It would be quite the understatement to say 2022 has been a difficult year, and whether or not 2023 will be any better is uncertain. That said, the more doom and gloom there is out there, the more important it is to look for the glimmers of hope and seek out the shreds of joy.
“We face lots of big challenges in our lives and in our society – we always have done and we always will,” says Mark Williamson, director of the non-profit organisation Action for Happiness. “So it’s vital that we find ways to stay resilient, take positive steps forward and look for solutions. The key is to be a ‘realistic optimist’: we see the world as it is, but we choose to focus more on what’s good.
“This isn’t about being naively positive, it’s a gritty and grounded response to an imperfect world. And by choosing this form of ‘active hope’, we not only become happier ourselves, but we’re also more likely to respond in helpful ways and contribute to a brighter future.”
With that in mind, we’ve gathered 50 reasons to feel optimistic about the year ahead. As Williamson puts it: “All around us there are signs of hope and things to be grateful for – we just need to look for them.”
Arts Council England is funding its broadest range of culture
The 990 organisations Arts Council England will fund between 2023-2026 is incredibly significant. “It is the broadest range of organisations we’ve ever funded, and we’ve focussed on achieving a fairer spread of investment across the country,” says chief executive Darren Henley. “This includes world-renowned institutions, like the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as those receiving funding for the first time, like the Blackpool Illuminations and National Football Museum in Manchester.”
We have our first People’s Plan for Nature
“It gives me huge encouragement that, right now, 100 citizens from across the country, and from all walks of life, are deliberating and discussing how we bring wildlife back to our shores as part of the UK’s first ever People’s Assembly for Nature,” says Harry Bowell, director of land and nature at the National Trust. “In March, the assembly will publish a set of recommendations on behalf of the UK public – a significant moment for citizen action and for the restoration of our natural world.”
Wind energy will gather speed
“The rate of green innovation has been incredible over the past few years and is set to continue,” says Areeba Hamid, co-executive director of Greenpeace UK. “The UK has the highest wind energy potential in Europe, and wind already generates nearly a quarter of the UK’s electricity. With the onshore ban finally set to end and a strong offshore wind rollout taking place, we are seeing renewables become ever more fundamental to our energy mix.”
Thousands will get better access to clean water
Hannah Bellemy, UK director at charity: water, is excited about the difference new technology will make next year. “We’ve developed a new water sensor that will help people living in remote, rural communities across the Global South have long-term, reliable access to clean water,” she says. “Following a successful pilot, in 2023 we’re going to install this technology for thousands of people.”
The English Coastal Path will be completed
Over the past few years, Natural England has been busy working on creating a coastal path that stretches the entire length of England. At 2,795 miles, it will be the world’s longest continuous hiking path when it is completed this year.
Climate Trace will help track emissions
“There are researchers taking steps to face the challenges of climate change head on, and 2023 will see many of these new innovations come to light,” says sustainability expert and UCL lecturer Renuka Thakore. “For instance, Climate Trace, an independent greenhouse gas emissions tracking system, will create the world’s first emissions inventory based primarily on direct, independent observation. This system will fill the critical knowledge gaps for all decision-makers and allow a coherent improvement in planning carbon reduction.”
Landscape restoration will expand
The counties along the Welsh-English borders – Radnorshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire – plan to be a lot wilder in 2023. The Wildlife Trusts in these counties will be restoring and connecting woodlands by rewilding river valleys and working with farmers to put wildlife back onto their farms.
Eurovision comes to the UK
After decades of the dreaded “null points”, it seemed unlikely the UK would ever host Eurovision again. And yet, thanks to the success of Sam Ryder and on behalf of Ukraine, the song contest will light up Liverpool in May.
Our happiness is making a recovery
“The nation’s happiness saw a really sharp downturn during the pandemic, but the latest wellbeing data from the Office for National Statistics shows that we’re now seeing levels of happiness rising again,” says Williamson. “One of the big ‘silver linings’ from the pandemic is that more people than ever are now comfortable talking about mental health and wellbeing. This trend will not only grow in 2023, it will also connect with vital conversations about social change and building a better society.”
Rail is making its revival
There is a boom in travelling by train, which is only expected to gather steam in 2023. In fact, Europe’s network of sleeper trains will grow over the course of the year: Austria’s Nightjet – complete with wireless charging points and ensuite bathrooms – is one of the exciting debuts to look out for.
It will be a great year in film
La La Land director Damien Chazelle returns with an epic (three-hour) period film, Babylon. Dune is getting a sequel. After a long time in the making, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie arrives in summer. Alice Walker’s seminal novel The Colour Purple is getting a musical adaptation. Wonka, from Bafta-award winning director of Paddington Paul King and starring Timothee Chalamet, arrives in December. Disney’s Ariel, starring Halle Bailey, will make plenty of waves.
And an excellent one for TV
Meanwhile, in television, new series of smash-hit shows on the way in 2023 include: Netflix’s Squid Game, HBO’s Succession, Netflix’s Heartstopper and ITV’s Unforgotten. BBC are also bringing back Waterloo Road, and Netflix are gifting us a Bridgerton spin-off, Queen Charlotte.
Doctor Who marks 60 years
In 2023 we will also see the celebration of the 60th anniversary year of Doctor Who. With much-lauded showrunner Russell T Davies back at the reins, Ncuti Gatwa playing the new generation Time Lord, and a return of David Tennant, fans are somewhat excited.
Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer will launch…
One of the highly anticipated space moments of 2023 is when the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer launches in April. “The spacecraft will carry out mission studies to Jupiter’s moons and will reach Jupiter in July 2031 after eight years of travel,” says Dr Atma Prakash, senior lecturer in aerospace engineering at Teesside University. “It will eventually enter the orbit around Ganymede moon for its close-up mission, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than our own.”
…as will Psyche’s mission
“Another exciting plan is the Psyche mission, which is scheduled to launch in October,” adds Dr Prakash. “This is the first mission to a unique metal-rich asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, which eventually could help in understanding the formation of our planet.”
Environment groups will continue to encourage change
“Undoubtedly there are huge environmental challenges ahead, but we also won a historic legal challenge that means the government is having to revise its net zero strategy to ensure the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets are met,” says Miriam Turner, co-executive director of Friends of the Earth. “This shows climate legislation has real teeth and can be enforced through our court system. The power of people to drive action on climate is limitless – and that’s giving us hope for 2023.”
FIFA Women’s World Cup is back
The Women’s World Cup is taking place in Australia and New Zealand in July, and after the Lionesses’ success at the Euros, everyone is thinking the same thing: could it be their year?
Electrification ramps up
The increase in electric vehicles is positive all round. “Making electric vehicles more accessible will ultimately help set the economy on course for green, sustainable growth, and help combat rising fuel prices,” says Frank Barrett, chief executive at sustainable specialist vehicle manufacturer company WN VTech. “This year, we can expect greater clarity around the infrastructure requirements for electrification, as well as new methods of funding. This will take things forward at a greater pace in 2023.”
The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is back
At the end of January, RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch will bring together bird lovers once more and help paint a vital picture of our feathered friends. “A small reminder about the everyday joy of connecting to the natural world, it’s a great barometer of the state of our most commonly seen nature and something everyone can get involved in,” says the charity’s chief executive Becky Spright.
Manchester is opening a long-awaited new arts venue
Manchester’s new £186m arts venue Factory International is opening at last. It will be the permanent home of the biennial Manchester International Festival, which begins in late June and will feature a stage adaptation of The Matrix and host the largest-ever immersive Yayoi Kusama exhibition.
30 Days Wild returns
One of the UK’s most popular nature challenges will be back in June. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild event inspires people across the UK to try one “random act of wildness” every day for 30 days, be it listening to birdsong or identifying a wildflower.
Tech will get even smarter
“In 2023, I think we’ll see an explosion in smart city tech and applications,” says Matt Lewis, commercial research director at NCC Group. “From smart traffic lights to manage congestion, to smart ride-sharing services to help cities become more sustainable, these smart advancements will transform the ways cities run.”
Brighton will get a new heated lido
Not everyone enjoys cold water swimming. Those who like their dips to be at least 25ºC, thank you very much, will be pleased to hear Brighton’s new beach-side 50m lido, opening in spring, is heated.
There could be a watershed moment in housing
The Centre for Ageing Better, along with partners in the Housing Made for Everyone coalition, have long campaigned for more accessible and adequate housing. “[This year] could herald a watershed moment, a moment where the pendulum swings and we begin to see homes built that meet the needs of people,” says deputy director Holly Holder. “The government has committed to raising minimum accessibility standards on all new homes – 2023 should be the year that this becomes enshrined in law and maybe even the year that change begins to take effect.”
Young V&A will open
Five years after it closed, London’s V&A Museum of Childhood is reopening in the summer as Young V&A. It promises to be unrecognisable, but even more fun for kids.
Creative Access will champion more under-represented talent
Under-represented and disabled talent will get greater access to careers and training support from employers this year, thanks to the work of Creative Access. In particular, they have received huge interest from organisations seeking to upskill to support disabled talent, and will be running a number of workshops to empower them to take action in 2023.
There’s a move towards nutrition in food industry
While the food and drink industry has faced huge challenges, industry expert Jane Milton feels there are some positive trends. “Consumers are seeking out healthier prepared foods and are opting for ‘better for you’ choices,” she says. “New brands that typify this are Good Things Snacks, and Apres Foods, a range of organic prepared meals that pivoted from being a restaurant in the pandemic.”
Holidays are on the up
Forty million British people are planning trips away this year, according to research from Booking.com, which is up 11 per cent from 2022.
Sydney hosts historic Pride celebrations
Sydney is hosting World Pride this year, which is the first time the event has taken place in the southern hemisphere – and marks the 50th anniversary of the first Australian Gay Pride Week.
There’s an independent retail boom
“In 2023, independent retailers have cause for optimism by harnessing a superpower that will help them succeed despite ongoing economic uncertainty: agility,” comments Olivier Buffon, head of international at the online wholesale marketplace Faire. “Smaller, community focused retailers are armed with more resilience because they are able to adapt to consumer demands and curate their supply in almost real time.”
National Galleries of Scotland will re-open
The main building of the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh has been under construction for what feels like forever, but when it reopens to the public in the summer it will be worth it: think transformed exhibition spaces and lovely views over Princes Street Gardens.
The Mental Health Act is on the cusp of reform
“Even at a time when people are struggling with their mental health and the NHS is under increasing pressure, there’s still light on the horizon,” says Lucy Schonegevel, associate director for policy and practice at Rethink Mental Illness. “We’re on the cusp of reform of the Mental Health Act, with new legislation inching closer to becoming law. For the thousands of people who’ve campaigned for the archaic Mental Health Act to be overhauled, this is hugely significant.”
The circular economy grows
As we become increasingly aware of the environmental damage caused by our consumer-driven economy, the growing interest in the concept of a circular economy – with the likes of Vinted and Depop – is a light on the horizon. “The aim of the circular economy is to ensure that resources such as textiles, metals and plastics are reused over and over again rather than being thrown away,” says Geri Cupi, founder of Twig. “This prevents excess waste being sent to landfill and diminishes our need to rely on finite resources.”
Progress in immunotherapy will help tackle cancer
“The past few years has seen the emergence of powerful research technologies that are opening up a whole raft of treatment options,” says Dr Samuel Godfrey, research information lead at Cancer Research UK. “Immunotherapies offer a powerful tool that could complement chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery – and we have seen several recent headlines showing the success of these treatments. There are still some challenges, but I’m interested in some of the CRUK-funded work by Sergio Quezada at UCL who made a discovery that could increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy for many.”
Disney celebrates 100 years
The Walt Disney Company is celebrating its centenary with a number of highlights across the year, including UK-wide concerts, a documentary, and special events in each of its theme parks.
There will be better representation of disabled people both on and off screen
ScreenSkills are training access co-ordinators committed to improving representation and removing barriers in the TV and film. “While stereotypes and discrimination still proliferate, there is a shift, especially regarding neurodiversity,” says Professor Jason Lee, British Academy Innovation Fellow at De Montfort University. “This increase in awareness on and off screen and in equality in employment practices will progress in 2023, and have a knock-on impact, altering not just perceptions but reality.”
We have sports momentum to build on
“Who can forget the achievements of the wonderful Lionesses or the buzz across Birmingham and the West Midlands during the Commonwealth Games,” says Simon Morton, deputy chief executive at UK Sport. “Powered by National Lottery support, the UK hosted over a dozen major international sporting events across 25 towns and cities during 2022 in what proved to be a record-breaking year for sport. Given sport’s ability to unite communities, even in the most trying of circumstances, we have the opportunity to capitalise on this momentum as we enter the new year.”
Nextdoor Nature gets bigger and better
The Wildlife Trusts’ Nextdoor Nature project – a new way of bringing communities together to help nature flourish – will step up a gear in 2023 with a new digital platform to provide people with the advice and support they need to protect nature on their doorstep.
Race for Life celebrates 30 years
Cancer Research celebrates 30 years of Race for Life in 2023. It has raised more than £940m since the first event. “For the three decades, we’ve brought together people from across the country to run, walk or jog against cancer and as Race for Life enters its 30th year, we aim to make it the most impactful year yet,” says Clare Moore, director of Race for Life.
A new diabetes drug is looking positive
A new type of diabetes treatment might be on the horizon. “The glucagon-like peptide receptor agonist (GLP-1) drug, which has entered a third stage of clinical trial, is helping to improve insulin levels among those suffering from diabetes and control post-meal blood sugar level spikes,” says nutritionist Arina Kuzmina. “Another great benefit of this medication is that unlike any other, it needs to be injected once a week only, lowering the costs for those with diabetes. I am looking forward to seeing where 2023 will take this research to and I feel optimistic about the results.”
The Rugby World Cup is back
Four years after it was last held in Tokyo, the Rugby World Cup is coming back to Europe as France hosts the competition. After South Africa beat England in the final in 2019, the game is on.
There’s King Charles III’s coronation
You don’t have to be a monarchist to accept that the coronation of the King in May is undoubtedly a significant historical event, one that few generations get to witness. And it’s not every year we get an extra Bank Holiday.
Northumberland is getting a shrine to whisky
Come February, a new Anglo-Saxon Museum and English whisky distillery will open in Northumberland. Ad Gefrin is a long overdue celebration of the area’s 200-year history of distilling.
Showtown will open in Blackpool
Where better for the UK’s new museum of fun and entertainment than Blackpool? Described as “all singing and all dancing”, Showtown will be located right in the heart of things on the Prom and opens its doors later in 2023.
It is shaping up to be another stellar year for book lovers
Jessie Burton is blessing us with a sequel to the literary sensation that was The Miniaturist; Lorrie Moore is returning with her first novel in 14 years, If This Is Not My Home, and Margaret Atwood is publishing her first short story collection since 2014, Old Babes in the Wood. Other highly-anticipated books include: Colson Whitehead’s Crook Manifesto, Jojo Moyes’ Someone Else’s Shoes, and Salman Rushdie’s Victory City.
Flexible working will continue to rise
The huge success of this year’s four day working week trial (86 per cent of companies said they were likely to continue with the model) will pave the way for more flexible working practices in 2023.
Shakespeare’s wife is getting a hometown tribute
An adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s award-winning novel Hamnet is being staged in Stratford-upon-Avon, giving Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway a starring role in the town where she lived.
The Jumanji theme park will be unveiled
Almost 30 years after Robin Williams’s famous fantasy film was first released, the UK is getting the world’s first Jumanji theme park. Opening in spring at Chessington World of Adventures, it will span 128 acres.
Leeds has its Year of Culture
After its bid to be named the European Capital of Culture 2023 was derailed due to Brexit, Leeds has decided to host its own Year of Culture so that the hard work and £1m already spent wouldn’t go to waste. Events will celebrate everything from the city’s art to pop, design to sport.
There’s progress in early cancer detection
“Diagnosing cancer early, when it’s more treatable, is one of the best ways to improve survival,” says Dr Samuel Godfrey. “There are big opportunities therefore in the early detection space, including trials for blood tests like the Galleri test and trials of simple technology like the cytosponge. Anything that can shift the stage of diagnosis of a cancer will save lives, and I think the next couple of years will be big for this field.”