fantasia” of music, fashion, circus and cabaret in Chavasse Park, with events including The Best and The Wurst of Eurovision – in which drag performers will do battle by recreating classic Eurovision moments (9-10 May)
  • Chornobyldorf – Opera Aperta’s show at the Invisible Wind Factory will depict the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, featuring “folk and classical singing with physical theatre, dance, unique musical instruments and cinematic video-novels” (1-2 May)
  • Protect the Beats – 2,500 sandbags will protect the Nelson Monument to reflect how statues in Ukraine are being protected from bombardment, while a short film will show “how music remains at the beating heart of Ukrainian culture” (1-14 May)
  • Soloveiko Songbird – A walking trail to find 12 giant national birds of Ukraine (known as nightingales in England), representing regions of Ukraine and decorated with traditional designs, with visitors “invited to listen as they share the stories and songs of their homeland” (1-14 May)
  • Welcome To Eurotopia – A “supergroup” featuring Liverpool musicians Natalie McCool and members of Stealing Sheep and She Drew The Gun plus Ukrainian performers will launch the EuroVillage main stage (5 May)
  • Land & Sky, Home & Dreams – Children’s kite-making workshops in New Brighton and four cities in Ukraine, culminating in a “simultaneous flying finale, representing their soaring dreams and shared aspirations” (dates TBC)
  • Sound of Freedom – A mural on the Tempest Hey Building will celebrate “the cultural identity of the nations through music” as part of Ukrainian curator Katya Taylor’s global The Wall project (1-14 May)
  • With Fire and Rage – In this audio walking trail available on a phone, Ukrainian artists will recount their experiences, “from music concerts in metro stations during air raids, to smuggling artworks out of cities as rockets fall, to creating subversive street art under Russian occupation” (1-14 May)
  • Home – Another trail, this time organised by the Open Eye Gallery, to spot Ukrainian photographs and UK poems in train stations, venues and other public spaces. You can then upload your own poem, lyric or letter (5 May-July)
  • Dialogues – Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze and Liverpool’s Ellie Hoskins will show “their humorous take on life as they observe the world around them” in an exhibition at the Bluecoat and on posters outside the gallery (1-14 May)
  • A Place of Hope – Unity Theatre on Hope Place will host free theatre performances, poetry, exhibitions, panel discussions and creative workshops by Ukrainian artists (2-11 May)
  • Xpresia Festival – Independent arts and music venues in the Ten Streets area will host British and Ukrainian creative producers and curators to celebrate visual arts, electronic music, DJs, live music, theatre and cabaret and creative technology (dates TBC)

Four events had already been announced – a submarine parade through the streets; a rave held simultaneously in Liverpool and Kyiv; an installation in Liverpool Cathedral recreating a train carriage used to flee the war; and the English National Opera performing their take on Eurovision classics.

Claire McColgan, director of Culture Liverpool, said the festival’s commissions would be “evocative, thought-provoking, joyous, celebratory, reflective [and] hopeful”.

She said: “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.”

Jamala said performing her new album in Liverpool was “an essential mission for me”, explaining: “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.”