Friday. 3/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Louis Harnett O’Meara

Curtain call

Here in England, hotels, restaurants, pubs, galleries, cinemas and hairdressers begin reopening tomorrow and I’ve already been making plans – the barber’s being the first on my to-do list as my lockdown bouffant grows ever taller. As for bars, I’ve heard rumours from friends about some pubs allegedly charging £30 (€33) per head just to reserve a table. I think I’ll stick to drinks in the backyard for now, thank you.

However, one set of venues that won’t be reopening are England’s theatres. It’s a blow to the industry which – let’s face it – is hardly known for its job security at the best of times. Some provincial theatres are currently running on 10 per cent of their usual income and sweeping cuts are imminent. Some theatre troupes have decided that now is the time to show a little nous: it was announced this week that the West End musical Six will be undertaking a six-week outdoor drive-in tour. But most performances won’t have much hope of sparking the necessary energy on stage with a physically distanced cast – a kiss-blowing Romeo and Juliet just isn’t going to cut it.

Ultimately, what the UK’s performing arts sector needs is a rigorous plan of action and proper funding. Although culture secretary Oliver Dowden last week unveiled the government’s “road map” for the sector, it appeared to be more of a vague doodle, failing to outline any investment plans or dates for the reopening of venues. Timelines are understandably tricky to pull together but funding commitments are more feasible. Our neighbours on the continent – France, Germany and Italy – have long offered weighty subsidies to the arts. If the UK doesn’t follow suit soon, we might expect our theatres to go the same way as my hair: cut way back.

Travel / Switzerland

Selected guests

Countries in mainland Europe have been opening up to travellers in a bid to rescue at least some of the summer tourism season – but with every easing comes a new set of regulations to keep coronavirus under control. Switzerland this week announced plans to ease restrictions on incoming travellers from more than a dozen non-EU nations, commencing on 20 July, but it also announced plans for a 10-day quarantine, starting Monday, for visitors arriving from higher-risk countries, including European nations Sweden and Serbia. The decision comes after a resurgence in the number of cases of the virus in Switzerland was attributed to people returning from weekend events and weddings in nations such as Serbia where restrictions on controlling the pandemic are laxer. Expect such ebbs and flows in pandemic-related constraints – especially in the travel sector – to become the norm in the coming months.

Urbanism / USA

Taking initiative

A coalition of mayors has launched a new push for long-term economic reform in the US. The Mayors for a Guaranteed Income initiative brings together 11 city leaders from Los Angeles to Atlanta and Jackson to Stockton, who want to bring a minimum-income guarantee to their constituencies. The coalition was founded by Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs (pictured) after an experiment in which a guaranteed income of $500 (€440) was offered to 125 residents for 18 months, with no strings attached. The initiative comes as income inequality in the US reaches historic levels due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the federal leadership appears lacklustre in tackling the dire economic situation (there’s little certainty about whether Americans will even receive a second stimulus cheque). While such mayoral coalitions can showcase the importance of good local leadership, those at the top should lead by example and take the brunt of the difficult decisions for the months ahead.

Society / Japan

Outside bet

Japan’s outdoor goods industry has been growing steadily over the past few years – sales rose from less than ¥200bn (€1.6bn) to more than ¥250bn (€2bn) between 2015 and 2019 – but as in other countries the trend has accelerated in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Young city dwellers in particular have taken to hiking and camping in stylish And Wander and The North Face outfits. The Kobe-based outdoor shop Kojitsu Sanso recently reported a more than 40 per cent year-on-year jump in sales of sleeping bags and tents in June. The Farm, a campsite near Tokyo, is booked out on Saturdays from now until the end of August. Yano Research Institute estimates that the outdoor retail market will grow another four per cent this year, even surpassing annual sales for golfing goods. But this isn’t just about the retail economy. Perhaps the pandemic will encourage busy Japanese city dwellers to enjoy a gentler lifestyle too.

Design / Global

Love thy neighbourhood

Homes that promote a high quality of life have never been more coveted. And over recent months many of us have come to understand how the community that surrounds our abode also has a substantial impact on our happiness. With this in mind, Monocle’s July/August issue explores architecture that provides great private dwellings and forges communal bonds. This was very much the mood at La Borda, a co-operative housing development in Barcelona. In a fine timber structure created by Lacol architects, many residents use the communal kitchen and dining area, while children can escape cosy apartments for more freedom in the on-site play area. “The idea is that the home is the whole building,” explains Pol Massoni (pictured, on right) from Lacol, who also lives in the development. This a building where getting to know your neighbours is part of the pleasure of living within it.

M24 / The Foreign Desk Explainer

Why did Iran issue an arrest warrant for Trump?

This week Iran issued an arrest warrant for Donald Trump over January’s killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani – and asked Interpol for its help in enforcing it. Andrew Mueller looks at what Iran might actually be trying to achieve with such a move.

Monocle Films / Spain

All around the table: wine in La Rioja

This Spanish region is home to many large-scale producers, but at Castillo de Cuzcurrita things are done differently. Vintner Ana Martin Onzain unveils how their aged wines – grown and made exclusively in this small village – bring people together.

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