By James Reid
Eurovision superstar Sonia saluted the uniting power of music as she joined a refugee choir for a rendition of her 1989 UK No.1 hit, You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You.
The Liverpool singer, who was runner-up at Eurovision in Ireland in 1993, has joined forces with the National Lottery funded European Youth Music Refugee Choir (EYMRC) as part of the celebrations leading up Liverpool hosting Eurovision 2023 on May 13.
Following rehearsals at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool a week ago, over 50 young refugees and asylum seekers from countries including Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Syria have been brought together to perform alongside Sonia at the National Lottery-funded Everyman Theatre on the aptly-named Hope Street in the city on Wednesday 26 April.
And Sonia, 52, said: “When I was first invited to do it, I realised what a fantastic cause it is. Music brings and unites everyone together.
“It’s just lovely to see them all smiling and enjoying the song. To think about what they have been through, it’s wonderful for them to be able to come together.
“My song feels appropriate because of the words in the song You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You: no matter what happens, love unites. It’s such a wonderful thing for the young people to come together.
“It’s not just about music, it’s about finding new friends, having fun. A lot of these refugees and asylum seekers are vulnerable and it’s good for them to be able to come out of their shell and make them feel as welcome as possible.
“It’s fantastic that The National Lottery are doing this. Seeing them come to live, have joy, have hope given all the horrible things they have been through. To now have a release, to find new friends, come together and have a bit of fun.”
The National Lottery is one of the biggest supporters of music and culture in Liverpool with over £330m invested in 3,600 arts and heritage projects to date. Liverpool’s historic hosting of Eurovision sees The National Lottery make a further multi-million-pound contribution to arts, heritage and community across the city.
Sonia represented the UK in 1993 with Better the Devil You Know, missing out on victory by just a single point.
But she is now back involved in a special way, performing a new version of her No.1 hit that includes a second verse in Ukrainian sung by Tatiana Volikova, who came to the UK with her two children from Ukraine last year.
The singer now has a chance of performing at the contest in her home city 30 years on in poignant circumstances and can’t wait for the party that will ensue.
“It’s fantastic that Eurovision is coming to Liverpool, hosting it on behalf of Ukraine,” she added. “The music heritage coming from Liverpool is outstanding and I couldn’t think of a more apt place to hold it – it had to be Liverpool!
“When I did it, I lost out by one point, and I said if I did win, it had to come to Liverpool – and now my dream has come true!
“We are going to do it so proud for them. Liverpudlians are such friendly people, and they are so funny as well, they are really genuine people who open their arms out and welcome anybody in.
“We are going to do Eurovision so proud – it is going to be a massive party. On the night, it really doesn’t matter who wins.
“It’s people coming together through music and uniting, having a great time and realising how much music really brings people together. We are going to have a fantastic time.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30 million a week for arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport, and voluntary projects across the UK; see the difference it’s making near you at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk