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Paul O’Grady makes posthumous appearance marking Eurovision in Liverpool as first shows kick off

Thousands of eager Eurovision fans got their first glimpse at the contest on Monday night ahead of Tuesday’s first semi-final.

A full run-through for the semi-final, taking place away from cameras, saw acts from 15 countries perform to a packed house at Liverpool Arena for the first time.

With tickets scarce for the main live shows, fans were thrilled to get a glimpse of the contest a day ahead of broadcast.

The first semi-final will air at 8pm on Tuesday, with two of the firm frontrunners among those to perform – Sweden’s Loreen, who won the contest in 2012 with “Euphoria” and is seeking to replicate her success with track “Tattoo”, and Finland’s Käärijä, whose “Cha Cha Cha” is tipped to delight fans.

The show will also feature interval performances from Rita Ora, Liverpudlian singer Rebecca Ferguson, as well as Ukrainian artists Alyosha and The Hardkiss.

The BBC’s Scott Mills and Rylan will be in the commentary box for the semi-final, while Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Ukraine’s Julia Sanina will be hosting on stage.

The BBC on Monday night revealed the “Welcome to Liverpool” film set to air before the first semi-final, which features famous Liverpudlians including the late Paul O’Grady – who is seen vacuuming with his dog.

It is one of the final things that the presenter filmed before he passed away, and his appearance received the blessing of his family and friends to mark his pride in his home region.

The three-minute clip, which will air before Tuesday night’s semi-final, also features actor Ricky Tomlinson, Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, Ukrainian Everton football star Vitalii Mykolenko, and Liverpool FC women’s footballers Sofie Lungaard.

Tuesday’s second semi-final will see 10 acts qualify for Saturday’s grand final. They will be joined on Saturday by 10 qualifiers from Thursday’s second semi-final, as well as reigning champs Ukraine and entries from the “Big Five” countries – including the UK’s Mae Muller.

Muller said of her entry “I Wrote A Song”: “All my music kind of derives from my personal experiences but I just wanted to write something empowering, that would get everyone up off their seats.

“I think when we go through negative things like a break-up, or any kind of heartache, it’s really easy to focus on the negatives and get lost in that but I wanted to focus on the empowerment of that and how we can navigate those emotions to come out the other side, feeling confident.”

She said to “expect some sass” from her upcoming Eurovision performance, adding: “It’s going to be fun and a big party.”

Ukraine’s Eurovision entry, electronic duo Tvorchi, said they had been “impressed” by the tributes to Ukraine around Liverpool.

Producer Andrii Hutsuliak said: “A lot of things we were actually surprised by. For example, walking earlier we saw sunflowers, a lot of flags everywhere, different installations, objects.

“There are installations that are made by Ukrainian artists united with British artists, and they made those installations which is very cool.

“We feel like a whole big family and this makes our hearts warm, that we have such friends who can help us in these hard times. We feel very, very thankful for everything.”

Hutsuliak said their track “Heart Of Steel” can be “for anyone” because of its universal message of “being strong, being confident, being brave, and staying in a good attitude despite negative situations”.

“We feel like everyone meets those situations in their lives,” he added.

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