Magic Moment: For a very literal answer, I would look to a spellbinding sequence from Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, a show by Australia’s Back to Back Theatre company that was one of several from Down Under during the Dublin Theatre Festival.

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Alan O'Riordan picks his cultural highlights of the year

Magic Moment: For a very literal answer, I would look to a spellbinding sequence from Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, a show by Australia’s Back to Back Theatre company that was one of several from Down Under during the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Alan O'Riordan picks his cultural highlights of the year

When the scene changed from a bare rehearsal room to a train moving through wartime Germany, you marvelled at the simplicity of such a stunning visual effect. The scene had all the tension of a wartime thriller, but an emotional heft too. Watching an actor with an intellectual disability, we were invited to stand in his shoes, not just under a regime that was bent on exterminating his kind, but in our own time too.

Best TV: Can I say the World Cup? Best €11bn any country ever spent.

Best Read: No book this year gave me as much sheer pleasure as Andrew O’Hagan’s 26,000-word essay on his failed attempt to ghost write Julian Assange’s biography, which was published in the London Review of Books in March and really should be a book in its own right.

Best Film: Mike Leigh’s Turner is magnificent. Immersive, witty and inventive, with one of Timothy Spall’s finest performances to boot.

Best Music: Ahmad Jamal held pole position for a long time after proving his 83-year-old mettle at Vicar Street early in the year. But even he was superseded in a wondrous night at the National Concert Hall from Charles Lloyd and his New Quartet. The line-ups may change, but never seem to flag in excellence, while Lloyd is a constant, a world of music himself.

Letdown: The numerous and continued reminders of the disrespect in which the arts in this country are held by those trusted to be its custodians for future generations – politicians. The arts minister’s job is a runner’s-up prize for party hacks, our museums are at best woefully underfunded, at worst gratuitously traduced and insulted, as happened in the McNulty-IMMA affair.

Headline-grabbing tokenism is the order of the day, be it Limerick’s pointless year as City of Culture, or a few extra million for 1916 commemorations that cannot fill one with confidence.

Respecting artists, and funding the sector realistically, is never on the agenda. To paraphrase Bob Geldof, just give them the f**king money.

Looking forward to in 2015: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Abbey Theatre in February. The great Gavin Quinn is making his directorial debut at that national theatre. And about time too!

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