As we creep blinking out of our homes into a vaccine-enabled version of normality, some semblance of order should return to the world of arts and entertainment. In that spirit, and with the usual caveats, here are 21 reasons to look forward to 2021.


Line Of Duty

Filming on series six of the BBC’s blockbuster drama about a police anti-corruption was curtailed by the pandemic. It has now finished so it won’t be long before we’re once again gripped by questions both large (is Adrian Dunbar’s Superintendent Ted Hastings really H, the criminal mastermind the team have been chasing for years) and small (why does Martin Compston’s Cockney accent never slip?). This season’s star turn comes from Kelly Macdonald as DCI Joanne Davidson. Date: March.

Behind Her Eyes

Filmed partly in Scotland and based on Sarah Pinborough’s best-selling thriller, this Netflix series tells the story of single mother Louise (Simona Brown) and the dark love triangle that ensues between her, new boss David (Tom Bateman), a psychiatrist, and David’s mysterious wife Adele (Eve Hewson, daughter of U2 frontman Bono). The series was created by British-born producer Steve Lightfoot, whose credits include Hannibal (for NBC) and Netflix’s The Punisher. Pinborough has already given it the thumbs up so it looks good. Date: February.

The Hunter

Fans of Italian crime dramas such as Gomorrah and Marco Bellocchio’s magisterial 2019 film The Traitor will love this slow-burn dive into the world of the Sicilian Mafia. Based on the memoir by magistrate Alfonso Sabella, who put 300 Mafioso behind bars in a series of trials in the 1990s and was nicknamed The Hunter, it stars Francesco Montanari as Severio Barone, an arrogant and ambitious young prosecutor who goes up against mob boss Leoluca Bagarella (David Coco) after his release from prison. The scriptwriters show events from both sides of the divide, highlighting the fact that the police and the criminals have much in common and bringing a flavour of The Wire to proceedings. The Hunters airs as part of Channel 4’s ongoing Walter Presents strand of superior European dramas. Date: April.


Along with The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen, this gritty French police drama has proved the most durable and gripping of BBC Four’s European imports and it returns for a welcome eighth (and, they say, final) series. Bullish cop Gilou (Thierry Godard) is facing prison after last season’s antics, devoted boss Laure (Caroline Proust) is up to her neck in the same internal affairs investigation and Judge Roban has been replaced by a new magistrate, Lucie Bourdieu (Clara Bonnet). Date: January 2.

Anne Boleyn

The drip-drip of respectable Channel 5 dramas has been slow but steady. This new production about the most famous of Henry VIII’s wives looks set to continue the trend and as well as promising a feminist reading of Anne’s story the channel has put the right-wing press into a spluttering frenzy thanks to the casting of black actress Jodie Turner Smith in the lead role. The three-parter is directed by Lynsey Miller, who helmed Channel 4 psychological thriller Deadwater Fell, and Turner Smith’s co-stars include Paapa Essiedu, from BBC hit I May Destroy You, and Jamael Westman who played the lead in the London stage version of Hamilton. Date: tbc.


Lana Del Rey

We have a title – Chemtrails Over The Country Club – and there has already been a single, Let Me Love You Like A Woman, which was released last October. But beyond that the American chanteuse is keeping shtum regarding her seventh studio album, the follow-up to 2019’s Grammy Award-nominated Norman F*****g Rockwell! Del Rey has posted a snippet of another song, Tulsa Jesus Freak, on her Instagram account but beyond those two and the title track it’s a guessing game. What is certain is that Chemtrails Over The Country Club will be one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2021. Date: March.

Arab Strap

“It's about hopelessness and darkness. But in a fun way”. So says Aidan Moffat of cult Falkirk duo Arab Strap about As Days Get Dark, the band’s first studio album since 2005’s The Last Romance. It reunites Moffat with bandmate Malcolm Middleton after a decade in which they have both pursued successful solo careers – Moffat released an album of poetry and won the Scottish Album of the Year award, Middleton collaborated with artist David Shrigley – and sees them return to their roots: Moffat’s half-sung, half-spoken vocals and Middleton’s downbeat electronica and post-rock musical phrasings. There’s also a tour planned for September. Date: March 5.

David Byrne

Not an album exactly, but for those who couldn’t make it to New York last year to see the Talking Heads singer’s epic Broadway show American Utopia – no, me neither – here it is on DVD. Spike Lee did the directing honours but it’s Byrne who’s centre stage as he runs through an exquisitely choreographed version of the tour he undertook in support of the 2018 album of that name. Naturally there’s a slew of Talking Heads songs to enjoy as well, among them Once In A Lifetime, Burning Down The House, Slippery People, Road To Nowhere and (how could he not?) Don’t Worry About The Government. Date: January 11.

Jane Weaver

One of those best-kept-secret artists, Liverpool born Weaver cut her teeth in Britpop bands in the 1990s before moving into more folky territory. Since then she has been sampled by Coldplay, recorded with David Holmes and Badly Drawn Boy and on her 2017 album Modern Kosmology collaborated with Michael Mooney, once of legendary German band Can. It was that album and its 2014 predecessor, The Silver Globe, which brought Weaver and her spooky, psych-tinged electronica in from the margins. New album Flock follows two 2019 albums – Loops In The Secret Society and Fehérlófia, a “reimagined soundtrack” for the 1981 Hungarian film of that name – and is a “brooding and ethereal creation” displaying “Day-Glo pop sensibilities, wit, kindness, humour and glamour” according to label Fire Records. Don’t be surprised to find it cropping up on the Best of 2021 lists in a year’s time. Date: March 5.

St Vincent

“The rumors [sic] are true,” tweeted Annie Clark, aka St Vincent, late last month. “New record ‘locked and loaded’ for 2021. Can’t wait for your to hear it”. Elsewhere the singer told record magazine Mojo that the currently untitled new work promised a “tectonic shift” from 2017’s Grammy Award-winning Masseduction, indicating a step away from its electronica-tinged art rock into a sound influenced by classic Stevie Wonder and Sly And The Family Stone. Date: tbc.


The French Dispatch

A new Wes Anderson film is always an event and this one promises to be no less engaging or witty than any of his previous ones. Returning Anderson regulars include Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan and Bill Murray, all of whom featured in 2014 smash The Grand Budapest Hotel. What that film did for the hotel trade this one aims to do for journalism – described as a love letter to that often maligned profession, the French Dispatch of the title is a fictitious American blatt and the action takes place in its bureau in a fictitious French city. Typical Wes Anderson territory, in other words. Cinematography is by his regular camera maestro Robert Yeoman and the music is by Alexandre Desplat, who won Oscars for his scores for The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water. There’s no release date as yet, though there are reports the film will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.


Young Edinburgh-born, Spanish-based director Ben Sharrock wowed the Edinburgh International Film Festival with his debut film Pikadero, set in the Basque Country. His new film sees him return to his native Scotland for a story set among refugees housed on a fictional Scottish island. Already acclaimed at the Cannes and London film festivals, it stars The Night Manager’s Amir El-Masry as a young Syrian musician and is based in part on Sharrock’s own experience of living and working in Damascus before the Syrian civil war and time spent with an NGO in refugee camps in Algeria. Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudson also stars. Date: April 9


Frank Herbert’s cult sci-fi novel has always been trouble. Wacko avant garde Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to film it in the mid-1970s and failed, giving cinema one of its greatest What If? moments, while David Lynch did film it and still failed, turning out the only blemish on an otherwise flawless career in 1984 (though credit to him for getting Max von Sydow and Sting onto the same cast list). Now it’s the turn of Bladerunner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve, though the curse of Dune has already struck his production: originally scheduled for release last November, it was then moved to December and then pitched forward almost a year as a result of the pandemic, to an autumn 2021 release. Even then chances are most people won’t even see it in the cinema as it’s one of the films studio Warner Bros. has slated for a simultaneous streaming release. Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya Coleman star as Paul Atreides and Chani; Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson are Lord and Lady Atreides, and there’s able support from Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem and Stellan Skarsgård. Date: October 1.


Johnny Flynn, seen more recently playing George Knightley in Autumn de Wilde’s sparky adaptation of Emma, takes on an altogether different role in this rock biopic – David Bowie. Directed by Gabriel Range it follows Bowie on a 1971 trip to America and tells the story of the creation of his greatest alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. Stand-up comedian Marc Maron plays Bowie’s US publicist Ron Oberman, who accompanied him on the tour, while Hunger Games star Jena Malone is Bowie’s then-wife Angie. Early reviews haven’t been overly effusive – “a God-awful small affair” was one critic’s put-down – and the Bowie estate’s refusal to let the film-makers use any of the man’s music doesn’t help matters. But fans may still enjoy this nostalgic origins story. Date: January 15.

No Time To Die

Like Dune, the 25th instalment in the Bond franchise has seen its release date moved, moved and moved again. Touchdown is pencilled in for spring which is when we’ll see what Phoebe Waller-Bridge has made of the script re-write, how well director Cary Joji Fukunaga has filled the shoes Danny Boyle vacated – and whether Rami Malek, last seen belting out Fat Bottomed Girls as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, make a convincing Bond baddie. Until then we’ve got that (admittedly pretty awesome) Billie Eilish theme tune to enjoy. Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch star alongside Daniel Craig and the rest of the crew. Date: April 2.

Festivals & Exhibitions

Hebridean Dark Skies Festival

Centred around Stornoway’s An Lanntair art centre, this two week festival of arts and astronomy is now in its third year and in dark times is making the best use possible of those dark winter skies. Limited capacity live events are possible on Lewis and included in the programme is an opening show featuring a collaboration between singer Kathryn Joseph and Lumen, a London-based arts collective whose focus is on astronomy and light. Of course it’s the sky which is the real star, and from Lewis you can clearly see the Orion Nebula, the Milky Way, and one of its companion galaxies, the Great Andromeda Galaxy. If you’re really luck you might see the Northern Lights. Date: February 5-18.

Charles H Mackie: Colour And Light

For six months from May, Edinburgh’s City Art Centre is hosting a major retrospective of the work of well-travelled Scottish painter and printmaker Charles Hodge Mackie, the largest and most expansive since his death in 1920. Mackie was influenced and inspired by French Symbolism and the Celtic Revival movement, studied under William McTaggart and collaborated with pioneering town planner Patrick Geddes. The show contains 50 of Mackie’s works ranging from oil paintings and watercolours to prints, illustration and sculpture. Date: May 15-October 10.

Glasgow Film Festival

As well as screening films in its usual home, the Glasgow Film Theatre, the Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) is partnering with 22 other cinemas across the UK for its 2021 iteration. It opens with a screening of Lee Isaac Chung’s film Minari, about a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm, and closes with Spring Blossom, the debut feature from French actress Suzanne Lindon who stars as a 16-year-old girl who befriends an older actor. Among the participating Scottish venues are cinemas in Aberdeen, Bo’ness, Dundee, Edinburgh, Stirling and Stornoway, and there’s a digital platform, Glasgow Film At Home, for anyone who doesn’t want to have to leave the sofa. Date: February 24-March 7.

Over Lunan

Angus Farquhar, formerly creative director of acclaimed environmental art group NVA whose now-iconic landscape animations have lit up outdoor sites in Glen Lyon and Skye among others, turns his attention to the dramatic dunes of Lunan Bay near Montrose. A co-commission from Hospitalfield House and Arbroath 2020 it was originally planned to mark the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath (April 6, 1320, in case you’ve forgotten your history). It will now take place this year and the ticketed event will blend a spectacular light show with a choral sound performance. Date: May.

Victoria And Albert: Our Lives In Watercolour

At the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh, an exhibition of the thousands of watercolour studies commissioned (and, sometimes, painted) by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Showing aspects of both their public and private lives, they range from travel scenes to dynamic and vibrant studies of the monarchy at its pomp-tastic best. Family snaps with a difference. Date: March 5-September 5.

The Lammermuir Festival

East Lothian’s splendid boutique classical music festival went online last year, like so many others, but hopes to return to its more usual settings for its 2021 iteration, which means audiences of some sort. It’s still nine months away and anything can happen but performers pencilled in to appear include baroque ensemble Dunedin Consort (the mob who charted a fishing boat to bring them back from France just hours before Lockdown One) and the Michelangelo String Quartet, which features Daniel Barenboim’s son Michael on viola. They’ll perform the complete Tchaikovsky string quartets, which should be a treat. Date: September 7-20.