Throughout Liverpool, the brightly coloured flags and banners hang from the street posts and are plastered on walls, promoting a major celebration that will draw in millions of international viewers.
The city in northwest England is getting ready for a crowning, but it’s not a coronation.
Starting on May 9, Liverpool will be hosting the popular Eurovision Song Contest, where singers representing 37 countries compete in an often over-the-top musical extravaganza.
It’s hosting the spectacular instead of Ukraine — which won last year’s event and was therefore in line to welcome competitors next week — but security concerns over Russia’s invasion in February 2022 made the move to Liverpool necessary.
“It is really exciting for all the whole country,” said Emily Herbert, 25, as she took in a rehearsal underway for some of the entertainment as part of the 10-day Eurovision festival that is running alongside the competition.
“We have never had anything like this, not in our lifetime anyway.”
Construction crews are busy erecting a Eurovision village that will act as a party zone for fans who failed to get tickets to the sold-out semifinal and final events. The final is set for May 13.
‘Animosity to anything royal’
On Saturday, the large screen that was installed for Eurovision will air the coronation ceremony in London of King Charles III, but it’s not clear how many people will attend, since, according to polls, Liverpool is far from the most enthusiastic supporter of the British monarchy.
“I imagine Eurovision will be a lot more popular than coronation here for sure,” said Elliot Barrett, 23, who spoke to CBC News as he sat and chatted with a friend during Monday’s public holiday in the United Kingdom.
Barrett said he believes his parents care even less about the Royal Family than he does.
“Compared to London, Liverpool is going to be a lot more apathetic, antagonistic,” he said. “There is going to be a lot more animosity to anything royal or regal.”
Liverpool, a northern port community that was frequently dubbed the second city of the British Empire in the 19th century, has a complex history when it comes to its relationship with the British government.
Political experts and Liverpudlians themselves say turmoil and protests in the 1970s and ’80s against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government gave rise to an anti-authoritarian, anti-British sentiment that still persists among part of the population today.
While everyone who spoke to CBC News said they don’t believe that attitude is dominant throughout Liverpool, it does frequently translate into anti-monarchist views.
A poll conducted by the data collection and analysis firm Focaldata for the British news and opinion website Unherd estimated that just 38 per cent of respondents living in the Liverpool-Riverside constituency agreed or strongly agreed that the monarchy is a good thing for Britain, compared with the national average of 55 per cent.
In Liverpool-Riverside, 32 per cent of people were neutral on the issue.
In a prior poll conducted in 2019, the same Liverpool constituency ranked as the least supportive region of the monarchy in the United Kingdom.
Football fans aren’t fans of monarchy
Fans of the Liverpool football club frequently boo the national anthem, which is now God Save the King, and last year they booed Prince William, who was taking part in a ceremony before the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Liverpool will be playing a home game at Anfield stadium on Saturday and confirmed in a social media post that “in recognition of the Premier League’s request to mark the coronation, players and officials will congregate around the centre circle when the national anthem will be played.”
The club added, “it is, of course, a personal choice how those at Anfield on Saturday mark this occasion and we know some supporters have strong views on it.”
Peter Dwyer was in the crowd in May 2022, when Prince William was booed. He said it sounded like most people at the stadium were taking part.
“Liverpool has never been fearful of expressing its opinions,” said Dwyer, a Liverpool season ticket-holder who is originally from the city but who now lives in Oxford, England.
He told CBC News his father used to attend Liverpool matches in the 1960s, and said that back then, fans would frequently change the lyrics of God Save the King to “God save our Team.”
Dwyer said while he doesn’t want to overstate the issue, he admits that among football fans, many have a deep-seated “anger and bitterness” toward those in power.
It stems from the initial handling of the Hillsborough disaster, he said, when 97 football fans in Sheffield, England, were killed by a crush of people in an overcrowded section of the stadium on April 15, 1989.
Liverpool fans were initially blamed for the disaster by the police and even some members of the media, but eventually an independent inquiry found that a police commander’s poor decisions around crowd management led to the tragedy.
Dwyer said the initial reaction created mistrust — which carries over to the government and often to the royals.
As a self-described anti-monarchist, he planned a vacation outside of the U.K. so he didn’t have to be around during the coronation festivities.
“It will ratchet up this week,” he said. “I can’t bear to be in the country.”
Schoolchildren cheer Charles, Camilla
In Liverpool, some Union Jack flags hang near a mall, and some stores — particularly national chains — carry coronation promotions, but there isn’t a lot of visible fanfare.
When Charles and Camilla, who will become Queen on Saturday, visited Liverpool on April 26, they helped to unveil the Eurovision stage and said they would be watching the competition.
As part of their tour in the hometown of the Beatles, they were cheered by schoolchildren but also jeered by protesters with the anti-monarchy group Republic.
Holly Lucas, a head teacher at a local primary school, took her students to wave flags during the visit by the King and Queen Consort.
While stopping in at a local coffee shop, she told CBC News it was exciting for the children to take part but that Liverpool isn’t as much into the Royal Family as the rest of the U.K.
“It is a political thing,” Lucas said. “People would appreciate more support. Liverpool gets a bit of a bad reputation down south.”
Angry crowds ‘not representative’ of city
Liverpool, which saw its industrial economy collapse in the 1970s and ’80s, along with the departure of tens of thousands of people, has experienced population growth over the past decade.
The city’s downtown includes a mix of students and young families, along with some areas of poverty, according to David Jeffery, a senior lecturer in British politics at the University of Liverpool.
He said the city’s strong Irish population contributes to the idea that many in Liverpool don’t see themselves as British but rather as “Scouse,” a nickname that refers to both the local accent and a Liverpudlian’s cultural identity.
Jeffery said research has shown that Scousers tend to be more left-wing and often step outside the “established rules and norms.”
While the boos from football crowds are loud, he said, what a group of “mainly middle-aged … white men do in a crowd situation … is not representative of the city as a whole.”
Instead, Jeffery said, he believes the dominant feeling toward the monarchy is probably apathy.
“Most people, I think, are just happy to leave the status quo, really,” he told CBC News during an interview on campus.
He said it’s important to consider that any debate around the future of the monarchy is taking place at a time of rising inflation — and when many Brits are unhappy with the way the government is working.
“If that’s all sorted by the time we get King William, then maybe the debates will have settled down then.”