Culture - Issue 104 - Magazine | Monocle

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Type writing

Switzerland — Online

Specimen is a typographical, multilingual web magazine (and occasionally an actual magazine) that’s a customisable sibling of The Babel Review of Translations, that bookish collection of texts. With Specimen, readers can mark favourite passages, highlight lines, write notes, set fonts and sizes, and decide on preferred page colour and brightness.

Behind the title lies the same worldly network of translators, writers and editors who organise the Babel Translation Festival, held annually in Bellinzona, Switzerland. “Specimen was born from the need to offer quality typography for digital literary magazines,” says co-founder Vanni Bianconi. “We prioritise curating impeccably over publishing a lot of copy. Specimen will also grow with more texts and languages.” His book, London as a Second Language, is Specimen’s sleek first example.

Driving forces

Global — Television

Transport and TV tend to go together well. The latest incarnation of BBC’s Top Gear may have struggled to overtake the Jeremy Clarkson juggernaut but the format remains top of the podium around the world.

The series is set to return to US screens for the third time, with BBC America ordering an eight-part run; it follows US versions on the History channel and a pilot for NBC. Even this success will struggle to match the viewing figures of Top Gear China, where the second series reportedly attracted more than 200 million viewers on TV and online. The Chinese-language adaptation, produced by Honyee Media for Shanghai Dragon Television, is presented by Cheng Lei, Taiwanese pop star Richie Jen and Olympic diver Tian Liang and was filmed in Xinjiang, Chongqing, Beijing and Inner Mongolia.

The global success of Top Gear – the brand is thought to make more than £50m (€59m) a year for rights holder BBC Worldwide – has allowed it to stave off competition from Clarkson’s own follow-up: The Grand Tour. Clarkson and team have also been busy with their online motoring service DriveTribe, securing £5m (€5.9m) in investment from 21st Century Fox ahead of its launch last November. The digital firm, which has a raft of online content, will compete with other online services such as Motor Trend OnDemand, which launched in April. The race is on.

Three variations on the form:

  1. Paul Hollywood’s Car Nations
    The Great British Bake Off judge is set to explore different motoring cultures. The three-part series, due to air on the bbc later this year, will see Hollywood pick an iconic car and navigate history in different countries.
  2. Le Mans: Racing Is Everything
    This Amazon documentary series will focus on the endurance race that has been rolling since 1923, following drivers such as Formula 1’s Mark Webber and German champion André Lotterer.
  3. Carpool Karaoke
    A new version of the James Corden road-trip singalong, launching as a 16-part series and available to Apple Music subscribers. Corden will not front the show but will appear in an episode alongside Will Smith, with other guests including Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and rock band Metallica.


Salimah Ebrahim

Co-founder, Artery


Established in 2016, Artery has a plan to fix the city’s shortage of performance spaces.

What does Artery do?
We want to allow people to create pop-up performances in places you wouldn’t expect. So Artery spaces are living rooms, backyards, rooftops – often private places. We have had poets taking over laundromats and the showcases were as diverse and interesting as the communities themselves.

So you are shaking up where performance happens?
The basic idea is not new: Mozart played in living rooms, or think of the Harlem rent parties in the 1920s [where tenants raised funds by hosting music events at home]. But often these performances were limited to the creative communities in which they existed. So Artery is creating a forum where more people can access experiences.

How is Toronto’s live scene changing?
Some great live-music venues are closing. We want to shift the way we think about our neighbours and spaces; we need a diversity of cultural experiences.

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