2020: who and what to look out for

Brexit will be done but certainly not dusted. The climate crisis will continue to set the agenda. The vegan revolution will bring sweeping changes to eating habits. The Windsors will make headlines. And Adele will sing of heartbreak. Our team of experts ring in the new year


The rancour over Brexit has been cruel to the restaurant sector. A weakening pound has made ingredients more expensive, while mixed messages on residency rights for EU citizens has caused myriad problems for the workforce, particularly front of house. Although we now have certainty, and will leave at the end of January, none of that seems likely to improve in 2020. Indeed, anecdotally, restaurateurs and chefs are reporting that it’s harder than ever to retain non-UK staff, who quite reasonably question whether they have a future here.

There’s a similar problem in the food processing sector, parts of which have historically been dominated by eastern European labour. Difficulties retaining staff usually lead to salary increases to encourage them to stay, and that cost has to be passed on to the consumer. Expect price rises across the hospitality and food industries in the coming year.

Hawksmoor Steakhouse owners Huw Gott, left, and Will Beckett, right, with the chef Richard Turner.
Hawksmoor Steakhouse owners Huw Gott, left, and Will Beckett, right, with the chef Richard Turner. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

At the end of 2019, the journal Lancet Planetary Health published a letter from a global group of scientists concerned about the climate crisis, calling on nations to declare a timeframe for peak livestock production, after which point it will no longer increase. There has already been movement away from meat consumption on the high street, with the arrival of the Greggs vegan sausage roll. In the coming year we will see an ever-greater acceleration towards vegetarian and vegan cookery. Expect to see more high street brands increase the scope of their non-meat menu options.

As to culinary trends, there are signs that the food traditions of Africa may finally get a look in, at least in London.

After a bunch of well received pop-ups, a permanent home for Chuku’s, a restaurant in Tottenham specialising in the food of Nigeria, will be launched in February. Around the same time, William JM Chilila, a finalist last year on MasterChef: The Professionals, will open the west African influenced Akoko in Fitzrovia. Jay Rayner

Three to watch

Nisha Katona
She is a former barrister who gave it all up to explore her family’s Indian heritage through the home cooking she knows so well at her Indian café, Mowgli. What started as a single restaurant in her home town of Liverpool has become a 10-strong group, with at least four more due to open in 2020, and leases are sorted on the same number again.

Daniel Humm
He is the latest in a long line of American chefs who have come to Britain in the hope of making a splash. He holds three Michelin stars at Eleven Madison Park in New York and has just opened at Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair, in the space most recently occupied by Simon Rogan’s Fera and before that, by Gordon Ramsay. Neither quite managed to make a raging success of that space. Humm will be hoping Davies and Brook, named after the two streets upon which Claridge’s sits, will do the business.

Will Beckett and Huw Gott
It’s only fair to point out that it works both ways. In March, the team behind the highly regarded Hawksmoor group make their most audacious move yet: they’re opening a steakhouse in New York, long regarded as the go-to city for a good steak. Finding out what New Yorkers make of the British take on the steak should be very interesting indeed.

A bushfire threatens homes near Sydney, Australia.
A bushfire threatens homes near Sydney, Australia. Photograph: David Gray/Getty Images


Next year, politicians will get a final chance to try to limit the climate crisis that threatens to envelop the world. On 9 November, delegates will meet at the UN COP26 talks in Glasgow to attempt to agree on carbon emission reductions that could keep global temperature rises to well below 2C. Scientists have warned that the world has already warmed by 1.1C since pre-industrial times and that this figure could reach 3C to 4C by the end of this century. Increasingly violent storms, rising sea levels, spreading deserts, crop failures and deadly heatwaves would threaten lives globally.

For most of 2020, diplomatic efforts will be made to prepare for the Glasgow talks with the aim of getting nations to commit to significant reductions in carbon emissions and to narrow the gulf between the developing and developed world over the fight against the climate crisis. Developing countries say the industrialised world is largely responsible for most carbon emissions to date but are still not doing enough to make reductions. They are also demanding that rich nations provide at least $100bn annually to help them mitigate the worst impacts of global heating and to cut emissions. Efforts to reconcile the two sides have so far failed.

Greenland is losing its ice sheet seven times faster than it was in the 1990s, and the west Antarctic ice sheet is now destabilising dangerously – threatening sea-level rises that will be devastating in low-lying Bangladesh and Pacific islands in the near future. Temperatures also reached record highs in Australia, triggering continent-wide bushfires, while in Africa, the Victoria Falls – one of the planet’s greatest cascades of water – dried to a trickle in 2019. The Glasgow talks will take place against this grim, ecological background. Robin McKie

Three to watch

Greta Thunberg
Can the activist maintain the momentum of the climate protest movement?

Donald Trump
He is pulling the US out of international climate agreements by 4 November, 2020. But if he loses next year’s presidential election, on 3 November, and a Democrat wins, the US would rejoin talks in 2021.

Claire Perry O’Neill
As president of COP26, it will be the principal job of the former Tory MP to ensure the talks are successful.

Boris Johnson campaigning in Middlesbrough.
Boris Johnson campaigning in Middlesbrough. Photograph: Reuters


The UK’s membership of the European Union will be terminated at the end of January, but that’s not Brexit done. We then enter a transition period while there are tough and complex negotiations about the future relationship with our closest neighbours and most important trading partners. Boris Johnson says he can secure a zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade deal without having to commit to regulatory alignment with the bloc. The EU suggests it will never agree to this. The Tory leader has further upped the stakes by declaring that the UK will crash out of the transition without a deal if there’s no agreement by the end of the year. Will he really take such a big risk with the British economy, especially its manufacturers and the livelihoods of the voters in the Midlands and the north of England who helped him to a majority? By the end of the year, either his bluff will have been called or he will betray those new Tory voters.

There will not be another referendum on independence for Scotland in 2020. The SNP will demand it, but without any real conviction that it can get one from a Conservative government that has set an adamantine face against the idea. This refusal will suit the Nationalists. Current polling suggests that they can’t be confident of winning a referendum now, and a second defeat would surely kill their ambition for a long time. The SNP’s true aim is to stoke Scottish resentment against Westminster to pave the way for a big win in the elections to the Scottish parliament in 2021. That’s the year with the potential for a constitutional car crash that rips apart the kingdom.

Both the Lib Dems and Labour will choose new leaders. Most of the attention will be focused on the latter contest, which is expected to climax around March. Expect bitter rows about the election process as the Corbynites who control the party’s national executive committee try to fix the terms of the battle to favour their continuity candidate, Rebecca Long Bailey. Labour moderates are already saying that the succession of a beardless variation of Jeremy Corbyn will doom Labour to another decade in opposition. If that happens, the moderates will be asking whether the party is dead to them and they should try something different. Andrew Rawnsley

Three to watch

Boris Johnson
He has made numerous promises about Brexit, the NHS and investment in the north. Can he stick to his pledges or will the wheels start to come off his premiership in 2020?

Nicola Sturgeon
Following a resounding victory in Scotland in the December 2019 general election, all eyes will be on the leader of the SNP in the year ahead to see how she manages to capitalise on her popularity in her push for Scottish independence.

Rebecca Long Bailey
She has a tough battle ahead against increasing numbers of candidates for the Labour party leadership. Will the members come out for the natural successor to Corbyn or will they want something new for the party?

Claes Bang in BBC One’s Dracula.
Claes Bang in BBC One’s Dracula. Photograph: Robert Viglasky/BBC/Hartswood Films/Netflix


Viewers eager to enter the dark world of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s Dracula (BBC One, New Year’s Day), should also look out for the third season of the murky and mysterious Babylon Berlin, the most expensive non-English-language show ever made. Set in chaotic Weimar Germany, with subtitles, it is thrilling and scary and out on Sky 1 on 24 January.

Closer to home, there is more stylish, existential angst, this time with a comic twist, on offer when the acclaimed BBC Two series Inside Number 9, from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton returns in February.

Theatrical novelties waiting in the wings include the first stage production of Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves in May at the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire and a revival of Alan Bennett’s much-loved Talking Heads at the Watford Palace Theatre in Watford, courtesy of Dead Ringers’ Jan Ravens and co-star Julia Watson.

And the enduring Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, Carousel, is to spin into London’s open-air venue, Regent’s Park Theatre, in the summer.

Celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday will kick off with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra performing the seventh symphony on 15 January, and his opera Fidelio will be staged at Covent Garden in March, starring the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan.

Among art exhibitions, previously unseen work is promised at Gauguin and the Impressionists at the Royal Academy from the end of March, with paintings from Pissarro, Monet, Manet and Degas. Over at the British Museum, a new show Living with art: Picasso to Celmins starts in January, before a national tour, and will feature works given to the museum by the late film critic Alexander Walker. Highlights will include Jungle Boy, an early etching by David Hockney.

In the cinema, the British year gets off to a good start with Sam Mendes’ 1917 and Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, both out in January, but the new Bond, No Time to Die, is now not being released until April.

Smaller budget productions to look out for include Rose Glass’s acclaimed horror debut Saint Maud, starring Morfydd Clark, and the film of Florian Zeller’s stage hit The Father, which premieres at the Sundance film festival in January. Vanessa Thorpe

Three to watch

Johnny Flynn
Already familiar to fans of the 2018 TV series of Les Miserables and Vanity Fair, the actor will have a big year. He appears as Bowie in Stardust and as a blond (shock) Knightley in a film of Jane Austen’s Emma, alongside Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart. Another Brit film The Dig, about an archaeologist, is also due to put him up on the big screen soon.

Nicky Morgan
The reappointed culture secretary, now operating from the elevated calm of the House of Lords, will receive pleas from all manner of cash-starved arts schemes, venues and institutes. Will she stay in the job for the long term, and, if so, will she listen?

Rumours about the release date for her putative fourth album (30?) are likely to reach fever pitch after a turbulent few years out of the limelight.

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge in Pakistan in November.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Pakistan in November. Photograph: Getty Images


After a stormy year, the royal family face a challenging 2020 to steady the good ship Monarchy.

The Queen, who will be 94 in April, looks increasingly alone as the Duke of Edinburgh, who will be 99 in June, leads a near solitary life on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

Decisions by some family members have raised questions over how much the Queen is consulted by others who may be keen to pursue their own agendas.

Prince Andrew’s astonishing TV interview with Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, may have put Pizza Express, Woking, on the map and had a nation googling medical conditions that prevent sweating, but any hopes that it would dampen the burning debate over his relationship with the disgraced late US financier Jeffrey Epstein are badly misplaced. With Epstein’s alleged victims’ lawyers’ relentless efforts to drag the prince into their legal battle in the US, this long saga looks set to continue, despite Andrew stepping back from public life for the foreseeable future.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, meanwhile, are pursuing their own legal actions as part of a bold and risky strategy in taking on the press over privacy.

Meghan is suing the Mail on Sunday over its publication of a private letter to her estranged father. Harry has launched legal proceedings against the owners of the Sun and the Daily Mirror in relation to alleged phone hacking.

The couple escaped to Canada for six weeks in November after Meghan told ITV’s Tom Bradby of the strain she felt she was under in the media spotlight. They launch their own foundation in 2020, after splitting from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, so all eyes will be on how they will carve out their future royal roles. Caroline Davies

Three to watch

Prince Charles
Expect him to undertake more of the Queen’s public duties.

Prince William
A successful visit to Pakistan with the Duchess of Cambridge this year could lead to more roles as a statesman as he prepares to succeed his father as Prince of Wales.

Baby Archie
First we saw a forehead and nose, then a foot, and a couple of months later, a face. But the full Archie wasn’t revealed by the Sussexes until they introduced him to Desmond Tutu in South Africa in September. Royal fans are still waiting for his first UK appearance.


Jay Rayner, Andrew Rawnsley, Vanessa Thorpe, Caroline Davies and Robin McKie

The GuardianTramp

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