Liverpool and Eurovision – smiles, songs and a welcome for the world – the antithesis of Brexit Britain.

Liverpool is obviously loving hosting Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine. It’s always been a music city looking for any excuse to party and it’s living up to that tradition.

Everywhere I went in the city today there was music and a warm welcome.

The first piece of Eurovision magic I encountered was seeing people queuing to get selfies with a pair of drag queens in full flamboyant Eurovision regalia, waving a rainbow flag. I know there are parts of the world where these two would be seen as more of a threat to children than a bearded white guy carrying an AR15 but I’m glad Liverpool sees them differently. One of England’s best-loved drag queens, Paul O’Grady MBE DL, came from Merseyside.

The Liverpool One shopping area was livelier than usual, thanks to a sprinkling of performers on open mics or at public pianos, belting out well-known Eurovision songs. I was impressed by the range of people involved.

These ladies had formed a Eurovision choir and were taking requests from the public from a list of Eurovision hits dating back all the way to Cliff Richard’s ‘Congratulations’.

Meanwhile, inside the John Lewis department store, the Sixth Form of the Liverpool Institute Of The Performing Arts had dance routines worked out for a whole set of Eurovision songs, including Israel’s ‘VivaVictoria’ and Ukraines ‘Wild Dances‘.

I also saw this trio of violinists, dressed Bridgeton style next to a replica of Queen Charlotte’s coach, playing instrumental versions of Eurovision songs. I also passed an ABBA tribute band in Chavasse Park.

The music seems to have relaxed the whole city. I passed two police officers in high viz jackets talking to an older local man. He was saying, in a surprised but pleased tone, “People from all over the world keep coming up to me and just wanting to chat.” They said, “I know, yeah. That keeps happening to us too. Good, isn’t it?”. Which summed up how I felt about it.

The friendly spirit must be contagious because this evening I had a good time doing something I’d normally go out of my way to avoid, standing for hours with hundreds of people in a contained public space. We’d gone to the Eurovision Village to watch the second semi-final on the big screens with everyone else. There was food and alcohol and hundreds of people milling about but the layout was spacious and well thought through, the police presence was low-key (although I did spot a police sniper on one of the Liver Building towers) and the people were relaxed and happy.

We stood there, as the sun set, listening to sixteen countries do their stuff to determine which ten would make it through to the final. If we’d been watching this in a hotel room somewhere, as we normally do, it would have been fun but we’d have missed out on seeing which songs immediately had people dancing and cheering. I liked that people cheered for a whole variety of countries. It may have helped that the UK is automatically in the final because we are one of the four main sponsors but I got the sense that most people in the crowd had already listened to these songs and had favourites that they wanted to see in the final.

We spent two hours being entertained. There were no problems, no fights, just people having a good time and going home peacefully afterwards.

This is the England that feels like home to me. Not the Brexit Britain that wants to build a wall around the island and is afraid of foreigners.

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