Friday. 30/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Band of brothers

Twenty-five years ago this week Oasis released Definitely Maybe, an album that’s been described as “seminal” and “visceral” more times than bad-boy brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher have used the F-word in interviews or smoked, back then anyway, packs of Benson & Hedges. The Oasis debut became the UK’s fastest-selling album (until 2006), sparked into life by three great singles, genuine rock’n’roll attitude and a campaign of belligerent band-baiting in interviews.

I bought Definitely Maybe sometime that month and – as a nice boy from Sussex at school in leafy Surrey – mad, bad, dangerous-to-know Mancunian Oasis were a thrill like nothing else. Music was tribal. Bands and their fans were gangs. People who liked Blur were dicks, people who liked Suede ponces and people who liked Pulp were artists – or something equally unforgivably fey. American music simply didn’t exist anymore for a 15-year-old in Britain.

The 41-year-old writing this is not as ashamed of that dumb partisanship as you might think. Music meant more because we had to buy it. Colours were nailed to masts. Sleeve notes pored over; lyrics, inflections, hairstyles and walks practised in mirrors. We used to swagger around the 16th-century quad at school flicking V-signs at each other, for God’s sake. Actually, that is embarrassing. But the point stands – and I miss this – we all like a bit of Taylor Swift and Stormzy and The Weeknd but what do we love and how do we show it? Tribalism’s awful, right? Right. And I miss it.

Politics / UK

Silent treatment

It is two months until the UK is due to leave the EU but tomorrow is the last day that British officials will be attending “most EU meetings”. The move was announced by the country's Department for Exiting the European Union last week and, it says, will allow UK representatives to focus on “immediate national priorities”, including the country’s future relationship with the EU and other partners. From Sunday, UK officials will only attend meetings where there is “a significant national interest in the outcome of discussions”, such as matters of security. Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised to “unshackle” the UK from the bloc but quite how leaving the table early – as well as suspending the national parliament – will ensure a smooth transition at the end of October is anyone’s guess.

Diplomacy / Russia & Ukraine

Fair trade

Russia and Ukraine have taken two steps towards a more harmonious relationship. On Wednesday Ukraine released Kirill Vyshinsky, the editor in chief of Ria Novosti in Ukraine, who was detained in May 2018 for supporting separatists (though he will still face trial). The day after, Russian media reported that Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film-maker from Crimea serving a 20-year sentence in an Arctic prison, had been moved to Moscow, suggesting that he may also be freed in a reciprocal move. The events come in the wake of lengthy quid pro quo negotiations that could see an exchange of 35 unnamed prisoners – military or otherwise – between the two sides. If the promise comes good, it will hail an enormous thaw between Moscow and Kiev.

Fashion / Germany

Rural retail

Among the unlikelier pretenders to the moniker “fashion capital” is the town of Amberg, population 45,000, nestled in the Bavarian countryside. It has become a totem of sorts to the make-up of Germany’s fashion-buying habits: it’s in small towns and villages like Amberg that half of German fashion sales are made each year. The trend has been anchored by long-standing independent retailers such as Zeitgeist, which was opened by Christiane Lindner in Amberg in 1990. “You couldn’t find brands that were cool and modern here – I wanted to change that,” she says. Unlike in other countries where luxury-fashion shops and multi-brand boutiques tend to congregate in large cities or shopping malls, good German retailers are evenly distributed. It is a welcome riposte to those in other countries who have long chimed the death knell of rural bricks-and-mortar retail. To read more, pick up issue four of Monocle’s Summer Weekly, which hits newsstands today.

Urbanism / USA

Writing on the wall

Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which outlined design standards for buildings and public spaces, many Americans with impaired mobility, vision or hearing still struggle to participate in public life due to designs that exclude them. Thankfully the American Society of Landscape Architects has released an online guide to universal design, intended to create an inclusive public realm. The recommendations are diverse, ranging from pavement widths to public seating. U-shaped benches, for instance, allow deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens to use sign-language or read lips more easily. By 2050 the global population of people over the age of 65 is expected to double; public spaces will need to work harder to accommodate them

Radio / The Urbanist

London: Battersea Power Station

With preservation and restoration at its core, the project aims to connect the riverside walk and Battersea Park with the green spaces in the development, and deliver homes, retail, workplaces, galleries, markets and restaurants. Monocle’s editor Andrew Tuck is joined by Honor Fishburn, director of placemaking at Battersea Power Station.

Monocle Films / Global

Hospitality lessons

Be it an airport lounge or a cinema, feeling at ease is hugely dependent on your surroundings. Monocle films meet with the design experts crafting the warmest welcomes.

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