The year is 2022.
Your lamp flickers as the electricity briefly cuts out, temporarily throwing your book into darkness. You think back fondly to your Kindle, with its backlight display. But that's gone now. All technology has. Taken from you by the Government task force. It's the only way to keep you safe. You sigh. It's for the greater good.
The door opens, letting a chilling breeze flow through the sparse room. The pages of your book fly wildly, losing your place. A second heavy sigh, you close the book and look to the entrance. Your roommate stands there, breathing heavily, close to tears. It's happened again.
"I just don't understand why it matters to them," they will say.
You have no response. You don't know the answer.
"I have been here all my life, I have never been anything but British," they continue, finally failing to hold back the flow, tears making little tracks down their dusty cheek.
It was 2016. The year it all started. A single referendum triggered by a man desperate to reign in his Party. Already his name has faded into obscurity. There are no political leaders anymore. To ensure security and stability, power has been centralised, and names obfuscated to limit public attack. At the time it made sense - an MP was murdered in the street for simply representing her constituency. Public officials deserve to be safe, they argued. Who wouldn't agree?
Your flatmate breaks your train of thought, sliding down against the door to hold their knees and cry softly, their shudders gently rattling the frame.
Enemies of the people. That's what you're both known as now. What was once considered public debate is now classed as dissent. Betrayal. A threat to everything British. It was a simple tweet that caught you out. Twitter had been closed for years, but a faceless worker of Whitehall had finally gone through your internet history.
You both voted Remain.
What felt like an exercise of democratic right has since been framed as unpatriotic. The red, white and blue departure from the EU came with a complete reframe of national consciousness. You missed the memo. Your detractors didn't. Privacy no longer exists, with the Government retaining all of your Internet history from before the switch off, both happening in the name of security. It makes sense, though. If nobody has access to communication platforms, noone can plan to attack the mother nation. It makes sense, doesn't it? You don't remember.
Even if the choice was given to you, you'd stay offline. It's not only the British government watching. It was rumoured that the databases the Government collected were hacked by Russia. Simply whispers though. The media never reported it. Why would they? Our press, contradicting the red, white and blue values, are owned by American moguls, spearheaded by General Trump, a known ally of Overseer Putin.
A shudder runs through you. America. A country can change a lot in six years. The warning signs were there from the beginning, but everybody was tired of experts. Change was the order of the day. For too long had liberals sat content, unwilling to acknowledge their shortfallings, and hope had to be found elsewhere. Anywhere. The results were disastrous.
Your flatmate struggles to their feet, hobbling over to the fridge. Their leg is injured, but you cannot afford the medical bill to get it looked at. There are times you question privatising the NHS, but it was for the greater good. The country couldn't afford to keep paying for it's citizen's health. Not when so many immigrants were taking advantage of our unrivaled generosity. You think you vaguely recall reading once that immigrants were the backbone of the Health service, but you can't be sure. Surely not. They are enemies of Britain.
The flatmate reaches for a Coca Cola water. Everything is branded now a days. The tap-water is undrinkable. Deregulated services led to a deterioration of quality. Government interference is bad though. That's what Ambassador Farage told the country as he declared a national holiday in honour of Britain's liberation and independence. We are free from bureaucracy, now let's be free of needless stresses such as voting, or accountability.
A noise outside. Shouting. A cry. Objects are being thrown. A mob? You hear foreign language. It now makes sense. It seems another has been found. A momentary stirring in the back of your mind. You should intervene. Should stand up for your fellow human. This isn't what Great Britain represents, is it?
You return to your desk, tapping the bulb to try and coax it back into life. This is not your fight. You are safe here. Keep your head down, and you'll keep it attached.
The time to speak out has passed. You reopen your book. Modern History of Great and Glorious Britain. Page 259. Chapter 14: 2017 - The Year the Enemies Were Outed.
Could things have been different? You'll never know. It doesn't matter. It's not your problem.
Banging at the door. The mob has arrived.
Politics was a big thing in 2016. While often left to the super keen, this year had even the most disengaged in society with a fire in their belly and an opinion to be shared. A number of big things occurred, so let's just dive straight in.
Britain votes to leave the EU // Theresa May becomes PM
The big political news in the UK was that Britain voted to leave the EU. On 23 June, the country went to the polling booths to decide whether or not the UK should retain its European Union membership, and the country narrowly voted to leave - 52% to 48%. David Cameron subsequently resigned, starting a very short lived Conservative leadership election, the result of which was Theresa May's elevation to Prime Minister. With that change came a new Cabinet, including Brexiter Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary - for whatever reason.
Labour Party throw their toys out of the pram…
...and their electability in the process.
It would be a lie to say that the Labour party have been playing nicely with one another, but after the country voted to leave the EU the party essentially imploded with mass resignations following the sacking of Hilary Benn. This then resulted in a second leadership election in as many years for Labour, and this was much more drawn out and bruising that the first. Corbyn ended up winning again, defeating Owen Smith and receiving a larger mandate in the process. The continued infighting has damaged the party's reputation immensely, and public opinion trails far below that of the current Government.
Donald Trump wins US Election
If 2016 has demonstrated anything, it's that you should always expect the
worst unexpected. Nothing was more unexpected than Donald Trump winning the US Presidential election. Despite both Trump and Hillary Clinton ranking as the most disliked candidates in history, there was plenty of reason for Trump to not win - his lack of experience, his sexism, racism, xenophobia, incoherence, lack of policy, and fear-mongering. Add to that his use of Twitter to attack anyone who calls him out, his tax avoidance, and inciting violence at his rallies and you have a compelling reason to not vote for him. However, he did win, and is due to be inaugurated 20 January 2017. On the plus, he did create my favourite word of 2016; bigly.
The Syrian Civil War and Israel-Palestine war magnify
Where to start with the situation in the Middle East? Four million Syrians fled Syria in the midst of a Civil War between the government led by President Bashar al-Assad against official opposition made up of Arab rebel groups and Syrian democratic groups, and the additional warmongers, terrorist organisations Da'esh and the al-Nusra Front. Most recently, a ceasefire between the forces fighting to occupy Aleppo broke down mid-civilian evacuation. As yet, Da'esh occupies most land in Syria. Just over the border, the decades-old battle for land in Israel-Palestine had heated up with displaced Palestinians migrating to places like Turkey and Jordan for asylum. Palestinian Muslims and nationalists have been interred in reservation camps in an area known as the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This tactic, which echoes the types of reservations once used against Native Americans, is considered illegal under international law. Most recently, Israel's greatest ally, the US, called the continued use of reservations an affront to the Two Nation agreement, which aims to call a permanent ceasefire and properly establish the Jewish nation of Israel and the Muslim nation of Palestine, creating international borders. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has caused difficulty by encouraging violent Israeli nationalism and criticised the UN's movement for Israel to cease the use of camps. Sadly, the ends of these issues are far out of sight.
The world of art is always full of controversies, strong opinions and groundbreaking new concepts. This year saw the breakout success of a British artist, and many institutions finally finishing their expansion projects.
Helen Marten won the Hepworth Prize...
31-year old Helen Marten won the inaugural Hepworth prize for sculpture. She was described by Simon Wallis, director of Hepworth Wakefield Gallery and chair of the panel as "fresh, exciting and new" and "one of the strongest and most singular voices working in British art today". Born in Macclesfield, Marten uses a lot of different materials in her work. For her work displayed in Wakefield, Marten used steel, wood, a toy snake, tennis ball, cast bronze, wicker, leather, shell, fired clay, dried vegetables, cigarettes, milk cartons and cherry stones - to name but a few items! She was the first to win the newly launched award, named after the late Barbara Hepworth who was born in Wakefield and was renowned her for sculpture work.
… and the Turner prize
Not content with just the Hepworth Prize, Marten also won the Turner prize for a series of pieces that are currently being exhibited at Tate Britain. The youngest artist on the shortlist, her exhibition space is divided into three sections, and each has a terminal where unknown activity has been interrupted. Speaking after receiving the award, Marten took the opportunity to reflect on the world today, commenting on the growth of Alt-right views. "As artists today...we are deeply deeply privileged to be sitting here...whose lifeblood is a sort of diversity and exuberance."
Tate Modern completes its £260m expansion project
Tate Modern opened in 2000, but by 2004 there were already plans to expand the gallery due to the unexpected level of demand. The first phase of this expansion came through the conversion of the three large underground oil tanks, creating new display spaces and facilities. They opened in 2012, but were closed the same year as work continued on the tower directly above. They reopened this year with the completion of phase two of the expansion project; a ten-story pyramid with brick latticework facade, known as Switch House. This expansion has created 22,492 square metres of usable space. Over half of the solo displays are dedicated to female artists, and is being billed as the most important new cultural building since the British Library.
London Design Museum finds a new home
Having previously resided in a former banana warehouse near Tower Bridge, the London Design Museum finished moving to its new £85m home in South Kensington. The renovated building is the former Commonwealth Institute building, and dates back to the 1960s. It is triple the size of the old building, with 10,000 square meters of floor space. It was funded through private donations, Arts Council and Heritage Lottery funding, and £17.5m given by the museum's founder, Sir Terence Conran. There are also three residential blocks which will help to fund the building.
It's not often we write about Sport, but 2016 was special. This year the world came together to laugh as England got knocked out of the Euros. They then rejoined in Rio for the Olympics Games, which for the first time also had a team comprised of refugees.
Team GB comes second at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games
Team GB had an exceptional year in Rio for the Summer Olympics, ranking 2nd in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympics team won 27 Gold medals, 23 Silver medals and 17 bronze. That's a total of 67 medals. This is even more impressive when considering that 47 medals is the highest target ever set for an away Olympics. The Paralympic team were equally incredible, winning 64 Gold, 39 Silver and 44 Bronze, totalling 147 medals won, the biggest haul since 1988. They too exceeded their performance target, set at 121 in 2012.
Andy Murray wins Sports Personality of the Year 2016 for a record third time
Scottish tennis player Andy Murray won the Sports Personality of the Year for a record third time. He previously won the title in 2013 and 2015. It was a great year for the 29-year-old, what with his first child being born, winning Wimbledon for the second time, defending his Olympics singles title in Rio, replacing Novak Djokovic as world number one. Winning Sports Personality in December is the feather in the sportsman's cap. Oh, and he is soon to be known as Sir Andy Murray...
England embarrass themselves in UEFA Euro 2016
Iceland. Iceland! The country with a population little larger than Coventry. A country which has never before qualified for an international tournament, and ranked 131st four years previously, knocked England out of the Euros in an strong but hardly earth-moving performance, ultimately beating us 2-1. This triggered the resignation of England manager Roy Hodgson. Despite this, that Icelandic chant was incredible, and sure beats that blasted vuvuzela drone of the World Cup.
Entertainment wise, 2016 will be remembered as the year which took many of our most loved celebrities. It was also the year I got burned not once but twice by DC making terrible films.
The Grim Reaper worked overtime
It started early with David Bowie leaving this mortal coil on 10 January. Since then it was non-stop celebrity dominos. We lost Lemmy, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Victoria Wood, Sir Terry Wogan, Harper Lee, Dame Zaha Hadid, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder, Anton Yelchin, Alan Rickman, Ronnie Corbett, Caroline Aherne, Andrew Sachs, George Michael, Richard Adams, Liz Smith, Carrie Fisher, and now, Debbie Reynolds - Carrie Fisher's mother. And that isn't even the complete list. It really was a truly awful year for entertainment.
The Academy births #OscarsSoWhite and kills a meme as Leo wins an Oscar
In the list of nominations for the Oscars 2015 and 2016, not a single person of colour was nominated in the acting categories. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won this year's Oscar for Best Director for The Revenant but zero nominations elsewhere in any major categories. With no consideration for Selma in last year's list and Straight Outta Compton in this year's, made people of colour in showbusiness feeling deeply shortchanged. A boycott led by Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee led to the Academy making changes in their membership and a quota system to offer greater representation to award-worthy filmmaking efforts. Back to The Revenant, not only was it the only film somewhat immune of #OscarsSoWhite, it was the film to give Leonardo DiCaprio that first Oscar that fans of his and fans of memes were both elated and devastated for him to receive. This marked the end of a massive meme and a hunt for the next best actor with no Oscar but suggestions of Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman didn't pick up traction.
Disney dominates the Box Office
Disney has always had a place in film-lover's hearts, but strategic franchise purchasing over the years means that they now own the rights to the four biggest films of the year. One of the most successful purchases they made was Marvel, and Captain America: Civil War was the highest grossing film of 2016. Places two through to four were also Disney; Finding Dory, Zootopia and The Jungle Book respectively. They also snuck in a fifth in the top ten with Doctor Strange sneaking in at number 10. Batman V Superman was sixth, Deadpool seventh, and Suicide Squad eighth.
Adele retains the throne for best selling album, a surprising best selling single, and Drake reigns over streaming
For the second year in a row, Adele has had the best selling album. 25 outsold every other release this year as well as in 2015. She achieved this same feat with her last album, the now legendary 21. The highest selling song by units, surprisingly, was sleeper hit My House by Flo Rida. I don't even recognise the name. That's because the song didn't even reach number one - it achieved middle ranking globally, 4 or 5 at its highest, but stayed there forever, and sold just under the coveted 2 million unit mega-target. More predictably, the most streamed artist, which is really what we're interested in these days, was Drake. No. 1 hit, One Dance, was listened to over 282 million times giving him the most streamed single title. What's more, Views, his 2016 album nominated for the Grammy for Album of the Year, takes the most streamed album prize. This is perhaps due to the fact that 25 wasn't made available to stream until halfway through this year.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child script the highest selling book
This year J. K. Rowling ruled the world again somewhat. She and screenwriter Jack Thorne released the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts 1 and 2 and the plays opened on the West End where they'll keep playing until January 2017. The reaction to the script was overwhelmingly positive. The decision to cast a black actor, Noma Dumezweni, to play Hermione Granger caused a great deal of conversation as many were upset by the decision. Not to mention that the film, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them topped the global box office. Elsewhere on Amazon's bestseller list for 2016 were Reasons To Stay Alive by Aliens author, Matt Haig and John Grisham's The Whistler.
It's not vain to talk about yourself if you left it until near the end of the report. And we have plenty of exciting things to talk about!
The big news of the year is Youth Network and Voice project manager Emrys Green has gotten married. A personal friend of mine for the best part of a decade, I was honoured to be invited to the wedding and see him start the next chapter of his life. Many congratulations.
First Brighton Fringe
Building off the back of our successful Edinburgh Festival Fringe coverage, we were invited to attend and review Brighton Fringe shows. It was here that we first tried out our Voice reviewer scheme, inviting young people from beyond the core team to review on our behalf, complete with complimentary tickets and access to our team of editors. We deem it to be a huge success and are very excited to return next year, bigger and better!
Best ever Edinburgh
The Voice team went back to Edinburgh for a third time, and I couldn't be prouder of the team. Over the 10 days we were there we achieved 189 reviews, and 41 interviews. We took on a team of Voice reviewers, who helped continue our coverage beyond the time that we were there. Choosing our Picks of The Fringe was even harder than ever, with so many shows to choose from, and such amazing talent producing them. Congratulations again to all of the winners, and a huge thank-you to everyone who made our coverage the success it was.
2016 has been, for the most part, quite a mixed bag. It certainly could have been better. 2017 hasn't got a high bar to beat, although Donald Trump does become the President…
Rick and Morty, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Iron Fist, House of Cards, OITNB, Noughts and Crosses, The Defenders, Twin Peaks, Prison Break, Broadchurch, Sherlock, Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, The Voice on ITV, and much more - read our full list.
Guardians of The Galaxy vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars: Episode VIII, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok, Baywatch, Power Rangers, Despicable Me 3, T2: Trainspotting, The Fate of the Furious, Disney's Coco, Dunkirk, Blade Runner 2049, and many more - read our full list.
You deserve a treat for getting all the way to the bottom, so here is an exciting titbit for you. Voice is going to be undergoing some exciting changes next year. I can't say too much right now, but having looked at the early plans I am very, very excited. Keep an eye out for more in the new year, I can't wait to share more with you.
Thank-you very much, each and every one of you readers out there, for making Voice what it is. We do what we do because of you, and every comment, every share, and every post you make only serves to validate our work, and further inflate our ego.
Now go forth, survivor of 2016. Go forth and let us all work together to make 2017 the best it can possibly be!