Reading the cultural tea leaves

2006 - the arts : The dregs of the old year hint at trends for the new

- The voting public cut a swathe through establishment culture in 2005. Edmund Burke, Plato, Wittgenstein, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" went on the scrap heap as Radio 4 listeners laid waste to received critical wisdom. John Masefield's light "Sea Fever" was voted the nation's favourite sea poem, the new-agey "How Great Thou Art" our favourite hymn and Marx our favourite philosopher. The backlash can't be far off. With a new Tory leader in place, 2006 will see Burke and the albatross back on top and trouble-making Continentals and men with acoustic guitars back where they belong.

- Foreign governments that need good PR and have awe-inspiring imperial pasts to sell flocked to London's galleries in 2005. "Turks: a journey of a thousand years", at the Royal Academy, was followed by "Forgotten Empire", the Persian show at the British Museum, and now there is "China: the three emperors" at the RA. What next? Syria, with its fabulous antiquities and its need for friends, looks ripe, but don't expect to see North Koreans on Piccadilly any time soon. And don't even mention Iraq.

- The nation's concentration span has been shot to pieces by triple lattes, "Crackberries" and the Xbox 360, so that students can no longer read even Pride and Prejudice. Fortunately John Sutherland was there to tell GCSE

candidates by text message that Bingley

and Darcy are "Fit&Loadd". SMS versions of Jane Eyre, Bleak House and Hamlet are also available, and this will now spread to the parents. Radio 4 listeners who can't remember why they voted for Marx will receive texts from Melvyn Bragg: "KommodT = J; $$ = L"

- Richard Griffiths broke off a performance at the Wyndham's Theatre in London to berate a member of the audience for allowing her mobile to ring, and people turning up to see Bob Dylan at Brixton Academy had to turn their camera phones off because "the artiste objects to the use of said items". This worm must turn. Spectators will rebel and express themselves, taking a cue from Ian McKay, the ENO marketing director caught booing in his own theatre.

- Since the success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ God has been hot in Hollywood, so that even penguins have become unwitting proponents of intelligent design. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (warmly described by Philip Pullman as "racist, misogynistic and reactionary") has US churches block-booking the cinemas. There is more of this to come. With Tom Cruise distracted by Katie Holmes and L Ron Hubbard, the Almighty is firmly entrenched at the top of the A list.

- The Barbican ran a "Young Genius" season of plays from The Knight of the Burning Pestle to Ubu the King. Harold Pinter, that pillar of British theatre, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And the British Library mounted an exhibition called "Beautiful Minds", exploring how geniuses are made. Where is this leading? The BL has answered the question by introducing a December "Mingle" night for single pointy-heads who are "in love with science but want to share their passion". September 2006 should see the next generation emerge.

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