H&C Recommends: The best of 2017 Pt 1

H&C Recommends: The best of 2017 Pt 1


In the first of a series of guest recommendations, Contributing Editor and best-selling author Richard Benson picks his cultural highlights of 2017…

Events and Shows:

Blade at Queen Victoria Square, Hull

For the start of Hull’s year as the City of Culture, the artist Nayan Kulkarni placed a 250ft-long wind turbine blade, made in Hull, in the city centre. Thousands of people came to see it. It’s hard to explain why it was so moving, but it was.

Hockney at Tate Britain

No need to explain why Hockney should be on the list, but the exhibition was brilliantly paced – there was so much diverse work, it would have overwhelmed you otherwise. My favourite picture from the show was My Parents (1977).

Kanangina Pootoogookat at the Venice Biennale

The first Inuit artist to be shown at the Biennale. The work on display was mostly drawings depicting Inuit life. When I thought of the best art I saw this year, this is what came into my head first after Hockney, because the honesty and simplicity made so much else in the hall seem a bit baggy. It traumatised my eldest daughter, though, as she likes walruses and Pootoogookat likes visceral depictions of them being hunted.

Kananginak Pootoogook, Untitled, 2010


Best moments

Roy Moore losing the Alabama Senate race

A moment when, as the writer Sheryl Garratt said, you felt the world might finally be tipping back.


As a bloke, I’m probably setting myself up as potential hypocrite saying this, as I’m sure I was guilty of sexist rubbish when I was younger. But you just have to listen and try to do better, don’t you?

Volvo advertising their cars as ‘Human made’

Presumably the sort of thing that’ll be mentioned in cultural history books in 2117. If they still have books, that is.




Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy

Sonically incredible, and lyrically it felt like the best response to a year of complex and messed-up gender and racial politics – all the more so, given his history.

Listen on Spotify

Kendrick Lamarr – Damn

A definitive Trump-era record, obviously. Generally speaking, US hip-hop and R’n’B produced some of the most interesting music we’ve heard for years, and this was possibly the high point for me.

Listen on his website

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

Yes, I know everyone thought it was pretentious. So I like pretentious music: there it is.

Download it here

Fleet Foxes Crack-Up album cover

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up: complex, confusing, brilliant


Burial – ‘Rodent’

I love how Burial’s records sound how nighttime London feels – and this, with a bit more melody than the last few releases, was like a perfect, intoxicated summer evening distilled into four minutes.

Listen on Spotify

Tyler, the Creator – ‘See You Again’

This weirdly sounds at times like late-80s Prefab Sprout doing 2010s R’n’B, crossed with a song from one of those strange, late-1960s kids’ musicals.

Listen on Spotify

Fleet Foxes – ‘I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar’

See above: the most pretentious track on a pretentious LP, and I loved it.

Watch the live version on YouTube

Little Mix – ‘Shout out to My Ex’

Maybe because my daughters play it 100 times a day every day, or maybe because Little Mix do make good pop singles… I don’t know. I’ve lost perspective, to be honest.

Stormzy – ‘Blinded by Your Grace Pt 2’

One of those records that you’re not that into, but whose existence makes you feel optimistic nonetheless.

Watch him perform it live on BBC R1 Live Lounge

L’il Yachty – ‘Bring it Back’

Why did no-one else love this just-perfect bit of summery-yet-melancholy 80s/90s R’n’B nostalgia for summer? You deaf fools.

Watch the video on YouTube


Adelle Stripe – Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile

A brilliant fictional/semi-fictional reconstruction of the life of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, which said very important things about the misleading depictions of working class people in the arts and media without proselytising.

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile

Peter Fiennes – Oak Ash and Thorn

There are rather a lot of books written about woods. A lot of them tend to stall a third of the way in because most writers can only pull off about 80 pages of close observation of woods before they get repetitive. This is different because Fiennes has things to say about the role of woods in British culture. A beautiful cover as well.

Oak Ash and Thorn

Tim Pears – The Horseman

I’m reading this at the moment, so it could all go wrong, but so far it’s tremendous – a depiction of early 20th century West Country rural life with a stripped-back, Hardy-ish feel.

The Horseman

Andrew O’Hagan – The Secret Life: Three True Stories

Three essays contemplating the shifting boundaries between fact and fiction in modern culture. The first one, about O’Hagan’s attempt to ghostwrite Julian Assange’s autobiography, is great, a must-read if you’re interested in the media and politics of the last few years.

The Secret Life


The film God's Own Country

God’s Own Country: an accurate portrayal of farming, says the author of The Farm

Also recommended:

God’s Own Country was terrific, as everyone says, and for me, one of the few accurate films ever made about a British farm and its family relationships.

Brian K Vaughan’s Paper Girls comic is just great and would delight anyone who loves Stranger Things.

The Ozark TV series was great – a nice bit of telly about modern rural society, where the only money is in leisure.

I’m no gamer, but bought the indie Milkmaid of the Milky Way just for how it looked: it’s beautiful. And I am now trying to become a gamer so I can get past the first level.

Also, I read Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge for the first time this year. I don’t know why I’d never read it before. Anyway, it blew my mind. If only there was a sequel! (Joke.)


Richard Benson

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