Regional collaboration is key to growth of Southport

Writing for LBN, Southport BID chief executive Rachel Fitzgerald hails the success of Eurovision and says collaboration with the rest of Liverpool city region is key to Southport’s future growth

Southport Calling
Southport Calling was held on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest. Picture by Andrew Brown Media


May 2023 was the month Liverpool city region put on a show for the world – and what a show Eurovision was.

Half a million people descended on Merseyside and they started to come more than a week before the Eurovision Song Contest itself took place. On the night of the main event, an estimated 160m people tuned in on TVs across the globe.

It was a period of immense pride, not just for the city itself, but for the whole city region. Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley, Halton and St Helens all played their part in creating an extravaganza that will live long in the memory.

For the past few years we at Southport BID have been working hard to transform our town and accelerate the growth of our economy across multiple sectors.

It would be too easy to take an insular approach. To think only in terms of the confines of Southport itself. But in a digitally connected world just working in silos is an outdated approach.

Collaboration and looking outwards will play a critical role in the growth and regeneration of Southport over the next few years. This is why Southport as a town, led by our team at the BID, seized the opportunities presented by Eurovision with both hands.

On the day of the contest itself, the BID organised Southport Calling. This attracted large crowds to the town centre to enjoy a free festival of top quality local entertainment. It also allowed our charity partner, Compassion Acts, which operates local services including Southport Foodbank, to raise funds and awareness.

Across the town our members, many of them dynamic independent businesses, held Eurovision-themed events, while numerous bars and pubs screened the Eurovision final on the Saturday night.

Twelve venues in the town centre had Eurovision illustrations or activities displayed in their windows. And Southport Market staged a Eurovision Bloopers show, Southport Coaster held a Marie La Rae Eurovision Special and The Bold Hotel welcomed people to an Abba Disco Bingo Eurovision Special.

This all illustrates how Eurovision was truly a Liverpool city region event. Southport is a key part of the city region’s economic eco-system. In the coming months we’ll be talking more about how we intend to make Southport’s voice even louder at a regional level.

Devolution, in the form of Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA), can help transform the whole of Merseyside into an economic powerhouse.

We support the idea that the Government needs to devolve even more power to our region.

Later this year, Southport will see the arrival of the new Merseyrail train fleet, acquired by the CA for £500m, that will ferry passengers between here and Liverpool city centre and onwards to destinations such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

LCR Connect, a 212km full-fibre broadband network that is a joint venture between the CA and ITS and NGE, is already bringing superfast broadband speeds to businesses in Southport.

This will not only transform the productivity of our existing firms, it will also offer a boost to Southport’s plans to create an innovation hub for digital start-ups called the Enterprise Arcade. It will be located in Crown Buildings in the town.


Rachel Fitzgerald
Southport BID chief executive Rachel Fitzgerald. Picture by Gareth Jones
Marine Lake
Image of proposed new events and conference centre on Marine Lake in Southport
777 class Merseyrail trains will be coming to Southport this year. Picture by Tony McDonough


There are also a number of landlords in our town who are prepared to invest in their building to create more creative and innovative space across the town.

And the CA is also providing £20m towards the £73m cost of the new Marine Lake Events Centre. In Liverpool, the arena and convention centre complex has proved transformational for Liverpool.

We at BID believe that MLEC will have a similar impact in Southport by attracting entertainment events and major conferences to the town.

In the past there has been a resistance in Southport to the idea that we are part of a wider Merseyside eco-system. I’m happy to report that mindset among the business community has changed in recent years, and continues to do so.

It is so important that businesses and local authorities across the city region continue to

connect with each other – to offer support, to share ideas, to collaborate on major projects. It is how we can best make devolution work.

There is ample evidence this approach works. Liverpool city region’s maritime sector has utilised the ‘cluster’ approach to create a powerhouse industry that is now worth £5bn a year locally.

So successful is that model that Mersey Maritime is now being tasked by the Government to help replicate it in other parts of the UK.

We have to learn from that approach and realise that by working together, we can create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.