London, Manchester and Glasgow are among the cities offering to host Eurovision in the United Kingdom next year, with the capital’s mayor vowing to make it a contest that “celebrates the people of Ukraine and shows off the very best of Britain”.
Organisers the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) previously decided the event could not be held in the war-torn Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
This was despite Ukrainian entry Kalush Orchestra triumphing at this year’s competition in Turin, Italy, with the UK’s Sam Ryder the runner-up.
Following the news, Ryder said in a video post that it will be “Ukraine’s party” and the UK are “just inviting them to throw it at our house.”
In a message directed at those in Ukraine, he added: “We know how to throw a party here in the UK and our excitement is outshone only by our focus on that one sole objective to hold space and be on hand to help wherever needed to host an event that celebrates Ukrainian culture, history and music and to stand in solidarity with the rest of the globe shining a unified light.
“The rest of us are just loving facilitators and there is no doubt in my mind that we will all come together in the spirit of unity that Eurovision has always been about to celebrate the wonderful people of Ukraine.”
The bidding process will begin this week, with the BBC and EBU jointly making the final decision on which city will host.
Any winner would require a large events space, suitable accommodation and international transport links for the competing countries and their delegations.
Sheffield City Council was among the first to announce a bid, saying on Twitter: “We’ve told Eurovision we’d love to host… watch this space.”
South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard said the city was the “obvious choice” because of its international airport and the fact it is twinned with the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
“South Yorkshire has a long, proud musical heritage, from the Human League and Def Leppard to Arctic Monkeys, Pulp and Self Esteem. With Tramlines – the biggest urban music festival in Europe – we’ve just shown what a great show we’re capable of putting on,” he said.
Manchester City Council confirmed it was also putting in a bid, with its leader Bev Craig tweeting: “A world class music city, brilliant venues, experience in hosting major events, and of course one of the UK’s largest Ukrainian populations – we are confident we will make it a #eurovision to remember.”
Announcing London’s bid, mayor Sadiq Khan said the city was “ready and willing to step in” with a contest that “celebrates the people of Ukraine and shows off the very best of Britain”.
Leeds City Council said it makes “total sense” for them to host next year as they will be the city of culture for 2023, while Swindon said they will not be bidding but “look forward to watching next year”.
Two of Scotland’s largest cities of Glasgow and Aberdeen have also announced they will be vying to host the contest in 2023.
A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said the city is a “safe pair of hands” after hosting Cop26 last November while Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also previously backed the city to host, tweeting: “I can think of a perfect venue on banks of the River Clyde!!”
Bookmakers Ladbrokes named Glasgow as the favourite with odds of 8/11, ahead of both London and Manchester, both with odds of 5/1.
It will be the ninth time Eurovision has taken place in the UK – more than any other country.
Ukraine will automatically qualify for the 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.
We are grateful to our BBC partners for showing solidarity with us. I am confident that together we will be able to add Ukrainian spirit to this event and once again unite the whole of Europe around our common values of peace, support, celebrating diversity and talentMykola Chernotytskyi, UA:PBC
Martin Osterdahl, Eurovision’s executive supervisor, said: “We’re exceptionally grateful that the BBC has accepted to stage the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK in 2023.
“The BBC has taken on hosting duties for other winning countries on four previous occasions.
“Continuing in this tradition of solidarity, we know that next year’s contest will showcase the creativity and skill of one of Europe’s most experienced public broadcasters whilst ensuring this year’s winners, Ukraine, are celebrated and represented throughout the event.”
The EBU’s decision in June to rule out Ukraine as the 2023 host prompted its culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko to issue a statement “demanding to change the decision”.
Ukrainian state broadcaster UA:PBC also expressed its “disappointment” at the time and called on all parties to “hold further negotiations”.
Mykola Chernotytskyi, head of the managing board of UA:PBC, said next year’s contest “will not be in Ukraine but in support of Ukraine”.
He added: “We are grateful to our BBC partners for showing solidarity with us.
“I am confident that together we will be able to add Ukrainian spirit to this event and once again unite the whole of Europe around our common values of peace, support, celebrating diversity and talent.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would “put on a fantastic contest on behalf of our Ukrainian friends”.
He said that in talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week they “agreed that wherever Eurovision 2023 is held, it must celebrate the country and people of Ukraine”.
“As we are now hosts, the UK will honour that pledge directly – and put on a fantastic contest on behalf of our Ukrainian friends,” Mr Johnson said.
In a statement, BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “The BBC is committed to making the event a true reflection of Ukrainian culture alongside showcasing the diversity of British music and creativity.”
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “As hosts, the UK will honour the competition’s spirit and diversity, and, most importantly, ensure it reflects Ukraine’s recent Eurovision victory and Ukrainian creativity.”
This year’s contest in May saw Ryder top the jury vote before Kalush Orchestra went on to win overall following a symbolic show of public support which saw them soar to first place with 631 points.
They had been the frontrunners since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February – which prompted organisers to ban the Russian entrant from competing.
It remains unclear whether the BBC will have to fund the contest from its current licence fee allocation or if it will be given further money, although it is talks with Government on the issue.
A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a co-production of the host broadcaster and participating members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
“There are a number of funding options to be explored that will contribute towards delivering a fantastic event and great value for licence fee payers.”
Rylan Clark, who has commentated on the semi-final rounds for the BBC, praised Ryder for his efforts in securing the contest for the UK.
He tweeted: “The biggest love to @SamRyderMusic without his unreal talent the UK wouldn’t be hosting the amazing Ukraine next year.”