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On my radar: Shirley Manson’s cultural highlights

·4 min read

Born in Edinburgh in 1966, Shirley Manson is the frontwoman of alternative rock band Garbage and was previously a member of bands Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and Angelfish. Garbage released their self-titled debut in 1995 and in 1999 recorded the theme song for Bond movie The World Is Not Enough. Manson has also acted in US sci-fi series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Nickelodeon animated series Top Wing. Since 2019, she has presented The Jump, a podcast in which she interviews musicians such as Karen O and Matt Berninger. Garbage’s seventh album, No Gods No Masters, is out now on Infectious Music.

1. TV

The Bureau (Amazon Prime)

I’m currently obsessed with this French political thriller. The script is spectacular. It’s a series that revolves around the Directorate-General for External Security, France’s foreign intelligence service. It’s based on real accounts by former spies and focuses on this team who are operating undercover on missions and areas that the French are particularly interested in, especially in the Middle East. It’s a fascinating exposé of that kind of life, of people living under false identities for years. The lead actor is Mathieu Kassovitz, who is just utterly brilliant, but the entire cast are amazing.

2. Music

Lil Nas X

‘Brave and bold and unbowed’: Lil Nas X
‘Brave and bold and unbowed’: Lil Nas X. Photograph: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock

A couple of weeks ago, I watched his Saturday Night Live performance of Montero (Call Me By Your Name) and I was blown away. He’s an openly gay black recording artist and I kept saying to my husband: “This is brand new, what we’re seeing; this is brave and bold and unbowed.” The whole thing felt revolutionary – I had the chills. I kept thinking of all the young people in the LGBTQI community who are being led by example to live their lives unashamedly. He’s an absolute treasure and I’m really excited to see where he goes with his career.

3. Book

Apeirogon by Colum McCann

I really think this book is a masterpiece. It’s by one of my current favourite authors – he has also written The Dancer, about Rudolf Nureyev, which is astounding. Apeirogon is based on a true story of two fathers, one Palestinian, one Israeli, who both lose their young daughters to terrorism. It’s such a heartbreaking story, but it’s told with great sensitivity, respect and kindness and it taught me a lot about what’s going on in that region. This book has haunted me all year, especially in the past few weeks.

4. Food

The Lobster Shack, North Berwick

The queue at the Lobster Shack
The queue at the Lobster Shack. Photograph: Sally Anderson Weather/Alamy

This time of year, I always make the same pilgrimage to this seaside town not far from Edinburgh. There’s this genuine shack nestled inside the harbour walls, where you can enjoy superb fresh seafood that you see being brought up in lobster pots and crates from the fishermen. I usually have lobster and chips and you get white wine in plastic cups: it’s delicious and really unpretentious. It’s in this beautiful East Lothian coastal town and the sun is shining and everybody’s laughing and there are dogs running around. It’s a real moment of simplicity and beauty.

5. Documentary series

Exterminate All the Brutes (HBO)

Having seen I Am Not Your Negro, which made a big impression on me, I’ve kept an eye on what its director, Raoul Peck, was doing. He’s just released this four-part documentary series, which is an exploration of colonialism, imperialism, genocide and the history and origins of white supremacy. They do some very strange reconstructions of imaginary events, but in a surrealist way – I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in understanding and unpacking systemic racism, which to me is a matter of utmost urgency.

6. Art

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch, The Loneliness of the Soul, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Tracey Emin is someone who’s inspired me throughout my adult career: she’s one of the few artists I really feel is speaking in my language. I couldn’t admire her more and I’m so delighted that she’s having this opportunity to share an exhibition space with someone who has so deeply influenced her. Especially during a time of unbelievable personal strife: she’s been so open about her struggle with cancer last year. I am blown away by her immense courage and her willingness to share unpleasant, frightening experiences, which I think illuminates the path for so many of us.

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