Could Birmingham host the Eurovision Song Contest in 2023?

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Community leaders in Birmingham are hopeful that the global song contest could take place in the city next year

The Eurovision Song Contest could take place in the UK next year - with community leaders hoping Birmingham will be chosen as the host city if so.

The BBC is curretly in talks with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to potentially host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in the UK instead of Ukraine.

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Ukraine were the winners of the 2022 show, and traditionally, the winning country hosts the contest the following year.

But after a “full assessment and feasibility study”, it’s been decided the show won’t take place there due to the ongoing Russian war.

And the city has now staked its claim to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest at Resorts World Arena.

The venue is ready to host next year’s show after clearing the required dates in its diary to accommodate the prestigious event

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Lawrence Barton, owner of the Nightingale Club in BirminghamLawrence Barton, owner of the Nightingale Club in Birmingham
Lawrence Barton, owner of the Nightingale Club in Birmingham | JPI

Calls for Birmingham to host contest

Birmingham hosted the Eurovision song contest at the National Indoor Arena (now known as Utilita Arena) back in 1998, and now community leaders in Birmingham, which is set to host the Commonwealth Games later next month, are hoping Brum will be chosen as the host city for the second time next year.

Lawrence Barton, the chairman of Southside BID and director of Birmingham Pride, said:“I think a lot of my community are enthusiastic about Eurovision, and certainly really enjoy it, and there are many people from the LGBT community who go to it as well.

“It’s universal, and especially as we have got a good vote this year (the UK’s candidate Sam Ryder came second) , people are passionate about Eurovision – it’s fun, and with the economics it would bring a lot to our city, so of course it would be brilliant for our city to have the chance to do it.”

‘It would be great for Ukrainian refugees to be given free tickets’

Conservative Group Leader on Birmingham City Council, Cllr Robert Alden, has also publicly joined the call for Eurovision 2023 to come to the city.

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Mr Alden, said: “Birmingham is proud to be a leading City of Sanctuary in the U.K and with thousands turning out to show their support for Ukraine in a vigil the people of Birmingham would welcome the opportunity to show solidarity with Ukraine and step in to be the host.

“Brummies have been welcoming Ukrainians this year as part of the Homes for Ukrainians Scheme, with plans for up to 1000 to relocate here and it would be great to see all those who now call Birmingham home given free tickets.

Sam Ryder came second for the United KingdomSam Ryder came second for the United Kingdom
Sam Ryder came second for the United Kingdom

“It also makes great sense as the City is well known for hosting large scale international events and its position as Commonwealth Games host this year best places Birmingham has the frontrunner.”

Shadow Cabinet Member for Culture, Cllr Darius Sandhu, added “Birmingham has a proud and longstanding history of producing some world class musicians, it would be great to see a Birmingham based act represent us at the contest next year.”

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Birmingham City Council Leader, Councillor Ian Ward, added: “To host such an iconic event would be a tremendous honour for our city, especially in light of such a difficult and challenging time for Ukraine.

“Our hearts go out to them and as a city we are eager to lend our support in any way that we can. The Concert for Ukraine, held at Resorts World Arena back in March, really showed how music can unite us even in the most uncertain and troublesome of times.

“We’re ready to step up to the occasion for the people of Ukraine and make music fans from across the world proud.”

What has the West Midlands Mayor and city council said?

Birmingham’s prestigious musical heritage, which includes artists such as Black Sabbath, UB40, and Duran Duran, would also make it a strong contender to be the host city.

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West Midlands mayor Andy Street, said that there is “no reason” why the contest can’t take place in Birmingham, and the city council also said it is ‘open’ to the idea.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson, told the BBC: “As a global destination with a proud track record of hosting successful major events, the city council is always open to exploring further opportunities to showcase Birmingham on the international stage.

“We are therefore open to working with the UK government and other stakeholders to investigate the potential for hosting the Eurovision song contest.”

Music fans arrive for Concert for Ukraine at Resorts World ArenaMusic fans arrive for Concert for Ukraine at Resorts World Arena
Music fans arrive for Concert for Ukraine at Resorts World Arena | Joe Forte

Why would it be held at Resorts World Arena?

Resorts World Arena has a strong track record in hosting major televised events and awards ceremonies in recent years, having previously staged BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010, 2016 and 2018, as well as the BBC Music Awards in 2015.

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The venue was also chosen to host ‘Concert for Ukraine’ on 29th March 2022, broadcast live on ITV, bringing together some of the world’s biggest artists to help raise a staggering £13.4 million for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian appeal (DEC).

Paul Thandi CBE, CEO of NEC Group, said: “Birmingham and the NEC Group would, once again, be honoured to host Eurovision. There’s no better venue in the country to do this than Resorts World Arena, with our 40-year history of hosting world-class live events.

“Situated on the NEC Campus, we have unrivalled transport links and on-site accommodation, plus technical broadcast capability which is known and been used by the major television broadcasters. We also have all the necessary facilities to turnaround and host major televised live music events at pace, demonstrated at the Concert for Ukraine earlier this year.”

What happened when Brum hosted the contest in 1998?

The Birmingham final of the annual singing contest has been described as “one of the most thrilling voting sequences for years”.

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Apparently it “reminded us that Europe is a more open-minded place than we might have thought”, according to the official organisers.

Presented by Terry Wogan & Ulrika Jonsson at the NIA near Brindleyplace in the city centre on Saturday, May 9, the competition got a warm reception from locals.

The NIA in Birmingham, now know as Utilita ArenaThe NIA in Birmingham, now know as Utilita Arena
The NIA in Birmingham, now know as Utilita Arena | Getty

But all eyes were on the contestants which included performances from Israeli transexual Dana International who swept to victory with Diva. To date she remains the first and only openly transgendered person to have won the Eurovision Song Contest.

Germany’s entry, Guido Horn, also brought some drama to the competition when he climbed all over the stage during his act. The UK was represented by Imaani, the first ever black singer to represent the country.

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Twenty-five countries competed, including FYR Macedonia for their first ever Eurovision. In another first, televoting took place in the majority of participating countries.

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