Ukraine’s reigning Eurovision champions Kalush Orchestra have got the party started in this year’s host city Liverpool with a performance to open the fan village.
The band kicked off the official Eurovision build-up on Friday, watched by fans on Liverpool’s waterfront.
The celebrations will continue until the grand final on Saturday, 13 May.
Kalush’s Tymofii Muzychuk said the band members were sad it was impossible to hold this year’s Eurovision in Ukraine.
The winning country normally hosts the contest the following year, but organisers decided it was too dangerous to stage the annual extravaganza in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
Instead, the UK – which came second with Sam Ryder in 2022 – is hosting this year’s event on behalf of Ukraine.
“It’s good that it’s being staged in the UK,” Muzychuk continued. “We see lots of Ukrainian colours, and the main thing is safety.”
The musician told BBC News he wanted this year’s contest to send a message to the world to not forget about Ukraine.
“The war in Ukraine is continuing,” he said. “It’s not finished yet and we want to remind people that they shouldn’t lose track of it and it should be in the headlines.”
Many people in the country will be watching the contest, he added. “They’ll be supporting and rooting for Ukraine.
“Of course we are sad that it’s not being staged in Ukraine but I hope that the UK entry wins, then we can swap and hold Eurovision in Ukraine [in 2024].”
Some fans waved Ukrainian flags as they watched the band, while others wore pink bucket hats – following the trend started by frontman Oleh Psiuk.
Kalush Orchestra will also perform at the grand final, opening the show with a performance titled Voices of a New Generation.
As well as the final and semi-finals, Liverpool is staging many other events around the city, including daily shows at the 15,000-capacity Eurovision Village.
On Friday, a special supergroup featuring musicians from Merseyside and Ukraine performed after Kalush Orchestra under the banner Welcome to Eurotopia.
The UK members included Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singer Andy McCluskey, singers Jane Weaver and Natalie McCool and art-pop group Stealing Sheep, while Helleroid, Krapka;KOMA and Iryna Muha represented Ukraine.
Friday also saw a street parade as part of a a Eurovision-themed cultural festival. The Blue and Yellow Submarine Parade was inspired by the colours of the Ukrainian flag along with the song and film by Liverpool’s most famous musical exports, The Beatles.