The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 4 April 2017

Brexit

Image: PA Images

Feeling blue?

Brexit supporters call to bring back Britain’s imperial past in more ways than one.

During the UK’s referendum campaign on EU membership last year, leave campaigners stressed that theirs was a forward-looking movement. Yet in the nine months since the vote many of those supporters have spent rather a long time referring to the past. Over the weekend Simon Heffer, a columnist in the The Telegraph, called for the return of imperial units such as Fahrenheit, pounds and ounces; his colleagues would like to bring back the Royal Yacht Britannia. And then there is the small matter of the colour of the British passport. A Brexit-supporting Conservative MP referred to the EU passport as “pink” and a “humiliation” and backed calls for £500m (€586m) to be spent on replacing it with the traditional dark blue. The irony is that EU rules on passports are non-binding – so long as they have most of the same security features and biometric identifiers, a nation can choose any colour they want. The UK could have stayed in the EU and got its dark blue passports back.

Design

Image: Alessandro Russotti

Still the best

The 56th edition of Salone del Mobile gets underway – and could teach the world’s other fairs a few things.

Designers, architects, journalists and anybody who can legitimately flaunt an interest in furniture will disembark in Milan today as the 56th edition of the Salone del Mobile kicks off. No other design trade show comes close to rivalling Salone’s dominance but be it furniture, books or food, when it comes to trade fairs Milan seems to have found its stride. Frankfurt, Köln and Munich may love a messe but Milan could teach them a thing or two when it comes to getting the city’s central neighbourhoods involved and how to capitalise on events long after visitors have checked out of their (overpriced) hotels. It is estimated that the Expo 2015 fair alone generated a €31m turnover, created 242,000 jobs and encouraged the opening of 500 restaurants in the months before it wrapped up. As Salone del Mobile adds lesser-known design districts Cadore and Isola to its roster of locations for off-site events this year; we’ll be looking out to see how this refreshing spirit spreads even further in the city.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

State of the arts

While the US threatens to cut arts spending, Canada wants to show the world its importance.

Cameos by Justin Trudeau, Bill Clinton and singer Shawn Mendes notwithstanding, the highlight of Sunday night’s Juno Awards in Ottawa – the biggest annual music-prize-giving ceremony in Canada – was the praise given by many of the winners to Canada’s commitment to supporting the arts. Trudeau’s government has pledged to spend CA$1.8bn (€1.3bn) on the arts over the next 10 years, vowing to boost the number of cultural spaces across the country. “We’re the third biggest exporter of musical talent in the world,” says Mélanie Joly, Canada’s minister for heritage. “We’re the only G7 government investing so much. We as a government believe in arts and culture, not only for our own sectors but for social reasons and economic impacts too.” It’s an approach to arts funding that lies in stark contrast to the mood south of the border, where the Trump administration has vowed to scrap federal funding for the National Endowment of the Arts. “Canada is seen as a beacon of hope,” says Joly. “We want to show other countries the importance of art and culture.”

Infrastructure

Image: Getty Images

Down the river

A new riverside highway in Bangkok threatens to undo years of good work.

The banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River are home to countless small businesses and hotels whose future is now being jeopardised by the government’s Promenade Project: a 57km-long elevated highway set to run along both sides of the river from the Rama VII bridge to the Gulf of Thailand. The promenade will disconnect businesses from the river and undo years of work by the city and organisations such as Bangkok River Partners, which is dedicated to promoting the river as a destination for residents and tourists alike. “In a sprawling metropolis such as Bangkok, with peak-hour traffic congestion and heat trapped by inner-city concrete, the river offers a glimpse of life as it used to be,” says David Robinson, director of Bangkok River Partners. “But it is also a look into the future.” With the number of tourists in the Thai capital expected to grow by tens of millions this year, it’s risky to gamble with what is in the process of being registered as a Unesco World Heritage site. Besides, once the highway is built the new riverside hotels won’t feel riverside at all. If this goes ahead architect and activist Yossapon Boonsom says, “Bangkok is going to be known as the city next to the highway – not the city by the river.”

From Monocle 24

Spring into action

Culture with Robert Bound

Robert Bound is joined by a panel of experts on film, music and art to discuss the things we should be listening to, watching and queueing up for this spring. His guests are head of content for the Lisson Gallery Ossian Ward, music broadcaster and DJ Georgie Rogers and film critic Jason Solomons.

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