Cultural highlights of 2020

A wintery rural landscape in Greenock, Scotland.

The edgelands time between Christmas and New Year's is my favourite period of the year for switching off and then reflecting on the year. Our Christmas plans were cancelled at the last minute due to the upgrading of UK covid restrictions, which gave more time for this (as well as wintery walks, pictured above).

Among the many things to emerge in the review are my Top 10 lists of the year. I love reading other people's Top 10 lists at this time of year, so here are mine.

I've actually gone just top highlights rather than top 10. I'm not sure I even made it to 10 exhibitions in the year anyway, and it was quite a film-heavy year as you might expect. Also, these belong in 2020 because that's when I first experienced them. Only some were actually released in 2020.


  1. Uncut Gem
  2. Jojo Rabbit
  3. Parasite
  4. Collective
  5. Midsommar
  6. A Personal History of David Copperfield
  7. Knives Out
  8. The Lighthouse
  9. Qoyanaaski
  10. Hail Caesar
  11. The Mangrove Nine
  12. Rear Window

Short films

  • Algo-Rhythm by Manu Luksch
  • Clowns by Hofesh Shechter (part of Cinedans online festival)
  • Wilkie Branson - TOM
  • Operation Janewalk (part of Glasgow Short Film Festival)

Books (fiction)

  1. Philip Pullman - The Book of Dust vol. 2: The Secret Commonwealth
  2. Hilary Mantel - The Mirror and the Light
  3. Neil Gaiman - The Graveyard Book
  4. William Gibson - The Peripheral
  5. The Sunday Times 2020 short story awards compilation

Books (non-fiction)

  1. Peter Pomerantsev - This is not Propaganda
  2. Chris Voss - Never Split the Difference
  3. Graham Harman - Object Oriented Ontology, a new theory of everything
  4. Joanne McNeil - Lurking
  5. Jaron Lanier - You are not a Gadget
  6. Cal Newport - Digital Minimalism
  7. Tim Wu - The Attention Merchants

Music (albums)

  1. Four Tet - Parallel
  2. Burial - Tunes 2011-2019
  3. Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, performed by Gyorgy Sandor
  4. Childish Gambino - 3.15.20
  5. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, performed by Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  6. Bartok's String Quartet No. 1, performed by Alben Berg Quartett
  7. Jan Gabarek, The Hilliard Ensemble - Officium
  8. Igorrr - Spirituality and Distortion
  9. Rioter - I-XI
  10. Clap! Clap! - Liquid Portraits
  11. Jon Hopkins - Meditations
  12. Funki Porcini - Motorway

Music (other individual tracks)

I keep track of music that's ringing for me throughout the year in a sporadic series of Spotify playlists. This year's tracks are in Mixtape #26 (mar '20) and Mixtape #27 (dec '20).

And a few special highlights fromt the year:

  1. Chitose Hajime - 豊年節 (Tim Hecker Remix)
  2. Busoni's transcription of Bach's Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, performed by Kun-Woo Paik
  3. Jamie xx - Idontknow
  4. Kyle Eastwood - Pink Panther - Theme
  5. Crazy Doberman - An Interrupted Prayer


  1. Rick and Morty
  2. The Plot against America
  3. I May Destroy You
  4. Fleabag
  5. His Dark Materials
  6. Devs
  7. Homecoming
  8. The Armando Ianucci Show
  9. The Boys (season 1)
  10. Avenue 5


  • Hal Fischer: Gay Semiotics and other major works (Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow)
  • David Hockney drawings (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Live music

  • Nixon in China (Scottish Opera)

Online events

  • Frankenstein (National Theatre production, shown on YouTube)
  • The Delegation (Coney, interactive Zoom play)