Observation - Issue 46 - Magazine | Monocle

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The autumn school term saw most students return to Midori House with a healthy summer glow, new hairstyles (some overly experimental for a conservative academy like ours), angular spectacles, perfectly buffed loafers and jazzy new bicycles. Many returned with tales from the beaches of Italy – including jelly-fish stings, too little sunscreen and occasionally inappropriate beach attire. Others ventured off to other favourite corners of the Med including Beirut, Formentera, Mykonos and Turkey.

Before we broke for the summer we worried about too many empty desks dotting the classroom floor but now there’s a slight panic that we might need to talk to our friends at Novex (the makers of Monocle’s office furniture and many of the best desks and school chairs in Switzerland – see our design professor Hugo Macdonald’s story on page 128) about coming up with a more compact arrangement or looking into only selecting pint-sized students.

The new term is going to involve a variety of new activities on the curriculum – including a number of initiatives overseas. At the time of going to press we were putting the finishing touches on our China Engagement Programme in Beijing. While this particular venture could have taken many forms we thought it easiest to launch a Monocle Shop in the city’s Chaoyang district rather than trying to set-up a panda refuge – though we did feel the panda colour scheme did lend itself to wonderful branding and photo opportunities. Across the Sea of Japan we’ll also be launching a new shop-in-shop concept at the Hankyu Men’s Department store in Osaka and come October our first caffeine/culinary enterprise opens in the shape of the Monocle café at the new Hankyu Men’s store in Tokyo.

Back on campus in London there’s been a crush of applicants to join the ranks of the new broadcasting facility we’re currently completing on the ground level. All going according to plan with the combination of British builders, acoustic-fabric delivery from Denmark, carpet orders from Switzerland and audio gear from Japan we should start voice and presentation rehearsals by the time this issue is hitting newsstands in Auckland – about 10 days after the rest of the world receives its copies. The latter part of August and most of September is going to be devoted to working bugs out of the system, signing syndication deals, learning how to speak-to-time and re-adjusting our body clocks as our new venture will be a 24-hour endeavour.

As I tap out this letter we’re also in the midst of hiring 20 plus new producers, researchers, sound engineers, newsreaders and editors who’ll be working with a team over 14 presenters from our new facility. Since launch we’ve made no secret of our love of radio and feel it’s the medium most closely aligned to what we deliver in print form every month. While not wanting to give too much away, my colleague Mr Mills has been busy with a certain jazzy orchestra in Sweden composing all the theme music while also working with a Japanese DJ of some repute to write all the musical transitions that will punctuate our output. As radio’s only as good as the voices, programming and soundtracks, we’re finalising the schedule and playlist. And as radio’s only as good as the device you choose to tune in on, we’re also working on developing a wi-fi radio with some talented men in Scotland. It’s our intention to offer a service that can be heard via as many different devices as possible but we’re particularly keen on the idea of having a solid, elegant, bassy radio that has the handsome looks of an old Telefunken mixed with materials that would make Dieter Rams proud.

On air there’ll be a mix of familiar voices (if you’re a regular listener of the Monocle Weekly and our films) and quite a few new ones. Throughout the day from Monday to Friday there’ll be a series of live current affairs and business programmes across the schedule that will criss-cross the globe with interviews, features, discussion and reviews. In between there’ll be magazine programmes covering culture, design and urbanism and all of this will be backed by a soundtrack of the best music from our favourite artists in Brazil, Korea, Sweden, Lebanon, Japan, Finland, Canada, Iceland and beyond. At the weekends the Monocle Weekly will move to a new, two-hour format and will be joined on Saturday’s by a new arts and media review programme.

Building on the same editorial spirit of the print edition, our audio channel is designed for “live” listening around the clock (in the kitchen over breakfast, in the car during your commute, in the air on your laptop and in the bedroom before drifting off to sleep) and also downloading for flexible portability when you might be out of signal range. There’ll be much more on the launch date and line-up in both our October issue and online in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for updates.

In the meantime, if you have an artist who you think we need to add to our musical line-up or a voice you feel would add an extra bit of silkiness to our news bulletins then send along a sample to Alexander Mills (ajm@monocle.com) or our managing editor David Michon (dm@monocle.com). I’m off for one final swim in the sea off Pietrasanta before officially returning for the autumn term. More soon.

For more from our editor-in-chief, read his column in the FT Weekend.

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