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2008 What's out there

There is no excuse for idling in front of the TV when you have Susan Young's guide to the year ahead.

So as the fog clears and we adjust to the reality of 2008 - what does the year have in store? Or, to be more specific, what's planned for the coming months that you'll want to avoidembracepretend you know aboutfactor into your lesson plans? Here are some of the highlights of the next 12 months.


Liverpool, European City of Culture, is the place to start, with hundreds of events all year. The opening weekend on January 11 is a huge open-air show, followed by a one-off performance of Liverpool The Musical, with performances led by Ringo Starr and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic plus builders, sailors and gardeners and music by just about everybody.

Later highlights include:

Art: Monet to Hopper - the Artist and the Railway, also featuring Pissarro and Van Gogh, from April.

Pop music: The Liverpool Sound - a huge concert on June 1, broadcast live across the world from the city waterfront, headlined by Sir Paul McCartney.

Literature: The Shipping Lines Literary Festival, in November with readings from writers such as Seamus Heaney, Philip Pullman and Roger McGough.

Visit for details.

If your idea of culture goes no further than the nearest multiplex, here's a few of next year's blockbusters:

- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is expected to be out for May half term, once again starring Harrison Ford as the maverick archaeologist.

- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is also scheduled for release in November, complete with its familiar cast, in the film of the sixth book. The revelation that Dumbledore is gay apparently came from a note scribbled by J.K. Rowling on a page of the script, which would have had the bearded wizard recalling a teenage girlfriend.

- Star Trek is due out on Christmas Day 2008 and is apparently neither a sequel nor a prequel. Most promising snippet: Simon Pegg, the Shaun of the Dead star, is playing Scotty - as in "Beam me up, Scotty." Don't expect Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner to appear as Spock or Kirk.

Or maybe you prefer your entertainment live? Morrissey, former Smiths frontman, is out and about next month, while Girls Aloud take to the road later in the spring.

Kylie Minogue, Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen will be strutting their stuff in summer. Shows on the road include Mamma Mia, The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, while comedians on the move include French and Saunders and Lee Evans. See for more information.

If videogaming is your thing, then there are treats in store for you among the hundreds of new games coming out. One of the biggest releases will be the latest instalment of the controversial Grand Theft Auto, set once again in New York lookalike Liberty City. But this time, the makers promise, the protagonist can go up the skyscrapers and - excitingly - break car windows in order to steal them.

Also promised for the autumn, is a Star Wars game, called The Force Unleashed, a new Mortal Kombat, and a Ghostbusters game voiced by the films' original actors. Teenage boys may become hooked on Turok, in which a commando fights for survival on a genetically modified planet.

The biggest of all, though, could be Spore, described as an "online God game", developed by the creator of the addictive Sims series, in which you create species and watch them develop.


All change in secondary schools from September when the first batch of diplomas finally arrive, the biggest change since the introduction of GCSEs in 1986. Courses will be available to all 14 to 19-year-olds in England in 17 subjects within six years.

For more information, see this week's TES.


Daniel Craig is back as James Bond in the next instalment of 007's adventures. The new film, due out in November, is not based on any Ian Fleming story but carries on minutes after the spectacular ending of 2006's Casino Royale.


The Olympic Games will dominate the airwaves for a couple of weeks after opening in Beijing on August 8, with athletes competing in 302 events in 28 sports. Visit www.olympic.orguk

At least there may be some hopes for British competitors in this event, unlike the summer's other biggie, the 2008 European Football Championship, for which every UK team has notoriously failed to qualify.

And don't forget Sport Relief, the fundraising extravaganza that takes place during the weekend of March 14. For more detail, visit:


The American presidential election will be big news for much of the year, particularly since it is the first time since 1928 that there is no candidate from the White House standing.

Key dates will include February 5 or "Super Duper Tuesday" when 20 states vote for their preferred candidates in the main parties. If no clear Republican or Democrat nominees emerge then it may go to the end of March when most other states vote.

The Democratic nominee will be officially decided at the party's National Convention on August 25-28, while the Republicans follow suit from September 1-4.

On November 4 the whole nation votes, selecting the electoral college, which will formally vote for the President and Vice-President on December 15. The new President will be sworn in on January 20 2009.

Names to watch: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards for the Democrats; and Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney for the Republicans.

Finally, 2008 is the year of ...


Not just in schools, but in homes and workplaces as well. It starts with three months' planning time before the events start rolling out from March.

The Rat

Chinese astrology says the Year of the Rat starts on February 7. This is apparently a good thing, promising plenty of opportunities and good prospects. Economists might be surprised by the prediction that the world economy in general will boom, but might concur that there will be speculation and fluctuations on the stock market.

One prediction says: "On the whole, this will be a happier year than most: free from explosive events and wars and with far less catastrophes than, say, the years of the Tiger or Dragon. Nonetheless, it will be spicy."


About 2.6 billion people live without even basic sanitation, killing a child every 20 seconds. The UN has declared 2008 the International Year of Sanitation to try and raise awareness and speed progress towards the target to halve the number without access to the basics by 2015. http:esa.un.orgiysindex.shtml

The potato

Another United Nations-promoted event, the International Year of the Potato aims to highlight the usefulness of potatoes as a crop in the developing world where the population is growing fast. Up to 85 per cent of the plant is edible human food, compared to about 50 per cent of cereals.


In space ...

The Space Shuttle Atlantis will blast off in August, on a mission to service and upgrade the 17-year-old Hubble space telescope.

So far Hubble has measured the age of the universe, found evidence of dark energy, and sent images of distant galaxies, and with its new kit and repairs, completed during five spacewalks, it will be able to do more than ever before.

Hubble's main camera and an instrument that can examine black holes and quasars, both of which stopped working years ago, will be repaired, and two new instruments, which see in visible, ultraviolet and infrared light, will improve Hubble's sensitivity by 15 times. Visit

... and underground

Do you want to know what happened a fraction of a second after the creation of the universe? Scientists do, and from May experiments in a 16-mile circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border will be geared to finding out.

The Large Hadron Collider will be the world's biggest particle accelerator, with a mission to smash protons moving at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light into each other and recreating what happened just after the Big Bang. For more details, visit:

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