Eurovision 2023: City bid could transform empty and derelict spaces in city

Glasgow is known worldwide for its ability to put on a show, from the success of the Commonwealth Games in 2014, to the images beamed round the world of the city’s famous riverside venues as it hosted COP26 last year.

The city finds itself in the running to host Eurovision 2023, along with Liverpool, with a decision expected to be announced as early as this evening by the BBC. However, businesses in Glasgow are hoping the city will prevail, with one stating the song contest could not only put Glasgow on the map, but reshape the city as well.

Marc Cairns, managing director at architecture firm New Practice, said the opportunity to host Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine in Glasgow could help with revamping some of the city’s vacant spaces.

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He said: “I think what we've seen in the past is that these events are also really good mechanisms for testing and prototyping the uses of under-utilised abandoned sites in the city, whether that be through permanent or temporary means.

Singer Sam Ryder performs on behalf of The United Kingdom during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 on May 14, 2022 at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP) (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)
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“For COP26, for example, we were commissioned by Glasgow City Council to take over a really large bit of land on the river ten minutes walk to the Hydro and it was to be the only fairly free and publicly accessible venue for COP26. We really transformed how that space was used for the duration of the conference with different presentations and events, showcasing different innovations from around the world.

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“But what that now does, by its very existence, is open up a conversation about that site in the future, and I think there will be fantastic opportunities for that across the city. For example, where will people go to watch this event if they're not going to make it for the Hydro? How do our parks transform for the evening? And how does that all start to become part of this prototyping about new ways to use a city.”

Mr Cairns said the use of new spaces would likely be part of the host strategy from Glasgow City Council. He said the local authority would be looking to build on the success of use of abandoned space during previous events such as the Sustainable Glasgow Landing near the Hydro site for COP26 or the space created in Merchant City during the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Richard Muir, deputy chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

He said: “I'd be very surprised if use of empty and derelict space was not part of the host strategy from Glasgow Council. I think they're really successful in doing that, and they've shown that through previous events that they've hosted.“

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The total level of vacant and derelict land in Glasgow last year stood at 880 hectares.

Mr Cairns said much like the Glasgow Commonwealth Games or COP26, Eurovision could have a legacy in the positive spaces left behind. He said: “Any opportunity that pulls focus within local or national government to think about how to best represent the city is great, with the hope that they shouldn't just be making our cities the best they can be just for guests.

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"They should be the best they can be for people who live and invest their time and energy and love in the city every day. The hope is always that those events spark ideas and those ideas have legs much beyond the event themselves.”

COP 26 took place in the Hydro

Whilst outlining the positives for the event to be held in Glasgow, Mr Cairns said Eurovision would have an economic and social value to the city and its businesses as a whole.

He said: “Obviously Eurovision is an event that will have quite immediate financial benefit to, you know, food and beverage [outlets], hotels and more traditional entertainment venues.

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“But I think it creates spaces for new content, spaces for people to come together and opportunities for people to try something new that they haven't done. I think we have to be really careful about understanding that value is not just economic, it's all connected, social value, economic value, environmental values. It’s all about creating healthy, happy, resilient cities and any moments that bring us together can help to do that.”

Richard Muir, deputy chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said “As our track record proves, Glasgow is well positioned for hosting the Eurovision Song Contest. With an impressive and diverse portfolio of international conferences, major sporting events and fantastic cultural celebrations, the city consistently reinforces its status as a world-class event city.

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The Sustainable Glasgow Landing is an example of an empty space that can be reimagined as part of an event.

“Glasgow has a wealth of musical heritage, proudly being a Unesco City of Music and is rich with venue assets both large and more intimate. We have a reputation for hosting world-class music events filled with passionate audiences and supported in delivery by the wealth of specialist businesses based in Glasgow.

“The business of winning, staging and capitalising on international events such as Eurovision is hugely important to Glasgow and our business community in so many ways."

Seven cities had originally made the shortlist to host Eurovision, before the BBC announced last month that Birmingham Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester had missed out.

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Phil Harrold, the chairman of the BBC’s host city selection committee, said at the time: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a very complex event and Liverpool and Glasgow have the strongest overall offer. We will continue our discussions with them to determine the eventual host city.”

Ukrainian entry Kalush Orchestra triumphed at the 2022 competition in Turin, Italy, but the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which produces the annual event, decided the show cannot be safely held in the country following Russia’s invasion.

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Glasgow’s OVO Hydro arena, which held the COP26 event in November last year and saw much of the surrounding space transformed into an outdoor event space, would be hosting the Glasgow event if the city’s bid was to be successful.

Martin Osterdahl, the executive supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest, said last month the EBU was “confident” Glasgow and Liverpool were the “best-placed” cities to become host.

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