World-renowned musical heritage… and more pubs than you can shake a drumstick at: Why Liverpool is the perfect host city for Eurovision
From behind the bar at the Hobo Kiosk — arguably Liverpool’s most gregarious little pub — the owner Delia says: ‘Oh, we’ll do something. I might put together a playlist of all the songs that come last.’
You may have heard that Eurovision is coming to town next week and this famous old port city is ready for days of high-camp mayhem. Once an eccentric one-night affair laced with hopeful gallows humour (from a British point of view, anyway), Eurovision has morphed into a five-day party with a Grand Final this Saturday.
But with a world-renowned musical heritage and more pubs than you can shake a drumstick at, few cities are better equipped to host this celebration.
A few minutes’ walk from Hobo Kiosk at Albert Dock is The Beatles Story, an immersive museum charting their rise to fame, including a replica of the legendary Abbey Road Studios. Further up sits the beautiful Cunard Building, once the dockside headquarters of the Cunard Line and now home to the British Music Experience (BME).
Built in 1917, it’s part of a triumvirate at Pier Head known collectively as the Three Graces, with the Port of Liverpool building and the grandiose Royal Liver Building. The latter’s 360 Tour offers widescreen vistas of the city from its wind-blasted summit (legend has it that if the Liver Birds, two of which sit atop its clock towers, ever fly away, Liverpool will cease to exist).
James March visits Liverpool ahead of the Eurovision. ‘This famous old port city is ready for days of high-camp mayhem,’ he says
Inside, beneath an ornately carved ceiling, the BME’s corridors are stuffed with memorabilia covering every era of British rock and pop, from David Bowie’s multi-coloured Ziggy Stardust costumes to Noel Gallagher’s iconic Union Jack guitar. ‘I think of places like Nashville and Austin where every other bar has music playing. It’s the same sort of feel in Liverpool,’ says the BME’s Paul Cook.
One of those bars is the legendary Cavern Club, now in a new location on Mathew Street, where the thud of drums and crunch of chords can often be heard from a couple of blocks away. Down the Cavern’s spiralling stone steps is a narrow main stage where performers strap on an acoustic guitar and belt out Beatles classics and other well-known hits to a well-greased crowd.
They also take requests, and the headliner laughs when an audience member excitedly shouts ‘Wonderwall’ mere minutes into his set, which he then reluctantly plays (helped by a singalong).
Over on the equally excitable Slater Street, The Jacaranda doesn’t have that problem. A historic venue where an early incarnation of the Fab Four performed as The Silver Beetles and were paid for their efforts with beans on toast and cola, ‘The Jac’ frequently showcases new bands on its low-lit downstairs stage and has been a local institution since 1958.
EuroClub — the world’s biggest Eurovision fan club — will host Liverpool’s official Eurovision party at the lively Camp and Furnace venue for nine nights. Above is singer Sam Ryder, who represented the UK in last year’s contest
James visits The Beatles Story, an immersive museum charting the band’s rise to fame
Rooms at Malmaison Liverpool start from around £82 per night. For more information, see visitliverpool.com.
Beatles aficionados can jump on the Magical Mystery Tour which features stops at Strawberry Field, Penny Lane and the childhood homes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
I choose instead to walk through the elegant Georgian Quarter, a neighbourhood in the shadow of the huge Anglican Cathedral.
I decide to stop for a beer at a slightly more under-the-radar Beatles haunt. Ye Cracke is a spit-and-sawdust pub Lennon would frequent as an art student and there’s a glass plaque on the wall commemorating The Dissenters, the little-known band Lennon formed in 1960 with three college friends ‘which never played a note’, as the inscription reads.
EuroClub — the world’s biggest Eurovision fan club — will host Liverpool’s official Eurovision party at the lively Camp and Furnace venue for nine nights.
But whether you’re a fan of the annual song competition or not, this is a city that extends a relentlessly warm welcome and an inspired sense of humour. The new Nashville? Well, you decide.