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Welcome to Rolling Stone UK’s 2022 year in review

The deranged mood of the country is potent — so let’s attempt to review our year in UK society and culture

By Hannah Ewens

Everyone who lived through it will remember the year 2020 for the rest of their lives, I should imagine. The first time wearing surgical gloves and masks to buy milk and chocolate from the corner shop, leaving your parcels out in the porch to ‘decontaminate’ when we didn’t know better, the Black Lives Matter protests, that holiday season when we were told not to travel to spend it with our closest relatives (“We must, I’m afraid, look again at Christmas,” said Boris Johnson from behind that blue-bannered pulpit). The year 2021 was a similarly eerie and uncomfortable petering out of everything that we’d been through the previous year. This year is one that stands alone in its singular strangeness.

We are, in essence, past the pandemic now, free to enjoy the year we thought we might have in 2021. We could engage in casual sex, festival season and pints at the pub in an unbearable heatwave — 40 degrees in London with no air-conditioning units in homes — portending how the climate crisis will impact our nation, one governed by leaders with their heads turned toward personal profit.

Plenty of other events have occurred. Across the pond, the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide legal right to abortion in the biggest roll- back in women’s rights we’ve seen in the US in decades. Daily life in Britain, already hanging by a thread, genuinely began to break down — railways, public services, the housing crisis, a summer of strikes, bill prices allowed to skyrocket by the government — culminating in a scary reality for the cost-of-living crisis that looks to consume public life for the rest of the decade. In just two months, we’ve had three Tory prime ministers. Liz Truss was our shortest-serving PM ever, lasting only 45 days before conceding that she was not remotely up to the job — but not before tanking the economy and bringing the pound to its all-time low against the dollar. And I don’t know if you heard the news, but the Queen died. We did what we know how to do best as Brits: we queued and queued — on this occasion to see her coffin. Everything stopped for a day to mourn her.

But we’re used to that now. The coronavirus pandemic may be over in the form we knew it but now we live in the knowledge that our personal and collective normality can be shattered at any time, that our safety in both of those regards is not being supported by “those in charge” and that, colloquially speaking, the adults are not coming to save us. As that settles in our psyche, something doesn’t feel right. The deranged mood of the country is potent, so let’s attempt to review our year in UK society and culture.

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of end-of-year essays taken from the December/January 2023 issue of Rolling Stone UK. Read the rest of our coverage here.