Eurovision 2023: I just had to be there! (Part II)

Entrance to the Eurovision arena.
Entrance to the arena, Thurs 11th May

Picture the scene. Everything has gone smoothly – you’ve been given a Lordship (yes, true story!) that morning, you’ve left work on time. You hurtle into London on the first train you can get, you sail through to Euston and then…. delays. I’ll admit I was panicking just a little at this point. The plan was to arrive in Liverpool at around 5pm on Thursday evening, drop some stuff off at a friend’s airbnb, and then head straight to the arena. However, London Euston had other ideas with trains being cancelled left right and centre. Thankfully, my train to Liverpool wasn’t one of them – and although we departed late, and the train journey took forever – by 6pm I was in an Uber being driven across Liverpool. Whilst the city embraced Eurovision, I’m not entirely sure what the Uber drivers expected. As my friend Stu will attest, we got into an Uber (my second one of the day) to go to the arena and the driver seemed somewhat frustrated by the amount of traffic. In actual fact… I’d call it Uber road rage! However this was just a small moment in a massive weekend, and by 7.15 I was in the arena, reunited with Jo and other Eurovision friends, excited for the evening to come.

View from my seat at Semi Final 2.
My view for Semi Final 2

When I walked into the arena for the first time that Thursday night I’ll admit it was totally surreal. I almost had to pinch myself to believe it was real. Having seen the stage on TV and in various photos and videos I don’t think I was really prepared for the epic scale of what greeted me. The lights, the atmosphere, it was just all amazing. Pre-contest, the warm up was provided courtesy of some drag queens (I can’t remember their names) playing Eurovision hits. Everything from ‘Ooh Aah… (Just a Little Bit)’ which I’m sure you all remember from 1996(!) through to a bit of MÃ¥neskin, the 2021 winners. Perhaps most annoyingly was the fact that they played ‘Toy’ by Netta – and I’ll stress here, it’s not that I don’t ‘like’ the song, but I remember tuning into the ‘Orange Carpet’ coverage in Tel Aviv (2019) only to hear the song on almost a constant loop. So much so, that I think I need not to hear the song for at least a decade to appreciate it again! Still, at least in their purest form each Eurovision song is only three minutes long… and a briefing from a member of the production team later, the second semi final was about to begin!

Reilly from Denmark sings his song
It’s showtime for Denmark!

The thing I loved the most about our seats for the second semi final is that we didn’t just get to see the performances, but all the hard work that went into staging them. The production crew had around 40 seconds to set up each song during the postcards, any longer and you may have noticed they cut to one of the presenters and a little interlude (did anyone not see Peppa Pig at the front of a conga line?!). I found this absolutely fascinating, and perhaps it’s never really truly appreciated how some of the crew essentially lie in wait out of shot for nearly 2 minutes, to literally move one prop or be there for one thing, before you then see them run off the stage at lightning pace to avoid being seen on screen. Some of the best performances looked so easy, but in reality the people behind the scenes were working their socks off in order to pull it all off. As an audience we obviously had our part to play. Not just whooping and cheering, but being cued up to put our mobile phone lights on for Alika’s performance of ‘Bridges’ (Estonia) was our chance to shine (get it, shine…?). Obviously, we knew the favourites had already performed in semi final one, but it didn’t mean we couldn’t take the roof off shouting ‘Poe’ continuously during Austria. You may also remember the pyrotechnics used in Cyprus’ song. It’s scary when you’re that far back from the action just how much heat those pyros give out… I can only imagine what the people standing closer felt like!

Selfie with one half Jedward!
Is it John or Edward? I have no idea!

One of the joys of attending the actual event rather than just the rehearsal is that sometimes you bump into celebrities. Now, obviously I realise they are there to enjoy the show too so I’m never going to hunt them down for a selfie like a mad obsessive. However, if the opportunity presents itself, then why not… and that’s how I got a selfie with one half of Jedward as I popped out to grab some food (having had my chance to grab anything to eat stolen by train delays) during the interval part of the semi final. I was also lucky enough (thanks Jo!) to get a selfie with Timur, the Ukrainian commentator after the show as well, much to my delight. The other bonus of attending the actual events are the free samples of Morrocanoil – which you’d think I’d still have. But I gave them to some friends to look after following the show and haven’t seen them since. And that’s fine… I think I just enjoy being given the free stuff rather than actually using it… mainly because I have no use for it, anyway I digress. It was somewhat pleasing, if that’s the right word, to get the disappointment of the results of the semi final out of the way first (sorry Albania!) as it made the announcement of the other nine better. I was absolutely thrilled when Belgium, Lithuania and Australia qualified – having quite enjoyed their performances. However, semi final excitement over… it was time to move onto the EuroClub.

Liverpool by night
The beauty of Liverpool at night.

You may remember I said back in part one that when leaving Liverpool on Monday I had no FOMO knowing I’d be back three short days later. This was, dear readers, a little white lie. The organisers of EuroClub had done a tremendous job in gathering together so many brilliant acts – if only I could have transported myself back to the city in the early hours of Tuesday morning to see Samantha Womack (yes, Ronnie from EastEnders, or as she’s *cough* better *cough* known as, the UK’s 1991 Eurovision entrant) perform her song ‘A Message to Your Heart’ I think it would have been truly complete. I will admit though, I have the most amazing friends who sent me videos of her performance which brought a big smile to my face on Tuesday morning. When I returned to EuroClub Thursday evening however, things were a lot different to how I’d left them. This had now become *the* place to be which made it all the more exciting. There were massive queues to get in – and people asking others if they had spare tickets as it was sold out. The crowds were immense, the atmosphere was amazing. It was at this point I also made the fabulous discovery of Hartwell’s gin and orange in a can which you could get behind the bar which apparently comes from Finland… if you ever get the chance to try it… I’m rambling again…

As always the acts at EuroClub were superb, and though the club was absolutely heaving, it was essentially Eurovision heaven for anyone who was a fan of the contest. That night there were performances from Jedward (Ireland 2011, 2012), Nicki French (UK 2000 and phenomenal London Eurovision Preview Party host) and Melovin (Ukraine 2018). Of course there were even more reunions with fabulous Eurovision friends both old and new which is exactly what its all about – making friends across Europe and beyond. Of course the joy of being there on Thursday night meant there were still two days to go… and that means that if you’ve got this far, you can read about Friday in the next post, coming soon!