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What a 12 months, eh? 2016 will go down in history as one of the weirdest. We lost Bowie, Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Harper Lee, Barry Hines and Tony Warren among many others. All incredible, talented people who have inspired creative types the world over, whether they're writers, musicians, actors, artists or comedians. When that many luminaries are taken away from us in one hit, it hurts. And boy, did it.
I experienced two mornings where I blinked awake, scrabbled for my phone and felt a deep sense of disappointment and foreboding: Brexit, and the US election result. That's two nights where I went to bed quietly hopeful and woke up concerned about miseducation and "alt-right" voices clamouring louder than any others.
We have a female Prime Minister which should have brought a sense of pride for feminism and equality, but somehow it didn't. I don't want a Tory government, female-led or not - and 2016 hasn't been a great year for women what with Ched Evans, Brock Turner, and Trump (known misogynist, self-confessed p***y grabber) at the helm of the USA. Here, we're stumbling through the mess of how to actually do Brexit (hashtag shambles), and when female politicians are scrapping over a pair of leather trousers when there are MUCH more important things to sort out, it doesn't do much for the sisterhood does it?
There has been some hope in the darkness, of course. Pop culture went to town, giving us light relief. An all-female Ghostbusters was released, shoving crying-boy haters into a corner to get over themselves. Ellen de Generes won the Medal of Freedom which meant a huge deal for LGBT people: a gay woman in the public eye being given the biggest honour in America, by the soon-to-be-gone Obama in a human, sweet, and funny ceremony.
It really was a great year for culture; from the intimate horror of the film Room to the dreamy, on-point family drama of Transparent and the simmering violence of Orange is the New Black, there was plenty to get our teeth into with all kinds of people from all cultures and backgrounds being represented. For those of us that wanted escapism from the hideousness of world events, we could run away again (with a takeaway coffee, of course) to Stars Hollow as Gilmore Girls got a revival thanks to Netflix.
The world's obsession with celebrity continued. Brangelina split up, Kim Kardashian's bum got way more coverage than it should have done, and Jennifer Aniston wrote a badass essay for the Huffington Post asking newspapers to stop painting her as being miserable for not having children. My top favourite thing that someone pointed out this year was that if you put "Liz Lemon..." before any of Kanye West's tweets, he sounds like Tracy Jordan. That's one for all you 30 Rock fans out there. Love you, nerds.
Music-wise, the year was a stormer, as long as we all forget that Craig David also attempted a comeback.
I couldn't decide on a top 10 albums of the year so here's my top 15 (I'm such a cheater) and it includes local band Plantman and I urge you ALL to buy a copy for any music lover in your life for Christmas from the amazing local record shop South that we're SO lucky to have: http://www.southrecordshop.com/products/plantman-to-the-lighthouse
1. Angel Olsen - My Woman
2. Anohni - Hopelessness
3. Frank Ocean - Blonde
4. Margot Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
5. Nick Cave - Skeleton Tree
6. Christine and the Queens - Chaleur Humaine
7. PJ Harvey - Hope Six Demolition Project
8. Bat for Lashes - The Bride
9. Plantman - To The Lighthouse
10. Dinosaur Jr - Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
11. Badbadnotgood - IV
12. Tegan & Sara - Love You To Death
13. Sia - This is Acting
14. Brian Eno - The Ship
15. Nice As F**k - Nice As F**k
And what about Leigh-on-Sea, then, eh? We had two massive, amazing festivals thanks to Leigh Folk Festival and Village Green. The Leigh Art Trail was a peach. We were voted the Happiest Place to Live in the UK by Rightmove (and the house prices reflected that, surprise). Lovely new independent shops opened. Poco Gelato started delivering! Ice cream any time of day! I became obsessed with the coffee in Dhurra and couldn't get enough of their Kimbo double shot soya lattes. Oaktree Market upped their game and are expanding which is always an incredibly encouraging thing to hear in these weird economic times. Leigh Lights felt like it did in the old days (I was there at the first ever one in the mid-90s fact-fans, I was at the start of the parade, my photo was in the Leigh Times, I am SO Leigh-on-Sea) - in late November fake snow pumped out into the streets and filled people with festive hope and happiness, something we all needed.
What will 2017 herald? Who can say. I just know that our little town will continue to shine bright, a beacon of cool in an uncertain world. I can't wait to see what next year will bring.