From Claudia Rankine to Stewart Lee: the culture events in 2016 to book now

Feeling adrift now Christmas proper is over? Here's the things worth seeing in January - and the things you should book now for the rest of the year.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Things to do in January

The TS Eliot prize readings are going to be at the Southbank Centre on 10 January. I particularly loved Rebecca Perry’s Beauty/Beauty, but most people will probably be going along to see Claudia Rankine, whose Citizen: An American Lyric catalogues “microaggressions”, placing insidious instances of racism along a list of black Americans killed by police which grows in length with every edition.

The tickets are £12-15, with limited 50 per cent concessions.

Computers and Cooperative Music-Making, at the Whitechapel Gallery, explores how – you guessed it! – computers have influenced how we make music (it's on until 7 February).

One of the collaborators, Mark Fell, will be speaking on the subject on 14 January, along with Professor of Music and Anthropology Georgina Born and the musician Jan Hendrikse. Tickets are £9.50 or £7.50 for concessions.

Hauser and Wirth’s Somerset gallery is beautiful; even better, their exhibition on Don McCullin is continuing until the end of January. A photojournalist who has covered everything from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to the Troubles, McCullin’s photographs represent over fifty years of conflict photography. The exhibition includes a Nikon camera that saved him from a sniper’s bullet in Vietnam.

Installation view, “Don McCullin. Conflict – People – Landscape”, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2015 © Don McCullin. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth Photo: Ken Adlard

If, like me, you look forward to getting Christmas done with so you can get back to finding winter creepy, then two screenings of Ghost Story at BFI Southbank might appeal. Released in 1981, it features Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr – imagine a film star with “junior” in their name today! – and Alice Krige.

Four friends get together to tell ghost stories; after one of them suffers a personal tragedy, they start having nightmares. Even the trailer is quite creepy:

Tickets cost £11.75 for adults or £9.20 for a concession.

For the more serious side of things, head to the London School of Economics. Professor Robin Wilson is giving a talk on non-Western mathematics on 18 January, where he’ll be discussing the maths of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India and the Mayans.

On 14 January, Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed is talking about Saudi Arabian politics, challenging the common perception of the country's divine politics as monolithic. Both are free – although you need to register – and worth checking out.

Jon Ronson will be doing a five night run of stories in London towards the end of the month, taking on topics like "shame", "psychopaths" and "lost at sea" with a series of special guests.

In the South West, Stewart Lee plays the Hall for Cornwall on 20 January. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are also touring both their Strauss New Year Gala and Shostakovich’s violin concerto.

At the Barbican, there’s a series of Shakespeare plays running throughout January to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the bard's death. The Friday night performances are mostly sold out, but it’s worth hunting around for a weeknight if you’re keen.

Other art events include Goya’s portraits, on show at the National Gallery, and the Manchester Art Gallery's exhibition by the local artist Pat Flynn. Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts continues with their excellent “Cooking Pot” program, which looks at the multiculturalism of Glasgow’s food with talks and events. In Birmingham, the art of ER Hughes shows a mystical side to the Pre-Raphaelites (£7, on until 21 February)

La Traviata opens at the Royal Opera House in January – tickets for some dates start as low as £9 (and if you’re a student, it’s worth checking out their offers).

And some things to book ahead

The long, wet tail of winter seems shorter with spring events in the calendar. For Easter, the Barbican has St Matthew’s Passion available to book now. (While you’re there, jazz fans should check out the Jazz at Lincoln Center residency coming up in February.)

At the National Threatre, Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs opens in March. It tells the story of an African country preparing for independence through the eyes of Tshembe, newly arrived home after his father’s funeral. Tickets start at £15.

From 5 March to early July, the V&A is hosting Botticelli Reimagined, an exhibition which explores the legacy of the painter from the Pre-Raphaelites to today. Tickets are £15 with concessions available.

Dolce & Gabbana S/S Fashion Show in Milan, Italy 1993. Photo: V&A

From February, Shakespeare's Globe will be running performances of The Tempest inside the sort of theatre it was written for – the candlelit Playhouse. Tickets aren't the cheapest, although there are some restricted views - book fast, though.

Also in February, Intelligence Squared will be hosting a debate on whether bombing Isis is the right thing to do, which will be recorded for the BBC.

Connor Youngblood, one of the acts at this year's Great Escape. Photo: Dee McCourt.

Stewart Lee is curating an ATP in April, at Pontins in north Wales (bit of a sausagefest, but it does include Sleaford Mods and Sun Ra Arkestra). Brighton’s The Great Escape festival is also on sale now, with limited “saver” tickets available for £59.50. 

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. Photo: Fiona Morgan

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is coming to The Lowry in Manchester in February. Adapted by Annie Ryan from Eimear McBride’s novel of the same name, the play won the Scotsman Fringe First Award last year. (It comes to the Young Vic later in the month).

In Newcastle, Sage Gateshead’s summer Ring Cycle with Opera North is now open for booking, running Wagner’s epic over six days. (New Statesman contributing writer Owen Jones will also be appearing at the Sage on 8 February).

A flying machine from Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius. Photo: V&A

Back in London, the Science Museum’s Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius brings to life the artist’s drawings and technical plans. It includes over forty models of da Vinci’s inventions, including flying machines and weapons. It opens on 2 February, and costs £10, or £7 for concessions.

Stephanie Boland is head of digital at Prospect. She tweets at @stephanieboland.