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Lulu, Mel B and mayors celebrate their cities making Eurovision shortlist

Eurovision 2022 winners Kalush Orchestra (Yui Mok/PA)
Eurovision 2022 winners Kalush Orchestra (Yui Mok/PA)

Former Eurovision winner Lulu, Spice Girls star Mel B and mayors from across the UK have celebrated their cities being shortlisted to host the 2023 event.

Twenty cities submitted an “expression of interest” to host, but only seven were selected by the BBC and European Broadcasting Union.

Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield have reached the second round of the selection process but must now compete in the final round.

Responding to the city being shortlisted, Manchester city council leader Bev Craig said: “We are thrilled to have made it through to the next stage to become the 2023 Eurovision host city.

“Manchester stands ready to put on the biggest party in the UK at the city’s AO Arena, taking our place in Eurovision’s unique history.

“We have a large and proud Ukrainian community in Manchester. It would be our privilege to host this iconic celebration on their behalf and we will do everything we can to honour them throughout.”

Sacha Lord, the city’s night-time economy adviser and co-founder of its Parklife festival, added: “I am absolutely thrilled that Manchester has been shortlisted to host Eurovision 2023.

“Manchester is famed for its music and music legacy, and has been host to some of the most iconic gigs in history. I have no doubt that if Eurovision comes to the city next year, we will put on a show like no other.”

Tracy Brabin, mayor of West Yorkshire, said she was “delighted” that Leeds had been shortlisted, adding: “It’s an amazing city, bursting at the seams with vibrant creativity and would shine given the chance to host this event,” she said.

Spice Girl Mel B, who grew up in the city, said: “I’d love to see Leeds as the venue for Eurovision. It’s a great city bursting with great people and fantastic character – the perfect backdrop for an iconic show like Eurovision.”

Birmingham city council leader Ian Ward, who has been an avid watcher of Eurovision since the 1980s, was also celebrating his city being shortlisted.

“This is a city of sanctuary, a city which has welcomed people from around the world and made their home here.

“We would love the honour of hosting, on behalf of Ukraine, the Eurovision song contest next year,” he said.

Glasgow was the only Scottish city to make the list after receiving backing from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, 1969 Eurovision winner Lulu said she was rooting for the city.

“I am excited about it, especially because of Ukraine. My heart and everyone’s heart goes out to Ukraine and this is chance to represent them and do right by them.

“It is so touching, I think it is going to be an amazing year,” she said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Whilst it is very disappointing that Ukraine cannot host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, the Scottish Government is pleased that the UK has been selected as an alternative host country.

“Scottish ministers were delighted to see so many Scottish local authorities submit bids and congratulate Glasgow on being shortlisted to host next year’s contest.

“The Scottish Government will engage with Glasgow council as they develop their bid. Like people across the country, we look forward to seeing how plans for the contest unfold.

“Scotland stands with the rest of the UK, Europe and the world in condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked, illegal invasion of Ukraine and will do all we can to stand up for democracy, human rights and the rule of law at home and abroad.”

However, there was disappointment from representatives of the cities that did not make the shortlist.

Jackie Dunbar, MSP for Aberdeen Donside, said the city failing to reach the second stage was a “blow”.

She tweeted: “Disappointed that Aberdeen and our brilliant @PandJLive have not been shortlisted as possible hosts of #Eurovision.”

Ukrainian entry Kalush Orchestra triumphed at this year’s competition in Turin, Italy, but the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which produces the annual event, decided the event cannot be held in the war-torn country following Russia’s invasion.

The UK was given the chance to host Eurovision for the ninth time, more than any other country, after Sam Ryder came second in the competition.

Of the seven UK cities shortlisted, six are from England and one is from Scotland, with Belfast failing to make the cut for Northern Ireland.

Cardiff withdrew its bid to host, citing the complexity of staging which meant a significant number of scheduled events in the Principality Stadium during spring 2023 would have had to be cancelled.

Scott Mills joined Zoe Ball on her BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show to announce the shortlist of host cities on Friday, alongside Eurovision executive supervisor Martin Osterdahl.

The BBC, which broadcasts the contest in the UK, and the EBU made the shortlist selection based on the cities’ “capacity, capability and experience to host an event of this scale and complexity”.

The winner will need a large events space, suitable accommodation and international transport links for the competing countries and their delegations.

Ukraine will automatically qualify for the Eurovision grand final alongside the so-called big five nations – the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – who each get a free pass because of their financial contributions to the event.

On Friday, UK-based think tank and charity British Future called for Ukrainian refugees and their UK host families to be given “priority tickets” to Eurovision 2023.

The host city is expected to be announced by the autumn.