Donald Trump is still US president… the Brexit deadline looms without any prospect of a deal… Scandi Noir favourite The Bridge is no more…Yet despite the gloom, there are plenty of positives in store in 2019 to temper the misery
One of the best things about living in Scotland is that the post-Christmas blues are blown away by the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. This year’s highlights include Siobhan Wilson at St Luke’s and Carla J Easton and Mark McGowan at Oran Mor.
Later in the year (dates to be confirmed) a 70s throwback will come courtesy of 21st century technology as members of Abba launch a virtual tour. Rather than appearing as they are now, they will be represented by Abbatars (geddit?) modelled on the way they looked in their bespangled pomp.
And in August, an 80s/early 90s throwback will come courtesy of The Cure, who are performing in Scotland for the first time in 27 years. Over-excited old goths are already digging out the eyeliner and lipstick for the concert, also featuring Mogwai and The Twilight Sad, in Bellahouston Park in August.
Meanwhile, giggers who were but a glint in their parents’ eyes when The Lovecats stalked the charts can look forward to The 1975 at Glasgow’s Hydro later this month, and Chvrches at the same venue in February.
For me, the most thrilling book event of 2019 will be the publication of a new Kathleen Jamie collection of non-fiction essays – Surfacing – in September; if it is even half as good as Sightlines and Findings, it will be a literary gem. Running a close second will be Alan Warner’s new novel Marko Sent Me North about a rock star’s assistant who is dispatched to a house on Scotland’s west coast to dislodge some tenants, expected late 2019/early 2020. Ali Smith’s Spring, the third novel in her splendid seasonal quartet, and journalist Melanie Reid’s The World I Fell Out Of, about her struggle to deal with paralysis caused by a horse riding accident, are both out in March. Still no apparent publication date for the last part of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror And The Light, though.
The end of Trump’s presidency? Well, we can dream. There are those who believe there is no need to wait for the outcome of the Mueller investigation to initiate the impeachment process, such is the damage he is inflicting on the country. And now the House of Representatives has a Democrat majority, it is feasible. However, there are no signs they are in a hurry to do so. Some political observers believe that, rather than being formally impeached, Trump will agree to leave the White House in exchange for no criminal charges being brought against him, his children and the Trump organisation.
The end of Brexit? See above. At the moment, a second referendum is not endorsed by either the Tory government nor the Labour opposition. But if May can’t get her deal through parliament, and the government is faced with the prospect of a No Deal, she might yet put the matter back to the country. Even if that were the case, of course, there would be no guarantee Leave wouldn’t win a second time.
So far, the impact of the #MeToo campaign has been mixed. Despite it dominating news headlines all year, Dr Christine Blasey Ford was still hounded for accusing Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her as a young woman, while his appointment as a Supreme Court judge went ahead, despite her obvious distress.
Some of the men caught up in scandals – such as Kevin Spacey and Louis CK – are already hopeful of a comeback. However, there is little doubt the campaign raised the profile of sexual harassment causing workplaces on both sides of the Atlantic to re-examine their rules and complaints procedures. Also positive is the make-up of the newly elected US Congress. Last week, 126 women, including 43 women of colour, took their seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, increasing the proportion of women from 20 per cent to 24 per cent.
The stage musical of Local Hero, that paean to Highland couthiness, is hotly anticipated by those – and there are many – who love the 1983 film to the point of obsession. The movie’s original director, Bill Forsyth, is reunited with the creator of its instantly recognisable soundtrack, Mark Knopfler. The Royal Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig is adapting the script and the show will open at The Lyceum in Edinburgh on 23 March. At a time of brashness, polarisation and yelling into the void, this reminder of a kinder, gentler time could be a balm for the soul.
In the words of the inimitable Miss Jean Brodie: “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.” Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby – expected in early spring – will be cause for celebration for some, while others will derive a masochistic pleasure from whinging about all the fuss. Ditto the birth of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s fourth baby – currently being borne by a “gestational carrier” – in May. In both cases, speculation over names is likely to reach fever-pitch, although it’s harder to follow Saint, North and Chicago, than it is to follow George, Charlotte and Louis.
The greatest sporting event of the year is likely to be Scotland women’s national football team – managed by Shelley Kerr – taking part in their first ever Fifa World Cup. The excitement that surrounded their appearance at the Euros in 2017 will only intensify as they travel to France to take on England on 9 June, Japan on 14 June and Argentina on 19 June. Looking forward to peeling off those Panini stickers already.
In rugby, the Scotland men’s team will be heading for the World Cup in Japan in September. The first World Cup to be held in Asia, it is being seen as a signifier of a shifting landscape. Scotland will play their opening pool match against Ireland on 22 September andthen Samoa on the last day of the month.
What could be more exciting than Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait As Saint Catherine Of Alexandria coming to Scotland? Why, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait As Saint Catherine Of Alexandria coming to the Glasgow Women’s Library.
Gentileschi was a follower of Caravaggio and one of the first women to make her presence felt in the male-dominated artistic community of her time. The painting, bought by London’s National Gallery for £3.6 million in 2017, will be at the Glasgow Women’s Library from 6-19 March as part of a “pop-up” tour of the UK.
The work of another talented woman – Linda McCartney – will feature in a major exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The six-month exhibition, which opens in July, will include images of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin as well as portraits of the Beatles and photographs from the Argyll farmhouse where she and Paul McCartney regularly stayed with their family.
For those able to travel further afield, the 350th anniversary of the death of Rembrandt will see exhibitions of his work across the Netherlands.
The new Scottish BBC Channel has already brought 80 new jobs to Pacific Quay and created the opportunity for a raft of new programmes, including a new daily news programme – The Nine – a Scottish version of Question Time and a Saturday night review programme. Although some of the work in development is still under wraps, there is a real buzz around its launch in February, with the return of James Cook from the US to become chief news correspondent enhancing its credibility. If its ambitions are fulfilled, it should be a platform for more investigative journalism and documentaries and an opportunity for more Scottish voices to be heard.
The announcement that Glasgow is to be one of C4’s new creative hubs is also a boost to the country’s media industry. It will bring 50 new jobs to the city – eight or nine of them commissioning editors – and involve the devolution of budgets. This is good news for independent production companies who will no longer have to travel to London in order to make their pitch.
Elsewhere, the whisky industry continues to thrive. Thirty new distilleries are in the planning and construction stages, with nine due to open this year. They include Ardnahoe on Islay, Ardross, which is north of Inverness, and Falkirk. The new additions will take the total number of whisky distilleries in Scotland to more than 140.
TV & film
The year got off to a fantastic start TV-wise with the return of Luther, starring Idris Elba as the eponymous maverick cop. Later in the year, Kelly Macdonald and John Hannah will come together in a legal thriller about a mother accused of revealing the new identity of her teenage son’s killer online.
Film-wise, Mary Queen Of Scots – starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie – offers colour-blind casting and a feminist take on a much-told, but often romanticised story. It will be out on 18 January.
WHAT’S KEEPING US CHEERFUL?
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister
In my job I’m privileged to meet so many inspirational people who give hope for the future. The talent, ingenuity and good sense of the people of Scotland reinforce both my optimism and determination to build a better country for everyone who lives here.
Looking ahead, as a country, we are world leaders in tackling the major challenges of our age such as climate change. Real progress is being made in Scotland in harnessing our remarkable renewable energy resources. I believe we can come together to forge a consensus in Scotland on issues such as migration, to ensure we remain an open and welcoming country.
And I am sure that sense of togetherness will be on display this year when our sportsmen and women take to the world stage. 2019 will see Scotland’s women’s national team compete in the Fifa World Cup in France. As patron of the team, I’m really excited to cheer them on.
Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour leader
This year marks some important anniversaries. The 20th anniversary of the first elections to the Scottish Parliament must act as a catalyst to rekindle the ambition and hope which led to its establishment; the centenary of the Battle of George Square over moderate demands by workers for a shorter working week is a time to start tackling again the culture of both excessive working time and precarious working hours; and as we reach 40 years since the election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, it is the job of those of us on the Left to now pave the way for democratic renewal and reform.
I’m also looking forward to another great year in culture starting with Celtic Connections. I also hope to see many of you at the Dandy Warhols in the Old Fruit Market or at the 25 years of Marina Records in the Mitchell.
Val McDermid, author
I am still cleaving to the hope that somehow our mutton-headed government will fail to deliver Brexit and we’ll cling on to our EU membership. My second hope is that this parliamentary omni-shambles will accelerate the progress towards indyref2, and that the utter contempt Westminster has shown the Scottish people and the Scotland Act will lead to independence. I can’t pretend I wouldn’t prefer that to happen without visiting economic disaster on the UK, but I’ll take it. The third thing is the trip I’m due to take to New Zealand in the autumn. My partner and I have both been invited as Visiting Professors to Otago University in Dunedin, and I’m already in a state of high excitement. Otago is the only university outside Scotland to have a Scottish studies department and they also teach a course in Scottish crime fiction, so it’ll be fascinating to see how people on the other side of the world respond to the concerns at the heart of our most popular contemporary fiction.
Ricky Ross, musician
What warms my heart most this year is the possibility of having conversations with people on opposite sides of various arguments. I’m worried about what we’ve become in our post-referenda world.
So I’m excited about a conversation I’ll be having with Douglas Alexander at the University in Dundee next month about his own work in tackling poverty. I feel it’s important to harness the many talented people we have in Scotland who have given over their working lives to public service. We may disagree on many things, but we can all learn from those who have committed themselves to making the world a better place.
Stuart Cosgrove, broadcaster & author
When I look at my diary, I am cheered by the prospect of the Celtic Connections and Edinburgh Book Festivals. The book festivals in particular make me feel optimistic. Book sales have risen year on year despite what people predicted about the impact of digital and Kindles. Publishing in Scotland is buoyant with new independent publishing houses opening. I have joined the board of 404 Ink. It’s a fascinating venture. Run by two women, it seems to be challenging the orthodoxy on how books are sold. They seem to have a good modern approach – moving away from traditional book launches where you get a glass of chardonnay and everyone is home by 8pm. They understand the online world and the importance of people having access to the author.
On a more personal note, I am doing the paperwork to gain dual Sri Lankan citizenship. My wife Shirani is a Tamil Sri Lankan and is keen for us to have a semi-permanent foothold there, and for Jack, our son, to know that he is a Tamil as well as a Scot. In the event of a hard Brexit, I will have gone that route as opposed to the Irish one.
Finally, I remain optimistic about Scottish politics. More people are recognising that there is a fundamental difference between politics in the south of England and what Scotland wants for its future.
Karine Polwart, musician
My pals and neighbours in Pathhead Music Collective hosted an afternoon family ceilidh in our Midlothian village hall last week. It was jam-packed with teeny bairns right up to folk in their eighties. That stuff keeps me going. Music. Dancing. And anything that gets disparate folk in a room together literally holding hands, sharing space and being good humans to one another. This stuff isn’t a luxury. We have never needed it more. We raised enough for a year-long music scholarship for a local young person into the bargain. For me, this kind of old-fashioned neighbourliness is verging on radical. And a well-played fiddle is a source of power and possibility and generosity.