Living in Edinburgh (and indeed Scotland more generally) gives you a ridiculous amount of access to culture. In 2015 I was lucky enough to experience at least my fair share.
Here are some highlights!
I was listening to Radio 6 music one day, and I got excited. I heard a song I’d never heard before, and it was fantastic. I thought to myself, ‘Could it be? Do I finally like some new music again? Am I still, young, and…. relevant?’
Then I found out what it was and I thought, FFS…
The song was Johnny Delusional, from match made in heaven Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. It turns out that, the best music is music from my early 20s, mixed with music that came out before I was born.
The album really is fantastic though, camp, funny, catchy. Lots of killer, very little filler.
I don’t wish to be repetitive, but FFS were probably the best live act I saw this year too.
I saw them on a Monday, slightly under the weather after work, in the staid Edinburgh festival theatre, but they still blew me away.
2015 was the year the turner prize came to Glasgow. I went to see it, it was alright? I liked it more than I thought I would – but hands down the best art I saw this year was at the Govanhill Baths as part of the Sonica Festival. There were two installations, both of which used the nature of the space perfectly.
The New Alps by Robbie Thomson, ‘a kinetic installation of mechanical sculptures that imagines a disorienting futuristic landscape populated by robotic inhabitants’ did exactly what it said on the tin, and more. It really did feel like walking around a dystopian future.
Order and After by Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto was incredibly powerful. Red flags rising and falling, in a steam filled room; simple, poignant and completely immersive.
I don’t go to the theatre all that much – but do you know what? I should. It is basically as cheap as the cinema now, and the actors are right there in front of you.
I saw Mrs Barbour’s Daughters and Tipping the Velvet in 2015; I left both productions humming a tune, with a smile on my face.
Best BOXSET BINGE
2015 was the year I finally got around to watching Borgen, 2016 might be the year I decide to watch it again in order to impose it’s brilliance on others.
I love so much about Borgen, but possibly my favourite aspect of the show is that women characters are so strategic, intelligent and flawed. Rarely are women allowed the space in culture to be both brilliant and broken.
2015 was a good year for comedy on Channel 4. The final series of Peep Show aired, and it wasn’t terrible! In-fact, I thought it was one of their better series; if only for the ‘Jeremy is actually bisexual’ storyline. Like many people, I gave Peep Show a complete re-watch in 2015, it’s an interesting way of tracking attitudes to sexuality in culture. When the first few seasons aired back in the early 00s, there were still a few LOL GAY type jokes, over the course of the series they completely disappear and are replaced with a much more right on understanding of the way sexuality works, which is neat!
The other surprisingly great show from channel 4 in 2015 was Catastrophe. I think Sharon Horgan is one of the best comedic writers of her generation, and Catastrophe goes some way toward proving it. At turns affectionate, funny, slightly ridiculous but also very real Catastrophe is well worth a watch.
I didn’t get to the cinema nearly enough in 2015; but Mark Kermode goes to the cinema all the time for a job, and this year, for the first time, I agree with him on what the best film was.
I watched Inside Out hungover and cried all the way through. It’s not perfect, but for a mainstream family film it gets pretty close. The central message about the necessity of sadness was dealt with in ways which were at turns funny, profoundly moving and utterly relatable.
The gender politics are also mostly excellent.
I don’t read nearly enough, but in 2015 two books that I read, and would recommend are:
Postcapitalism by Paul Mason.
A fascinating look at how the internet era is making traditional capitalism increasingly difficult to sustain. Not always an easy read, but well worth persevering with.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Ann Tyler
I was off work sick, and read this in a day, an enjoyable family epic which made me think ‘I ought to read more fiction’.