2015: How was it for you? - Alan O’Riordan

Our regular arts writers select their highlights of the year. Today, it’s Alan O’Riordan’s turn.

2015: How was it for you? - Alan O’Riordan

What were the three best events you were at during the year?

1. Christian Scott at the Sugar Club in Dublin. Scott, a New Orleans trumpeter in his 30s, has gathered together a group of extraordinary and extraordinarily young musicians from across the US. Coming days after the Paris attacks, which centred on my old neighbourhood in the city, the feeling of being in a club with such youth and beauty both on the stage and off, it was a poignant reminder that ugliness does not always win.

2. Marcus Miller at the Everyman was a full-throttle musical journey from Africa to the Caribbean and on to Detroit and New York, driven by the superb talents of his group.

3. The Gigli Concert at the Gate Theatre was superb. A play that Sartre would have written if he were Irish and a better playwright got a thrilling, near-definitive production, alive to all its strangeness and ambiguity. Denis Conway and Declan Conlon both excelled.

Best book

After plodding dutifully through all those acclaimed, boring books by Irish authors that you were supposed to read, my favourite reading this year was probably in reaction to that. Step up Whisky Tango Foxtrot by David Shaffer, a clever thriller for the age of Big Data and vanishing privacy that swings through Dublin as it spans the globe. Maybe Irish authors should all be made write a thriller. Also worth a mention is Ben Lerner’s 10:04, a novel whose fragmented structure, and background noises of overconsumption and global warming, managed to drag the form into the 21st century.

Best film

Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America. If Woody Allen had been born in the late 1970s, this is the kind of film he would have produced at the height of his powers. Diagnostic in its depiction of gentrified New York and the lives of a not-so-young-anymore freelancing precariat in an economic system not terribly interested in letting them grow up.

Any other highlight?

The surprise in watching the Waking the Feminists movement, from its origin in a simple Facebook post by the brilliant Lian Bell to a globe- trotting hashtag and much-needed public discussion about women in the arts and the role of the Abbey.

Lowlight

It continues unabated: the government-endorsed philistinism that reduces the arts to window dressing or PR opportunity, that prioritises spectacle at the expense of a properly funded arts community, and that insists arts are a second-order luxury, rather than an economic no-brainer that also happens to energise people and communities like nothing else humans do.

Looking forward to for next year

The marriage-equality referendum was characterised by strong engagement from artists, perhaps best symbolised by Joe Caslin’s mural on the corner of Dame St and Georges St in Dublin. I’m hoping a similar engagement will be evident this year on a more tricky subject — 1916 — and that it will provide a counterbalance to the dead hand of state-sponsored commemoration and the uncritical, simplistic version of events that will be peddled in a public discussion that is happy to assume political violence only leads to a happily ever after.

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