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Book now! The 2020 cultural picks you must not miss

There's a ridiculous amount of amazing art, books, film, TV, music and theatre landing this year. Muddy's culture vulture Kerry Potter picks out the best of the bunch.

Get that calendar out pronto – it’s going to be a busy year.


Who runs the world in 2o2o? Girls. Well, the music world, at least. Soul legend Diana Ross, now 75, makes a rare UK pitstop this summer to play Glastonbury (this year celebrating its half-centenary) before completing a UK tour (30 June – 19 July). I’ll be there at the O2, screeching along to Chain Reaction like it’s 1987. Another surprise Glastonbury booking is Taylor Swift, who’ll also be shaking it off in BST Hyde Park on 11 July. Not enough divas for you? Well, Madonna (above) is doing a 14 night residency at the London Palladium (27 Jan – 15 Feb) and Lana Del Rey follows up last year’s incredible Norman F****** Rockwell album with a new one, White Hot Forever, and will be touring the UK (25- 29 Feb). Talking of pouty Californian superstars, Billie Eilish, aka Gen Z’s Kevin the Teenager, hits Manchester, Birmingham and London (21-30 July). Finally, Beabadoobee is my pick of 2020’s newbie hotshots (good luck dropping that name after a couple of drinks). The 19-year-old Londoner with Filipino heritage sounds pleasingly like a ’90s indie band, all jangly guitars and cutesy vocals. Go girls.


Les femmes are on top in the film industry too this year. Jane Austen’s timeless comedy Emma (14 Feb) gets another run out, this time directed by Autumn de Wilde, written by Eleanor Catton (author of The Luminaries) and starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular social queen bee. It looks exquisite. Elsewhere, Gal Gadot returns as the only ’80s female superhero on the block in Wonder Woman 1984 (5 June) and Radioactive (20 March) is a biopic of 19th century scientist and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, Marie Curie. Directed by Marjane Satrapi, it stars Rosamund Pike on bunsen burner duty. And even that bastion of old-school manliness, 007, gets the feminine touch this time round with Phoebe Waller-Bridge on co-writing duties. No Time To Die (3 April) is billed as the edgiest Bond yet.


Sally Rooney’s second book, Normal People, was a mega-hit, coming-of-age novel,  tracking the slow-burn, on/off love affair of two Irish teenagers, Marianne and Connell, as they enter adulthood. I’m totally intrigued as to how it’ll translate into a 12-part BBC drama this spring. Daisy Edgar-Jones (Cold Feet) and newcomer Paul Mescal take the leads. Speaking of acclaimed novels about relationships, David Nicholls’ Us (BBC1) stars Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves as a midlife couple who stare down the barrel of divorce while on a family holiday with their grumpy teenage son. Fun times!

Elsewhere, Mr Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, heads to the 19th century for Belgravia (ITV), his new drama series about a woman who marries into an aristocratic family, while Quiz is an ITV real-life drama based on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? cheating scandal. Remember the coughing major in 2001? In truly delicious casting, Michael Sheen slaps on the fake tan and Tippex-style teeth whitener to play cheesemeister host, Chris Tarrant.


My Wild & Sleepless Nights (out Feb) by Muddy contributor and Oxon resident Clover Stroud is the best book about motherhood that I’ve read. The mum-of-5 (yep, really) captures with pinpoint accuracy the agonies and ecstasies (often both within the same hour) of parenting. Look out for my review next month. There’s wildness of a different type in Wild Journal (out March) by Willow Crossley, another friend of Muddy. The florist, who also owns The Bull Inn in Charlbury in the Cotswolds, explains the benefits of bringing the natural world into your life, detailing how gardening, foraging, stargazing, bird watching and so on helped her navigate post-natal depression.

Fancy some fiction? The much adored Elena Ferrante, enigmatic author of the Neapolitan novel series, returns with the buzz book of the year, The Lying Life Of Adults (June). Once again set in Naples, it details the adventures of teenager Giovanna. Finally, best-selling Irish novelist Marian Keyes sure knows her way around a compelling family drama and her new one, Grown Ups (out Feb), has an especially tantalising premise. The Caseys are a wealthy, glamorous extended family who have got it all. That is until one of their number, Cara, gets concussion and starts spilling secrets at a family get-together. And you thought your Christmas lunch was tense.


As we enter a new decade, I wonder if these Twenties will be as roaring as the last ones? God, let’s hope so. Society photographer Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things captures the cool kids of the 1920s and ’30s in a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (12 March – 7 June). If Beaton was around today, do you think he’d be shooting Love Island contestants?!

Image: Alice in Wonderland. The Royal Ballet. Zenaida Yanowsky © ROH, Johan Persson, 2011. Costumes by Bob Crowley

Over at the Tate Modern, there’s a major Andy Warhol retrospective (12 March – 6 Sep), featuring more Marilyn Monroe, Coca Cola cans and soup tins than you can shake a stick at, plus plenty of unseen work, while the V&A trips the light fantastic this summer with Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (from 27 June), an immersive, theatrical show, featuring artwork and objects inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.

Did you love Dior at the V&A last year? This year’s hot fashion ticket will be the Prada exhibition at the Design Museum in Kensington (which is a worth a visit for its exquisite atrium alone). Prada: Front and Back opens in Sep. Finally, outré performance artist Marina Abramovic will be at the Royal Academy (26 Sep – 8 Dec) this autumn, showcasing a half century of her art. Lord knows what to expect. Previous works have seen visitors entering a show via a “human doorway”, consisting of her and her partner in the nude – or being asked to have a staring competition with the artist (many ended up in tears). Bonkers? You bet.


Hollywood hotshots don’t come hotter than Timothée Chalamet (last seen as Laurie in Little Women) so all eyes will be on the Old Vic stage this Spring, when the Gen Z heart-throb makes his London board-treading debut. 4000 Miles is a sweet drama about a California kid who arrives unannounced at his New York grandmother’s house in the dead of night (6 April – 23 May). Also fresh from Hollywood is Jessica Chastain, in town to play a mother and wife who feels trapped by her life in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (Playhouse Theatre, 10 June – 5 Sep).

To Kill A Mockingbirdadapted by The West Wing‘s Aaron Sorkin, went down a storm on Broadway and the legendary civil rights novel is now rolling into the Gielgud Theatre in spring (21 May – 10 June). Rhys Ifans plays the white Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused on rape in Alabama. Finally, do you feel the need, the need for cheese? Everyone’s favourite feelgood film about a sex worker, Pretty Woman, is now a jaunty musical, co-created by Bryan Adams of all people. It arrives at the Piccadilly Theatre next month (14 Feb – 2 Jan 2021). Best dig out those thigh high boots.

Words @Kerry_Potter

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