Even in non-covid times, January is often a cultural desert, with very few cultural crumbs to feast on after the excesses of December, when new books have been devoured and we watch enough Netflix to give us eyes the size of Samsung’s wall-sized screen.

We are locked down. It is cold and the muddy outside to add to the general malaise, as we battle through the latest wave. Bad times.  And instead of the hastily resolution to get down the gym or start a new hobby, our only respite is culture! We round up three books, box sets n bands to enjoy and help sooth some of those darned January blues.

Sunnier and happier days will return…


A good friend of mine claims her recent need for reading glasses is purely down to the amount of books she has read. If nothing else, 2020 provided the perfect opportunity for bookworms to finally catch up on the must read piles and are ready for a fresh title as 2021 starts.

The Man with one of Those faces by Caimh McDonnell

Meet Paul Muchrone, a guy with such an ordinary face that he becomes whoever his Dementia patients thinks he is. When one of his patients attacks him, he teams up with his wannabe detective nurse friend, in an attempt to solve the crime. They are pursued through the streets of Dublin by an improbably named crooked cop called Bunny and a real DI. Acerbically witty.  If you enjoy thrillers but need something with a lighter touch then give it a go. The first in the Dublin Trilogy.

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean.

One of the most highly anticipated books for 2021, at least according to the critics. Two young Vietnamese sisters are trafficked to England to work as farm labourers for slave wages. At the end of the season, the farmer ‘buys’ one of the sisters to keep as his sexual and domestic pet. A modern fable for our time, the author shines a light onto those at the very margins of our so called civilised society. And yet, despite the horror or her daily life – ‘Jane ’ as her owner calls her, retains hope and a spark of humanity. Available from Amazon, Waterstones and all good bookstores.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

 If like me, you love Barcelona this literary thriller captures the city in all its post-war glory. It doesn’t get more gothic than the opening setting: The Cemetery of Lost Books. A ten year old boy selects an obscure title from the shelves and so begins the hunt for the elusive author – Julian Carex. Years go by and interest in the book increases, leading to a hunt for answers. Who is Julian Carex and why all this interest in an obscure book? Absorbing.


Do you feel as though you have seen everything already? Over Ozark and re-watched Breaking Bad? Take these three that may give a new lease of box set life.


Hear me y’all. To many this is the best tv drama ever made and it launched the careers of Dominic West and Idris Elba, amongst others. A modern day Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama rolled into five epic series. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, each part of The Wire introduces us to a different elements of the city, whilst retaining characters and storylines that develop and ensnare us to keep watching. I guarantee characters such as Bubbles and Omar will stay with you, in all their nuanced glory, while others will break your heart. Not to mention infamous scenes such as gangsta chess and the sweary murder scene.

The Wire passed me by when it first aired in the early 00s as a newly-minted sleep deprived mum. It spawned a whole heap of middle class folk attempting to copy West Baltimore drug gang speak. As with Shakespeare once you get the hang of the language (subtitles are your friend) it is hard to shake from your brain. The sign of excellent writing. Watch the Wire on Now TV, Amazon Prime or HBO streaming services


For something completely different, this Regency drama is the new ‘must see’ Netflix series. The perfect antidote to the relentless misery outside. What’s not to love? Gorgeous frocks and gorgeous young people frolicking in this beautifully shot series, loosely inspired by the Julia Quinn novels. It even stars national treasure Julie Andrews. As the title suggests, the story is told through the eyes of the wealthy Bridgerton Family and has plenty of double dealings, love affairs and treachery to keep you entertained and if you are interested in these things: Roll over Mr. Darcey. Forget Mr Rochester. The Duke is the new heartthrob on the block.


An old and firm favourite and it certainly captures the zeitgeist of post WW1 working class Britain, and although it may seem as though most have seen it, there are still plenty of folk who haven’t succumbed to the Irish traveller charms of Tommy and Arthur. Set in Birmingham, it follows the fortunes of the Shelby crime family. The ensemble cast are superb, led by Cillian Murphy as Tommy and Tom Hardy with his scene stealing role as Alfie Solomons. The story arcs intertwine historical characters that intermingle with the fictional Shelby’s and their associates. A superb piece of television and there are five series to keep you going until better times return.

Catch Peaky Blinders on BBC I Player.

Take Three Bands

Bored of your playlists? Try these three top bangers. Brilliantly brilliant. All of them.

Nothing But Thieves.

Their single, Real Love Song was voted Radio X song of 2020. A great track to add to your running playlist – its a banger. Its chorus and hooks are reminiscent of The Killers, in my very humble opininon. More info here


Troubles Coming is the latest offering from Brighton’s Royal Blood and is another bombastic rock dance anthem, this one with a Deftones vibe. It will get in your head and stay there. Another great one to exercise to. Joe Wicks take note.

The Howl and The Hum

This is from their debut album Human Contact. Fab lyrics, fab tune and somehow it evokes the mood without being depressing. A beautifully haunting song that somehow leaves you feeling better.

Reigate and Banstead is a local arts blog and website. It hosts the annual Reigate and Banstead Writes competition for young people across the borough. For more information please email

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