The shortlist of UK cities that could host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest has been revealed, with seven locations in the running.
Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield will vie to stage the event in May.
Twenty cities expressed an interest, the BBC said, and those not making the shortlist include London and Belfast.
The UK was chosen to host the contest after organisers decided it could not be staged by Ukraine, the 2022 winners.
UK singer Sam Ryder finished second at this year’s contest in Turin, Italy.
The decision to relocate it from Ukraine because of the ongoing war has led to a hotly-contested selection process between UK cities that want to attract thousands of visitors and the attention of around 160 million TV viewers around the world.
The BBC said the seven-strong shortlist was based on the cities’ ability to show they have “the capacity, capability and experience to host an event of this scale and complexity”.
A statement added that the process was “heavily weighted towards demonstrating past experience in hosting major international events, as well as being able to demonstrate their credentials in hosting a celebration of contemporary music”.
London would have met those criteria but didn’t make the cut, at a time when both the BBC and government are seeking to move events and opportunities outside the capital. Others to miss out include Aberdeen, Brighton, Bristol and Darlington.
As it is, five of the shortlisted cities are in the north of England, with Glasgow representing Scotland and none further south than Birmingham.
No Welsh cities bid, and Belfast was the only potential contender from Northern Ireland.
The seven remaining cities will be scored on a set of criteria, the BBC said, including:
- “Having a suitable venue and sufficient space to deliver the requirements of the Song Contest
- “The commitment that can be made by a city or region to hosting the event, including the financial contribution
- “The strength of the cultural offer which includes off screen local and regional activity as well as showcasing Ukrainian culture and music
- “And alignment with the BBC’s strategic priorities as a public service broadcaster, such as providing value to all audiences and supporting the creative economy in the UK”
The successful city will be chosen by the BBC and Eurovision organisers, and will be announced in the autumn.
Glasgow and Birmingham have been named as the bookmakers’ favourites, while Glasgow and Manchester have proved the most popular in polls on Eurovision fan sites.
Eurovision organisers say the host venue should accommodate about 10,000 spectators, be within easy reach of an international airport and have enough hotel accommodation for at least 2,000 delegates, journalists and spectators.
A venue would be needed for preparations for six to eight weeks ahead of the song contest, meaning all potential locations would need to move concerts and events that are already in their schedules.
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This was the last place to host Eurovision in the UK, in 1998, and has just successfully hosted a major international event in the form of the Commonwealth Games.
Its venue would be the Resorts World Arena, which has a capacity of 15,685, is next to Birmingham airport, a train station and motorways, and is part of a complex including an exhibition centre and hotels. It hosted the star-studded Concert For Ukraine in March.
The 14,300-capacity OVO Hydro arena would be a fitting setting in some ways after being filmed for the exterior of the venue in Will Ferrell’s 2020 Netflix movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
The city centre venue is also next to exhibition centres that could be useful for facilities like a press centre, and has a nearby station and hotels. It has previously hosted BBC Sports Personality of the Year and events during the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Leeds had hoped to be European Capital of Culture in 2023, but Brexit prevented UK cities from entering that particular contest. Undeterred, the city is ploughing on with staging its own year of culture. That means Eurovision “could not come at a better time”, the council says.
The 13,781-capacity First Direct Arena is in the city centre, close to hotels and rail links.
The home of The Beatles has a rich musical history that attracts thousands of international visitors every year. Its past major events have included the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2008.
Eurovision would be staged at the 11,000-capacity dockside M&S Bank Arena, which is next to a conference centre and near the city centre’s hotels and rail links.
Manchester has the biggest Ukrainian population outside London and the biggest indoor venue in the UK in the 21,000-capacity AO Arena which, as well as concerts, has hosted events like January’s Big Night of Musicals , which was broadcast on BBC One, and major boxing bouts. It is also above a train station.
Salford in Greater Manchester became the BBC’s Eurovision HQ this year, with AJ Odudu delivering the UK scores from MediaCity.
The city’s 11,000-capacity Utilita Arena is close to the main train station and other central facilities.
The council says the Town Moor and Exhibition Park, open space on the other side of the city centre, would be transformed into a “Eurovision village”.
Sheffield is twinned with Ukrainian city Donetsk, and its 13,600-capacity Utilita Arena is outside the city centre but has tram and motorway links.
It was built to host the World Student Games, hosted the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and in 2014 was the media centre and the finish line for The Tour de France Grand Depart.
UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the country was “determined to deliver a competition which reflects Ukraine’s rich culture and creativity”. Congratulating the shortlisted cities, she said “no matter which one is chosen it will be a fantastic event to make both the UK and Ukraine proud”.
The BBC’s director of unscripted content Kate Phillips said: “We are committed to delivering a truly unique Song Contest that celebrates wonderful Ukraine and champions British music and creativity in all its diversity.”