ArtBeat: Santa Claus has come to town

Jane Hardy casts an eye back on her highlights from the arts world in 2022

Siobhán McSweeney, here as Sister Michael in Derry Girls, enlivened Radio 3's In Tune Christmas special
Siobhán McSweeney, here as Sister Michael in Derry Girls, enlivened Radio 3's In Tune Christmas special

SANTA Claus has definitely come to town. Also around is actor Siobhán McSweeney aka Derry Girls' Sister Michael who popped up on Radio 3's In Tune alongside genial presenter Sean Rafferty for the show's Christmas party.

She does tender as well as stern, delivering a moving account of Patrick Kavanagh's A Christmas Childhood. You can catch the show on BBC Sounds.


THE turkey-consuming time of year is a moment to take stock. Awards can help. Bruiser's cracking account of Mojo Mickybo at The MAC pocketed an Irish Times award earlier in the year.

The Stage nominated three productions - Northern Ireland Opera's Into the Woods, Conor Mitchell's Propaganda and The Abbey Theatre's Translations, all at The Lyric Theatre - among their top 50 productions of the year. Definitely got two out of three there.

Kenneth Branagh's Belfast nabbed an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

What would be my gongs? Best title of a drama has to go to Big Telly's Frankenstein's Monster is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences, taken from a short story by Owen Booth.

Most moving moment: Encountering Ron Mueck's sculpture of his dead father, diminished and viewed with St Anne's Cathedral in the background.

Most uncomplicatedly enjoyable moment: A toss-up between singing in the ad hoc choir under a Swedish maestro at the City of Derry International Choir Festival and the audience boogie at the end of Mamma Mia! in the Grand Opera House.

Most meditative moment: The launch of Ruth McGinley and Neil Martin's album Aura, with the whole audience in the zone at First Presbyterian Church on Rosemary Street in Belfast.

Most outstanding acting: Jude Hill in Belfast or Shaun Blaney in In the Name of the Son.

Best music: Duke Special's song based on the Venerable Bede's sparrows.


YOU look for trends. There's a palpable search for identity, including gender identity now. Amanda Verlaque's This Sh*t Happens All the Time was revelatory.

Not much on climate change, oddly, although the outstanding 60th Belfast International Arts Festival included Alanna Mitchell's troubling show, Sea Sick.

Digital is hot. Quite a few artists in the field are getting new Arts Council of Northern Ireland grants. Choreographer Michael McCovey of Saintfield will be working on A Kiss for a Kiss, a dance work with a real performer engaged in a pas de deux with an avatar.

"There's digitalised choreography and on screen you'll see the dancer and the avatar share a kiss," he says. It's nice symbolism yet he adds that it's not necessarily the dance moves that grab but "the fact we're putting dance in VR and an augmented world".