Why Ukrainians are backing Manchester to host Eurovision 2023
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Manchester is competing against six other UK cities to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest – but for the city’s Ukrainian community, there is a clear frontrunner.
The UK has agreed to host the event on behalf of last year’s winner Ukraine, owing to safety concerns following Russia’s invasion.
Oksana Leshko-Kowalyszyn, the cultural officer for the Manchester branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, believes that the strength of the Ukrainian community in Manchester is the biggest draw for the city.
She said: “We call Manchester the ‘capital for Ukrainian people’ because the diaspora here is bigger and stronger. We are all working together and we welcome other people.”
Ukrainians have lived in Manchester since the 1940s and the community continues to grow as refugees fleeing the conflict arrive in the region.
Oksana helped organise a Eurovision watch-party at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre “Dnipro” in Cheetham Hill for this year’s contest together with volunteer groups raising money for the war effort.
If Manchester is successful in its bid, Oksana already has plenty of ideas for how the community could contribute to the celebrations.
“We have a very big building, we have a big stage if they want to have a concert beforehand, or support the singers from Ukraine,” she said.
Oksana, who is originally from Ternopil in western Ukraine, said that Manchester also boasts several Ukrainian choirs and folk dancing groups who are ready to participate and the cultural centre could also provide traditional Ukrainian cuisine.
The most important thing for the Ukrainian community, however, is raising awareness of the conflict and events like Eurovision are a good way to keep the issue in the public eye.
“We’re trying to explain to people that this war is not stopping,” she said.
“We are really thankful to the British people for understanding and helping the Ukrainian people,” she added
With Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield also in the running, the final decision will depend on the city’s space, venues and financial capacity to hold the event.
The winning host city will be announced in the autumn when tickets for the event will also go on sale.