Northern Irish Eurovision Song Contest winner Linda Martin has thrown her weight behind a growing campaign to bring the event to Belfast next year, saying the city is “perfectly placed” to host it.
The Belfast-born singer, who won the competition in 1992 with the Johnny Logan-penned entry Why Me?, said Belfast would be a “fantastic” choice to stage the massive event and a “wonderful opportunity” to showcase the city and the North as a whole to millions of viewers in more than 40 participating countries.
Belfast is one of 10 cities which has stated its intentions of submitting a bid, along with Leeds, Cardiff, London and Manchester, among others. Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Liverpool have confirmed that work has already started on their bids.
This follows an announcement last week by the European Broadcasting Union and the BBC that the UK would host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of this year’s winner, Ukraine.
Local councillors Anthony Flynn (Green Party) and Séamus De Faoite (SDLP) have written letters to Belfast City Council and Visit Belfast urging the organisations to get the ball rolling.
Discussions are ongoing behind the scenes to gauge what exactly would be required to host the 2023 event here.
The matter will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, before proceeding to council for ratification. If it is given the green light at this stage, an official expression of interest will be submitted to the European Broadcasting Union and BBC.
Linda, who delivered the Irish votes at this year’s contest, said she was giving her wholehearted support to the campaign to bring the contest to the Northern Ireland capital.
“I really do believe Belfast would be a fantastic host city and I genuinely mean that,” she said.
“We have five-star hotels, two great airports, brilliants restaurants and the SSE Arena, which would be ideal to hold it in.
“With around 40 countries taking part, you’d have thousands upon thousands of people descending upon the city and, with many of them staying here for a fortnight or so, they would be wanting to do things when not rehearsing.
“We have the Giant’s Causeway, the Game of Thrones locations, the Titanic Centre, so there would be plenty for the visitors to see and do.
“Belfast is perfectly placed to do this.”
Linda said that staging the Eurovision in Belfast would be “incredible” for employment as well as tourism, providing jobs for film crews, sound engineers, choreographers and producers.
And the former Eurovision winner, who also came second in 1994 with the Logan-composed track Terminal 3, said Northern Ireland had a strong Eurovision heritage.
“I’m from Belfast, Dana is from Derry, Niamh [Kavanagh] lives in Carrickfergus,” she said.
“And then think of the rich musical heritage which isn’t associated with Eurovision. There is so much going on.
“I think this is a phenomenal opportunity, which we should grab with both hands, and a great chance to bring the people together.
“The Eurovision people are sensible and know what they’re looking for and Belfast ticks all the boxes. There are no reasons at all why it shouldn’t host the contest.”
Eamonn Holmes has also voiced his support for the campaign to bring Eurovision to Belfast. In response to Anthony Flynn’s call-out on Twitter for high-profile backing for the bid, the GB News presenter wrote: “On it, Anthony. Things are quietly gathering momentum. #Belfast.”
Anthony took the cause to the streets of Belfast during the Pride celebrations at the weekend and said there was widespread positive feedback from everyone he talked to.
“We have the infrastructure, we have the SSE Arena and the space nearby for a media centre,” he said.
“But what we also have is the narrative.
“Next year is the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and as a post-conflict society we can show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“We can show them, and everyone around the world, that people can come through conflict, rebuild and emerge stronger and that’s a positive message to get across.
“I do think we stand a really good chance of bringing Eurovision home.”
Belfast has twice previously been proposed as a potential host city for the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1994 the BBC suggested cooperation with Irish broadcaster RTÉ on hosting the 1995 contest in Belfast, while in 1998 Belfast was one of the cities visited by the BBC before Birmingham was selected to host.
After expressions of interest are submitted for consideration, a shortlist of potential host cities is expected to be drawn up.