When it comes to tugging at the heartstrings Paul O’Grady makes a clean sweep as he ushered in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest from beyond the grave.
The much-loved comic, who died in March, was one of a host of famous Liverpudlians welcoming people to their home city as the music event kicked off last night.
He shot the clip just before his death and his appearance in the film, which also included King Charles and Queen Camilla, was agreed with the blessing of his family and friends.
And Liverpool did him proud as it welcomed entrants from 15 countries who were competing for 10 of the places on Saturday’s final.
Tens of thousands of fans have arrived in Merseyside while 160 million are watching the world’s biggest music event on TV.
Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Malta, Serbia and Portugal were among the contenders in the first semi-final at the M&S Bank Arena.
To open the contest, a host of stars made the short BBC film to welcome viewers to the city. Liverpool is hosting Eurovision on behalf of last year’s winners Ukraine and famous faces from both places came together to mark the occasion.
The emotional “Welcome to Liverpool” film begins with the moment an excited boy discovers his home city is set to host the event.
He cycles across the area telling his family, friends and neighbours that the world-famous competition is arriving. Paul, who was born in Birkenhead and launched his career with the drag act Lily Savage, filmed his piece shortly before his death on March 28 aged 67.
He is seen cleaning his home in anticipation of Eurovision’s arrival while holding one of his beloved dogs.
It is one of the last things the proud Scouser filmed before he passed away.
Other stars include Wirral-born TV baker Paul Hollywood, who rustles up a cake in Ukrainian colours, and actor Ricky Tomlinson who revisits his old Brookside character Bobby Grant.
Everton and Ukraine football star Vitalii Mykolenko is featured, along with Liverpool FC women’s footballers Sofie Lundgaard from Denmark and Emma Koivisto from Finland. Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham, Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina are this year’s presenters and the opening act also featured Julia performing with her band The Hardkiss.
The film ends with the young Liverpudlian sitting at home to watch last night’s semi-final before he is magically transported through to Liverpool Arena to take part in the powerful opening act.
A brief preview of three of the six pre-qualified countries – Germany, France and Italy – was shown at the end of the programme.
The second semi-final, which takes place tomorrow, will find the last 10 qualifiers out of 16 songs.