It’s Eurovision weekend and 180 million people will tune in to watch the show, including millions from the UK and, I’m sure, many Bristol citizens. Whilst the contest is not always viewed as the most serious of cultural events here, it is another demonstration of the value of international links through popular culture. Bristol has so many European links, and many in the city will be rooting for different winners.
This year’s event is being hosted in Lisbon. Not far from there, Bristol has a twin city of Oporto, where we celebrate specific links on language, theatre, music, food and business. Along with Oporto, we have other twin city relationships with competitor countries; particularly Bordeaux in France, Tbilisi in Georgia and Hannover in Germany. Our links with Bordeaux and Hannover go back to the 1940’s and this year, we celebrated our 70 year twinning anniversaries. We also have close links with cities in Poland, who will feature in the contest, and with 165 countries of origin amongst Bristol citizens, it’s likely every competitor country will have supporters somewhere across the city.
As well as twin cities in Europe, we have partnerships with cities further afield including Puerto Morazan in Nicaragua and Beira in Mozambique. We have close links with cities in India and Somalia, Somaliland and many countries where there are trading relationships with businesses in the city and family ties.
This Wednesday was Europe Day, and we celebrated the day with students from Bristol and Bordeaux with an event in City Hall debating Global Citizenship. Young people in the room viewed international links between their countries, schools and universities as essential to sharing positive and vibrant culture between communities and to open up opportunities for education, jobs, sport and travel.
Eurovision is another symbol of shared experiences across borders and we will continue to work with city businesses to grow opportunity, trade and investment for Bristol across the globe and encourage everyone to act as global citizens, sharing experiences, culture and opportunity while maintaining our status as a city of sanctuary and a city of hope.
If you’re watching, look out for Ireland – my tip for this year’s winner.