TONIGHT is the night for the hometown hero carrying the UK’s hopes of Eurovision glory on his shoulders.

At age just 21, Michael Rice, from Hartlepool, will perform in front of thousands of audience members live and more than 180 million viewers watching on television around the world.

To celebrate his newfound global fame, hundreds of supporters in the North-East are expected to gather together for the Love Hartlepool, Love Eurovision event in Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre tonight.

A large video screen will stream the entire song contest live from the competition finals in Tel Aviv, Israel, into the Eurovision- themed auditorium.

Michael himself said: “I’m absolutely delighted that this event is being held at Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre and I really hope people enjoy getting together for the celebration. It means so much to me knowing that people in my home town are supporting me in this way.

“I can’t wait to represent the UK in Tel Aviv and I’m just grateful for all the support people are giving me – thank you.”

Europe was given its first glimpse of the UK contestant in the second Eurovision semi-final held on Thursday night.

Among those watching his introduction was Eurovision superfan Martin Phillips reporting from the Expo Tel Aviv. Mr Phillips began reporting on the annual spectacle following up on his ties to the contest after growing up in the same village near Swansea as the UK’s 2013 Eurovision entrant, Bonnie Tyler.

In his most recent update from Tel Aviv, Mr Phillips said: “Having videoed “Bigger Than Us” the night before during rehearsals, a segment of the song was played while the European watching public was casting their semi-final votes.

“Michael was then introduced personally to viewers, when he was asked about his work around the UK to tackle bullying in schools.

“As alway,s he came across as endearing and lovable, and hopefully, this short introduction will increase the interest in Michael’s song ahead of his full performance on Saturday.

“Thursday’s second semi-final had no surprises – the most popular songs advanced to the final, including Northern Macedonia for the first time in seven years.

“After each semi-final, the qualifying acts drew in which half of the grand final they would perform. Early on Friday morning the final running order of all songs was decided.

“Michael had drawn a second-half spot earlier this week and was given position 16 out of 26 last night. Hopefully, his performance won’t get lost between Norway’s upbeat Spirit in the Sky – perhaps the most well-received song in the second semi-final – and the bombast of Iceland’s Hatrid Mun Sigra.

“Of course everything on Saturday could be overshadowed by Madonna, who after intense discussions, signed the contract to perform only this week.”

The grand final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest will be aired on BBC One from 8pm tonight, hosted by Graham Norton.

Michael tweeted earlier this week: “I’m living my dream.”