Gillian Wearing (above) has yet to have a full-scale solo show, but any curator with an eye on the contemporary scene in 1996 will mention her name at the drop of a hat: they're all after her. Part of the Goldsmiths' school of new British art, Wearing works in video using herself as her central subject matter and, like a lot of women artists of her generation, follows in the footsteps of Cindy Sherman, whose experiments with identity and disguise have made her one of America's best known contemporary artists. Wearing's coup this year was showing her "Western Security" piece about cowboys in the Hayward Gallery's new foyer space.
There are those who consider Jake & Dinos Chapman to be something approaching cowboys, but like them or not - and there are people preparing to mount the barricades on both sides - the brothers are on the edge of making it big. Their work is designed to shock and has certainly done so thus far. Their figures are playful, their humour very boys-own variant. All their art bears witness to their obsession with mixing up periods and genres, and displays incredible craft skills - using sculpture and film - mixed with their particular brand of prurient imagery. So far the brothers have only shown at the gallery of their dealer, Victoria Miro, but they have already established a serious international reputation for themselves and, if our British taste buds can cope with them, are possible contenders for the Turner prize shortlist in 1996.
Georgina Starr has also attracted considerable attention from abroad. At home, she is best known for her video "Crying", in which she sobbed continuously. She also works in multi-media, with photographs, tape and video, while the complex narratives in her work have meant her art appeals widely. "Visit to a Small Planet", currently touring in the British Art Show, recaptures what it's like to be a pre-adolescent. Her work goes on show at the Tate's new Art Now space in February, which should place her firmly on the art map.
In a former life, Philip Osment (right) was an actor with Shared Experience for Mike Alfreds. In the mid-Eighties he turned into a playwright with Gay Sweatshop's runaway success This Island's Mine. Under Osment's own direction, the 45 speaking parts - played by a cast of seven - highlighted his gift for beautifully dovetailed structure and subtle characterisation. After the success of The Dearly Beloved and this year's emotionally eloquent What I Did In the Holidays, next year's Flesh and Blood will be his third play for Mike Alfreds and will tour the country hot on the heels of The Undertaking, another new play for Gay Sweatshop, which should lift that company's recent mixed fortunes.
Alexandra Gilbreath is also going places in more ways than one. She attracted considerable attention as a feisty Regina in Katie Mitchell's RSC production of Ghosts, and then starred as the central character in Phyllis Nagy's acclaimed Disappeared. Jude Kelly's uneven King Lear was notable for Gilbreath's remarkable Regan, a frightening portrait of a woman on the edge of madness. In 1996 she takes on the title role in English Touring Theatre's Hedda Gabler.
James Macdonald has directed countless well-received productions, but his meticulous and startlingly clear direction of new plays - Caryl Churchill's translation of Thyestes, for instance, Nick Grosso's Peaches or Sam Shepard's Simpatico - has so far succeeded in enhancing the reputations of the writers rather than advancing his own career. With The Changing Room in the Royal Court Classics season in February, and Harry and Me at the Royal Court in March, he should finally receive the overdue attention previously accorded to other more flashy directors.
"Nothing short of incredible" is what star American baritone Thomas Hampson called it when, just two weeks ago, on the Monday before Christmas, the 20-year-old Daniel Harding (right) braved a strike-bound Paris to score a standing ovation deputising at short notice for Simon Rattle at the helm of the musical knight's Birmingham band. All the more incredible given that neither work on the programme - Schoenberg's spiky 1942 Piano Concerto and Mahler's massive vocal symphony, Das Lied von der Erde - is exactly standard repertoire even for full-time maestros, let alone a tyro with only two previous orchestral concerts to his cv. But then Harding is no ordinary beginner: Rattle, who took him on as his assistant while he was still a music student in Manchester, has gone on record as stating that his young protege is better than he himself was at the same age. When Harding conducted Boulez's Eclat in London last March, critics compared his economy and precision of technique to that of the French master himself. Now acting as Abbado's assistant in Berlin, Harding is due to celebrate his 21st birthday as he means to go on - conducting (at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw). Definitely a beat to follow for 1996.
Musicians may be getting younger, but, Emma Johnson apart, which BBC Young Musician of theYear has ever become a household name? The stunning cellist and 1994 winner Natalie Clein, 18, should soon remedy that when she delivers a reprise of her heart-tugging, title-snatching Elgar Concerto in a new Channel 4 docudrama, Elgar's Tenth Muse, starring James Fox as the ageing enigma.
It's doubtful if 1996 will do for any of its anniversaried composers - Anton Bruckner (died 1896), Howard Hanson (born the same year), Virgil Thomson (ditto) and Manuel de Falla (died 1946) - what 1995 did for Purcell, but one name worth watching among the living is that of David Sawer. At 34, he's been around, but the CD issue of his 1992 Prom premiere Byrnan Wood should perk up his profile while Sinfonietta and BBC commissions come down the pipeline.
Liv Tyler is a safe bet as a face of 1996, during which she will become more famous for acting than for being the daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. She survived a ropey script for Silent Fall, came into her own in Heavy (released yesterday), and will next be seen in Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty alongside Jeremy Irons. In between fielding business offers from Woody Allen and Tom Hanks (who wants her to appear in his directorial debut), she should find time for more performances as dazzling as Heavy.
Michael Winterbottom (pictured) is hardly a new face to television viewers - having directed Cracker and Roddy Doyle's Family - but now this one- time apprentice to Lindsay Anderson is proving himself capable of setting cinema screens alight, too. He directed Butterfly Kiss this year, eliciting Saskia Reeves's most fearless performance yet, and his version of Jude the Obscure, starring Christopher Eccleston, will be with us in the new year.
The screenplay that Paul Laverty has written for Ken Loach's new film (provisionally called Carla's Song) is drawn from what he saw as a human rights lawyer and investigator in Nicaragua, a post he held for two and a half years. The film tells the story of a Glaswegian bus driver who falls for a young Nicaraguan woman and travels back to her home country with her. Currently shooting in Glasgow and Nicaragua, the film should see Laverty attract the success that his talent and commitment deserve.
If you were unlucky enough to see Cocktail you'll recognise Elisabeth Shue, but nothing can prepare you for her performance as a Vegas prostitute who falls for suicidal alcoholic Nicholas Cage in Mike Figgis's new film Leaving Las Vegas. Shue is raw and moving; the film feels like an announcement of her arrival. She has already won the Los Angeles Film Critics' Award for Best Actress, and an Oscar must surely be within sniffing distance.
Raissa (above) haven't released a thing yet, but their debut gig in darkest Harlow in early 1995 was a stark, urgent affair which proved they could carry off their sparky melodies on stage. Singer Rice's out- of-body vocals are just the icing on a very rich cake. There are echoes of dub, trip-hop, bubblegum pop and the Cocteau Twins. But what matters most is that Raissa write tunes that are harder to shake than cold sores. Their first single, "Your Summertime", is out early February; they have recorded their album with Mark Saunders, who co-produced Tricky's Maxinquaye, the album of this year; they play live at London's LA2 on 26 January. And, frankly, your life is incomplete without them.
In all the Britpop hoo-hah, The Bluetones were rather forgotten, confused with the insipid Cast and caught up in a strange sub-mod movement. In fact, their songs are carefully crafted pop gems, from the gorgeous "Blutonic" to the bouncy, irresistibly catchy new single "Slight Return" (released in January). The latter should win them untold acclaim and riches - if the album's half as good, it will be one of the year's essential purchases.
It was a good year for 60 Ft Dolls. A place on the NME's Brat Bus tour, a support slot for the Boo Radleys (who they blew clear out of the water, no trouble) and every hint of rock 'n' roll behaviour relayed to adoring fans by a salivating music press. And 1996 will be better. This Newport band fly the punk flag but their songs - "Happy Shopper", about a tough transvestite, and "Pig Valentine", a dig at Saturday night clubbers - are too dotty to be nailed to any one genre.
American Joan Osbourne is a complex derivative of her times and place. There are hints of Bonnie Raitt about her mannered, bluesy rasp, and her rhythm section is tuned for the roadhouse, yet virtually all the material on her debut album (out this spring on Mercury) is shot through with the kind of off-kilter, art-house theatricality that makes "alternative" such a popular word in American mainstream culture. Watch out for dates next month.
And watch out for:
ADAM JOHN HANNAH
The Royal Ballet has so far failed to capitalise upon Cooper's talent, which shone forth when he nipped away to star in Matthew Bourne's hugely theatrical Swan Lake. Next year it tours the country, which will make him a nationwide, fully fledged star.
ITV's McCallum may not prove to be the vehicle that propels him into the hearts and minds of the nation, but Hannah is set for great things after splendid work in Four Weddings and a Funeral and as a member of the Steve Coogan repertory company.
With his Fifties matinee-idol looks, Webb represents the softer face of BBC interviewing. He recently progressed from the cornflake run to reading the main evening news and now looks set to take political confrontation into a gentler era after the Paxman years.