First Eurovision semi-final kicks off with female empowerment anthem from Norway


Norway’s Alessandra kicked off the first live show of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool with her anthem of female self-empowerment, Queen Of Kings.

The vocalist, 20, was first on stage at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool during the first of the contest’s two semi-finals taking place this week.

It was enough to win her a place in the grand final but Ireland’s Wild Youth failed to qualify.

The Dublin band were among five acts eliminated during the 15-strong first live semi-final of the week at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

The 10 countries who made it through to the grand final were Croatia, Moldova, Switzerland, Finland, Czechia, Israel, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia and Norway.

There was also an appearance by Rita Ora, known for the number one hits I Will Never Let You Down, How We Do and Hot Right Now, who performed a medley of her songs and her new single Praising You.

Rita Ora (AFP via Getty Images)
Rita Ora (AFP via Getty Images)

She was joined by 54 backing dancers including 30 from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (Lipa).

Among them was 12-year-old Sofiia Kladko, from Rivne in the north west of Kyiv, who has been living in Warrington since 2022.

Shortly before her performance, Ora posted on Twitter paying tribute to the girl as representing “strength and hope during these turbulent, tragic and changeable times”.

She added: “We must not forget the privilege the UK has to play its part as host nation at the Eurovision 2023 for the Ukraine after the Kalush Orchestra won the contest last year.”

Ora, who grew up in Kosovo and later came to the UK with her family, said: “The plight of Sofiia’s family reminds me of the incredible journey my family went through when I was her age, and how I will be forever grateful to the UK for showing us kindness and compassion,” she added.

“Sofiia opens my performance this evening playing with a ball, representing the loss of childhood for these poor refugees.

“I hope this amazing song contest opens hearts across Europe and the world. We love you Ukraine, we all perform tonight, for you.”

A short film welcomed viewers to the event and featured local famous faces including Wirral-born TV baker Paul Hollywood, actor Ricky Tomlinson and the late Paul O’Grady.

There was also a surprise pre-recorded appearance from the King and Queen, who unveiled the staging last month.

Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham hosted the semi-final alongside Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina of the band The Hardkiss.

Waddingham joked they were “honorary Liver Birds for the evening”, while Sanina welcomed viewers with a message in her native Ukrainian.

She later thanked “beautiful Liverpool” for welcoming Ukraine and its people “with open arms”.

Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Julia Sanina (PA)
Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Julia Sanina (PA)

Dixon harked back to her time in girl group Mis-Teeq with a rap in front of the Eurovision audience that paid tribute to the people of Ukraine and the trademark pink bucket hat of Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk.

She then led the crowd in a chant of “Liverpool, Liverpool!”

Waddingham took part in a skit with The Fizz, whose members were part of 1981 winning act Bucks Fizz, and were seen queuing outside a red phone box in the venue.

Spice Girl Melanie C also made a surprise appearance as the announcer, introducing the show and the hosts.

Ukrainian vocalist Alyosha, who came 10th in Eurovision 2010 with the song Sweet People, also performed alongside former X Factor contestant Rebecca Ferguson, who is from Liverpool.