Blockbusters bombed while Irish film soared

How did our centenary celebrations strike you? On TV, the magnificent Crazy ExGirlfriend confirmed – alongside Sing Street and the upcoming La La Land – that the musical is in rude health. I’m Looking forward to Paul Thomas Anderson’s as-yet-untitled film about the 1950s fashion world with Daniel Day-Lewis; Michael Haneke’s Happy End, a film about the refugee crisis; Sofia Coppola’s remake of Don Siegel’s The Beguiled and Kathryn Bigelow’s drama about the 1967 Detroit riots. The summer blockbuster season was, however, poisoned by an incessant stream of expensive effluent that reeked of coming End Times. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? I’m not sure if this counts as “cultural”, but getting to attend the Oscars was a treat. Ignore concocted cultural fury such as the misogynistic thuggery that preceded release of the (perfectly tolerable) all-female Ghostbusters. ADVERTISEMENT 2016 in three words Orange toxic event. Throw a smartphone into a chimpanzee enclosure and those beasts would, surely, come up with better films than Suicide Squad, Warcraft, Independence Day, X-Men: Apocalypse or Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. The best record of the year was Esperanza Spalding’s jazz-pop-funk cornucopia Emily’s D+Evolution. The respectful international coverage of the nicely mounted celebrations in the capital over the Easter weekend suggested that the 1916 rising may have become as uncontroversial as the American Revolution. What let you down? What were your cultural highlights of 2016? As Zhou Enlai probably didn’t really say about the French Revolution, it is too early to say. This was far from the case. Cannes lit up with Paul Verhoeven’s dangerous Elle, Jim Jarmusch’s gorgeous Paterson and Maren Ade’s singular Toni Erdmann. Prepare to read endless musings on how the films of 2016 predicted and commented upon the election of Donald Trump. What are your 2017 resolutions? Towards the end of the summer, opinion pages became sodden with suggestions that 2016 might be the worst year for cinema in decades. Not everyone will be happy with this. The surge in Irish cinema that, for the first time in 20 years, sent The Irish Times to (or near) the ceremony continued with cracking diverse domestic films such as Sing Street, The Young Offenders and A Date for Mad Mary.

The visual arts focused attention on marginalised voices

Jaki Irvine’s If the Ground Should Open… And what will be your cultural resolution for 2017? ADVERTISEMENT How did our centenary celebrations strike you? 2016 in three words Not even wrong. And what let you down? The National Gallery of Ireland’s Creating History, a kind of alternative, episodic history of Ireland from the 17th century through art, is compelling. The Frank Auerbach retrospective at Tate Britain was superb. looking to the role of Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grenan in the Rising, was one of several bids to refocus attention on those marginalised by the dominant historical narrative. Among too many outstanding solo shows to mention were those by Sabina Mac Mahon and Vanessa Donoso Lopez, both at The Lab, Enda Bowe at Visual, Amie Siegel at Temple Bar, Hughie O’Donoghue at the Galway Arts Festival, John Kelly and Ed Miliano at Oliver Sears, Paul Doran at Hillsboro Fine Art, Ann Quinn and Charles Tyrrell at the Taylor, and Una Sealy at the Ashford. The suspicion was that he’d been unjustly neglected because he was gay and indifferent to artistic fashion. Against the slightly overwhelming setting of non-stop commemoration, historian Robert Gerwarth’s The Vanquished, a refreshing, enlightening and persuasive rereading of nationalism and the world immediately post-WWI, is bracing and, in the event, very relevant to the current historical moment. Elizabeth Price’s survey show at The Model, Sligo, was brilliant, as was Aideen Barry’s survey at the RHA. What were your cultural highlights for the year gone by? Mick O’Dea did well in getting his outstanding 1916 show in early, in January, before an endless succession of commemorative exhibitions. Alan Phelan’s attempt to imagine a future for Roger Casement if he had lived was another notable example. Despite promise and definite achievements, repeated viewings of his work only highlighted his weaknesses. Imma did well in winning 50 Lucian Freuds on a five-year loan. To see Giacometti and Modigliani, both at Tate Modern, two perennially fresh, relevant artistic voices. A retrospective of the work of Irish painter Patrick Hennessy was long overdue. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? In the event, the show demonstrated that he had, to a significant degree, wasted his abilities, had a narrow and confining vision of painting, and an unintentionally kitsch aesthetic sense.

Samuel Beckett’s letters: hearing the voice behnd the works

Volume 4 contains the letters in which Beckett authorizes Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, one of the four editors, to perform the “unspeakable job” of editing and publishing his letters with the proviso that they are limited to “those passages only having bearing on my work.” It is a testament to the editorial care that these letters shed so much light on the work and on the man, all without any hint of prurience or sensationalism. It was, in his own words, “All I’m good for,” a quote lent added poignancy by recurrent thoughts like this: “What blunders all the way. I think of the recent Irish Times report of the Irish Naval Service vessel, the LE Samuel Beckett, rescuing 242 refugees in the Mediterranean. He has read from the poetry and prose of Samuel Beckett at The Irish Arts Center, The Beal Bocht Cafe, The Brooklyn Library’s Dweck Center and at Dixon Place. I defended it warmly.” ADVERTISEMENT Beckett is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century yet suffers from a reputation for difficulty, which may wrongly deter many who would greatly enjoy his work. He is currently in the throes of his second novel. These volumes of letters can help the reader hear the voice behind the works, to truly hear the music of the work, the hard truths and unwavering honesty about the human condition. His work remains painfully, poignantly relevant and true. Beckett’s uneasy relationship to place is evident throughout. There has been nothing else worthwhile… In 1975 he comments on his cousin John Beckett’s Wicklow hike: “That was a great jaunt over the old ground. When a troubled young man, greatly influenced by Beckett, sends him his harrowing poems, Beckett counsels: “take yourself away from my work and from yourself.” “Nothing matters but the writing. I wish I had been with you.” Beckett was no secular saint and could be funny and scathing, particularly of offensive productions of his work. This collection illustrates Beckett’s efforts to balance the competing demands of writing new works, vetting production requests, directing his own theatre works, while dealing with everyday correspondence. Why didn’t I go into Guinness’s as father wished?” Ruby Cohn writes: “letter just received announces a new work in the making (He calls it struggling), and he is so miserable in it that I foresee a major advance.” Of the early work on …

The best crime fiction of 2016

Declan Burke is the editor of Trouble is Our Business (New Island), a collection of new stories by Irish crime writers After You Die was a fine addition to Eva Dolan’s absorbing Peterborough-based series featuring DI Zigic and DS Ferreira of the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit. In Blood Will Out (Corsair), Walter Kirn relates his true story of being beguiled by Clark Rockefeller, aka “the most prodigious serial imposter in recent history”, in a tale of sociopathic deviance that could have been penned by Patricia Highsmith. Lying in Wait (Penguin Ireland), a psychological thriller that explores the corrosive impact of a young woman’s murder on two families, was Liz Nugent’s second novel. Ann Cleeves maintained her high standards with the atmospheric Cold Earth. Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders was a brilliant pastiche of the English village mystery and a hugely enjoyable tale of publishing skulduggery. ADVERTISEMENT Tana French’s sixth offering, The Trespasser (Hodder & Stoughton), won the Crime Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, a deserved reward for a compelling blend of police procedural and domestic noir, delivered in French’s inimitable Dublinese. A debt to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is handsomely repaid in a novel that confirmed the considerable promise of Nugent’s debut, Unravelling Oliver. Lisa Lutz’s road-trip extravaganza, The Passenger, was one hell of a sexy, whiskey-soaked thrill-ride. Another debut, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (Corsair), was a literary spy novel in which the unnamed narrator (“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook”) takes us from the fall of Saigon into the heart of post-Vietnam War America as he pits his wits against “the most dangerous creature in the history of the world, the white man in a suit”. Catherine Ryan Howard’s Distress Signals made for a highly confident and accomplished debut. ADVERTISEMENT Declan Hughes is Arts Council writer in residence at University College Dublin for 2017 My top 10 for 2016 is a baker’s dozen of forbidden pleasures: Easy Rawlins as engaging as ever in Walter Mosley’s splendid Charcoal Joe; Slow Horses, Mick Herron’s deliciously sleazy and sophisticated spy thriller; Liz Nugent’s exquisitely bleak and pitiless Lying in Wait; The Darkest Secret, Alex Marwood’s stunning domestic noir epic; the delirious, beautifully written Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman; Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley’s ripped-from-the-headlines tragedy of New York manners Before the Fall; the terrifying and compelling A Time of Torment from Irish master of supernatural …

Una Mullally’s cultural highlight of 2016: ‘Grace Jones at the Olympia’

I think the swerve into darkness the world took with Trump will colour art and culture for a long time, across film, television, protest art, hip hop, graphic novels, theatre and literature. Hopefully the rhetoric surrounding how important artists are will translate into more funding to artists themselves. What were your cultural highlights for 2016? What post-truth and American fascism and white supremacy means for art and pop culture. How did our centenary celebrations strike you? ADVERTISEMENT What will be your cultural resolution for 2017? Christine & the Queens at Glastonbury made flesh the viral TV performances that made her famous outside France. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? 2016 in three words Go to hell. Certainly the Easter Monday in Dublin was hopping. Anohni made a protest album of pure brutal beauty that no one saw coming. And what let you down? The death of icons. How other artists outside of officialdom took on the challenge of commemoration was especially interesting, from the female graffiti collective Minaw, to the TG4 series Eipic. Camera Person remains the must-see documentary of the year for me as well. Read more, write more, party more. The opening of The Broad in LA heralded a very Los Angeles gallery and shows what super-rich people can do in the art world when they set their minds to it. Back home, Drop Everything was a stunning mix of art, place, weather, tunes, and people. The world is in flames, we need to protest and party in equal measure and with love, anger and creativity. It was all just so sad. I thought they went well overall, especially considering the fractious beginnings of the planning. I also loved James Vincent McMorrow’s sophisticated We Move. Tino Sehgal’s Blank Cheque at Palais de Tokyo in Paris made audiences reimagine what an “exhibition” is and was so good I went three times. I did feel that some of the cheesier moments we could have done without, the finale of the Centenary event at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre was a bit like ending Jurassic Park with Barney. Grace Jones at the Olympia was the gig of the year.

Fintan O’Toole’s cultural highlights: ‘A great year for the elderly’

All tricks and no poetry makes Will a dull boy. A Date for Mad Mary was the best Irish cinema debut for ages. It was a great year for the elderly: the last, hilarious and heartbreaking, volume of Samuel Beckett’s letters; Leonard Cohen’s noble farewell; Glenda Jackson’s glorious return in King Lear; a haunting last blast from the great Tony McMahon. For dance-theatre fusions: Anu’s These Rooms and Michael Keegan-Dola’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. Waking the Feminists feels like that rarest of things, a real watershed moment. Your 2016 highlights? No going back to lad theatre? On a personal note, it was a privilege to work with Owen Roe, Olwen Fouéré, Lisa Dwan, Fiona Shaw and Stuart Graham at the NCH and Belfast festival events – and Kevin Rowland singing his mother’s Irish songs for the first time at the NCH was really something. The Irish novel is really flying and there are new works to look forward to from Colm Tóibín, Roddy Doyle and Sara Baume. Paul Muldoon, Rita Duffy, Anu, Fearghus ó Conchúir and many others showed that it is still artists who give the nation its voice. 2016 in three words: The republican imagination. What let you you down? ADVERTISEMENT What are your 2017 resolutions? Lisa Dwan’s No’s Knife was startlingly courageous. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? Jon Snow came back from the dead in Game of Thrones so maybe Cohen, Prince, William Trevor and John Montague will live on, too. How did our centenary celebrations strike you? And the Seanad’s land grab on the National Museum shows remarkable depths of philistinism in parts of our political culture. I really disliked the A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Dublin Theatre Festival. And the Government actually noticed: the cultural legacy programme has great promise. Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End is glorious. Christian Blackshaw’s superbly meditative Mozart sonatas in Kilkenny still linger in the mind. So I have learn to read fiction faster. In a year of toxic rage elsewhere, it was a reminder of the proper uses of anger.

Michael Dervan’s culture highlight of 2016: ‘Composing the Island’

What were your cultural highlights for the year gone by? What will be your cultural resolution for 2016? It has already shifted perceptions about our musical heritage. Who does RTÉ think it is kidding at a time when neither orchestra has a principal conductor? 2016 in three words: hot and cold. Composing the Island, September’s survey of the last century and more of music by (mostly) Irish composers. There was also the huge embrace of culture and the arts by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in fronting the announcement of Creative Ireland, a venture he promises will “make every local authority a dynamic hub of cultural activity” and “enable every child to access tuition in music, drama, art and coding”. As I’ve said before, Enda, show us the money. I gave up resolutions a long time ago, but I’m dying to find out how Creative Ireland is going to be resourced. Our miserable infrastructure of opera is a legacy of decades of underfunding and neglect that became significantly worse when the 21st-century recession was added to the mix. The venture showed what can happen when major institutions (RTÉ, the National Concert Hall, Ireland 2016, with Bord na Móna as sponsor) work in harmony. What let you down? The game of musical chairs in the management of RTÉ’s performing groups. Executive director John O’Kane was moved sideways into a new role and Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, head of RTÉ lyric fm, was given O’Kane’s old brief of managing the orchestras, quartet and choirs on top of his existing full-time responsibilities. Incredible as it may seem, opera provision in Dublin is actually lower now than it was before 1951, when the Arts Council itself was set up. The Arts Council’s ongoing shilly-shallying about funding opera is greatly worrying.

Kevin Myers: Why I wrote about my adolescent homosexuality

The person that I now am would not exist, there would be no memoir, and nor would you reading this. The gravitational pull of distant, hitherto unknown events can be ineluctable and irresistible: see how my father’s death all those decades ago is now minutely but irreversibly changing your life? The waywardness of that disreputable swagman memory in any autobiography usually means that those characters enslaved within the chain-gang of his narrative wil1l no doubt hot1y dispute the accuracy of its contents. It is what it is: merely a creatively-written fabrication based on my memory of events in which there were many participants, for whom I have written merely walk-on parts (if even that). The word “tree” might stimulate your creative juices around your notions of something with roots, boughs, branches, leaves, twigs and birds? What has been discarded might well be better than what stands: but no matter – for what remains is an honest tribute to my beloved father, the co-owner of that single headstrong heart. E=MC2 is as much a work of fiction as Hamlet. And frankly, a memoir is no more than an autobiographical fabrication involving real people and events written by a participant who undertakes to give a true rendition of his or her memory. So, I admit to a pitifully unsuccessful attempt to seduce another boy at my boarding school – although “seduce” does not come close to describing my woeful attempts to satisfy my tumultuous carnal desires. I cannot proclaim that my memoir possesses either a momentous inner gravity or constitutes some condign allegory. Anyway, that cringe-making account of my brief and tragically unrewarded foray into adolescent homosexuality is my way of affirming: listen, I am telling you the truth here as best I can. Any word only serves as the launch-code for the reader’s imagination. This will probably not be confirmed in any way by the narratives created by their own memories, in which I have a mere walk-on part (if even that). Had Dad not died when I was a teenager, had he survived to my own adulthood, had I ever had a chance to have a pint with him, I’m sure my life would have been completely different. Had a certain Dublin brewer not invited Wallis Simpson onto his yacht where she met the Duke of Windsor, the latter’s niece Elizabeth might today be a relatively unknown old dowager, the …

A prison diary made up of love letters

I had begun writing The Wrong Man in prison and finished it upon my release. One of them bet the others that he could steal a stag trophy off the wall without being caught. In Crumlin Road Jail (where we were locked up 23 hours a day) and, afterwards, in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh I read voraciously – hundreds of novels. Years ago, around Christmas, he and three mates (labourers and an electrician) all went to the old Hunting Lodge after work. It was around about the time I was giving up on novel number four that a friend told me that my girlfriend had left two huge bags of my prison letters in her loft. Are you okay, mate?’” Adrian said that he couldn’t swim but was told not to worry, he would learn quickly, and one of the other lads had a spare set of shorts. I called the book Then The Walls Came Down, after the lyrics of the Traveling Wilburys’ song Tweeter and the Monkey Man, which brought back good memories my girlfriend and I shared, though the title also resonated appositely with the ceasefire and burgeoning peace talks. And today he has a lot of exciting entries to make in his diary. Then he put the head under his coat and they all walked out, caught a black taxi to Twinbrook and got out opposite the Hitchin Post where the two who lost the bet went to its off-licence to buy a carry-out. For example, one about his new friend, Jim O’Carroll. If he is, he’s the only one as it has been defunct for over 70 years! A stormy cold wind was ripping the air apart and the starlings kept trying to find roosting spots on the disused chimney stack but broke up in disarray and went crashing through the air. Fast forward. My third novel, The Wrong Man, a sympathetic portrayal of an IRA informer, had just been published, and I was ready to begin number four. So, daily, I had to request to see the governor, and, à la Oliver Twist, ask him if I could have more paper. In two moves he had the stag’s head off the wall and under the table, and its antlers covered over with the bags. Then, they pulled too hard and to gasps and astonishment from the crowd the head landed on the footpath. …

Kevin Myers: ‘All memoir-writing is a branch of fiction’

Any word only serves as the launch-code for the reader’s imagination. It is a memoir, not an autobiography, which by definition is more holistic and wide-ranging. Do his motives ring true? Carlo Gebler reviews it in The Irish Times on December 24th Thus my mother – who really was by the more significant parent – is relatively and indeed unjustly absent. The gravitational pull of distant, hitherto unknown events can be ineluctable and irresistible: see how my father’s death all those decades ago is now minutely but irreversibly changing your life? These are the only useful tests of a narrative that otherwise doesn’t obviously lie or deceive (for then no further tests are needed). Probably not. Moreover, how could I possibly remember conversations a lifetime ago, when down the years that followed as as a reporter I could barely remember what had just been said moments before? Hieroglyphs are mental triggers, and each response in each mind is different, being a unique and original creative work. Had Dad not died when I was a teenager, had he survived to my own adulthood, had I ever had a chance to have a pint with him, I’m sure my life would have been completely different. And frankly, a memoir is no more than an autobiographical fabrication involving real people and events written by a participant who undertakes to give a true rendition of his or her memory. I am not the hero of this tale, merely its author, and certainly as flawed as, or even more flawed than, most of my dramatis personae. This will probably not be confirmed in any way by the narratives created by their own memories, in which I have a mere walk-on part (if even that). One usual way round such fundamental contradictions within any memoir is to insist that it conveys either a larger truth or a metaphorical one. But your tree is yours. E=MC2 is as much a work of fiction as Hamlet. I cannot proclaim that my memoir possesses either a momentous inner gravity or constitutes some condign allegory. “Tree” for an Eskimo is not the same as it is for an Ethiopian. It comes down to this. The memoir’s key is my father’s profound melancholy, his premature death, and the devastating impact of both on me. One day it will be disproved, as all theories are, but meanwhile it has no authentic existence …

Grace, a short story by Sam Coll

Sam Coll reads an extract from Grace ‘Think of it as a package holiday without the ticket price attached.’ ‘Once Dermot’s cousin has fixed his teeth, of course,’ said Maggie Magee seriously. And from what I hear tell, old Vernon here has been behaving as badly as I did. ‘Oh well,’ said uncertain Dermot newly crestfallen, ‘Er, that’s, uh, a good question … I’m sure he could, uh, do a discount or something if I put in the word … cousins are cousins, y’know …’ ‘Pprhg hugh,’ said Conan Kelly darkly. Or eat? No harm done, mature Mr Graves conceded, rubbing his palms. ‘Just think,’ said Mr Graves dreamily, ‘To be as St Kevin in Glendalough…’ ‘Bah!’ Dermot snorted, ‘They have loads of them fucking hippie retreats going on all over the place. Conan Kelly gave Vernon to understand that he was sorry that they had led him astray on Thursday, and expressed his hope that Vernon was in the process of recovery. They waited, ever more eager. And I’m sure you’d be a good houseguest. He answered her knock with reluctance, unwilling for her to see the state to which he was sunk. ‘I can drive you up myself as soon as it’s arranged,’ Mr Graves added, a droll eyebrow uplifted. ‘What what?’ cried eager Maggie Magee, leaning forward. Just think of it – a woodlands retreat, to live like a hermit and get back in touch with nature. He ate an apple. And he slept well that night and did not dream. Could one not go to the cinema? She gasped at the sorry sight of him, haggard in his bloodstained pajamas with his face in a swollen mess, purple cheeks purpled further by a medley of greenish tinged bruises, chips of dried blood flaking off amid the grizzle of his stubble, opening his mouth ajar in a leer to display his empty row of nibbled gums, toothlessly grinning in wordless reply to her flurry of worried queries, raising a palm to entreat her be hushed, before miming a slip and a crunch through the gruesome pantomime of his witty fingers. He listened to the rustling leaves and the nearby gush of the gurgling stream. He took a book from the shelves and read deep into the night. To further assure her of the soundness of his aims and of the thoroughness with which he had thought things …

Christmas on TV: the best movies to watch

Co-stars Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland. Mr Peabody and Sherman (3.50pm, BBC One) Mr Peabody is a super-intelligent dog and Sherman is a seven-year-old boy who accompanies the canine boffin on his time-travelling adventures, learning about history first-hand, but also encountering some perilous temporal paradoxes. NEW YEAR’S EVE Jackie Brown (11pm, UTV Ireland) Pam Grier plays the titular air hostess who is caught smuggling drugs and money into the US, and has to play a smart game to stay out of jail in Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch. WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 28TH Muppets Most Wanted (3.35pm, BBC One) On the Muppets’ world tour, Kermit is kidnapped and replaced by his double – a criminal mastermind named Constantine who plans to steal the Crown Jewels. Steve Carrell voices Gru, who has now turned from villain to doting dad (fatherhood will do that to you), but soon gets caught up in nefarious goings-on. Tobey Maguire is an orphan who becomes the doctor’s reluctant assistant. It gets complicated. The Butcher Boy (11.20pm, TV3) Neil Jordan’s film version of Pat McCabe’s novel captures all the madness and mayhem of the novel, in which smalltown boy Francie Brady retreats into a world of comics and westerns to escape his grim reality. The Lady In the Van (9pm, BBC Two) While the kids are in bed waiting for Santa to arrrive, the grown-ups can settle back and watch the charming, quirky true story of a homeless woman who took up residence in her van outside the Camden home of playwright Alan Bennett. FRIDAY DECEMBER 30TH The Sting (1.40pm, RTE One) Having hit the cinematic jackpot with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul Newman and Robert Redford teamed up again, this time as a couple of conmen who set up an elaborate sting on a mobster. NEW YEAR’S DAY ET The Extraterrestrial (1.05pm, RTE One) Stephen Spielberg’s magical adventure about a lonely boy who befriends a lost alien hiding in his backyard, and tries to help him contact his spaceship while concealing him from grown-ups and sinister government agents. Co-starring Jeremy Northam, Alan Cumming, Toni Colette and Ewan McGregor. Also features Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Kelly’s Heroes (2.10pm, RTE Two) Long before Inglourious Basterds, Clint Eastwood headed up this second World War caper about a band of military misfits on a rogue mission to steal …

‘The world is in flames, we need to protest and party in equal measure’

Hopefully the rhetoric surrounding how important artists are will translate into more funding to artists themselves. I also loved James Vincent McMorrow’s sophisticated We Move. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? Camera Person remains the must-see documentary of the year for me as well. Read more, write more, party more. I thought they went well overall, especially considering the fractious beginnings of the planning. Back home, Drop Everything was a stunning mix of art, place, weather, tunes, and people. Certainly the Easter Monday in Dublin was hopping. The death of icons. Christine & the Queens at Glastonbury made flesh the viral TV performances that made her famous outside France. Anohni made a protest album of pure brutal beauty that no one saw coming. The world is in flames, we need to protest and party in equal measure and with love, anger and creativity. I did feel that some of the cheesier moments we could have done without, the finale of the Centenary event at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre was a bit like ending Jurassic Park with Barney. And what let you down? ADVERTISEMENT What will be your cultural resolution for 2017? What post-truth and American fascism and white supremacy means for art and pop culture. I think the swerve into darkness the world took with Trump will colour art and culture for a long time, across film, television, protest art, hip hop, graphic novels, theatre and literature. It was all just so sad. How other artists outside of officialdom took on the challenge of commemoration was especially interesting, from the female graffiti collective Minaw, to the TG4 series Eipic. 2016 in three words Go to hell. What were your cultural highlights for 2016? How did our centenary celebrations strike you? Tino Sehgal’s Blank Cheque at Palais de Tokyo in Paris made audiences reimagine what an “exhibition” is and was so good I went three times. The opening of The Broad in LA heralded a very Los Angeles gallery and shows what super-rich people can do in the art world when they set their minds to it. Grace Jones at the Olympia was the gig of the year.

‘In a year of toxic rage, Waking the Feminists was a reminder of the proper uses of anger’

It was a great year for the elderly: the last, hilarious and heartbreaking, volume of Samuel Beckett’s letters; Leonard Cohen’s noble farewell; Glenda Jackson’s glorious return in King Lear; a haunting last blast from the great Tony McMahon. On a personal note, it was a privilege to work with Owen Roe, Olwen Fouéré, Lisa Dwan, Fiona Shaw and Stuart Graham at the NCH and Belfast festival events – and Kevin Rowland singing his mother’s Irish songs for the first time at the NCH was really something. What let you you down? How did our centenary celebrations strike you? Christian Blackshaw’s superbly meditative Mozart sonatas in Kilkenny still linger in the mind. 2016 in three words: The republican imagination. For dance-theatre fusions: Anu’s These Rooms and Michael Keegan-Dola’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. No going back to lad theatre? Lisa Dwan’s No’s Knife was startlingly courageous. So I have learn to read fiction faster. Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End is glorious. Jon Snow came back from the dead in Game of Thrones so maybe Cohen, Prince, William Trevor and John Montague will live on, too. The Irish novel is really flying and there are new works to look forward to from Colm Tóibín, Roddy Doyle and Sara Baume. What was the dominant plot twist of 2016? And the Seanad’s land grab on the National Museum shows remarkable depths of philistinism in parts of our political culture. And the Government actually noticed: the cultural legacy programme has great promise. A Date for Mad Mary was the best Irish cinema debut for ages. Your 2016 highlights? All tricks and no poetry makes Will a dull boy. Paul Muldoon, Rita Duffy, Anu, Fearghus ó Conchúir and many others showed that it is still artists who give the nation its voice. I really disliked the A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Dublin Theatre Festival. Waking the Feminists feels like that rarest of things, a real watershed moment. In a year of toxic rage elsewhere, it was a reminder of the proper uses of anger. ADVERTISEMENT What are your 2017 resolutions?

‘Composing the Island shifted perceptions about our musical heritage’

Incredible as it may seem, opera provision in Dublin is actually lower now than it was before 1951, when the Arts Council itself was set up. 2016 in three words: hot and cold. The game of musical chairs in the management of RTÉ’s performing groups. There was also the huge embrace of culture and the arts by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in fronting the announcement of Creative Ireland, a venture he promises will “make every local authority a dynamic hub of cultural activity” and “enable every child to access tuition in music, drama, art and coding”. Executive director John O’Kane was moved sideways into a new role and Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, head of RTÉ lyric fm, was given O’Kane’s old brief of managing the orchestras, quartet and choirs on top of his existing full-time responsibilities. The Arts Council’s ongoing shilly-shallying about funding opera is greatly worrying. What will be your cultural resolution for 2016? I gave up resolutions a long time ago, but I’m dying to find out how Creative Ireland is going to be resourced. As I’ve said before, Enda, show us the money. What were your cultural highlights for the year gone by? It has already shifted perceptions about our musical heritage. Who does RTÉ think it is kidding at a time when neither orchestra has a principal conductor? The venture showed what can happen when major institutions (RTÉ, the National Concert Hall, Ireland 2016, with Bord na Móna as sponsor) work in harmony. What let you down? Composing the Island, September’s survey of the last century and more of music by (mostly) Irish composers. Our miserable infrastructure of opera is a legacy of decades of underfunding and neglect that became significantly worse when the 21st-century recession was added to the mix.

Lena Dunham apologises for abortion comment

You mean everything to me.” During the podcast, Dunham – who describes herself an an “abortion rights activist” – told listeners she realised she was carrying her own “stigma” about the issue when she quickly corrected the woman who believed she had had an abortion. “Now I can say I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.” ‘Unhelpful’ John Gerardi, executive director of anti-abortion charity Right To Life of Central California, branded Dunham’s comments “inflammatory and unhelpful”. My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. “I feel so proud of them for their bravery, for their self-knowledge, and it was a really important moment for me then, that I had internalised some of what society was throwing at us and I had to put it in the garbage. PA I realised then that even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue. He told the Press Association: “Even if you accept the argument that women have a right to obtain access to abortions, we’re still talking about another living human being. Actor Lena Dunham has apologised after she was criticised for declaring she had never had an abortion but wishes she had. She said: “I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion. “It seems Lena Dunham wants to treat abortions like getting your appendix removed.” Dunham won two Golden Globes in 2013 for her series Girls, which airs on Sky Atlantic. She told listeners that she had never gone through the procedure, before adding: “But I wish I had.” Her remarks prompted a wave of criticism online, with one anti-abortion charity saying Dunham was treating abortions “like getting your appendix removed”. Dunham (30) had recalled an incident at a Planned Parenthood meeting in Texas, where she was asked to share a story about her own abortion. ADVERTISEMENT “So many people I love – my mother, my best friends – have had to have abortions for all kinds of reasons. The creator and star of the TV series Girls has said she did not intend to “trivialise” terminating a pregnancy, following comments she made during her Women Of The Hour podcast. “I would never, ever intentionally trivialise the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy. In a post on Instagram alongside a …

French actor Michèle Morgan dies at the age of 96

Early life Hollywood comic actor Gene Wilder dies aged 83 ‘Game of Thrones’ actor Peter Vaughan dies aged 93 ‘Fawlty Towers’ actor Andrew Sachs dies aged 86 Born on February 29th, 1920, as Simone Roussel, she took Michèle Morgan as her stage name. Michèle Morgan, a French actor who starred in films alongside Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra and was the first winner of the Cannes film festival’s best actress award, has died aged 96. Living in Hollywood during the second World War, she starred in movies including Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol, and married American director William Marshall. Her family said she died on Tuesday, without giving a cause of death, according to French media reports. AP Morgan starred alongside Humphrey Bogart in Passage To Marseille in 1944 – having been considered for the role of Ilsa in Casablanca, which went to Ingrid Bergman. She was awarded Cannes’ first best actress award for her portrayal of a blind woman in Pastoral Symphony in 1946. She starred with Sinatra in Higher And Higher in 1943. French president François Hollande said Morgan, whose sea-blue eyes captivated French audiences, was “a legend who marked numerous generations”.

Brendan Gleeson: ‘It never crossed my mind I could be a movie star’

That seems wise. I remember those B-movies well. He has been married to the same woman for nearly 35 years. “They were on telly then,” he laughs. There is a general suspicion: if I was laughing it can’t be that important. Millions now revere him as the Irish bloke out of Harry Potter. “He understood that. ADVERTISEMENT “It never crossed my mind I could be a movie star,” he says. You have a different amount of input in each film. You’re part of the family. “You do feel that you’re all the time being watched. “But I ain’t going to talk about that,” he says firmly, but politely. He still has the open, engaged manner of the teacher you remember with affection. Throughout the 1980s, Gleeson appeared in a series of energetic, furious theatre pieces that caught the zeitgeist with uncanny accuracy: Brownbread, Home, Wasters. I remember going into a shop and the eyes burning into the back of my head. He joined his son, the now ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson, as part of the Harry Potter team in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The film is a welcome throwback to the post-war noir that he and I grew up watching. Everyone half-assumes he must have a shed-load of Oscar nominations. He understood the importance of not talking to an empty seat.” Gleeson manages a rare blend of seriousness and self-deprecation. And that’s the price.” I never worked towards that though. As everybody knows (or should know) the burly, warmly voiced Dubliner spent many years working as a teacher before becoming a professional actor. I remembering wondering if I could ever get to the stage where I’d say ‘20 years ago’. I just liked the work.” Literary references A careful reader who drops literary references into his conversation, Gleeson did study acting as a young man, but, sensible as well as gifted, he made sure he had a decent career to fall back on. Martin Scorsese used him Gangs of New York. He was 34 when he took the plunge. If it hadn’t been for Paul Mercier, that is probably what would have happened. That seemed like such a long time when you were young.” Twenty years ago, Gleeson was just edging into a new, exciting phase of his life. In a parallel universe, I imagine a famous writer, interviewed in his prime, praising “Mr Gleeson” for turning him …

Irish satire thriving in competitive world of fake news

When was the truth? It’s like Chinese whispers, in that there’s an element of truth in there but it’s all got jumbled up. It’s ridiculous. Waterford Whispers News Takes Over the World: all the news that’s fit to mock Happy Brexmas from Kevin McAleer Meet the son of two behind Waterford Whispers News “We get emails from people all the time saying, ‘I only get my news from Waterford Whispers News’, which is kind of scary. “Everyone was getting on their high horse about a gorilla and I was thinking, are you all bonkers?” Occasionally, life even imitates art. In the brave new post-truth world of fake news, the New York Times offers a degree of reassurance. With over 500,000 fans on Facebook and three million page views on its website every month, WWN has become Ireland’s leading satirical news site. “All the news that’s fit to print”, it proclaims from the top left-hand corner of its front page – as it has done for the last 120 years. ADVERTISEMENT It’s also made a successful jump into print – the third book from Waterford Whispers News was published last month, as was a collection from its Northern counterpart, The Ulster Fry. “There are only a handful of newspapers that actually do proper reporting. The rest, and particularly the online ones, just copy and paste,” says founder Colm Williamson. “I’m just a junkie for news and truth, and for trying to show that.” As a formula, it works. “So what we try to do is look at the news every day and see what’s trending online, and then look at what the news didn’t do about that story, and what we can highlight in an article. That’s where the idea of Waterford Whispers came from. In my eyes there never was a truth to post, or a truth to come after. “We interviewed the gay cake at one point,” says Ivan Minnis, who under the pseudonym Billy McWilliams is one half of the Ulster Fry spoof news website. They’re not trying to rewrite stories – they’re just basically passing them on. Post truth – I don’t get that. Lambasted for his “modest proposal” to alleviate the effects of poverty by selling and eating the children of the poor, the man who willingly admitted he “had too much satire in his vein” would surely have found our current times irresistible. One imagines …

Paul O’Connell wins The Battle to be Ireland’s Christmas No 1

The Irish Christmas top 10 bestselling titles were: 1. Guinness World Records:2017 6. The Irish rugby international’s autobiography, which recently won the Irish Sports Book of the Year Award, narrowly pipped The Midnight Gang by David Walliams, which is the No 1 title in Britain. The Battle by Paul O’Connell 2. O’Connell and Walliams pulled away in the pre-Christmas week, with The Battle leading the charge with 7,789 copies to Walliams’ 6,903. Ireland’s number one title this Christmas is The Battle by Paul O’Connell, which has sold 10,465 copies in the Christmas week (the seven days to 17th December) through Nielsen BookScan’s Irish Consumer Market. Holding has been this year’s big Irish fiction success story, proving signnificantly more popular in Ireland than Britain despite Norton’s huge media profile there. Double Down: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney 7. Pippa by Pippa O’Connor 9. This year, the race was much fiercer, with Walliams, O’Connell and Holding by Graham Norton all contesting the number one spot; with only 600 book sales separating the three in the week ending December 3rd. The book sold more than 35,000 copies in its first week, which alone would have placed it fifth overall for the year. Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern ADVERTISEMENT 10.What Do You Think of That? Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling was the top-selling title of the year, with 67,409 copies in total to date. by Kieran Donaghy Last year’s Irish Christmas number one was Walliams’s Grandpa’s Great Escape, which sold 7,030 copies in the corresponding week in 2015, more than 2,000 copies ahead of its closest rival. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen 5. Last year, Paula Hawkins’ psychological thriller The Girl on the Train topped the charts, selling 60,476 copies. Holding by Graham Norton 4. Bolloxology by Colm O’Regan 8. The Midnight Gang by David Walliams 3.