18 for ’18: the talent and trends tipped for the top in 2018

From girls with attitude on screen to new grime debuts, from Steve McQueen’s return to Tacita Dean’s London takeover, Observer writers on what to look forward to in the coming year

Increased diversity in world of books

Something special is happening in UK publishing. After the success of The Good Immigrant (edited by Nikesh Shukla) and titles like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, there has been a renewed push to rectify the problems of an industry that has too long ignored narratives outside the white experience. Out of the thousands of titles published in 2016, a Bookseller study found that fewer than 100 books were published by non-white Brits.

Sharmaine Lovegrove is one of the women single-handedly changing the face of the industry. She runs Dialogue Books, a new, inclusive publishing imprint from Little, Brown with a focus on BAME, LGBTQI+ and disabled writers. She scored a hat-trick of acquisitions on one day last summer, all of which she will publish in 2018. Her work complements that of the Jhalak prize – a competition set up to address the lack of diversity in British publishing and infamously reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission by Tory MP Philip Davies, who claimed it was discriminatory against white people – which will be heading into its second year.

Meanwhile, 2018 also looks set to be a solid year for strong titles written by and/or about black women. Mixed-race Ghanaian-English journalist Afua Hirsch publishes her debut nonfiction work, Brit(ish), which meticulously unpicks the complex psyche behind black Britishness. It begins by exploring her husband’s experiences of growing up black British in Tottenham, compared with hers: “When it comes to identity, I tell him, he was born with the equivalent of a silver spoon.”

In July, Slay in Your Lane, a guide to life for British black women by Elizabeth Uviebinene and Yomi Adegoke , will also make an appearance. “Calling it the ‘Black Girl Bible’ was intentional,” says Uviebinene, talking about the cover slogan. “We hope it will reassure you that you’re not alone.” The pair interviewed dozens of inspirational black British women, from Jamelia to Malorie Blackman, and have collated them to form some of the first literature on living as a modern black British woman. There are chapters on physical and mental health, dating, education and media representation.

Other titles to look out for in 2018 are intersectional feminist anthology Can We All Be Feminists? by black teen activist turned editor June Eric-Udorie, and Young, Gifted and Black, a children’s book by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins on black heroes. Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

Ellen McDougall shaking up theatre

Artistic director Ellen McDougall photographed at the Gate theatre in Notting Hill , London.
Artistic director Ellen McDougall photographed at the Gate theatre in Notting Hill, London. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

At her grandmother’s house recently, Ellen McDougall came across a programme she’d written for a show she staged as a child. She gave the opening and closing speeches, and made her sister and cousin dance and play the violin.

“I’d positioned myself as the curator and made those two, who had no interest in performing at all, just do all the stuff,” she laughs. “It’s really funny to meet yourself like that: oh hello, eight-year-old Ellen, you did know what you wanted to do.”

McDougall, who grew up in north London and went to Edinburgh university, began her career as assistant director for Katie Mitchell, Marianne Elliott, Punchdrunk, and Sean Holmes – “all very different directors, which meant that I could have quite a mongrel way of thinking,” she says.

Her own shows have become known for her intelligent and highly individual approach, whether using balloons as soldiers in Henry the Fifth, making Tolstoy feel modern in Anna Karenina, or sharing a picnic with the audience in Jose Saramago’s The Unknown Island.

McDougall’s career stepped up a gear in 2017, when she became artistic director of the Gate, a 75-seater that has long punched above its weight. There are big shoes to fill, mind: former artistic directors include Stephen Daldry, Erica Whyman, Carrie Cracknell, Thea Sharrock… We meet in a small room that houses the Gate’s archive, and McDougall’s eyes shine as she talks about its history, her fingers clearly itching to rifle through those box files.

“I’m drawn to undiscovered international classics, which has always been the bread and butter here,” she says. But the space itself excites her too, its bijou size no restriction to ambition. “I’ve always loved how intimate that space is; you can look everyone in the eye. And because the space changes for every show, it’s always a surprise when you come up those stairs. Nothing is a given.”

The year starts with a revival of Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, “a very early verbatim play, written in response to the riots in LA”, yet which still, McDougall says, feels “incredibly relevant”. That’s followed by Trust, a new play by German writer Falk Richter, which finds parallels between our addiction to capitalism and a troubled relationship: “how bad does it have to get before we break up?”

Finally, there’s Effigies of Wickedness, a cabaret of queer, political songs banned by the Nazis, which will be directed by McDougall. Oh, and it’s a collaboration with English National Opera, whose home, the Coliseum, is 30 times the size of the Gate. “That fills me with joy as a collaborator,” she grins. “Do the wacky choice.”

Artistic directors like to talk partnerships, diversity, outreach, but you sense McDougall really means it. She’s put internationalism at the heart of her programming: every production features an international writer, director or designer. It’s an artistic choice – “some of the best work I’ve seen is made in a completely different way” – but also a political one.

“It feels like an incredibly important gesture right now,” says McDougall. “You can make wonderful things if you work with people who aren’t the same as you. Let’s look outside what we know.” Holly Williams

A fresh take on Moroccan food

Nargisse Benkabbou.
‘Ambassador for Moroccan food’: Nargisse Benkabbou. Photograph: Karen Robinson/The Observer

When Nargisse Benkabbou arrived in London seven years ago, she was taken aback by how Moroccan food was understood in the UK, compared with Belgium where she grew up. “What really struck me was how people mixed it up with Middle Eastern food,” says the 31-year-old, whose parents moved to Brussels from Fez in the 1970s. “At university, my friends would tell me, ‘I love hummus, what’s your recipe for hummus?’ I’m like, ‘I love hummus too, but it’s not Moroccan. Morocco is in north Africa.’”

Benkabbou decided to make an intervention. She had come to London to do a master’s in public policy. Her initial plan was to work in a charity or thinktank specialising in women’s rights, but she struggled to find the right job and became disillusioned with the corporate world she ended up in.

What she really wanted to do, she tells me when I come to lunch at her flat in west London, was write about food. She’d loved helping out in the kitchen as a kid, and after leaving home she discovered she was good at cooking for friends. The idea of starting a blog and writing a cookbook seemed like a fantasy, but then she told herself: it can’t harm anyone if you try. And, she says, “when I realised there were not enough places online where you could find good, modern Moroccan recipes, I thought, I have to do it – it was a bit like a duty.”

Benkabbou quit her job in 2013, did a three-month course at Leiths and launched My Moroccan Food in 2015. This colourful, inventive blog caught the eye of a UK publisher, and now Benkabbou is putting the final touches to her first cookbook, Casablanca, due out next May.

Acting as an ambassador for Moroccan food seemed daunting at first. “Morocco is a huge country with diverse cuisines,” she says, “and there were so many recipes I didn’t know.” Luckily, she had her mother and a brigade of aunts, all excellent cooks, to consult. As a consequence, both blog and book feel personal, reflecting her own experience and family background rather than striving to encapsulate an entire country. She also kept the recipes accessible, which sometimes meant putting a western spin on Moroccan classics, or vice versa.

Some of this comes through in our lunch, which begins with a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad to which Benkabbou adds candied walnuts and an orange blossom dressing. We also have garlic and cumin roast lamb, served with yoghurt and mint sauce, bread, and a jar of her mother’s homemade harissa. In the book, among more traditional tagines and couscous dishes, you’ll find chicken traybakes and a merguez burger with preserved lemon guacamole. Did she worry what the purists might say?

“I did a bit, when I first started my blog and would get messages saying that a taco has no place in Moroccan food,” Benkabbou admits. But she is adamant that there’s nothing wrong with mixing up cuisines, so long as you’re transparent about it. “I never try to sell a recipe as traditional when it’s not,” she says. “I’m very clear if it’s fusion food, if it’s modern, if it has a twist.”

She feels she’s only begun to mine this fertile territory at the intersection of north African and western cuisine. It helps that there’s a lot more of Morocco to explore. “I’m not so familiar with cuisine of the south, the desert,” she says, her face lighting up. “I know they make bread that’s baked in the sand and tagines that cook for 20 hours.” She smiles. “I’d really love to explore that.” Killian Fox

Dolly Alderton’s millennial memoir

Dolly Alderton.
‘A witty, intuitive writer’: Dolly Alderton. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

There are many eye-boggling moments in Everything I Know About Love, the debut memoir by 29-year-old Dolly Alderton. There’s the evening where she’s so drunk she mistakes Oxford Circus for actual Oxford, then takes a £300 cab to Birmingham for a shag. An attempt at “Tinder tourism” in New York culminates in two terrifying French blokes unsuccessfully pressuring her to have a threesome. Her co-ed boarding school had a bar for sixth-formers.

Yet despite the vogue for grisly memoirs by young women, Everything I Know is refreshing because Alderton doesn’t sensationalise or moralise her experiences. “It’s easy with memoir to be fairly binary about the moral of the story,” she says over a mince pie in her Camden flat. “‘She was insecure and she became whole’ – but that’s not how life goes. I’m not going to not write about what I see as a lot of joyful flaneurism because I’m a woman and [a more sanitised picture] would be easier for people to digest. Because some of it was bad and sad, and some of it was really fun.”

As a former Sunday Times dating columnist and Made in Chelsea story producer, Alderton knows readers may expect “madcap tales of running around London with my skirt over my head, from Tinder date to Tinder date,” though anyone who’s read her witty, intuitive journalism and heard her politics and pop-culture podcast The High Low will recognise the unfairness of the stereotype. She’s also expecting questions about what anyone would want to learn from a 29-year-old. “You could see the title and think that it’s me being a guru,” she admits. “But I hope the scribbles on the cover” – through “parties, dates, friends, jobs, life” – “give a clue to what’s inside, which is really someone still trying to work it out.”

Hence the anecdotes, to illuminate the inevitable fuckups on the path to self-respect: realising that too much people-pleasing leaves you empty, that drinking to numb anxiety makes it worse. Everything I Know isn’t an infantilising “adulting” book, but a sensitive and funny account of growing up millennial. Alderton’s focus is close and personal, interwoven with astute observations on modern womanhood. A chapter about her eating disorder finds roots in the biblical legislation of women’s appetites, and her newly engaged best friend promising her “nothing will change” provokes a sharp diatribe about the undervaluing of female friendships compared with heterosexual couplings. Female friendship is the true romance of Everything I Know. Alderton hadn’t previously seen their bond reflected in art, “the frivolity, intimacy, knowing each other really well in a way that’s almost uncomfortable”.

She’s not worried about baring her life, because her sense of self is sturdy these days. If someone criticised her based on the memoir, “I now know that I could go, OK, well, you’re wrong. That’s not who I am.” A Desert Island Discs aficionado (in 2014, her essay on the Radio 4 series won her a prestigious Telegraph prize), Alderton took solace from memoirist Diana Athill’s episode. “She said, you have to expose indecent truths. So I tried to hold those words close, and thought, if you do a PR job on your 21-year-old self, people are going to see it. And they’re going to think that’s way worse than thinking Oxford Circus is Oxford.” Laura Snapes

A new generation of music festivals

Björk will be performing at the All Points East festival in London in May.
Björk will be performing at the All Points East festival in London in May. Photograph: Pool/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

With Glastonbury in a fallow year, 2018 seems as good a time as any to explore the burgeoning UK festival scene. The most interesting addition to the calendar is All Points East, organised by Goldenvoice – the same people behind Californian behemoth Coachella – spread over 10 days in London’s Victoria Park.

The event kicks off at the end of May with a three-day festival-within-a-festival boasting a dreamy line-up including Björk, LCD Soundsystem, Lorde and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. As if that wasn’t enough, it continues the following weekend with concerts headlined by the National (plus the War on Drugs and Future Islands) and Nick Cave (plus Patti Smith, St Vincent and more). More related events are still to be announced.

Also in London will be the Cure’s 40th anniversary concert in Hyde Park in July, with support from the likes of Interpol and Slowdive, while Ibiza regular DJ Artwork is launching a one-day event at Three Mills Island on 11 August. Meanwhile in Staffordshire and Chelmsford, V festival will be rebranding with a new name (how much else will change has yet to be seen), and pop punk fans will be delighted to hear that Slam Dunk (held across three dates in Hertfordshire, Leeds and Birmingham) has got Good Charlotte and Jimmy Eat World on headline duties. Tara Joshi

Artist Tacita Dean takes over London

Tacita Dean’s Prisoner Pair, 2008.
Tacita Dean’s Prisoner Pair, 2008, one of the works in her Still Life exhibition at the National Gallery. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London.

Tacita Dean, at 52, is our great poet of art film. Over the years, she has turned her meditative vision to some of the grandest of dramas – heartbreak, shipwreck, a total solar eclipse in the deserts of Wyoming – and some of the smallest, including the elegiac fading of diurnal light in an empty restaurant. This spring, in an unprecedented collaboration, three major museums at once will all focus on different aspects of her art. The National Portrait Gallery presents her intimate and pensive portraits of fellow artists, including Merce Cunningham, Cy Twombly, Claes Oldenburg and David Hockney. The tradition of still life is explored in a show at the National Gallery, featuring, among others, Dean’s brilliant take on nature morte. And the Royal Academy has her landscape works, including a beautiful early film in which the faint breeze passing over its surface transforms a lake from still landscape to moving pictures. Each show includes several new works, from a study of portrait miniatures to a colossal vision of the world, featuring the poet Anne Carson and the actor Stephen Dillane. These shows are unmissable, and so geographically close you can see them all in a day. Laura Cumming

Young women with attitude on screen

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy in Thoroughbreds.
Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy as Amanda and Lily in Thoroughbreds. Photograph: Allstar/Focus Features

Cinematic stories that centre around young women are still few and far between, though there are three to keep an eye out for next year. Greta Gerwig’s hotly anticipated directorial debut, Lady Bird, looks at the fragile relationship between the title character (Saoirse Ronan), a pink-haired Californian with big dreams of college on the east coast and the brash confidence of a 10-year-old girl, and her well-meaning, disapproving mother (Laurie Metcalf). As a coming-of-age film (and early 00s period piece), it’s both vividly mapped and beautifully specific, though it’s Gerwig’s treatment of the class anxieties experienced by Lady Bird and her family in post 9/11, pre-financial crash suburban Sacramento that made the film rattle in my bones after its initial giddy, teen-movie high wore off.

Playwright Cory Finley’s macabre Thoroughbreds is a slick, drily funny two-hander led by Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy as Amanda and Lily, spoiled schoolfriends, estranged because one of them killed a horse. Both performances are cold thrills: Taylor-Joy is jumpy and coltish, all hot, nervous breathing and tense neck muscles, while Cooke is coolly indifferent to the point of sociopathy. We can also look forward to Laetitia Dosch’s cyclone of a performance in Jeune Femme, Léonor Serraille’s comedy drama about an unruly, uncompromising young woman who struggles to gather the rapidly unspooling threads of her life in Paris after being dumped by her boyfriend of 10 years. Simran Hans

A batch of grime debuts

Stefflon Don
‘Already a name rather than merely a star in waiting’: Stefflon Don. Photograph: Nicole Nodland

Grime had a phenomenal year in 2017, with Stormzy – a GQ cover star, no less – leading from the front, even daring to put a gospel-tinged song on his album. This time around, the mainstreaming of grime is happening on its own terms – a swelling bell curve that’s bringing the UK’s loudest, busiest homegrown genre off the streets and into international acclaim. It feels like Stefflon Don is already a name rather than merely a star in waiting: crossover chart artists like Yxng Bane are not exactly up’n’coming any more; both are set to release something big next year, and tour properly.

In a genre arguably focused on tracks, a brace of MCs, rappers and producers are now poised to drop debut full-length outings. Whether you call them albums or mixtapes, an absolute blizzard of verses is about to hit in 2018. All eyes are on former sparring partners (on the track Thiago Silva) Dave, still only 19 and a hugely versatile lyrical talent – and west London MC AJ Tracey, fresh from an EP – Secure the Bag – whose widescreen ambition bodes well for a longer project. Joining a surge of female voices, south Londoner Ms Banks recently toured the UK with Cardi B, is set to join Nicki Minaj on her not-yet-officially-announced UK jaunt next year, and has “a highly anticipated forthcoming project” ready to drop next year. Kitty Empire

Giant leaps in space exploration

An artist’s image of a Space X lunar rocket. The company aims to fly two tourists around the moon in 2018.
An artist’s image of a Space X lunar rocket. The company aims to fly two tourists around the moon in 2018. Photograph: AP

Fifty years on from the release of Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, it looks like space will loom large in 2018.

China is expected to launch a lunar probe next year, which is set to become the first to land on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e-4 probe, which is named after the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology, will make a soft landing and carry out the first ground-based explorations of the hemisphere that is never directly visible from the Earth (sometimes known as the moon’s dark side, although it is no darker than the near side). The mission could allow the first exploration of the moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system, which could uncover clues about what the interior of the moon is made of. It also signals China’s future ambitions in space exploration.

Across the Pacific, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is planning a private mission to fly two space tourists around the moon aboard the company’s Dragon 2 spacecraft. It is also set to become the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station next year. This will give the US a means of getting people into space again – since they retired their space shuttle in 2011, only the Russians have had this ability. Hannah Devlin

Beast: a remarkable first film

Michael Pearce
Michael Pearce, whose debut film Beast is released in April. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

Michael Pearce can pinpoint the moment he knew he wanted to be a film-maker: it was when a tutor at his art school on the island of Jersey showed him Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. “I was 16, and it blew my mind. Within a couple of weeks I had decided to be a director rather than a painter.” The impact of the film on him was perhaps magnified because it was so hard to see non-mainstream movies on an island that, he says, has always struggled to have a vibrant cultural scene.

Pearce’s striking debut film, Beast, is set in Jersey and draws from his strong impressions of growing up there, “both positive and negative”. The story, which explores the relationship between a troubled young woman (an extraordinary performance from Jessie Buckley) and a local man (Johnny Flynn) who may or may not be very bad news indeed, was loosely based on a real event. “There was a guy in the 1960s who was dubbed the Beast of Jersey, who was a serial sex attacker. It was really horrific – he would wear a mask, a wig, a whole outfit and he would break into people’s homes, kidnap their children, take them into the woods and assault them. When I grew up in the 80s, he was part of the folklore of the island, like the bogeyman.”

Pearce had what he describes as an idyllic childhood growing up on the west coast of Jersey, close to where the film was shot. It felt, he says, like a very safe, almost fairytale environment. He describes the impact that learning about the Beast had. “I thought, if this could be somewhere dangerous, then anywhere could. I am interested in that loss of innocence when you are a kid, when you realise that monsters do exist and they are other people.”

Despite its very specific insular island setting, Beast has connected with audiences at festivals around the world. I meet Pearce in Macau, China, where the film is screening in competition, following its premiere at Toronto and subsequent showings in London, Stockholm and Torino; next year, the film will continue its journey to Rotterdam and Sundance before being released in the UK on 27 April. Variety described the film as a “prickly, twistily effective first feature” and praised Buckley’s “remarkable” performance. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that “the combustible chemistry between the two leads would be sufficient to power a small factory, let alone a film”.

Musing on the film’s enthusiastic reception, Pearce says, “I think it was Elia Kazan who said that 50% of a director’s job is casting.” He concedes that maths may not have been Kazan’s strong point, but adds, “But you get the point. I am very interested in making the audience complicit – creating a strong empathetic bond between them and the central characters at the beginning. That was certainly something we were thinking about when we were casting Jessie – she is such a grounded, relatable presence on screen. You are on her side. And that gives you liberty for her to make quite a lot of mistakes.”

Johnny Flynn, with his peculiar chameleon, shape-shifting quality, is equally crucial to the film’s troubling allure. “I wanted to maintain this umbilical cord between the audience and the characters,” says Pearce, “but I wanted to stretch it as far as possible before it breaks.” Wendy Ide

The Rhythm Method’s debut album

Joey Bradbury and Rowan Martin of the Rhythm Method.
Rowan Martin and Joey Bradbury of the Rhythm Method photographed at Crispins wine bar, Ealing, west London. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

Two years ago, the Rhythm Method had their eyes on the prize. “I want to be Rod Stewart!” frontman Joey Bradbury told i-D. The duo had signed for publishing with Universal, been tipped in the hip Dazed 100 list, and thought fame was theirs. As it stands, Bradbury, 28, lives at home in Putney, and producer Rowan Martin, 27, is dodging debt in Archway. They’re repulsed by the industry they wanted to infiltrate. “I don’t think I’ve ever met an A&R man that isn’t a complete creep, and I’m a man. Dread to think what they’re like with women,” says Bradbury, drinking in their favourite Ealing wine bar.

Now they see themselves as “a grassroots movement, almost like the Momentum or the Jeremy Corbyn of music,” says Bradbury, his laugh a bassy gurgle. Their rinky-dink singles form the root of this connection. With the geezer charm of Mike Skinner, Bradbury chronicles modern life’s endearingly crap parts over Martin’s chintzy house and Pet Shop Boys-lite productions (singing the odd chorus, he also sounds spookily like Neil Tennant). “Things can only get bitter, the accumulator-winners, the yellow-label dinners and the original sinners,” Bradbury riffs on Party Politics. Often they’re joined by singer Zoee, who adds a lovers-rock lilt to Cruel, a song about interdependency: “When did my saucepot become a sore spot?”

The Rhythm Method are rampant nostalgists, but not the blue-passport variety. They long for the return of “the middle” – mainstream entertainment that credits its audience with a brain, like Victoria Wood or Aztec Camera. Martin mentions a recent night in a pub with Squeeze and Dexys on the jukebox. “People of 18, people of 60, all singing along. Really, what the Rhythm Method is about is trying to add to that pantheon, because I don’t think anyone else is trying.”

They squeeze their mission between day jobs. Bradbury has been a barber for a decade, inspired by the Specials’ Terry Hall saying he’d always dreamed of being a musician or a hairdresser, and Martin asks if I know anyone after cheap transcription. The Rhythm Method are working-class, and suspicious of their privileged peers. Bradbury recently tweeted, wryly, “We’re an unsigned band out here on that struggle. Just us, our management, our media strategist and the family wealth we play down.”

“There are bands that claim to be representing the working class, but they’re definitely not working-class,” he says. “A few years ago I was very bitter and would hate people instantly for being posh, particularly if they were in bands, but now I’m more open-minded. Just be honest about it.” They’re also unconvinced by the angry young men being tipped as the voice of British youth. “It’s too easy an emotion,” he says. “You can express anger without shouting, and sadness without crying. You can be funny about both those things, which is our ethos.”

Bradbury and Martin are effortlessly charismatic, and their array of strange 2017 support slots – Enter Shikari, Wolf Alice, Madness – shows the reach of their wit, even if Madness’s fans booed them off. Done glad-handing, they’re taking their cues from fellow DIY acts Stormzy, Chance the Rapper, and, uh, Vic and Bob, as they prepare to release their debut album, likely through British indie Moshi Moshi. They’re upping their merch game, starting a podcast, “embracing the non-musical elements”, says Bradbury. Maybe grassroots movement is underselling it: “It’s a whole entertainment package.” Laura Snapes

Gripping drama on the small screen

James Norton in the BBC’s McMafia.
James Norton in the BBC’s McMafia. Photograph: Nick Wall/BBC/Cuba

The year starts with a bang, thanks to the debut of McMafia on New Year’s Day, 9pm on BBC1 – in what has become known as “the Sherlock slot”. No Baker Street sleuthing here, though. McMafia is a stylish eight-part gangster saga, based on journalist Misha Glenny’s book, starring James Norton as a man reluctantly drawn into the family business – which just happens to be violent international crime.

Another homegrown thriller heading our way is BBC Two’s Collateral, written by playwright David Hare and starring Carey Mulligan as a Met detective investigating the murder of a pizza delivery man and its spiralling repercussions.

If you prefer real-life peril, a killer flu pandemic is currently top of the government’s civilian risk register, and in spring, the ambitious interactive project BBC Pandemic will chart the spread of a highly infectious disease to show just how scary it could be.

In lighter (but not much lighter) news, Emmy-winning director Cary Fukunaga – who directed the superlative first series of True Detective – returns with Netflix black comedy Maniac, adapted from a Norwegian series, starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as patients in an 80s psychiatric institution.

There’s frankly absurd amounts more to look forward to, including the final series of Game of Thrones, Suranne Jones in Sally Wainwright’s period lesbian drama Gentleman Jack, the return of Making a Murderer and Jodie Whittaker’s debut at the Tardis controls in Doctor Who. Better clear your diaries and some hard-drive space. Michael Hogan

Liam Young: a fresh political voice

Liam Young, author of Rise.
Liam Young, author of Rise. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

When Liam Young was nine, he solemnly informed Tony Blair of his intention to succeed him as prime minister. At 14, he borrowed his mum’s credit card to join the Labour party and was chucked out because he was too young. At 21, the plumber’s son from Lincoln is continuing on his precocious course with the first political manifesto to emerge from the #jezwecan generation.

Rise, which will be published in March, chronicles the two campaigns that saw Jeremy Corbyn elected and reaffirmed as Labour leader, and investigates the causes the party will have to embrace if it is to hang on to the young voters who have done so much to turn its fortunes around.

At 9am in his publisher’s office, Young is every inch the up-and-coming politician. It’s hard to believe he is only 21, though this has nothing to do with his hairline, which he jokes is inherited from his dad, and everything to do with his presentation. He is conservatively dressed, impeccably fluent and personable, with a seasoned opinion-maker’s confidence in the formulation “I believe…”.

Yet he is also very much a creature of the youth phenomenon whereof he writes: a working-class boy, who went to local Catholic schools and worked his way through university; a social media whiz whose way with a tweet caught the attention of the “old” media. Though his mum and dad weren’t political, his grandparents were, with his maternal grandad, Roland Hurst, rising to become mayor of Lincoln at a time when the city council was solidly, if not unproblematically, Labour. While still a student at the London School of Economics, Young was invited to write opinion pieces for the Independent and the New Statesman, earning himself the soubriquet “Corbyn’s fanboy”. He is not a member of Momentum – “I’ve only ever belonged to the Labour party” – but is a supporter of its work.

Young’s research for Rise included a social media call-out to young voters for their views on 15 key questions. The 4,000 replies, many of them essay-length, converged on a single point: “For the first time in decades, we were asked. And we responded.” It’s not that he thinks Corbynism is an end in itself. Rather, he argues, the Labour leader is “a solution through which young people became their own champions”.

He now shares a flat in Stockwell with a university friend and has a proper paying job as adviser to Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad. He stood for selection as Labour candidate in Lincoln himself this year, and got down to the last three, but – having seen parliament from the inside – is not convinced it’s where it’s at: “It’s this incredibly archaic place that stifles innovation.”

As he embarks on this new life as an author, he’s assessed the risk of being demonised and concluded that he has nothing to hide “except that I started drinking at 14, which was far too soon, and would get me in trouble with my mum”. And insurance against getting uppity or out-of-touch is laid on for free in his grandparents’ house, where the home fires of political debate will always burn and Corbyn was for a long time He Who Shall Not Be Named. Claire Armitstead

Singer Rina Sawayama on tour

Rina Sawayama
Millennial star on the rise Rina Sawayama. Photograph: Handout

With clean-cut songs that recall the harmonious, baroque sheen of TLC and ‘NSync-era pop (even, at times, Mariah and Destiny’s Child), there’s a lot of buzz surrounding London-via-Japan artist Rina Sawayama. While she’s been making music for several years now – notably, she was in a hip-hop duo with Wolf Alice’s Theo Ellis when the pair were at university together – it was 2017’s mini-album Rina, featuring tracks such as Alterlife, that attracted special acclaim. Highlighting her dazzling brand of slick J-pop-influenced music, the release is an ode to 90s/00s-style R&B, replete with licks of over-the-top guitars and cyber-tinged warmth.

Some of the hype is also down to her unique style. Sawayama has amassed a notable following in the fashion world: she has been featured in Vogue and V magazine, among others, and was one of the eight creative talents in the Versus Versace fall/winter campaign. Last year she collaborated with Taiwanese artist John Yuyi on a series of portraits interrogating Asian beauty standards, a subject she is outspoken about.

Her sparkly, uplifting sound is all held together with an unfaltering, sweet but disarmingly powerful voice that sings of romance, fame, and preoccupations with self-image. Sawayama’s music speaks to millennial anxieties and nostalgias, and her song Cyber Stockholm Syndrome tackles our strange digital-age addictions: “I’m not here for love tonight/ The way you touch just don’t feel right/ Used to feeling things so cold/ Happiest whenever I’m with you online.” Tara Joshi

The V&A in Dundee opens

The V&A Museum of Design, Dundee.
The V&A Museum of Design, Dundee. Photograph: Ross Fraser McLean

If Abu Dhabi can have a Louvre, why shouldn’t Dundee have a Victoria and Albert Museum? This autumn, eight years after the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma won a competition to design it, just such an institution is due to open, on the banks of the magnificent, if windswept, river Tay.

Also billed as “Scotland’s first design museum”, it promises to “present the brilliance of Scottish creativity and the best of design from around the world,” combining exhibits from the V&A mothership in London with others from collections across Scotland. The rugged design, in which stone panels are hung on sloping concrete walls – there are no pure verticals – is intended to represent a Scottish cliff face.

Its gestation hasn’t been easy. Originally designed to stand in the river, its site was relocated on shore to save money, despite which its budget almost doubled from £45m to £80m. Its intended opening date of 2014 proved optimistic. This year we’ll find out if the museum, one of the most ambitious cultural projects in recent times, has been worth the effort. Rowan Moore

The return of Steve McQueen

Film-maker Steve McQueen
Director Steve McQueen has a new film and a BBC drama due in 2018. Photograph: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Since becoming the first black film-maker to win a best picture Oscar – for his lauded, impassioned Solomon Northup study 12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen has kept a pretty low profile. A striking 2015 music video for Kanye West aside, the Turner prize-winning artist turned director has been linked with several intriguing projects (a mooted Paul Robeson biopic, a scrapped HBO drama series) that haven’t come to pass.

But he’s set to return with a bang in 2018: scheduled for release in mid-November, a full five years after 12 Years a Slave hit US cinemas, his fourth feature film will be the female-powered heist thriller Widows. An American reworking of the 1980s ITV miniseries scripted by Lynda LaPlante, the cast is headed by Viola Davis as one of four criminal widows banding together to finish the job begun by their slain husbands. The enviable ensemble includes Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson, with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn joining McQueen on script duty.

He’s joining the prestige TV revolution, too: also on the docket is an ambitious six-part BBC drama, studying a London West Indian community over the course of three decades – beginning in 1968 with Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech. Guy Lodge

Dance’s daring new talent

Rosie Kay Dance Company’s 5 Soldiers.
Harriet Ellis, far right, in Rosie Kay Dance Company’s 5 Soldiers. Photograph: Alamy

When 23 year-old dancer Harriet Ellis was rehearsing 5 Soldiers with Rosie Kay Dance Company, she spent a week attached to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The soldiers made a point of saying how much they admired the young dancer’s grit, how prepared she was to take the bruises and the exhaustion and crack on.

These qualities are evident in her dancing. Cool of gaze, economical of movement, and as sharp and fast as a sparrowhawk, Ellis is a dancer for all seasons. In RKDC’s MK Ultra she was half lethally swaying cobra, half weirded-out pop princess. In 5 Soldiers she was punchy and taut-wired, her femininity and vulnerability locked tight inside herself. “The female officers all told me how much they identified with her,” says choreographer and director Rosie Kay. “Harriet’s attitude is: if anyone dares me, I’ll do it.”

Ellis graduated from Bird College of Dance in 2016. She lives in Stourbridge outside Birmingham, and for now is happy to spend as much time on stage as she can. “Maybe later I’ll try screen work, but who knows?” she says. Who indeed. Watch her. She moves fast. Luke Jennings

Gaming enters its Battle Royale era

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
An inspiration for months to come: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Photograph: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,

In terms of raucous, blinding popularity, one game dominated 2017 more than any other: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a game in which a hundred players drop from a plane on to a deserted island, where they must scavenge resources and fight one another to be the last man standing (a riff on the Japanese novel and film Battle Royale). Seven Guinness world records fell at its hand (astonishingly, the game is technically still a work-in-progress prototype), including that of first videogame to reach two million concurrent players on Steam (gaming’s equivalent of the iTunes store).

It takes time, in a medium where virtual worlds take years to build and populate, for a good and successful idea to become a trend, but there is no doubt that a slew of video games made in the Battle Royale mode are incoming. Some are already out. The first, Fortnite, a cartoonish, kid-friendlier counterpoint to PUBG’s muted realism is doing a roaring trade. Grand Theft Auto V has an automobile-heavy take on the design, while Ark: Survival of the Fittest casts players as dinosaurs, duking it out in the Jurassic era. Many more variants will follow in 2018 as the trend grows into a phenomenon until finally, inevitably, it becomes passe. Simon Parkin


Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, Holly Williams, Killian Fox, Laura Snapes, Tara Joshi, Laura Cumming, Simran Hans, Kitty Empire, Hannah Devlin, Wendy Ide, Michael Hogan, Claire Armitstead, Rowan Moore, Luke Jennings, Simon Parkin, Guy Lodge

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