2019 culture planner
Want to make the most of 2019? Here's the best new TV, music, theatre, film, books and art of the year. Get yer diary out!
How’s this for a January blues-buster – welcome to our curated guide to the best film, music, TV, art, books and theatre for the year ahead. There’s an insane amount of exciting stuff going, which I’ve painstakingly pared down to the key cultural moments, releases and events to enliven your 2019. The result? All killer, no filler!
If you wanted to spend the entirety of 2019 clad in a onesie, horizontal on the sofa (don’t tempt me), you certainly wouldn’t get bored – there’s oodles of terrific telly upcoming. I’m most excited about Gold Dust Nation, a 1990s-set drama series set in the offices of British Vogue. It’s the brainchild of ex Vogue powerhouses Alexandra Shulman and Fiona Golfar so veracity is guaranteed. Release date tbc so keep an eye on Netflix. Talking of commanding women, Helen Mirren plays nails Russian empress Catherine The Great in a Sky Atlantic period drama this autumn – apparently it’s a total sauce-fest.
Another autumnal arrival: Emma Healey’s hit 2014 debut novel, Elizabeth Is Missing, resurfaces as a BBC1 drama adaptation. It’s the story of Maud, who is searching for her titular friend as her dementia takes hold. Finally there’s the return of some firm favourites. Epic royal family drama The Crown season 3 (Netflix, autumn) covers the swinging ’60s, with Olivia Colman (above) newly installed as HRH (And news just in: Gillian Anderson will play Margaret Thatcher in season 4).
Meanwhile Phoebe Waller-Bridge, fresh from writing mega-hit Killing Eve, is back with a new, darker season of Fleabag (BBC3, Feb). Plus it’s the last run out for both Game Of Thrones (Sky Atlantic, 15 April) and Homeland (Channel 4, June) plus Reese Witherspoon’s and Nicole Kidman’s US drama Big Little Lies is back on Sky Atlantic in Spring, now with added Meryl Streep.
The big 2019 news is that 34 years on from The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood has written a sequel, The Testaments, out Sept. ‘Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,’ she says. ‘The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’ I bet it is.
Elsewhere in fiction, Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert is always worth a punt. Her new novel City of Girls (out June) is about young women coming of age in 1940s Manhattan, and, also on the theme of teenage kicks, David Nicholls, author of One Day, returns with Sweet Sorrow (out July) the tale of a a 16-year-old boy’s transformative summer. Sounds like one for the holiday suitcase.
Prefer a memoir? I’m currently stuck into Zawe Ashton‘s Character Breakdown (out April) and Tracey Thorn‘s Another Planet (out Feb). The former sees the hotshot actress/writer/director who you might remember as mentalist Vod in student sitcom, Fresh Meat, look at the absurdity of pretending to be other people for a living, while the latter beautifully charts the teenage years of the Everything But The Girl singer.
Finally, I’m a huge fan of Bee Wilson‘s elegant, impeccably researched, eminently sensible musings on food – she’s a total gem in a world of shouty, self-declared experts wanging on about clean eating and whatever the latest fad is. The Way We Eat Now (out March) unpicks how we eat now and questions whether our diet works for either our personal health or that of the planet. (Spoiler: no.)
Two movies about brilliant women to kick things off. On The Basis Of Sex (out 22 Feb) details the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 85-year-old associate justice of the US Supreme Court, and stars Felicity Jones as the notorious RBG. And the late Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times war correspondent who was killed in Syria in 2012, is the subject of new biopic A Private War (out 8 Feb) starring Rosamund Pike, with Jamie Dornan as her photographer colleague.
If you enjoyed the Freddie Mercury biopic, stand by for Rocketman (24 May), a film about Sting… only joking, Elton John obviously, with Brit star Taron Egerton (above) donning the silly specs. Kids, both actual and overgrown, will be pleased to hear The Lion King roars back onto our screen on 19 July, with a Jon Favreau remake of the classic cartoon and Beyoncé heading up the all-star cast, plus there’s the sequel to mega-hit Frozen, titled – wait for it – Frozen 2. It’s out 22 Nov but the cold never bothered me anyway (sorry).
How exciting that one of the most anticipated exhibitions of 2019 is one our patch. I can’t wait for the king of kitsch Jeff Koons to rock up at the Ashmolean in Oxford, not least to see his shouty, shiny, ultra contemporary sculptures against the elegant, sedate backdrop of the oldest public museum in the UK. Book now – it runs 7 Feb – 9 June.
Need even more kitsch in your life? Cindy Sherman, mistress of transformation, gets a full retrospective this summer at the National Portrait Gallery in London (27 June – 15 Sep). I’m also booking in Christian Dior: Designer Of Dreams at the V&A (2 Feb – 14 July), if only to gawp at Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday gown, and two jaunts to the Hayward Gallery – one to see New York photographer Diane Arbus’s early work (13 Feb – 6 May) and another for the Bridget Riley retrospective in October.
Finally, there’s something soul-boosting about outdoor art so here’s two for 2019. The Yorkshire Sculpture Festival takes place in Leeds and Wakefield over 100 days in the summer (22 June – 29 Sep), featuring Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and much, er, more, while Dale Chihuly’s gorgeous glass artworks (pictured) will be dotted around Kew Gardens (13 April – 27 Oct).
Gotta love Lizzo – the takes-no-prisoners, self-declared ‘big girl’ Houston rapper who can also sing like an old school soul diva. 2019 looks set to be her year, with her new album is out in the Spring – in the meantime check out the video to brilliantly lascivious single, Boys.
Meanwhile, Kylie Minogue is back, headlining Glastonbury Festival (itself also back after a year off) 14 years after she had to cancel due to her breast cancer diagnosis. She always puts on a good ol’ jazz-hands show so it’ll be worth a peek. While we’re in the mood for nostalgia, I’ve got a feeling Massive Attack‘s new mini tour (from 28 Jan; Glasgow, Manchester and London only) will be packed with fans of a certain age. It marks the 20th anniversary of their Mezzanine album and they’ll be performing the record in full. Look out for a guest spot from Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser, who sang on Teardrop.
Then there’s The 1975 (above), aka the new Radiohead (possibly). The rock/pop experimentalists are currently on a sold-out UK stadium tour ahead of a hugely anticipated new album, Notes On A Conditional Form, out May. It seems singer Matty Healy (son of Loose Women‘s Denise Welch!) has re-emerged from rehab for heroin addiction all guns blazing.
I listen to Deborah Frances-White’s podcast, The Guilty Feminist while I jog, honking with laughter and alarming passing dog-walkers. The straight-talking Aussie embarks on a nationwide tour this Spring – catch her locally at Aylesbury Waterside on 17 May and Oxford New Theatre on 19 May. Sold on stand-up? Rising star Ellie Taylor has fans in high places – Madonna, no less, recently tweeted a clip of BBC2 satirical current affairs show The Mash Report, featuring Ellie playing a righteously angry news anchor. Catch the model-turned-comedian on her tour, Don’t Got This, this Sep and Oct.
There’s always a thrill to witness a major Hollywood star treading the boards in London, close up and stripped down, and there are two megastars in our midst this year. Gillian Anderson leads the cast of All About Eve (2 Feb – 11 May) at the Noël Coward Theatre, reprising the role played by Bette Davis in the 1950 film, while Cate Blanchett stars in When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other(until 2 March, on-the-day tickets only available) at the National Theatre. Be warned – there’s lashings of sex and violence so maybe not one to attend with your teenage daughter/mother-in-law.
Finally, did you read gripping psychological thriller Alys, Always? Harriet Lane’s novel has been adapted for the theatre, starring Joanne Froggatt and Robert Glenister. It’s at Bridge Theatre, London, 25 Feb – 30 March.