Liverpool: A man in a feather boa pointing to Eurovision points
All photos: Chris Bethell

Eurovision Night in Liverpool Was a Perfect Patriotic Mess

Is this weird stirring I feel looking at a pug statuette in a vape shop... national pride??

If you asked the average Brit or a fun-hating homophobe what they thought of Eurovision two years ago, they might have said, “that silly singing competition we always lose because we’re not in a powerful geographic voting bloc”. But times have changed, and in 2022, by some divine miracle (read: the power of TikTok and the love middle-aged women have for men with long hair), Britain swept up the leaderboard to end in second place. As deserving winners Ukraine could not host themselves, the competition came to Liverpool in 2023, home to one of the UK’s largest LGBTQ populations and also, The Wombats.


Cal and I have been work friends for about a year. I can’t remember how or why we became friends, other than that natural urge queer people have to track down other queer people, and start sending them Kim Woodburn memes on Instagram. Shortly after we met, Cal asked if he could use my work printing credits to stick black and white printouts of Princess Diana around the VICE offices. I said yes then never did, but sure enough, one day I saw her smiling back at me while I filled up my water bottle. Then he asked if we could go to Eurovision together. Now that’s queer solidarity!

Which is how we found ourselves walking to Liverpool’s gay quarter on Eurovision Grand Finale night. “This is so chaotic, I love it,” Cal said. “Earlier I heard someone say they’d now be willing to rethink the EU.”

We strolled down Cumberland Street under strings of bunting – union jacks, Ukraine blue and yellow, and rainbow flags – into our pre-drinking spot for the night, Masquerade Bar. 

Liverpool, Eurovision 2023: The resident drag queen at Masquerade Bar strikes a pose

The resident drag queen at Masquerade Bar strikes a pose.

Masquerade Bar is over 25 years old, subterranean, and, on this occasion, was populated with lads kissing by the toilets and nans in their finest florals sat under a “UK-RAINE: Standing Together” banner. It was exactly what we needed. 

Years of going out in London’s expensive and PVC-obsessed queer scene can make you forget that, fundamentally, gay clubbing should be fun. It’s why so many of us remember a first kiss, or a thousand kisses, in a cheesy gay pop bar with a rotating disco light and a surly-looking drag queen surveying an ageing DJ deck. 


We picked up double measures and mixers, and hit the dance floor for a playlist of previous Eurovision winning numbers.

Liverpool, Eurovision 2023: Older women in rainbow stickers with arms outstretched

The ladies at Masquerade Bar.

One of the older women in the club turned to Cal. “Where in the world are you from?” she asked. “London,” he replied.

She looked vaguely disappointed, said “oh,” and carried on dancing, holding his hand. Thirty-seven competing nations in town and all she got was a toothy five foot nine homosexual living in Hackney. [Note to editor: Cal wrote that bit.]

Liverpool, Eurovision 2023: Two Eurovision fans with Sam Ryder impersonators

The authors with Sam Ryder impersonators.

One final boogie to “Fuego” and it was off to the EuroVillage fan zone for the big show. We stocked up on some vapes from an offie named Beatles News, under a neon sign stating “the magic starts here.” There was still about an hour to go before the show started, and the warm-up act was in full swing.

Me, hearing ‘Tragedy’: “Is that actual Steps?”
Police officer by backstage entrance: “Well, it’s Claire from Steps.”
Cal: “Who’s the most famous artist you’ve seen this weekend?”
Police officer: “Probably the Vengaboys.”

We headed to a food stand, dodging some sweet fragrant goo on the paving, perhaps once a cocktail. “Fuck sake, we’ve only been to two spots and we’ve already had our first casualty,” said Cal, as I stuffed my broken angel wings into a bin.

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: People watching the big screen at the EuroVillage

Eurovision fans at the Eurovillage.

By the time the show got underway at 8PM, we were getting teary during Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra opening sequence. It really is about more than just the music, etc. Seeing us welling up with Ukraine football scarves around our necks, a concerned local asked if we were Ukrainian. “Oh, no, we’re from London,” Cal said; “Oh,” once again the reply, followed by a polite smile. Cal’s magic ability to reel in kindly middle-aged women kicks in again!

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: Two people in Ukraine scarves dancing in the Eurovillage

Partying at the Eurovillage.

One wine (and those huge tumblers from Masquerade Bar) deep, we were ready to dance on the picnic tables for Loreen’s “Tattoo”, a performance we’d been invested in for several weeks now as two raging pop queens. From what we could see though, we were the only ones who were – though her jury win was more or less in the bag, it was clear at that point she was not the audience favourite. “Queen of Kings” by Norway, on the other hand, saw us start a group swing dance with a lovely chap called Dave, sporting the green muscle man arms from Finnish entry Käärijä

One thing that’s annoying about most big music or cultural events is the sheer existence of other people: the feeling of guilt and discomfort for breathing so close to a stranger’s ear, accidentally hitting them with a bag or getting scowled at if you would like to leave your spot and have a little wee. But there were no such bad vibes in Liverpool, which I will jealously admit is home to some of the nicest people on this sad rainy island. 

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: Wide angle shot of the crowds at the Eurovillage

Sun sets over Liverpool.

“Are you from Moldova?” said a man in a Union Jack flag and bowling hat as we watched Moldova. “Oh, no,” I said. 

“Are you from Ukraine?” he asked. “No, I’m from the UK,” I replied.

“Oh, you’re gay, that’s cool!” he said. 

“BLOOD AND GLITTER, SWEET AND BITTER,” we belted, throwing devil horns for Germany’s stunning (and cheated) metal track. A pretty girlie in a mini dress turned round, and I braced for a look of irritated judgement. “Awhhhhh, are you having a nice time, gerl?” she asked, smiling.

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: Bald man throws open his arms

Night falls in the Eurovillage.

Another woman in sequins turned round and welcomed us to Liverpool. “I literally haven’t met a single dickhead here,” I said. “Yeah, there are no dickheads here,” she agreed. “Except for my boyfriend! Ha ha.”

As Mae Muller rounded out the show, we headed to G Bar, a colourful backalley gay club doing a Eurovision screening. The floors were suitably sticky, and the vibes were absolutely huge. 

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: A person in a purple nightdress dancing in the Eurovillage

Waving the flag at Eurovision.

In the toilets, I saw a girl wiping sick off her shoes, while a cheery bar staff member helped her clean up. “I’m not even drunk,” she said. “I wish I was.”

Soon after we met the true queen of the Mersey, Maisie, who said she was backing “anyone but Loreen” – not out of spite, but a hard defence for Eurovision’s founding values of fairness and egalitarianism. “I just want someone else to get a chance to win. She’s already won!”

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: A man holds a Ukraine scarf at the Eurovillage

One of the authors with a Ukraine scarf.

A few moments into the jury scores, the drag queen compere demanded a white wine from the crowd and declared: “So it’s going to Sweden, isn’t it?” Loreen was declared the winner, Cal screamed and Maisie scowled. I nipped to the loo and made friends with a hun in the toilet. “I’m only here for a good time,” she told me. “I might be dead next week. I’ll live, laugh, love for Eurovision. Do you love Loreen? I love Loreen! Oof, I need some deodorant.”

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: A woman cheers as Finland's entry Käärijä appears on a TV screen

Finnish entry Käärijä going down a storm in Liverpool.

We exited G Bar and walked a few metres up the road to rival establishment, Elysium. Luckily, it was almost entirely empty, so we grabbed a banquette in VIP, and Cal went for a poo. “You’ve got to be strategic when the club is empty,” he said. (Early into our room share this weekend, I told Cal about my IBS, to which he replied, “I think I also have IBS,” then farted. Hot girls only!!)

An angel appeared with a tray of free juicy shots and we hit the dance floor. What I liked most about Elysium was that it was twice the size of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, with the party atmosphere of a suburban strip club. There was just one place left to stop on our way back to the hotel: a vape shop that looked like the inside of a fridge and sold charging cables, dog statuettes, energy drinks and poppers.

A crowd had formed to dance around a wireless Bluetooth party speaker playing ABBA. It was 2AM, and we were watching a girlie dance around with a King Charles tea towel on her head. 

Eurovision landed on our shores a week after Tory Glastonbury (read: King Charles’s coronation). The former, a rich and colourful display of Britain’s capacity for fun; the latter, a cold and heavily-guarded march down the country’s postcolonial death spiral. Two events where the world looked at the UK for a crowning, and watched people performing routines in silly outfits. Only one made me want to grab a Union Jack and scream my tits off. 

Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool: A woman dances in a corner shop with a King Charles banner on her head

God bless the UK.